MSF Experienced RiderCourse Review
Any motorcycle training course is good, right?
After all, there’s no such thing as too much training.
Anyone who thinks they’re too good to learn anything new is probably ready for a tumble. Real soon.
I was ready for more — just 3 weeks after taking the Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic (review), I was back at it again at the MSF Experienced RiderCourse (yep, that’s the way they spell it), or ERC for short.
Now I will admit to an ulterior motive: my insurance company said they’d give me 10% off if I could prove that I took the ERC within the last 5 years.
And with a couple of Ducatis in the garage, that’s a pretty significant chunk o’ change.
I’ll also admit that I did try to sneak one by them — I sent them a copy of the certificate of completion from the last time I took the class in 2000, but no dice. It was time to do it again.
This is the third official MSF motorcycle training course I’ve taken in my biking career.
Besides the two ERC sessions, I took the MSF Beginner training, which is now known as the Basic RiderCourse, in 1998 in Florida, some 16 years after I started riding motorcycles, on a Bultaco Metralla, of all things!
That course was fantastic — mostly due to the very skilled, patient and wonderful instructors who taught in the classroom and on the range.
It was loads of fun and the best part was that I was stunned at how much I didn’t know about riding motorcycles after 16 years of practice.
The MSF Experienced RiderCourse
The MSF Experienced RiderCourse I took in 2000 was also pretty good; the instructors were excellent, but the classroom sessions and the materials provided by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation seemed a bit stilted (read: boring).
Back then, about half the day was spent in the classroom and some of that time was spent watching videos.
My impressions of that training were positive, and I enjoyed the time spent practicing my skills under supervision in a parking lot — but I really didn’t learn many new techniques.
As a sort of reality check — that is, having an “experienced” instructor critique my riding skills (albeit at very low speeds) — it was useful, but otherwise, I’m not so sure.
My opinion of the Experienced RiderCourse, which has been confirmed in my mind during my recent training, is that the ERC is probably most useful for motorcycle riders who have already gone through the MSF Beginner training about 6 months to a year earlier.
Also it’s best for motorcyclists who have ridden during that time to gain street experience and now want to brush up on their skills.
I think that the beginning rider probably feels overwhelmed in the MSF Basic RiderCourse, trying to absorb some very complex new skills that take a huge amount of mental concentration, physical coordination and control.
What happens is that the mind naturally throws out some of the finer details and sifts through to pick out only the most important survival skills; i.e., only the basic stuff sticks with you.
This is a natural human behavior.
So if the rider survives, it may be very useful to return after a few months’ practice to go through all of the exercises again.
It’s not necessary to go into as much detail as the first time, but this time the rider absorbs more of the finer points of motorcycle training. In theory, anyway.
But for the really serious and more experienced rider — and, in my opinion, every motorcycle rider should be really serious — I think it’s a different story.
By “serious”, I mean someone who looks at motorcycle riding as a craft, and is committed to a lifelong evolution of study, self-awareness, self-criticism and learning, via books, videos and track days that will help them improve their skills.
This prototype serious rider has therefore developed some good (and maybe bad) notions of what works and what doesn’t.
That’s especially so if they’ve done a bit of study by, say, reading some of the many good motorcycle riding skills books or watching videos (not of the outlaw type!) or even serious efforts like practicing in a parking lot or going to track days.
For this type of rider, the Experienced Rider Course isn’t quite as useful.
He or she would no doubt still benefit from briefly reviewing the basics — the slow-speed turns, tight U-turns, Figure 8’s, maximum emergency stopping and “slow, look, lean and roll”, but here’s where it gets complicated.
The Importance of the Instructor
As I hinted at earlier, much of this training, whether MSF BRC or MSF ERC, depends on the instructors.
A less experienced instructor, or one with weaker interpersonal skills, or an instructor that has some difficulty communicating or even one who’s heart really isn’t in it, can definitely make or break the value of the training.
I’ve discovered after my three MSF courses that the experienced riders seem to be more affected by instructor problems than less experienced riders.
