Nov 18, 2020

Things No One Tells You About the MSF Basic RiderCourse

Jo Kelley

Four Things No One Tells You About the Basic RiderCourse

If you're a beginner motorcycle rider, it's likely you've heard of the MSF Basic RiderCourse. The motorcycle riding class was designed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to be the beginner’s entryway into motorcycling and provides you with your MSF endorsement.

The course consists of eight to ten hours of classroom instruction, an online ecourse, and ten hours of on-cycle, hands-on riding practice. Yeah, you can do your research on MSF’s official site and get a general idea of the riding exercises, road terms, or find a location where you can take the course to get a motorcycle license, but there are some things that they don’t tell you. Here are some of them.

It’s a workout.

If you’ve never ridden a motorcycle, it might surprise you how much of a workout it actually is. After my first day practicing out on what they call the “range” (a large parking lot where on-cycle lessons take place), I was surprised to wake up feeling very sore the next morning. Considering I’m not a person who you would exactly describe as in "tip-top" shape, I assumed feeling as if I had spent a day at the gym was because I had gotten a serious workout on the motorcycle the day before. I was right.

As it turns out, the riding posture and maintenance of proper balance that you’ll practice in the Basic RiderCourse is, in fact, a low-impact workout. In order to keep yourself upright and in the correct riding position on the bike, you are using your core strength. Riding a motorcycle requires physical effort, and, while I am not saying you’ll manicure a swole bodybuilder-type physique just from making the switch from four wheels to two, you’ll definitely feel it after your first few days of practice.  

It’s hot!

All students of the Basic RiderCourse have to follow the rules of the range and wear the proper safety gear and attire, which includes long sleeves, gloves, boots that come above the ankle, jeans or riding pants, and a helmet. No skin is allowed to be exposed while on the range, so sleeves must remain down to prevent abrasions or other injuries. That means you can’t even roll them up for some relief from the rising temperature.

So, imagine this. It’s around 85 degrees at high noon. You’re wearing full riding gear: a full-face helmet, long sleeves, riding boots, jeans, and full-fingered gloves. You’re sitting on a black motorcycle with a running engine, riding around an asphalt parking lot for hours on end. It might get a little toasty, don’t you think?

Riding coaches are adamant that all beginner motorcycle riders enrolled in the course eat a good meal before coming to class, and, of course, that you STAY HYDRATED. I can’t support this advice enough. I underestimated the heat at first, and all I can say is that when it comes to things that will keep you safe out on the range, listen to the instructors when they tell you things like this. They are keeping your best interest in mind and they tend to also know what they’re talking about, after all. Plus, I can tell you that when it starts to warm up out there and you're smack in the middle of an exercise, it isn't a good time to realize you should have taken advantage of that water break. Regret is never fun in these circumstances.

Also, if you're a person who tends to have an intolerance to heat, take extra steps to keep yourself safe, and make note of symptoms and signs of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke is serious business, and you don’t want to put yourself, or other riders on the range, at risk.

You end up making some pretty awesome friends.

If you put me in a room with a bunch of strangers to take a class for a weekend, that is not exactly my idea of a fun time. I’ll say it. I’m not exactly the most extroverted person, so when I had to work with my classmates to complete exercises and lessons, I wasn’t jumping for joy at the thought of such forced interaction. It wasn’t just me, either. Most of the other folks in my class, at first, were keeping to themselves, avoiding eye contact, and begrudgingly conversing with one another.

By the end of the class, though, it was a completely different story. After a weekend, we were the best of friends. We had become each other’s support system; we were rooting each other on, cheering each other’s victories, and assisting one another when there were struggles. I love my classmates, and I am so glad to have met them. At the end of the course, as newly licensed riders, we all exchanged numbers in a promise to ride together out in the real world. The Basic RiderCourse was a bonding experience like I had never seen before. The camaraderie of the motorcycle culture is real, and it started before we had even earned our endorsements. Which, I think, is pretty freakin’ cool.

It’s so worth it.

I’ve been wracking my brain since the end of my Basic RiderCourse to think of something that is as rewarding as getting your motorcycle endorsement at the end of the course. Truly. The hard work and tons of sweat I put into the exercises, the studying I put in before I took the written exam, the practice I completed before the final riding test, it all paid off. I knew nothing about how to ride a motorcycle before I took the Basic RiderCourse, and now I could confidently (and safely) ride off into the sunset on two wheels, with my shiny new endorsement.

The reward of getting your endorsement after all the nerves, frustration, and hard work you put into the beginner motorcycle rider course is something I’d venture to guess you’ll think back on fondly. There may be times where it seems too difficult; you might get frustrated and just walk away from it all, but I’m here to tell you that perseverance through the challenges will lead to a feeling that, at least for me, ranks up there with pride.

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