Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Being dismissed from the MSF course isn't the end of the world

Via Usenet this morning:

"By the end of the day It became apparent that everyone else was picking things up a bit faster than I was. However I went home that evening confident that the next day I would catch up.

Sunday morning arrived wet and raining. Not hard enough to stop the class though so things went ahead as planned. The wet surfaces intimidated me and the instructors seemed to be picking things up...hurrying from one lesson to the next.

By noon I felt I needed more time and was about to ask the instuctor what to do when he called me over after lunch and asked me to leave the class. He said they felt that the class was moving along and I wasn't able to keep up. He asked me to leave and said he would call me back at another time when a smaller class becomes available so that they could spend more time with me.

I left quite humiliated. They never called me back. I really don't know what to do." - Phil

I'm sorry to hear that you had a bad experience, Phil. As an instructor, it's always tough for me to dismiss a student, regardless of how badly he or she might be doing.

That said, you must understand that the instructors have a tremendous amount of responsibility on their shoulders. They must keep the class on time (every single module and exercise is timed), they must maintain visual control of the range, and they must watch 5 to 12 students at once to make sure they stay safe. In the midst of all that, they also have to instruct. If one student is causing a repeated distraction, can't keep up, or is dangerous, he or she must be dismissed for the sake of the other students. The last thing I always say before taking a class to the range is, "This course moves very quickly, so pay close attention, listen to my instructions, focus, and have fun."

Now then, just because you were asked to leave doesn't mean it's the end of things. You can always go back (or to a different MSF sponsorship) for a few sessions of private instruction to help you with the basics. And make no mistake, what you are learning in a BRC is most definitely the basics. If you were still having problems with starting, stopping, turning, and shifting at the beginning of the second day, you'd have never made it through the more advanced exercises to come.

All that said, you should also take enough stock in yourself to question whether or not you need to be on a bike. Things happen fast on the street, and an MSF instructor can see things you might not be able to. If your mind is constantly focused on the mechanical aspects of riding rather than concentrating on the riding environment, you'll never make it out there in the real world.

Food for thought. Best of luck with whatever you decide.


'Laying it down' is never the answer...ever

This terrible story about a Midland man who was killed in a motorcycle accident last weekend raised a subject that is one of my biggest pet peeves with regard to motorcycling. That is, of course, the bullshit argument that intentionally laying a bike down in an emergency is an acceptable, reasonable act. Well, it's not. Never has been, never will be. But according to the story, that's just what the rider did, and it resulted in him slamming into the pavement and tumbling down the road. To make things worse, he was wearing zero safety gear -- no helment, no jacket, no gloves, no boots, not even long pants. The vehicle that caused the accident fled the scene and is currently at large.

In the comment section of the above story, I wrote the following:

"Rarely does a single factor cause a motorcycle accident, and this sad story is a perfect example. The runners in the pickup violated the motorcyclist's right of way, and are ultimately at fault. But the motorcyclist's failure to wear proper safety gear, combined with his apparent lack of skill (intentionally laying a motorcycle down is never correct), combined to result in a tragedy.

If you're a young/inexperienced motorcyclist, please take a motorcycle safety course and wear correct safety gear whenever you ride. It wasn't the riders fault, but wearing a helmet and possessing the knowledge that a motorcycle always stops faster on its tires than sliding on its engine casings could've made the difference.

Several motorcycling groups across Midland/Odessa are actively organizing rides and searches in an effort to locate the pickup. It's only a matter of time. If you were driving that truck, turn yourself in.

Common-sense stuff, right? Apparently not. This idiotic response was waiting for me when I revisited the comments today:

"Tim, your senseless comments are not only disrespectful, but not always true. If you were an experenced rider yourself, you would know that it’s not always the answer to stay upright and slide into the obstacle....Laying down your bike is sometimes the best thing you can do."

Sentimental irony is a dog that bays at the moon while pissing on graves. I can't remember where I heard that, but it seems appropriate regarding the above quote. Can anyone really be that stupid? Unfortunately, yes. And it's not just a few self-proclaimed expert anons hanging around message boards. It's a potentially deadly myth which seems to be growing in popularity rather than being rightly debunked for the rubbish it is. It's 2007, for goodness' sake.

There is never an excuse for intentionally laying a bike down. Doing so does not avoid a crash -- it is a crash. Swerving or threshold-braking is always the better option when compared to wadding a bike on purpose. I've been teaching motorcycle safety since 2001 and have never heard of, read of, or have been briefed on a single instance where the intentional crashing of a motorcycle made things better. Please, fellow motorcyclists, I emplore you: Riding is risky enough as-is, without basing your skill sets on myths and wives' tales. Let's put the lie to bed.

One final note to the family: I realize that what I lack in decorum, I make up for with an absence of tact. For that I apologize. I mean no disrespect to the fallen rider. The crash was not his fault, and I pray those responsible will be brought to justice. My attack is soley directed toward the knucklehead commenter and no one else. Best wishes and God bless you all.