The 7 Most Common MSF Student Rider Fails

Guest Blogger -



The Basic Rider Course that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers is a great tool for those looking to get a grasp on the fundamentals of motorcycle riding. As a Rider Coach, it is an energizing opportunity to share a passion for motorcycles and encourage a new rider’s knowledge and enthusiasm while they acquire the skills they will need on the road. As we go through the course, clear patterns emerge after numerous classes. We see what always works, what always doesn’t, and often the same few things that can interfere with a student getting the most out of a class.

1) Bad Habits They Teach Themselves
I applaud those that seek to take the Basic Rider Course despite having prior motorcycle experience. It’s away to reinforce the techniques and theory they might already know, and they always end up learning something new in the process. The only possible downside occurs when students, consciously or not, introduce bad habits during exercises. For example, I have had more than one student try to only ever use the rear brake. The front brake was said to be “too dangerous” and never to be used. It is usually not until the second day of range instruction that the student is confident enough to consistently apply both brakes properly.

Some bad habits are not so obvious. Tunnel vision, poor body position, lack of situational awareness, lack of low speed confidence, and inconsistent safety checks represent just a small portion of all the little things that we can internalize without full realization. This of course, can affect not only your experience in the class but your life on the road as well. The best way to combat this is to treat the Basic Rider Course as a clean slate. Try not to go in thinking it will be boring, or that you’ve already got a handle on the early exercises due to your previous riding experience. Be open to making some adjustments to your riding and you will get the most out of it.


2) A Lack Of Comfort With The Friction Zone
The second exercise out on the range and the first exercise wherein the motorcycle moves under you is a critical one. This is all about developing a strong, positive and confident muscle memory centered around proper clutch use. Some students will acquire a decent feel for the clutch, but never attempt to perfect the transition between engaging the clutch and throttle roll on. Others will grasp the mechanics of the clutch and its attendant end result with the rear wheel, but fail to truly get comfortable with its use. Without this confidence, your learning can suffer throughout the rest of the entire course. I have seen a student struggle with the friction zone despite extra time and one-on-one coaching only to see that discomfort propagate and affect every subsequent exercise. It is that fundamental.

As a student, make sure that you ask loads of questions. Work on having a firm understanding on clutch theory in class. Analogies can help with understanding just what is going on in the transmission. Never be afraid to ask for a little extra time. Every Rider Coach understands how important it is that you learn and fully understand this and will be happy to extend the exercise to ensure using the friction zone becomes second nature.

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  • RyanO

    I took the BRC twice. Once 5 years ago when I got my license and again this summer courtesy of the DOD. It was a breeze the first time on the supplied Honda 250. This time around I completed it on my Triumph Daytona 675. The course required a lot of patience during the earlier stages because the BRC is designed for people who have never ridden a motorcycle before. For an experienced rider the exercises involving stopping and going, the friction zone, and basic turning can be torture. But the second half of the exercises can be fun if you make them. And even though I had already completed a BRC I was glad to hone my skills again this year.
    Oh and the dreaded box was intimidating when I faced it on my Daytona but after a few tries and a lot of concentration it became fun and I was able to do it no problem.

  • Chris Cope

    That U turn stuff is no fun. On the UK Module 1 test, you are given 7.5 metres (25 feet) of width in which to do a U turn. Hilariously, though, most of the roads in the UK on which a person would actually do a U turn (i.e., residential streets) are no more than 6 metres (19 feet) wide.

    I wish my training had been with people as relaxed as yourself. I was trained by an ex motorcycle cop who had a tendency to swear like a sailor. If people dropped a bike and broke a clutch or brake lever he would charge them £35. I never dropped a bike in training, but did once drop my own several months after getting my license. A new brake lever cost me £12.

    • Guy Simmonds

      That Mod 1 U-turn took me three attempts to get right on test… second time, I started and stopped within the lines but my front wheel clipped the far line by an inch.
      … after which I spent a long time practising U-turns and aiming to get them done in a space of about 5 metres on my short wheel-base 125, the upshot of which being that I only needed about six metres to get it done on test with the old Honda 500. Such an arbitrary part of the test, really :/

      • Chris Cope

        The thing that annoys me about the UK system is the way the Mod 2 test is set up. You’re riding around with a bloke giving you instructions over a one-way radio, with the bloke riding behind you. When will that situation ever present itself again? When will you EVER have to follow directions from someone who is behind you and to whom you cannot speak?

    • Piglet2010

      Most people stop learning if they are yelled at.

  • Jason Blackman

    I took the BRC a few years ago, never having ridden a motorcycle. I went long in the box on the second U-turn, but stayed within the side lines. Our rider coach passed the whole class even though some dropped their bikes in the evaluation, because he felt that he got a good sense for their ability over the two days. Not sure how I feel about that.