That’s because the experienced rider needs a very sharp instructor who can identify the subtleties of riding habits and provide the feedback in a way that won’t insult or bore.
And although it is possible that the ERC exercises might provide some benefit to more experienced riders, for the most part the exercises seem too basic and unchallenging to significantly improve an experienced rider’s skills.
Also, my impression was that the instructors are under orders from MSF to follow the curriculum to the letter in the range exercises and the discussion sections.
They seemed so afraid to veer from the script that they read the slides word for word, which makes that part of the course boring and devoid of even a hint of interest for the more experienced rider — and probably for the less experienced as well. I mean after all, boring is boring, right?
The same repetitive MSF material that’s used in the BRC is here — everything from the corny “T-CLOC” (does anyone ever really remember what that means?) to traction patches and the warnings against drinking and driving.
The material seems dated and mostly a repeat of the BRC, while also sounding like it’s out of touch, too academic and too preachy. Just like a High School Driver’s Education class.
For example, checking the bike before starting is absolutely the right idea, but after unenthusiastically reciting the T-CLOC section to us simply because MSF told them to, the instructors and everyone else completely ignored it.
At the very least, the instructors could have spiced it up a bit by bringing us over to a bike and actually going through the checks, rather than reading it off a cue card and then moving on to the next topic.
Now maybe some of this is the fault of the individual instructors; after all, it’s unrealistic to expect that every one of them will be Gold Star teacher.
But the MSF curriculum seems to encourage an immediate dulling effect on instructor motivation simply because they must follow it to the letter, squelching any initiative or personality that might make it more interesting.
Suggestions for Improvement
It is possible that I’d have a different opinion if I hadn’t just taken the Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic just three weeks prior to the ERC. The contrast was dramatic.
For the more experienced rider, the Total Control class is everything that the ERC should be. It’s fun, it’s relevant and it provides new ideas, skills and strategies that are very useful in real-world riding.
So here’s my suggestion:
Either the MSF should start talking to Lee Parks about incorporating the Total Control class into their curriculum as their higher level experienced rider training, or experienced riders should forget the ERC and go directly to Total Control.
If Lee Parks could convince the insurance companies to provide the same discount, ERC would be out of business.
As for the MSF Experienced RiderCourse, I didn’t learn much from this latest iteration of the training. I don’t presume to speak for my fellow classmates, who, I will admit, all seemed like very good and skillful motorcycle riders.
But it sure seemed to me, based on the conversations that I had with them that the consensus was that the class was, well, boring and without much relevance.
The range exercises weren’t challenging and the classroom time was almost embarrassingly elementary. I have no way to tell if my impressions would be different with other instructors, or how it works in other states, but there you have it.
That’s my opinion. What’s yours? Send your comments to [email protected]
UPDATE: One more thing – it’s been nearly 4 weeks since the course and I’m still waiting for my certificate of completion.
The instructors said they didn’t have the correct forms when we took the class and that he would send them out the next week. That was over 3 weeks ago.
I made several phone calls to the Community College where the course was offered and they claim that they need the instructor to sign the certificate and that they’ll ask him to do it when he comes in for a class next week…we’ll see.
Meanwhile, I’m losing money because I need the certificate to get the 10% discount on my motorcycle insurance!
The moral of the story? Make sure they give you a signed certificate of completion before you leave the parking lot!
Publication Date: June 2007
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From “J” (December 2011): “I read your article about the MSF ERC , now called the BRC II. As an instructor I agree you do have some valid points, but I highly recommend you take the new ARC advanced rider course. It will defiantly challenge you and make you think.”
From “R.C.” (5/10): “I read your article, and the ensuing comments, with interest. I’ve been riding for about 18 years and 200,000 miles (according to my spreadsheets), having taken the BRC when I got my first bike, a 1981 Suzuki GS550T.
I learned a lot that weekend, an impression reinforced by the comment of a grizzled old participant.
During the “graduation” after getting his course completion card, turned and said to the class, “I learned s*** this weekend that the road couldn’t teach me in 25 years of riding.”
