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Discussion Starter #1
Here's the story. I got my license and rode a Honda 400 for one summer in 1979. My brother taught me the basics and I passed the test. I don't know if MSF courses existed back then. 34 years later (this year) I did a bunch of research early Spring and bought a 2007 Yamaha 250. I actually signed up for the MFS course but had to back out due to conflicts. I put about 1500 miles on the 250 riding mostly on county roads, not much in town. My 20 year old son took the MSF course in May and I read the book he brought home. In June I bought 2010 V900 classic and I've put about 3000 miles on it.

Now, I'm reading this forum and realizing there are probably a lot of techniques my brother did not teach me (or know himself) the they may teach in the MSF course. I also see there are advanced courses which I would like to take but I probably need to take the first course first, yes? But this is all guesswork. So my question is as in the title, what will I learn in the MSF course that I haven't learned reading the book and riding 4500 miles this year?

I guess I should mention what I "think" I know now. I fully understand the bike operations, not to brake hard on the rear, how to counter steer, how to slow before a curve and accelerate through it, how down shift when slowing, how watch for loose material (gravel, sand, leaves, etc), how to drive defensively all the time, and I wear full gear all the time. I keep it in gear and watch around and behind at a stop. But, I keep catching wind of discussions about practicing hard stops, u turns, avoidance techniques?, etc. Does the MFS course really cover significantly more than what I would have learned on the road, from reading the manual, and from reading these forums? The course is $200 here and I'd spend that if it's worth it but I don't want spend it and be bored silly for 90% of the course.
 

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OldDave,

I think at this point you would find the Basic Course a little boring now that you covered this many miles and have read through the course material. Here a copy of what's covered in the Basic Course...

Classroom topics:
Protective riding gear
Preparation
Risk management
Street strategies
Special riding situations
Impairment

Early riding exercises teach basic skills:
Clutch and throttle control
Straight-line riding
Turning
Shifting
Stopping

Later exercises teach advanced skills:
U-turns and counterweighting
Maximum braking
Counter steering
Cornering
Swerving

I do think you would benefit from the Basic Rider Course 2. Here's what's cover in this Course...

Sharpen your riding skills in the five-hour Basic Rider Course 2 (BRC 2) and earn a MSF Basic Rider Course 2 completion card. Riders spend most of time riding on a course.

Riding Skills Practiced:
Cornering
Counter steering
Maximum braking
Riding strategy
Risk management
Swerving
Tight turns
Traction management
U-turns

The cost of this course is in the $60 range as you'll be using your own motorcycle (as it should be) and only 5 hours long. Check it out...
 

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Even if you learned one new technique that might save your skinny one day don't you think that would be worth $200? Plus you get to ride!

Most MSF courses make you take the basic course and get the card before you can take the advanced one...but some places are different. Never hurts to ask.

-Delta

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Delta_Shread,

Good catch... OldDave - you would need to check that out. Not sure about Iowa, but these are the requirements for Minnesota for the Basis Course 2.

Eligibility Requirements
Participants ride their own motorcycle during the course.
Motorcycles must be street legal, licensed, insured and pass a basic inspection.
Riders must show proof of insurance to the instructor .
Riders must have a valid driver’s license with either a motorcycle endorsement or a valid motorcycle permit.
Riders must be proficient in the basic skills of clutch control, straight-line riding, turning, shifting and stopping.
Riders must have 1,000 miles of riding experience in the past year.
Participants under 18 must have their parents sign a waiver form prior to on-cycle instruction.
 

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Both of my younger brothers had Honda 350 in the 70s to early 80s. Younger of the two took the course sometime over a year ago and said it was well worth it. So I took it a year ago. Yes, well worth it. A better rider is a safer rider. I rode my bike, the Rebel, to the course when I took it, so being able to ride doesn't mean you won't learn a lot.
 

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I actually just took the class August 18th but here in Illinois it's only $20 and the money is refundable if you pass it was a great class although the first day u ride ull be bored they do clutch control for like three hours because there really are people who don't know how to ride that take this class(one person kept forgetting to out their feet down when stopping so they dropped the bike like 5 times) they do teach new techniques on turning such as instead of physically leaning your body the way u wanna turn push down on the handle bars*to turn left push down with ur left hand an vise versa*


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I rode about 600 miles before taking the class. Some of the classroom work was a bit redundant, but there was still good info in it. The riding portion started out basic and slow (learn to use the clutch), but the pace is brisk and you move on to useful techniques pretty quickly. I can say I'm *very* glad I took it and am without a doubt much for confident in my riding. It cleaned up some bad habits and added new ones. In my state, it costs $50, which is a huge bargain.

