Motorcycle Forum banner

1 - 8 of 8 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
89 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I recently completed my MSF BRC here in Massachusetts and thought I would do a (not-so) quick write-up to help new riders looking to take the course in MA. As you read this article, keep in mind that I had never ridden a motorcycle before I took this class so this write-up is simply to document my experience and not to offer advice. I hope it helps other new MA riders with what to expect.

I’ll start with the classroom session. I opted to take the weekday evening classes since it fit in nicely with my work schedule. We had two sessions from 6:15PM to about 8:45PM on Wednesday and Thursday of last week (3/17-3/18). There were somewhere around fifteen people in the class each night. The class covered most of the material I expected but I learned even more by talking to the instructor (who is a professional rider). The main curriculum is based around a DVD that was broken down into chapters. These chapters outlined much of the workbook we received in the mail but also added new information and (obviously) a visual on the topics. The chapters touched on riding gear, riding practice, and everything in between. At the end of each video section we answered the practice questions for the next section we would cover. These practice questions were located in the back of the workbook. I received the workbook about one week before the class session (because I registered early) so I read through it in its entirety. I STRONGLY RECOMMEND THIS. It will make you feel much more comfortable as the test approaches. I also bought Proficient Motorcycling by David Hough months ago and read through that twice. I found his book to be a great resource that prepared me for the test but more importantly, gave me the cold hard truth about motorcycling. The first chapter in his book outlines crash statistics which are quite sobering for a prospective rider. Although sobering and somewhat frightening, the statistics are important. It reminds you that you are not invincible but rather, invisible. Anyhow, if you are at all worried about the written test, try taking the practice test on the MSF website. I took it a few times until I scored 100%. Believe it or not, many of the questions listed there are on the test. The test also takes some questions from the back of the MSF workbook. You can find the MSF Review Test here: http://www.msf-usa.org/CourseReview/Questionframe.htm?pagename=RiderCourse Info . I scored 100% on the test which was a big relief and a confidence boost with the riding section fast approaching. I found the class portion to be very informative and an extremely valuable experience for a new rider.

On to the riding portion! Let me start by saying that the riding portion was an absolute blast. We had ten people on the range (maximum allowed by MSF) for about five hours on Saturday and five on Sunday (3/20-3/21). If you care to know, three were females and seven were males. Ages ranged from 18 or 19 to late 40’s or early 50’s. Day one was informative and fun and day two was a bit more difficult and more serious (but still fun and very valuable).
Day one began with a basic overview of the motorcycle controls and getting a feel for the weight of the bike. About fifteen minutes into the day we started to get a feel for the clutch and brake while rocking the bike. Next was paddle walking which consisted of light clutch work while sitting on the bike (with your feet on the ground). As the clutch comes out, the bike begins to move and you start walking your feet. This exercise lasted ten or fifteen minutes and we then proceeded to riding the bike in first gear. The feet came up and we got a feel for the brakes while moving. After about ten minutes of this we proceeded to the next exercise; riding in wide circles (ovals really) in first gear. It was fun to feel a little bit of speed. Next came shifting into second gear. It seemed like a huge step at the time but it was great that they got shifting done early on. Shifting was my biggest fear but it was actually quite easy for me. Granted, I have a lot a practicing to do before my gear changes become smooth but the mechanics of shifting were much easier than I originally thought. After the shifting exercise we began doing slow laps in first gear shifting to second on the straight-away and then down before entering the curve. The rest of the day was much the same so I won’t bore you with the details of each exercise other than the fact that we finished the day with emergency braking. The bottom line with day one was that it was a whole lot of fun and a great start into motorcycling. If you take the course as a brand new rider (like me) you may feel like each exercise is far more difficult than the last and you may be tentative. I felt this throughout the entire course but with each repetition you will gain skill and confidence. You can do it.