I’m looking at taking the ERC, but after reading some of the comments I’m not sure what value there is in that, given how the courses seem to be structured.
Also, this year I’m transitioning from sport tourers to my first cruiser and still sorting out the finer points of my new ride.
It would seem that the ERC is a review of the BRC with a few low-speed exercises thrown in. I was surprised to read that the exercises aren’t conducted at street speed and therefore seem to lack relevance to the real world.
Perhaps its time to take a three-tiered approach to training.
A beginner’s course, an intermediate course, and an advanced course patterned after your experience in the Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic, or the cop-centered motor officer training.
The advanced training would require the applicant to pass a skills test before starting the training, ensuring that the rider possesses the necessary street skill to tackle the advanced stuff.
Of course, you can offer all the advanced training you want. It only works when the rider shows up.”
From “K.S.” (7/09): “I recently completed the ERC and I was disappointed at several aspects of the course.
The Rider Coaches, while dedicated, hard working, and always courteous, left me some doubts about their training.
The considered a long sleeved tee shirt as adequate riding protection, ditto for any gloves, ditto for any long pants.
They demanded DOT stickers on the helmets (OK) but wore half-coverage helmets which offer minimal protection and said nothing about improved protection from a full coverage or full face helmet.
I feel that they set very poor examples for the students.
I’m an engineer. I understand countersteering a motorcycle. I understand that it is the only way to effectively turn the motorcycle above about 10 mph, notwithstanding claims to the contrary, although some dirt bikes have the geometry and tires that allow some body steering that is not as effective as countersteering.
There was no mention whatsoever of countersteering.
Leaning the motorcycle was taught, but they did not teach the most effective way to lean it — to steer the front tire contact patch out from under the bike’s center of gravity…the definition of countersteering.
They taught leaning by holding the rider’s body stationary and tipping the bike under the body.
The Classroom Cards said to turn, Slow, Look, Press, Roll. What in the world does “Press” mean? We were taught to press down on the hand grip on the side to which we are to turn. That does nothing.
If the grip is pushed forward the bike will turn toward the side that is pushed, and this is what happens regardless of whether the Rider Coaches realized it or not.
I feel that the emergency swerve maneuver was poorly laid out. We slowed, swerved, and stopped. It would have been more realistic if the maneuver was to swerve, straighten, stop.
A riding course where maneuvers could be practiced at street speeds or greater would be very valuable.
If the things I mentioned are not exactly the authorized curriculum, perhaps a friendly reminder could go out to the Rider Coaches. If it is the authorized curriculum, a review would be in order.”
Editor’s Note: I believe the MSF uses the word “press” to imply that the rider’s movements on the handlebars should be gentle.
This is in the same philosophy as using the word “squeeze” by the MSF to describe the rider’s hand movement on the front brake, which implies a more controlled movement than the word “grab”, for example.
From “F.R.E.” (2/09): “I took the basic rider’s course in August 2005 and had never before ridden a motorcycle. I was immediately aware of serious course limitations.
Of course it was good to learn the basics of operating a motorcycle.
However, being able to control a motorcycle on a parking lot at speeds of less than 20 mph does not make one competent to control a motorcycle under real-world conditions.
For example, making a swerve at 20 mph is very different from making a swerve at, for example, 60 mph.
That’s because at 60 mph, the force required on the handlebars would be 9 times greater since the force required increases with the square of the speed. Also, there was no actual riding in traffic.
Also, counter-steering was over-emphasized and made to sound unnatural and mysterious. I’ve ridden a bicycle all my life and have never thought of “pushing on a grip,” but rather turning the handle bars to the left or right.
To avoid becoming confused, I had to forget about that “pushing on a grip” stuff and just steer the motorcycle the way I’d been steering a bicycle for about 60 years.
Anyone who’s ridden a bicycle has been counter-steering, whether he realizes it or not. I think that they should mention counter-steering, but say that it is a natural thing that one does not ordinarily have to think about since the brain will cause it to happen naturally.