...also, if the class plays out for you like it did for me, you'll learn how to deal with a ragged out Honda transmission.

Doug
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks to everyone for the advice. I suspected I'd get some "it can't hurt" answers but was surprised by the overwhelming comments that it's definitely worth the money and the effort. But, I'm a big fundamentals guy when it comes to about anything, which is probably why I asked the question in the first place, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

That said, now I'm on the fence. I checked the local Community College where they teach this course and they happen to have a Basic Rider 2 course this next Saturday and it's free. (Not sure why the first course is $200 and this is free... maybe to encourage folks to take it?) Anyway, I checked with the instructor and the first course is not a prerequisite, but they do test everyone first thing to ensure they have the basic skills necessary to take the advanced course. So, I enrolled. I figured if I have acquired enough basic skills on my own to pass the "entrance exam" then I can't be too far off the mark.

I still wish I would have taken the first MSF course last Spring before I started riding again but.... water under the bridge. I know folks say that in addition to the riding techniques that the instructors provide a lot of other good information but I have read so much online, mostly on this forum, that I've probably heard much of this information by now. And, I do this continually so... (have I convinced myself yet that's it's "OK" to skip the beginner MSF class yet....)? Well, if I don't pass the entrance exam next Saturday I'll definitely be signing up for the next available beginner course! :)

Thanks again everyone for the comments and advice.
 

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I know guys who've ridden for decades, hundreds of thousands of miles across dozens of bikes; and said they learned some things (and realized they were doing some things wrong) after the MSF course. I think anyone on two wheels should take it! Understanding and mastering techniques like counter-steering and proper braking (you hear a LOT of BAD advice about braking out there; but the MSF breaks it down and tells you WHY!) will really help anyone!
 

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No time to think

I took Level 1 in Nevada and got my license. Not only do the instructors make sure you practice and learn it, you also learn routine practice that you can do on your own. The instructors monitor you and give you feedback; way better than letting the asphalt do it. I had already ridden dirt bikes for 10 years and had amassed some bad habits since the dirt was more forgiving.
You also get to watch the other people; the beginner bikes are all similar, so you're all on the same level. They teach you the information you need before you take the written test. If you pass the written and riding, you get your license.

I took Level 2 (called Advanced Rider Course) in Nevada, after I put 3000 miles on my own bike. I took it once on a Kawasaki Vulcan Classic, once on the same bike after my broken arm (HIKING!!!) and once on my Victory. The instructors know exactly what you are doing wrong when you can't really tell on your own. You get to see a lot of different bikes and a lot of riders, so it's fun. My Victory aced the wait in the hot sun, while the hot shot crotch rockets popped and died until they were pushed off the course (no insult intended--they just don't wait very well in the heat.) Every time I took the class I learned something and actually enjoyed it.

Some insurances give a discount if you take one or more of the classes; some states make you take it if you get a ticket. I wanted to take it for the practice the first time, to renew my skills with my arm the second time (nerves are affected when you break an arm); and because I had a new bike the third time. I tried to take a class when I got a Honda Silverwing scooter, but they didn't offer scooter classes. I have this smaller bike now, the Vulcan 500, and I am older. I may take another one of these classes on the Vulcan.

Having been a teacher for over 30 years, I know that practice makes things automatic. That's what the MSF instructors say, too. When something happens on the road you don't really have time to think about what to do. "Automatic" has helped me.

I still practice maneuvers such as weaving, stopping in a curve, fast stops, etc. I learned those in the motorcycle classes. I have ridden since I was 35 (dirtbikes for about 10 years, then street bikes for another 16). My husband has ridden dirt and street bikes since he was 14---for 48 years. I could not entice him to the class, but I showed him my maneuvers. He still practices the maneuvers, especially slow riding. You'd be surprised how many things come up at the gas pumps, or when a vehicle suddenly darts in front of you in a parking lot. Then there are the deer....

