BRP/MSF Training

For anyone that rides a motorcycle, I cannot express how important it is to get proper training. It WILL save your life.

A few months ago, my bride and I purchased a Can-AM Spyder RT-Limited. The weekend after we got it, I took off on a ride to finish up a few Tour of Honor memorials in Tennessee. Cold and wet weekend. Heated grips helped a bit to fend off the cold. Roads that are slick from rain and falling leaves is NOT a way to familiarize yourself with a new motorcycle. I had hoped to get a chance to run it through its paces.

The Can-Am was purchased for my bride to ride. I will ride the Ultra (Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited Low) most of the time. Since she doesn’t have a license, and never ridden on two or three wheels except as a passenger, she needed the training. I wanted to go too, you can always learn something new in any class if you pay attention.

We signed up for the class in February, about a month in advance of the class. We checked over the schedule of the weekend training and decided to stay at a hotel close to the training locations.

Friday morning we packed a change of clothes, books, and other things for a weekend trip. I had ridden to a Can-Am dealer the day before to pick up a pair of saddlebag liners. We had a custom bag for the front that came with the Spyder. At first, I thought we might be tight on space, but was surprised at how much we actually could get in the three compartments. This left the rear compartment for paperwork and the rain gear, quick access when needed. As we were packing, my bride mentioned that she had gotten a confirmation e-mail on things to bring. I checked through my e-mail and didn’t see anything. No need to panic, I have the receipt where we paid for two classes.

We rode the Spyder the 80 miles to Spring Hill, TN on Friday and checked into the hotel. We settled in then walked over to a nearby grocery store to pick up water and snacks for Saturday. Then made our way to the Mexican restaurant next door to the hotel. After supper, we walked around a bit then back to the room.

As we laid there, my bride mentioned that she got ANOTHER e-mail confirming that the class was still being held, rain or shine. I checked my e-mail thinking that I may have missed the first one, it went to junk folder, wrong e-mail address, or SOMETHING. Then checked the on-line course to make sure they had space if there were any problems and I wasn’t on the roster. There were 7 people listed for 12 spots the other day, but all 12 spots are taken now. I stayed up all night worrying and trying to determine back-up plans. I did have a book that I could read, but I where would I go? We wanted my bride to ride our RT for the class to help her become more familiar with it. I could call a friend that lives nearby. I was awake all night trying to work out what I would do.

6:00am the alarm finally went off. I was awake, so no need to hit the snooze. We got dressed, went down for breakfast.I was still worrying about being able to take the class. There had been a number where you could send a text message to get an e-mail confirmation. I tried that, no reply.

7:45am we pull into the parking lot where training will be held. My bride checks in and I mention my situation. Good news and even better news. Good news was that my name was written on the roster (everyone else’s name was typed in). Better news? Of the 12 spots for the class, 7 people thought it was too cold and cancelled at the lat minute! Instead of people having to pair up and share bikes, each of the 5 of us had our own bike for the entire training. So, I am in the class and will not have to share a bike through the whole training.

My bride rode our RT. They had a 2019 RT, F3, and 3 Rykers. I didn’t care what I rode so I just waited and would ride what was left. As luck would have it, the 2019 RT was to be my ride for the weekend. Other than a few technological differences, it handles just like ours.

We all gear up and head to our bikes. Benita, our instructor, runs us through some the basics. She goes over the controls, shutting off the bikes, and starting the bikes. We start the bikes, turn off the bikes, start the bikes, and turn off the bikes.Eventually, we are rolling!

As we begin our exercises, I do my best to not be near my bride. We had turned off our headsets so we couldn’t talk to each other. I have a tendency to want to “help”. I was determined to be a good student. Other than the instructor, I was the only one that had ridden a motorcycle at all, and I have already put over 3,000 miles on our Spyder. I have questions, but I know that there is a set structure for the class. I knew that my questions would not be covered in the class, and would actually be a distraction to the rest of the class. If I got a chance, I would talk one on one with Benita.

We go through riding around the parking lot. Turning left and right, some slalom, panic stops, and becoming familiar with the bikes. We spent all morning on the bikes. A few of the riders wanted to try some of the other bikes, so we switched up the bikes. Except for my bride who stayed on her RT. About 11:30, be break for lunch. It is in the 50’s at this point and a few of us mentioned those that thought it was too cold.

After lunch, we headed over to a local motorcycle shop for the classroom session. We merged with a 2-wheel class. We went through the study guide, group discussions, then took the test. We didn’t know how the 2-wheel class did on the test, but we almost got a perfect score for all five in our class! One person missed one question. Some fun teasing, but we all learned a lot. End of day one.

We head back to the hotel. We are tired! Our plan had been to eat at either the same place as Friday night or the grill on the other side of the hotel. We went to the room and crashed! We had planned to watch a show, but we fell asleep during the show.

6:00am on Sunday morning. We were up at the first sound of the alarm. Showers, got dressed, Bible study, and breakfast. We get packed up and load up the Spyder. We get to the training area only a few minutes before 8:00am.

Sunday’s schedule involves more technical riding, CURVES! Faster curves, slaloms, sharp turns, swerves, and hard stops. Everyone picks their bike for the day and we set off on a few quick exercises to to get us warmed up.