If you have to take time to think about which grip to push, you’re in trouble.
Consider also that one counter-steers when ice skating or skiing.
I have a book that was published in England; it recommends applying the FRONT brake first, then the rear brake.
I mention this only to show that there are differences in opinion, probably because there has not been sufficient testing done to determine what actually is the best technique.
The MSF course emphasizes applying the rear brake first, then the front brake, but to “squeeze” the front brake rather than applying it too quickly.
If one goes by the dictionary definition of “squeeze,” that recommendation is meaningless; obviously one can “squeeze” something abruptly.
They talk about the time required for rear to front weight transfer to occur, but it is not quantified. Do they mean that it takes 0.05 seconds, or 0.5 seconds?
I asked, but did not receive an answer. Moreover, some “experts” claim that the weight transfer in instantaneous.
They emphasize the need to downshift to first gear while making an emergency stop. My feeling is that if an emergency stop is required, one should concentrate on controlling the bike, not shifting gears.
They also emphasize leaving the bike in first gear while stopped in case one has to start out suddenly. That’s a good idea, but does not take into consideration the physical limitations of the rider.
Under some traffic conditions, if one did that, one could temporarily loose the use of one’s left hand.
A book I have from England recommends stopping with the right foot down, leaving the transmission in first, and keeping the left foot poised over the shift lever to enable shifting to first and accelerating quickly if necessary.
Obviously that differs from the MSF recommendation. I prefer to keep both feet down and, if stopping only briefly, to leave the bike in first gear.
When I asked about blipping the throttle to execute a smooth downshift while braking, I was told that one should NEVER use the throttle and brake at the same time!
The instructor also became confused when I mentioned “low gear,” apparently not understanding that the terms “low gear” and “first gear” are the same thing.
Anyone who has a good science background would find that the course raises as many questions as it answers.
From my understanding of the advanced MSF course, I see absolutely no point in taking it. I’ve read books on motorcycle riding and seen videos, so I doubt that I’d get anything out of a course since it seems to be nothing more than a review of the basic course.
It would, however, be helpful if it were easier to find places to practice low speed maneuvers safely since, unless one practices from time to time, one will lose the skill.
Also, it would help if advanced courses were more conveniently available to improve one’s skill at normal riding speeds.
The MSF basic course is far better than nothing, but it needs considerable improvement and should be somewhat less rigid.”
From “EW”: “I just graduated from the MSF Basic Rider Course this weekend. And yes, while I realize that the BRC and ERC are different curricula, I have a very different opinion than the “MSF is just peachy” vibe I read in a couple reviews.
Let me preface this by first stating that I scored 100/100 on both the written and riding portions of the test, so this is not sour grapes. I rode well enough that I was offered a job as an instructor prior to taking the ride test.
In short, I think the MSF courses are a complete joke.
There is nearly ZERO focus on practical street survival. The instructors read the instructions and course materials like robots, putting everyone to sleep.
The MSF teaches at least a couple “techniques” that are 180 degrees contrary to good street survival. Riders who cover the clutch and brakes are mercilessly persecuted.
Practical visibility measures such as using the high beam during the daylight hours are equally objectionable to the MSF. I shudder to think of what nonsense is taught in the ERC.
Oh, and God forbid you shift the bike to neutral before shutting it down.
That maneuver will get you the official MSF Smackdown(TM) (Not doing do on a KLR makes cold starting a real PITA, so I just reflexively do it on whatever I’m riding. But this is the MSF, so let’s forget about practical reality.)
I’d like to think my opinion has at least *some* context. I took an MSF Basic Rider course about 20 years ago and it was a completely different experience (Unfortunately, I never followed through and bought that dual-sport bike — a decision I’ve regretted every since and now have rectified).
The instructors were experienced, informed, and engaging and were there to inculcate students with practical street smarts to keep them alive.
When I decided to start riding this summer, I thought it would be smart to take the course again since there was probably a lot of stuff I forgot. I anxiously looked forward to an experienced mentor to guide me back into motorcycling.
