Thursday, February 5, 2009

The MSF Basic Rider Course Part 5

I left early Sunday morning to head to the next phase of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course. It was still raining and after being soaked yesterday I wanted to stop at the local Wal-Mart and see if they had a rain suit. I headed straight back the sporting goods section and found that they were out of rain suits my size. I grabbed a waterproof jacket at least, thinking that some protection was better than none, and headed to the class.

We got the motorcycles set up while the Instructor set up today’s courses using small flat top cones. We practiced more of the same riding techniques we learned from the day before. Then we added in some lane changing practice, which we all performed fairly well. Then, suddenly, one of the more experienced dirt bike riders dropped his bike making a turn. Funny, I always figured that it would be one of us less experienced riders that would drop one. Neither he nor the bike was hurt much other than his pride.

By now it had rained enough that my legs were soaked again. Soon the water started seeping in from the neck opening of my waterproof jacket. My shirt acted like a wick and just soaked it in. After a while of riding in the rain it wasn’t long until there was not much of me left dry again. This waterproof jacket was not designed with motorcycle riding in mind.

Then we moved on to the figure eights. You have to ride the bike in the friction zone making a complete figure eight inside a very, very small rectangle (60’x20’). The Instructor demonstrated it for us a couple of times and we were ready to try it on our own. Almost everyone had a hard time staying inside the rectangles borders and keeping the circles the same size. So far I found this to be the most challenging part of the class. We had to get it down to pass the riding portion of the course in order to go get our licenses. After a couple of tries it got easier.

I was still amazed at how well the motorcycle tires gripped the wet road surface. I did not imagine that with it being so wet and leaning the bikes over while turning at speed the tires would not slip. Once I got used to it my confidence in the handling characteristics of the bike went up and my abilities to navigate the bike through the various turns and stops went up as well. Motorcycles are indeed fascinating machines.

Soon the Instructor felt we all had it down enough to start doing some of the exercises for the riding test. He let us take a practice run first and then do the one that counted for the test while he graded us and the others watched. One by one we went through all the lessons. Everyone passed the course and the instructor passed out the paperwork we needed to go to the Department of Public Safety to take the written test for our licenses.

A week or so later I took a long lunch from work and went to take my test for the license. It was basically a rehash of the things we learned in the MSF Basic Rider Course and similar to its written test. Because I took the riding portion of the test in during the course I did not have to take it again at the DPS. They gave me a temporary paper license, took a photo for my new drivers license that arrived in the mail a month or so later. Now if I only had a bike to ride!...

Ride on,
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