Next up, curves! The track is set. A long oval with curves along each side and a sharper turn at the ends. We will begin going counterclockwise. Benita says we will do this with two or three on the track at a time. I am second in line, behind an F3. She sends the F3 down the track. As he gets to the far end, she asks me what I am waiting for. Off I go. This was what I had been waiting for, I wanted to improve my skills on handling the Spyder on curves. About three laps into it, I have managed to catch up with the F3. Benita tells us to get back in line as she sends the other three bikes on the track.

While we waited, the guy on the F3 and I talk about how THAT was fun! He didn’t realize that the RT could catch the F3. He says it won’t happen again. WRONG!

We do another set going counterclockwise then switch to clockwise. For the F3 and myself, this WAS the best part of the weekend. The F3 managed to get the back-end loose a time or two, I felt the front end dive and bottom out a few times myself.

Time trials and hard braking was up next. Start from a stop, get up to 18-20mph and execute a panic stop when you pass the last markers. Benita did say that I was doing a bit over 20 on one run, but said I did manage to keep complete control.

Next up was the panic swerve. I remembered this from my MSF class on two wheels. It was the one that caused me the most stress. For this exercise, ride 18-20 mph, get to a designated point and the instructor would tell you to turn right or left. You have to make the swerve in the required direction, straighten up, and THEN stop. All without hitting any of the rubber cones. I had a rough time on this, I kept trying to anticipate which direction and would hit a cone almost every time.

A few more slow exercises, changing lanes, and tight maneuvering filled up most of the morning.

As I mentioned earlier, we were supposed to have have 12 people in the class and that 7 had cancelled. This change allowed us to have more time doing the exercises, not having to share a bike, and managed to finish early.

About 11am, it was time for the riding test. During all the exercises, our order had gotten switched up. My bride had been at the back when we started the day, she was now second in line behind the F3, with me behind her.

Benita told us to take a break while she set up for the final exam. Some last minute instructions and we were off on the riding exam. There were four parts. First would be the stopping with the wheel in the designated spot on the pavement. Second would be a couple of curves then a sharp turn. Third was the swerve. Fourth was the timed run and panic stop. The timed run meant that we had to go at least 20 mph then a panic stop once we passed the second set of cones, then speed back up and go through a curve.

I won’t mention how anyone else did, that isn’t my place to tell how they performed on the exam.

I take off for the first part. No speed requirement, go as fast or slow as we wanted. We just had to stop completely in the marked square on the pavement. I got real serious. I take a motorcycle class and fail the exam? I would ever live it down. Especially if my bride passed and I didn’t! I go at about 5 mph, watching as I approached the square and STOPPED. I looked down and the tread was completely in the box, but just barely! I had almost stopped too early. Benita makes notes, tells me to get back in line for the next part, then motions for the next rider.

My turn for the second part. I approach the curve, keeping my head up, but realize I am going into the curve faster than I wanted. I look through the curve at the exit and the sharp turn, I feel what I thought was hitting a cone. I approach the sharp turn, slow and creep through the turn. I can see I was real close to the inner cone, but I can’t see the outer cone in relation to that wheel. Then I come to my stop. Benita says that she had asked that I stop before going into the sharp turn. Failure to follow an instruction could be a cause for failing. I get back in line and wait for part three.

I start part three get up to speed and make the swerve, straighten up, then stop. Another time I thought I felt a cone. Benita motions me to get back in line and for the next rider.

Time for part four. My turn and I take off. I don’t pay attention to the speed. I pass the first set of cones, then hit the brakes as I cross the second set of cones. Benita measures the stopping distance and tells me to take off for the curve. No need to rush, but too slow will make it hard to keep the head up and watch through the curve. Then I head back to the staging area while everyone else finishes their exam.

I have gotten to the point that I don’t pay as much attention to the score that I get as to the feedback that I get on how I can improve. Sure, I want to know what I did wrong, but even if I didn’t make an error, how can I get better? Benita calls me over and tells me how I did, how points are deducted, and she gives me some great feedback.

One thing that I wanted to know was how can my bride and I improve. What exercises can we do to improve our weak spots. After the exams, Benita, my bride, and I talk more about exercises. First thing is to get my bride a license. Then get her on the road. Practice in the parking lots nearby. The mall lot and churches are empty during the weekday, schools are empty on the weekend.

We had all been keeping a watch on the weather. A rain front was expected mid-afternoon along our route home. We put on our rain gear, loaded up, and took off.

The entire ride home was a great time for us to talk about our weekend. My bride wants to take the course again soon. Thought she felt good about the weekend, she was most excited about getting over her fear of the bike. She isn’t ready to take off on an Iron Butt Ride with me yet, or even on a week long touring ride. She is ready to ride it more often. Her biggest disappointment was that she kept having problems with the turn signals. She couldn’t find them without looking down for them, that would make her miss her lane changing area or turning area. We talked about some exercises to try.

This morning (Monday) we head over to Wal-mart to get some small sports cones for our course. I picked up some sidewalk chalk too. Tomorrow we have a few errands and my bride will go to the DMV to take the test for her Alabama Motorcycle endorsement. I would say to wish her luck, but she knows it and will do great!



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