The modern MSF is at best a total letdown.
At worst, I think it’s probably responsible for killing riders by turning them loose without proper skills and street smarts. A drunk monkey on a unicycle could pass the modern MSF rider test.
I was actually given a talking-to for using less than the entire box to perform the Figure 8 / U-turns. (Doing the 8’s using 1/2 or less of the box is a trivial skill and actually a “safer” way to pass the test than wobbling around the entire box, but once again this is MSF and not reality.)
Fortunately, my best friend loaned me (“Proficient Motorcycling” by David Hough (review). I got about 100X more out of it than the MSF course and it costs 1/15 of the MSF course.
I don’t agree with everything in the book, but I’d advise any new rider to buy that book and practice maneuvering their motorcycle on nice patch of soft grass versus wasting their valuable time with MSF.
I learned more in an hour in my front yard obstacle course than I did in 2 1/2 days with MSF.”
From “ABB”: “After reading the review and comments on the MSF Experienced rider course, I felt compelled to make my own comments.
Before I do so, I just want to preface my opinions by stating that I have never taken any MSF courses.
However, I am a graduate of the three week NYPD Police Motorcycle Course and also a graduate of the three week Police Motorcycle Instructor Course given by Harley-Davidson and the Northwestern University Traffic Institute.
I agree that an instructor can mean the difference between having a mediocre course or a great course. One problem is that some instructors are overly impressed with themselves.
Others try to show how tough they are by failing students, and others try to impress people by making riding seem more involved and harder than it is. They need to learn to leave their egos off the range and focus on the students.
Even in the NYPD course, which only graduates 40 to 50%, the instructors were doing everything to encourage the students. Many of the graduates were on their second or third try. In my course we started with fifteen students and only graduated seven.
The ones that were eliminated were removed the first week because they weren’t keeping up or were unsafe and couldn’t be brought up to speed. All of them, without exception, were encouraged to practice on their own and return at a later date to try again.
I kept in touch and all eventually did pass, one on his fourth try!
Granted, the training is intense and there are time constraints, but everyone was encouraged, and no student passes who isn’t safe and able to perform the extremely challenging riding required.
In my opinion, except in rare cases, when a student fails it means that the instructor failed. I know of one MSF student who was freaked out because she panicked and wound up with a runaway motorcycle.
She was in tears because she felt she could have killed someone before she got it under control. She wanted to quit on the spot.
The instructor sat her down and talked to her, calmed her down and told her how to handle the situation. He said she could quit if she wanted to, but felt she should give it another go.
She came to talk to me that night and ask my opinion. I told her it was her choice, but I agreed with the instructor.
She went back the next day, passed the course and got her license. Her instructor obviously realized that mistakes are a great opportunity to learn.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I met a waitress while on a ride who told me that she took the MSF course, but was told to leave by an instructor who had a major attitude. She said that he kept yelling at her to use the “friction zone” and “feather the rear brake”.
She didn’t understand and kept asking what he meant.
He didn’t attempt to explain it. I told her what the techniques were and she told me that in two minutes I was able to make her understand what this instructor couldn’t, even with all his barking.
Instructors need to realize that people are different, and learn at different speeds in different ways. An instructor who doesn’t realize that is not an instructor.
As for the instructor encountered by “H.T.”, she should have been bounced from the class instead of the students. An instructor who tells a student that they shouldn’t ride a motorcycle after one try has no business being an instructor (especially when that student passed her course).
Any instructor who berates students, especially to the point of causing one woman to cry, is a pathetic excuse for an instructor. She was the failure, not the students.
I feel bad that “H.T.” missed out on thirteen years of fun, but I am happy that the dream has finally been realized. Obviously, that instructor couldn’t have been more wrong.
The bottom line is that the good instructors greatly outnumber the bad, and you shouldn’t let one bad experience prevent you from trying again until you get the results you are looking for.
Knowledge is power, and training is knowledge.”
