In Idaho, the class we take, which is better than MSF class, is called STARS. I took the Beginner class in August of 2010. It was over 100 degrees both days we had to ride and, as I have shared in other posts, I passed by the skin of my teeth (to quote my instructor). But, I want to give you a quote, right up front, about the STARS program in Idaho. This quote is from bikebandit.com. It comes from an article stating the MSF statistics, showing a 60% increase in motorcycle fatalities in California after MSF was put in place, has caused California to drop MSF and go with a program called Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic. Here is the quote, “Idaho’s STAR program, founded in 1994, uses a tiered course system, and has had a lot of success since it’s adoption, boasting a whopping 70% reduction in crash risk for riders between 1996 and 2010. (In fact, Idaho’s program was so successful, Total Control actually hired the STAR program manager for a year to help with the huge transition of taking over all of California’s rider training.)” So – now you will understand why I believe so strongly in taking a course! STARS teaches skills – not just how to ride around in a circle for 2 days! You learn to make fast stops, quick avoidance maneuvers, riding in traffic, stopping at a 4 way stop, and much more.
I had never been the driver – only the rider on any motorcycle and, I was so, so, so afraid. I dropped the bike once coming to a stop out of a turn. I was not hurt at all – just really embarrassed. I was the oldest person in the class and almost everyone else either already had a bike or had been the driver of one.
As we were practicing out on the course, I thought I was going pretty dang fast!! Truth was, I was going painfully slowly. My instructors kept urging me to go faster. Also, my husband was hiding across the street, watching me. At the end of the first day, I learned that there were to be 2 TESTS at the end of the third day! I decided that I was not coming back on the last day – I just knew I was going to flunk. My husband, who did not tell me he had been watching, encouraged me and left it up to me. I went. I was sure I was going to be embarrassed by being the only person to flunk. I DIDN’T – I could hardly believe it! My instructor said that the only reason they let me pass was because it was obvious that I knew what to do, I was just doing it too slowly. I had completed the skills that were required – just slowly. I knew I could do better and was thankful that I passed.
The next day, we bought we bought my Scooter – a Burgman 400. I knew that I had to get over being scared, go faster (as I was comfortable with it), remember everything from class and, I didn’t want to have to think about shifting.
After I got my motorcycle endorsement, my husband rode my Scooter out to a country road as I followed in his vehicle. He then, very slowly and patiently, followed me around as I experimented with starting, stopping, going faster on a straight stretch of road, and a few turns. Again, totally afraid the entire time. He did this for a couple of days and then told me I had to go out on my own. I was afraid to turn out of my subdivision because I had to turn onto a small hill. I did it.
I then spent weeks on those country roads. Every day, reminding myself of all the things that had been emphasized in my class. Turn your head and look all the way through a turn. Keep your eyes up. Etc. I rode behind my husband. He also rode behind me and then would let me know what I had done correctly and incorrectly – like not turning my head and looking through the turn!!! I didn’t like to hear it but I knew he was right. I ended up putting a little over 3,000 miles on my Scooter in 3 months. I told you I practiced a lot! I also made a long trip in that time. I then bought my Harley Heritage.
If you are thinking about getting a motorcycle, no matter how much prior experience you may have had, I want to encourage you to take a class. What you learn there will make you a better rider. If you have never driven your own motorcycle and are thinking about getting one – take the class first. In many states, it is mandatory in order to obtain an Endorsement on your Driver’s License. There is no way to overemphasize the need to do this. However, MSF agrees that taking their class has not proven to lower your chances of a crash (not so in Idaho!) and, statistics for new riders show that you are more likely to crash in the first month. The statistics go down as time passes. Here is quote from Insurancejournal.com, “An institute study showed 22 percent of nearly 57,000 collision claims from 2003 to 2007 occurred in the first 30 days after an insurance policy took effect. The claim rate dropped one-third in the second month and almost two-thirds after six months.” I do want to say that these statistics include someone who “stops and drops” and damages their bike. It is not just claims for high speed crashes.
Regardless of the statistics, I believe in the classes, and most people do but, ONLY if you utilize the skills that you’re taught. If you only take the class because you’re “forced” to by state law, it won’t help you. I know this for sure – taking the class seriously, remembering that you don’t know what you don’t know, and being willing to take the time to practice, will make you a far better rider than others you may see out on the road. A motorcycle rider is more vulnerable than the cagers are. We don’t have a steel box to help protect us. This means, that in addition to being confident and skillful, you need to be constantly on the alert for everyone else who is on the road. And, you have be more alert about yourself and how you are feeling. If you don’t feel good, if you’re having an “off” day – DON’T RIDE! Stay home. Then, practice, practice, practice. Take another class if you’re experiencing problems in a certain area. There are curves and turns classes, advanced riding skills classes and much more.
In Idaho, we have a long season in which we cannot ride at all, or can only ride sporadically. This year, I had 3 1/2 months of not riding. For my first ride, I ALWAYS go out where there is little to no traffic and focus on basic skills. Every year, I review the most basic things I learned in class and I go practice them until I’m feeling confident again. I know that some may think this is unnecessary but – the really good riders will tell you it isn’t. It’s smart. It only takes one mistake to end your riding. Don’t let it happen due to your own personal mistake – thinking you can handle something you can’t.
Last – remember ATGATT = All The Gear All The Time. I don’t like to wear chaps and my 3/4 helmet when it is 105 out and, I have to admit that my favorite helmet is my shorty helmet. I love the wind. However, the majority of the time, I wear the gear. I have a friend who hit a deer and, the fact that she was wearing ALL of her gear, saved her. The gear was destroyed but she was not.
How many of you have taken an MSF class (or equivalent) and believe it helped you?
How many of you practice what you learned in the class regularly?
Let me know what your thoughts are about the safety classes and rider skills.