Motorcycle Training: Why the Basic Rider Course Is Not Enough

Motorcycle Rider in Rain
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News

So, you followed the advice of older and wiser motorcyclists and began your motorcycling career by taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic Rider Course. Good for you. But there’s a lot more to becoming a proficient motorcyclist than just mastering a bunch of parking lot maneuvers and the clutch’s friction zone. Safely handling a powerful two-wheeled machine requires a diverse range of skills that take both time and practice to acquire.

Unfortunately, many riders figure they’re good to go and never even consider furthering their motorcycle education after graduating from the BRC. Consider this: Professional athletes spend massive amounts of time practicing their discipline and probably pay private coaches to help them continue to improve. This goes for the best motorcycle racers in the world, too. Motorcycling is a sport that requires no less dedication to improvement, even by casual riders. This is especially true since there’s a lot at stake when riding a motorcycle. You never know when the proper execution of an avoidance maneuver or emergency braking will save your life.

The problem is, practicing these things on the street is both dangerous and impractical. Sure, finding an empty parking lot and doing a few hard braking runs is always a good idea, but you can only learn so much that way. The truth is there’s just no substitute for ongoing rider training.

Across the country there are literally hundreds of different riding schools tailored to the needs and desires of every different kind of motorcyclist. Want to learn how to ride a big adventure bike in the dirt? Try the BMW Performance School, Raw Hyde Adventure, MotoMark1, or one of dozens of others. How about taking your technique to the next level on a racetrack? Former racer Kevin Schwantz’s school is a great choice, then there’s the California Superbike School, but chances are there’s another option not too far from you. Want to concentrate solely on improving your riding on the street? Check out Lee Parks’ Total Control or inquire about taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Advanced Rider Course. The options are almost endless.

David McNew/Getty Images
David McNew/Getty Images

No matter what type of motorcycle training interests you the most; you’ll find that the benefits go far beyond that specific avenue of motorcycling. No matter what surface you’re practicing on or the kind of riding you’re doing, you’re sure to attain a new level of mastery over your machine, which will directly translate into greater safety on the road. A rider is at his or her best when the actions necessary for controlling a motorcycle become completely second nature, requiring no conscious thought to perform. This only comes through repeated practice.

Some veteran riders will argue that their extensive motorcycling experience exempts them from being able to benefit from a training course. They’ll say something like, “I’ve been riding for 40 years, I should be the one teaching the class!” Maybe they’re right, but if you truly believe that you’ve nothing left to learn, you’re setting yourself up for a nasty surprise sometime down the road. Like most sports, motorcycling has no ceiling and every rider can find room to improve.

Piloting a motorcycle is a highly technical exercise requiring a precise mix of knowledge, skill, and muscle memory. There’s simply no substitute for the practice, teaching, and coaching available at a dedicated riding school. Sure, they can be expensive and time consuming. Finding the right one for you may take some effort, but the payoff will be well worth it. Not only will you have an absolute blast at the school itself, you’ll leave a more confident and competent motorcyclist.

Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.