From “M.K.”: “I am a new rider who took the MSF Experienced RiderCourse this past weekend. I took the MSF beginner course a year ago and was able to accumulate about 5000 miles in between the two.
In my opinion, and for my situation, the course was well worth my time (and the $25 it costs in Michigan). The instructors were both knowledgeable and easy to listen to. The coaching was relevant and useful.
As I rode home afterwards, I actually felt a difference in my riding and confidence on the bike.
Maybe the course would be more accurately represented if they called it the “Advanced Beginner Course”, but I would hate to scare people away from something that might do them some good.
When it comes to your safety on a motorcycle, what is 6 or 8 hours of your time in the grand scheme of things?
If the course turns out to be all review for you, then it still didn’t hurt anything. If you pick something up, then it was time well spent. The other (non-MSF) training courses will still be available when you’re done.”
From “D.W.”: “I thought I would pass along comments for inclusion in your MSF ERC.
I took the ERC course in Texas this weekend. I’m a repeat customer of the ERC before, and probably will take it again someday because I always learn something and I figure getting a insurance discount along with a statistical blessing that is good for a few years is worth the $80 the course costs.
I’ve ridden for 30+ years, and I consider myself a careful, but not particularly gifted or experienced, rider – I like to ride but, for lots of reasons, don’t rack-up a lot of miles or (cross-country) trips.
Unfortunately, the MSF ERC is the only game in town here.
I tip my hat to MSF and the local franchises for putting on these courses. No Total Control-like course locally that I know (and I would love to take one of those but they are clear across the country).
I hope the MSF can come up with something more meaningful at some point.
While the range exercises are good for slow-speed maneuvering practice, reviewing risks, and looking “throuuuugh the corner”, I struggle with the dumbing-down to the least common denominator.
I could never get my bike out of first gear: everything was done 20 mph or less. It felt more like an exercise in parade formation training than something with a lot of value for street riding today.
Add to that a K12-bike that doesn’t like < 20 mph very much and is idling in 2nd at this speed. I asked myself several times during the day how relevant this is to the real world riding.
I suspect some of the dumbing-down is due to MSF’s fear of litigation (either real or perceived) – must have signed 3 different liability releases during the day (MSF and the host venue).
The class would probably improve 100% if the training took place at real street speeds if the venue permitted it, or it was conducted on some type of a semi-track environment.
The instructor seemed to stretch the limited material, read mostly from the cards, into a mandatory 8 hour day.
A lot of time spent watching others putt around and round at 20 in the Texas heat, wishing for a few laps at 30 just to cool off the bike and rider (note to self – take the course during the winter in Texas).
Still, I value and thank the MSF ERC and the local guys, and at the same time hope for a broader array of advanced street safety training some day. I don’t really want a “track day”, but it would be great if there was something in-between in this area.”
From “C.S.”: “I really felt that I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. If nothing else, it confirmed that I was doing everything right prior to the trip 🙂 But I didn’t get any real feedback and the instructors did read from the cards.
I’ve spent the past few years learning how my bike works. I’m at 60,000 miles on the Hayabusa and this year I started taking it to the track. Now I’m considering taking the more advanced Total Control class. From Rick’s comments, it sounds like the exact right next step.
Finally I agree with Rick. This class is really for the rider that’s taken the BRC 6 months to a year prior.
I’d also include the riders that use the bike as a functional means of transportation vs the more advanced riders who are learning more about how the bike works, reads and watches videos in an effort to improve their riding skills.
The functional riders should probably take the class every year or two prior to getting back on the bike after winter.
Thanks again for a good article.”
From “E.B.”: “I had a good experience the first time in the ERC several years ago and came away a much better and confident rider. I also took this class for a second time this year and went with 2 friends.
One had done the ERC class previously and the other had never had any formal training.
Early on in the class time the experienced friend and I agreed that they had kind of “dumbed down” the class. The untrained friend was getting some stuff that he had never heard before and was glad for it.
Once out on the course it became clear that our instructors were not very observant and were not giving useful feedback to the more experienced riders.