MSF has its own method. I even got one of their videos on group riding, and my husband and I use the signals that they showed on that particular video. Much easier than installing that communication system into your helmet (at least for us.) There are other training methods, the important thing is that you practice whatever you learn. MSF does teach a different cornering method than some people may use. You push the handlebars the direction you want to go. It may depend on what class is offered near you.

Ride safe.

Diane
 

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Having been a teacher for over 30 years, I know that practice makes things automatic. That's what the MSF instructors say, too. When something happens on the road you don't really have time to think about what to do. "Automatic" has helped me.
Bingo!

A year or so ago, I was riding along on a street and a mini van pulled out INTO me (not in front of me, had I not evaded they would have T-boned me). In an INSTANT I counter steer swerved HARD, while simultaneously checking my blindspot and finding a line away from traffic, then checking on the offending traffic and returning to my lane. It happened so fast that I actually pulled off the road a little ways down to kind of go over in my head what all just happened. It wasn't an abundance of rider skill or cat like reflexes; it was just practice. I had done that maneuver a million times using a technique I learned from an MSF instructor; pick a 'target' on the road (leaf, oil spot, a rock) and pretend like it's traffic violating your right of way; and react. It's almost a 'game' I play every now and then. Of course, that all happens much slower. I take time to check for traffic, I decide what I'm going to do, then I do it; generally slowly. This time, I did all the same things; but in an instant (so fast it surprised me!).

Had I not understood countersteering, I would not have been able to swerve the bike that quickly (absolutely no way no how). Had I not learned tactics for avoidance, I could've swerved into traffic or reacted in some other way poorly. Had I not learned tactics for detecting threats, I might not have reacted as SOON as I did. And had I not been taught to practice these manuevers, I would'nt have been able to put all that together in a split second to change what could've been a bad situation; and turn it into a quick action that probably resulting in the minivan driver never even realizing what she did. (Well, er... before the horn she listened to for a good solid 10 seconds).

Not to be all mellodramatic, but it sure saved me some money! It was slow speed, she was coming from a stop and I was maybe doing 25mph. Had I not been trained I would've probably just braked hard (the 'default' response to danger in a motor vehicle) reducing the impact speed to perhaps very little. But it would've resulted in at the VERY LEAST a banged up bike. Heck; just not having to deal with the headache of insurance and sitting on the side of the road, answering questions and dealing with a police report was worth the $200.

There are a lot of things I'm willing to say "To each their own" or "What works for some doesn't work for everyone". But I firmly believe, there's not a man, woman or child on two or three wheels who can't benefit from the MSF course. (Or even 4! Imagine if car drivers took the MSF course just to get a more intuitive idea of what dangers they cause?)
 

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Good responses

Romans--Sounds like you aced the MSF class! I got hit on one of my scooters in a similar situation. In double left turn lanes I was on the outside. A pickup in the inside lane came at me from behind and at an angle. Guess he wanted to cross to the nearby bar. I saw it out of the corner of my eye and barely had time to react. I started braking and I guess that kept the damage more in the front of the scooter than on my leg. Then the scooter swung over and my head hit the back of the pickup; thank goodness for my full-face helmet. Sometimes people lay the bike over when braking or swerving will do the trick without messing up their bikes and/or their legs.

I'm 5'9" and was wearing a bright yellow jacket while riding a 3-wheeled Piaggio; it really surprised me when they rounded the driver up 2 days later (yes, a hit and run) and he said that he hadn't seen me. ???!!!?? Go figure.

Good luck in your class, OldDave.

Diane
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Well, I took BRC2 class today. Wow... was I surprised and humbled. I thought I knew what I was doing but I think I learned more in those 8 hours than I have in the last 8 months. I thought I was looking ahead when I ride until I tried to navigate the track at the course. I discover I tend to look down at the road and not ahead. I don't turn my head correctly when approaching and riding through a curve. I need to work on applying just the right amount of front AND rear brake to stop fast and not skid. In short, I have a lot to work on before I can really say I really know how to ride well and control bike. The course was really worth it, and a lot of fun. And FREE! I guess in Iowa they are having trouble getting folks to sign up for the BRC2 so they got a grant so it could be offered for free. Anyway, made a believer out of me. I'd recommend this to anyone.
 
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