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How You CAN Learn to Ride a Motorcycle: Getting Trained to Ride a Motorcycle - Part 3

By Walter F. Kern

Part 3: Getting trained to ride a motorcycle

My completely unscientific Motorcycles Poll indicated that 79% of motorcycle riders are self-trained or learned to ride a motorcycle from a friend or family member. In the old days -- 20 years ago -- that's the only way you learned. There were no widespread courses available. Such is not the case today.

I can not emphasize this enough: You must take a formal course given by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) or by a school that uses the MSF's methods and whose instructors have been trained by the MSF. These courses are usually given over 2 ½ days with both classroom instruction and field exercises. The motorcycles are provided as part of the class. You just show up with long sleeves, jeans, gloves, and heavy boots. You don't even need a permit.

They supply the rest including the helmets. The beginner motorcycles used for MSF training are small - 250cc usually. During the field training, they take you step-by-step, introducing you to the motorcycle and teaching you how to ride it.

Some states even provide a motorcycle endorsement on your license after you successfully complete the course. However, my personal opinion on this practice is that you don't know enough to ride safely after completing this short class. The class exercises are conducted in parking lots and the bike rarely gets out of second gear. You need to get lots more practice with an experienced motorcyclist before you venture out solo into high-speed traffic.

The classes teach you how to ride a motorcycle, but more importantly, they teach you street survival skills. You need to know the proper way to ride a motorcycle in traffic and avoid situations where you are most vulnerable. People laugh at me when I say it took me a solid year of riding under all kinds of conditions before I felt comfortable riding a motorcycle. Your time will be different but it will take time. And of course, you never want to feel so comfortable that you let down your guard and expose yourself to undue risk. You do need to always remain alert.

Even if you are already an experienced rider, I guarantee that you will learn to be a better, safer rider if you take one of these classes. There are experienced classes for those who have already completed the first course and/or have some riding experience behind them. Some states even have intermediate classes. These additional courses are conducted with you riding your own motorcycle.

Now learn how to pick your first bike. Just click Part 4, below.

=> Part 4: Buy Your First Motorcycle

=> Back to Part 2: How to Get Started

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