Dodging the RoadkillClarksville, Tn — I shared my experience on learning to ride over the weekend.  You can read it here. 

While I think it’s a great idea for all bikers to take the new riders course, not all bikers do.  That’s your choice.  A lot of bikers just hop on and ride, but I think there are immeasurable benefits to taking the course.  Even if it’s just for the insurance discount.

Most Harley Davidson dealerships offer this course, and many of them offer the Advanced Riders, or “Skilled Riders” course. This course is for bikers who have had some experience, and want to improve their skills.

I completed the course yesterday and it was an amazing experience!

My instructors were Keith Roberts and Chad Phillips.  They’re both experienced riders, and MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) certified instructors.  They’re also Harley Davidson certified, but the best part is, they are both good friends of mine.

Keith and Chad are not only the best of friends themselves, but they’ve been riding since they could walk.  They have a real passion for motorcycles, and those of us who ride them.  They don’t get paid enough to stand out in 90 degree weather all afternoon and work with us.

There were two other bikers in this class with me.  Jay Christopher and Michael Perry.  They’ve both been riding much longer than I have, and it was impressive to see that they felt there was a benefit to taking this course.  I think we can all agree that our ego can get the best of us, and there’s no room for that on the back of a motorcycle.  

Advanced Riders Class Motorcycle

Michael Perry, Jay Christopher, and me

When you’ve put the miles on your bike like I have, or have been riding as long as most of you, it’s easy to just assume that “I’ve got this down pretty good” and you won’t allow yourself to learn new things. 

This class is VERY humbling.  It’s also very demanding.  At the end of the day, I’ve never been so exhausted.  Spending the afternoon wrestling a 900 pound motorcycle around tight spaces can get to you, but it’s well worth it.

The class is a series of exercises that focus on turning skills, quick brake skills, start and stop, tight turns and learning how to swerve to avoid objects that could get in the way.  Most of all, it’s an opportunity to have your instructors point out all the bad habits we develop while riding.

While I was very frustrated at my inability to complete some of the skills, I was encouraged that I was learning new things and breaking those bad habits. 

Another benefit was learning how important it is to stay focused and to pay attention.  Riding a motorcycle is serious business and you can’t take anything for granted.  We learned how being distracted for just ONE SECOND can get you in trouble.  Developing the skills to bring my bike to a complete stop and coordinating my front and rear brakes was critical.

For me, my problem was I was too worried about dropping my bike and I wanted to perform well.  There were no “grades” for this class and no trophies involved, but I had mental roadblocks that kept hindering my performance. 

By the way, nobody dropped their bikes on this day. 

Chad and Keith were VERY encouraging and supportive.  When I got confused at the course set up, they stopped me and patiently walked me through it.  They’re both VERY committed to biker safety and are not there to “show off” their incredible skills.  As a matter of fact, Chad gave us demonstrations before each exercise and he never made a mistake (kind of pissed me off), but his skills were where I want to be.   

I want to thank the Tuckessee HOG Chapter for sponsoring my experience.  Most of the H.O.G chapters give their members the opportunity to take the riders courses by offering discounts and incentives to take it.  I HIGHLY recommend you do it.  It’s an investment in YOU and the people who love you.  Everybody wants their favorite biker to come home at the end of the day.

Ride safe my friends and pay attention to what you’re doing.  It only takes a second for disaster to strike.