People started leaving about an hour into the course time. At 5PM (4 hours into the course time) there were 2 or 3 exercises to go. My experienced friend and I were completely bored and decided to leave.
Yes, we blew our insurance discount but we’ve decided we will never attend that class again because a day of boredom is not worth the $30-50 discount. My time is far more valuable than that.
My untrained friend stuck it out to the end as he wanted to get what he could. He was glad he attended but probably will not return to an ERC.
We’re now looking for other classes, on the track or street, to actually learn something to apply.
The few classes we’ve found are very expensive but I feel the price will be acceptable as long as I truly learn something and become a better rider. It seems MSF isn’t geared for the rider that is looking to improve already strong skills.”
From “G.K.”: “It seemed that some of the comment discussion was related to the BRC as much as the ERC, so you can judge whether this comment should be included.
I had never ridden a motorcycle before January of this year.
I had no experience using a clutch and didn’t even know what countersteering was, but in a single day at the BRC I became familiar with shifting gears and learned handling techniques that many self-taught riders who have been on a bike for 20 years don’t know.
It helped tremendously that we had two very experienced and talented instructors. They knew the exercises like the back of their hand and obviously had plenty of experience with exactly what mistakes to watch for and what corrections would be needed.
Note that all the learning and progress that I am referring to took place on the course.
I learned absolutely nothing during the classroom training. Keep in mind that I had never once ridden a motorcycle before, but I had read up on them and understood the basic concepts such as where the various controls were located.
If I could make one suggestion it would be to allow students to take a test which would decide whether they would need to sit in the classroom for a day or could proceed directly to the course.
Let people study a book on their own time. We don’t need these wonderful instructors to tell us that intersections are dangerous.
From “J.J.C.”: “I just finished the ECR last weekend so the timing of your article couldn’t be better. I agree with you the coaches make the program, I was lucky. My coaches were very good and picked up on some habits I developed.
The riding isn’t that challenging but I had a major problem with the tight U turns.
I ride a Suzuki Burgman and with the CVT trans it can be a challenge to have good throttle control. I was giving gas and backing off making it a very herky-jerky task.
My coach picked up on it right away and suggested I give a little back brake keeping the tension on the trans… It worked very well. I could have picked that up on my own but I doubt it. The entire session was great to work on throttle control and balance.
Plus the price is right in Pennsylvania FREE. So worth the time I wish they had a street survival course I’d the first to sign up and pay a fee.
Editor’s Note: The ERC cost $125.00 in Maryland!
From “P.”: “I’m one of the motorcyclists described by Rick, I started riding last year, took the basic course to get licensed (and to get survival skills) and just completed the experienced course last weekend.
The experienced course was a re-hash of the basic course compressed into 6 hours.
During the practice portion, there were a few points worth re-emphasizing, like keeping my head up, and I picked up a counter-balancing technique in the slalom.
The riding test at the end was the same as the basic course, and in fact, a few riders in the experienced course used it to obtain their license that day. The written material was too basic. Six hours was too long.
I’d like to see the MSF have a series of shorter clinics that deal with just one or two skills at a time. Riders who need a license could go through the more formal basic course.”
From “M.S.”: “First, let me state categorically that what I’m writing is my opinion alone and not to be construed as an official MSF statement or position on this issue.
As an MSF RiderCoach, I was disappointed to read the review of your latest experience as an ERC participant, for two reasons.
One: It’s obvious your RiderCoach didn’t give you the kind of experience you deserved.
Two: You didn’t acknowledge the logistical realities of fielding a nationwide rider course vs. Lee Parks’ excellent, but boutique style of training experience.
As you mentioned several times, the RiderCoach you get during a BRC or ERC truly makes or breaks the training experience during an MSF course.
The MSF has explicitly moved away from a scripted curriculum over the last 6 years and highly encourages their RiderCoaches to use adult learning (i.e. non-boring) principles throughout each class.
If your RiderCoach stood before you and read from slides, then they were blatantly violating the MSF’s training concept.