Day two was a far more serious affair. It was certainly a fun experience but I think the riding test was looming over all of us. The exercises on day two were more technical. We were told that a few of them would be on the test but not in what type of an exercise. The instructors alternated between a “fast” exercise and a low speed one. The first trouble I had was with the box. For those of you are not familiar, the box is painted on the ground and is 20ft. wide by 60ft. long. You must ride up one side and do a left U-turn within the 20ft dimension. You must then ride back to that same line (facing the other direction) and do a right U-turn in the other direction. You essentially make a large figure-8. You must do this all in first gear with or without throttle. Some of my classmates used throttle and went through flawlessly. Others used throttle and went outside the box. I personally used clutch control through the entire exercise and made it through. It may not have looked so smooth but it worked. Other exercises you’ll practice include swerves, emergency braking (again), countersteering, changing lanes, operation at intersections, and parking (among others).
The Exam. Sounds scary right? It was very scary before we knew what was required but having gone through it, it was not as bad as I thought it would be. We practiced various exercises multiple times before the test began. The first exercise was the box followed by a shift to second gear, gained speed to 12-28mph and do a swerve within a set of cones. First let me say that I practiced the box over and over and I never got it right. Luckily the first time I completed it correctly was during my test. During the test you lose points if you put a foot down and also if you go out of the box (if you even touch the yellow line). The swerve was not difficult but you could lose points by running over cones or the yellow lines you were supposed to stay within. The next exercise was the emergency stop. You have to get to second gear and gain speed (12-18mph I believe) and then do an emergency stop as soon as your front tire crossed the cones. You must stop within an allotted distance/time (he had a stopwatch and read my time to the record keeper) and stay under control while downshifting to first. Sounds easy and it generally is…except for when you hit neutral instead of first! Lost a couple points there but I did well otherwise. The last part of the test was essentially a lap around the course. You had to remain within a lane of yellow lines while you went around in second gear. The idea was to see if you could lean the bike under control and maintain speed through the turn in an acceptable radius. I don’t know if I lost points here but I think I did well. And that’s it! That was the entire test…and I passed it.

I passed the BRC having never ridden a motorcycle before. My girlfriend took the class as a brand new rider also and she passed. In fact, 90% of our class passed the riding portion. The only person who did not pass was a girl who was very short with a very short inseam. They tried to accommodate her by giving her a Kawasaki 250 cruiser but she still could not flat-foot it. We all felt for her because we knew she was at a disadvantage since she couldn’t stabilize the bike well when stopped so she probably felt more tentative when riding.

If I had to offer only one piece of advice it would be to dress for the weather. Many in our group were very cold throughout day one (high 30’s in the afternoon) but I was quite content in my thermal underpants, jeans, long sleeve shirt, and leather gloves and jacket. Cold affects people differently (and some easier than others) which can lead to fatigue and riding errors. So, dress for the weather and take the BRC. If I can do it, you can too!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
89 Posts
Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
@ Kyle, Thanks for reading. It sucks to see people fail the course. I knew the girl who failed did not belong on the road so the instructors did the right thing but it still sucks. I'd love to see a grandma learning to ride. I dont mean grandma whose grandchild is a toddler, I mean grandma whose grandchild is 20+ lol. All the power to her, it's just the image in my head is pretty funny.

@porange, Thanks for reading also. It's too bad your BRC didn't live up to your expectations. The instructors I had for day one were cheerful and helpful. They made it fun but didn't give too many tips. Though to be fair, we didn't cover a ton of stuff on day one. Our day two instructors were more serious and more critical of our riding. They both said (after the test was over)that at the beginning of day two they did not think many of us were going to pass. Through their instruction we all improved (and most passed). I think the course was done well. Day one was helpful and fun and took away alot of the fear most of us had of just getting on a bike and riding. Day two was more technical and serious and prepared us for the test and the road. I think it was a great mix.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
89 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
In our case the bikes were Honda Nighthawk 250's. They were pretty forgiving with the clutch and shifting.

Dods, thank you. It ended up much longer than I originally intended but I wanted to get as much as possible in there. I hope it helps someone in the future
 
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
Top