By Mycah Miller
(or hours, depending on your riding style). Still, anyone who says riding motorcycles is easy is lying. Of course, we do things to protect ourselves like wear gear, do regular maintenance on our machines, and buy all kinds of parts and accessories in the name of safety. One of the best ways we can learn to keep ourselves safe, thus allowing us to keep riding, is by taking motorcycle classes. In a recent WRWR survey, 65% of our participants said they wanted (and 26.2% said they might want) to take a class to help improve their riding skills. I truly believe taking classes to improve our skills is the best way to keep us safe on our bikes. In fact, I started my solo riding career in a classroom. I started riding by pillion, but after a few months was ready to ride my own bike. In California, though, the law states anyone below age 21 must take the CMSP class in order to get their riding permit. I took the class, stalled more times than I can count on both hands, and fell in love.
Though the CMSP class was the perfect beginning class on how to operate a motorcycle safely, I was still terrified to ride on the street. My first month of riding I dropped my bike almost every time I got on it, consistently stalled at stop signs, and less than a month later, I found myself on a set-aside part of the paddock at Sonoma Raceway with my bike and gear, illogically worried I would fail in front of a huge group of riders and instructors. Imagine my surprise when my class consisted of less than 10 riders, and we had more instructors than I had classmates. All day I was given both group and individualized instruction, working with the same woman, now a close friend of mine, from the beginning. Not only did the class grow my skills, but my confidence towards riding. I attribute every mile I have ridden since to that, and have taken the class twice more since.
Since these first two classes, I have racked up street miles commuting to and from work/college and on the longer canyon carving rides, started my track carrier on both big track and kart track, and been introduced to a love/hate relationship with dirt biking with the help of the Hollister Hill’s Off-Road Association’s MSF Dirt Bike School. Especially as a woman, though, everyone seems to have an opinion on how I should be riding my bike. Even as a pillion, I had been bombarded with different people’s experiences and weird (often conflicting) tips for riding. With all this information (and a million stories starting with “my friend who rides said….”), it can be difficult to tell what advice is rooted in truth. Advanced riding courses are a great place to find the truth in the tips, the accurate information to make you a better (also interchangeable here: safer, faster, more aware, more informed) rider.
There are a million reasons not to take riding classes: they’re long, often somewhat physically and mentally arduous, they might involve a bit of travel to find one in your area. I’ll be the first to say, as a student myself, funds can be a significant barrier. But in this same vein, how much is your safety on the bike worth? We can learn a significant amount from reading books and watching videos about riding, but there is no better way to improve than to get actual seat time with someone watching you ride, explaining the small changes you can make to your body positioning or apexes that can have big changes on your speed and safety on the road (or track, or dirt, etc.). The best way to protect ourselves is by valuing ourselves and improving our skills. Classes are just a dependable way to do that.