Unfortunately, the best course material in the world won’t help a rider if the RiderCoach can’t or won’t make the learning environment enjoyable and meaningful to the student.
Ask yourself this: would your Lee Parks Total Control session have been nearly as effective if your ERC Ridercoach was the presenter? From what you wrote, I highly doubt it.
As for the Total Control ARC putting the MSF ERC out of business, you need to understand the much larger context of what you’re suggesting.
Lee Parks himself, in his first chapter of his book “Total Control: High-Performance Street Riding Techniques”, states his inability to do more than the minimal numbers of Total Control ARC’s he does each year.
To expand that into a nationwide program would require the same numbers of instructors as the MSF, with all it’s variations in instructor personalities and levels of experience. So guess what?
Eventually you’d see the same issues in the Total Control ARC that you experienced in your ERC.
I’ve never seen or participated in a Total Control ARC but I’d love to have the chance someday in the future.
And while the MSF could and should certainly look at incorporating new techniques in their training curriculum, they must also keep their training system broad enough to cover every type of bike and rider on the road, not just those whose bike and riding style get maximum value out of the Total Control ARC.
Thanks for listening!”
From “B.D.”: “I agree completely with Rick K. And I come by my opinion NOT having done the Total Control Clinic.
I took the BRC back in 2001. Having gone through several car track day/driving schools with the national Audi club prior to 2001 (and having been very impressed with the level of professionalism and training at those events) I was impressed with my BRC.
The curriculum was wide ranging, important areas were covered in depth, training progressed quickly for all but one student from utter novice to competence and the instructor was fantastic.
In addition, discussions with my fellow classmates yielded similar opinions, especially concerning the teaching qualities of our instructor.
The lone exception was clearly in way over her head and was not able to grasp important lessons like remembering which lever controlled the brake and which one the clutch.
She was asked by the instructor to consider dropping the course since she would be unable to pass. She refused, did not pass and did not receive her endorsement.
Considering its obvious limitations vs. my track day experience (no high speeds, single instructor, several riders lacking any seat time at all), the class compared favorably with my other experience.
In contrast, the ERC I took last summer was barely worth the time.
There, we had two instructors instead of one. Both were good enough but neither was great as my BRC instructor had been.
The lessons were taught right off the cards, what was on the cards was boring and most of the lessons were easy for a rider like myself with six years of experience. It was only when they stepped out from behind the cards that real learning happened.
In my case, the single useful thing I learned that day was doing lock to lock low speed turning.
And I never would have learned that one on my own since it took the instructors to notice my body position was all wrong to balance the bike at 5 mph.
I THOUGHT I was doing it right when in fact I was screwing-up. They broke down my mistakes, walked me though the whole thing and bingo, I got it.
While I feel that alone was worth $50, the time spent wading through all the rest was not. In addition since the course always covers the same subjects, I no longer have anything to gain from retaking the course unless I fail to practice my parking lot maneuvers.
If the Total Control Clinic is as advertised then it would in fact be the logical follow-on to the BRC and not the ERC.”
From “H.T.”: “In 1993, I enrolled in my 1st MSF Beginners Course here in (Florida). I’ve never ridden before and was eager to learn the fundamentals.
We had a married couple as fill-in instructors that came up from Fort Myers because our regular instructor was not available.
In short, the whole thing was a bad experience for several of us, even though in the end I barely passed by only 1 point.
She flunked several others outright – mostly beginning women riders with no experience — breaking one down to tears while still on the course, berating and embarrassing her in front of the class.
At my final interview, the lady instructor told me that riding was wrong for me and I was not qualified. Since she had so much experience, I heeded her advice and reluctantly quit. I never forgot that experience, but I still wanted to ride 13 years later.
It was “now or never” – so I bought three cycles last year, accumulated over 10,000 miles riding Florida Alabama, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah.
Since then, I learned a lot, and study the art of riding all the time, thoroughly enjoying the whole experience. Now I understand what it means: “Ride to Live/Live to Ride”.
Regretfully, I only wish I had started earlier.”