  • Jesse

    Might be something in the New England air, but the MSF Basic Rider Courses I’ve taken part in, and every class I’ve sent friends and co-workers too, someone dumps a bike. Panic stops, “bus avoidance swerves” and box turns seem to be issues for lots of student riders.

  • Mykola

    I signed up for the BRC at about the same time as I bought and started using my first bike, so I had a couple months’ (read: actually not much) experience on my Virago 250 before I did the course on a NIghthawk 250. Yes it is worth it even if you’ve already started using your bike regularly, yes it’s good to ride a motorcycle that’s different from what you already know, and yes the Nighthawk/Rebel 250 motor is an SOB to get into neutral.

  • Brian

    the biggest problem with the MSF BRC IMHO, it basically preps you on how to operate a motorcycle and use it at low speed in a parking lot. At least in my experience in this locale, from 1 ex wife, 2 gf’s and 3 friends I have helped coach AFTER having taken the MSF BRC. I find I end up helping/teaching them to put things together like looking through a turn and why, brake feel and judging braking distances. Things that matter even more when you get past 2nd gear and the 25 mph barrier. Don’t get me wrong, as I applaud the MSF for what they do, I just don’t think it is enough for putting people “safely” on the road on 2 wheels sometimes.

    • Aaron Averett

      I agree. I felt like there was a real and serious disconnect between what the class teaches you, and the confidence required to ride at double or triple the speed you go in the class, which is the speed you’d be expected to go on public roads.

      It may be because I’ve driven a manual transmission car every day for the last ten years, but I felt like they spend WAY too much time on the friction zone and maneuvering around a parking lot, and not nearly enough time on things like quick stops and proper turning technique.

      I actually failed the test the first time because I had no idea how quickly the quick stop was supposed to be executed, and they don’t present you with any sort of obstacle like you’d have in a real quick stop situation.

      • barneyfife

        the idea is to stop as quickly (and safely) as possible. the distance you use to stop depends on your speed, skills, etc.. the suggestion that they should place an obstacle in the braking chute is, um, not very realistic.

        as for the time spent on the friction zone, that’s a skill you will need for just about everything else, so they the time to ensure everyone is on board.

        • Piglet2010

          I did a stoppie during the quick stop portion of the test. :)

          I actually found riding on the street much easier than the offset cone weave and U-turn parking lot drills – really two completely different skill sets and techniques. Also why the MOST and ALMOST tests, as well as the California “lollypop” are silly tests for licensing street riding.

    • Lee Scuppers

      My transition to real riding was trial for me, and a greater trial for the poor souls stacked up behind me on curves. I’m not sure the MSF instructors sufficiently stressed WHY we had to learn to countersteer. But maybe I just didn’t listen. That does happen.

    • gr33nspan

      I took the BRC with no prior riding experience. Basic controls and slow maneuvers is all I felt I took away from that class, but to be fair, nobody said the riding portion of the BRC was meant for anything more. I don’t think the MSF would be willing to cover the liabilities necessary to move the BRC outside of a parking lot. When I bought my bike shortly afterwards and started riding in the streets, I was scared shitless! I had very little confidence in my riding abilities.

      Brake feel is something I wish they somehow covered during the course. The whole using both brakes mentality was a good habit to learn for slower speeds, and it became muscle memory for me as I didn’t know how to ride any other way. They barely covered locking brakes during the classroom portion, which I promptly forgot after taking the easy test. So when it came time for me having to quickly stop on the highway, I squeezed both the brakes as I normally would and found myself wobbling left and right hard. I don’t know how I retained my balance but I learned to vary the pressure on the rear brake by nearly eating it on the freeway.

      • Brian

        “…Basic controls and slow maneuvers is all I felt I took away from that class, but to be fair, nobody said the riding portion of the BRC was meant for anything more….”
        if that is the case, then you shouldn’t be given a certifercate at the end to take to your liscening agency( DMV/MVA/etc.) to get an endorsement on your permit to say you are now safe to hit the streets on a motorcycle then. Just some food for thought for a moment of consideration then, if that is what you really think.

        • w0lfatncsu

          Considering the fact that in most states(if not all, I’m certainly not going to claim to be familiar with motorcycle licensing requirements in all 50 states), the license skills test consists of basic control in a parking lot. So. If all you took from the MSF was basic control of a motorcycle in a parking lot, I think you retained enough to get a motorcycle endorsement.

          • Brian

            so, should the MSF change its curriculum or should the MVA/DMV change its requirements then?

            • w0lfatncsu

              I think they should both evolve to truly teach/evaluate the skills necessary to ride a motorcycle in traffic. Basic starting, stopping, steering, and clutch/brake operation are all valuable, and I don’t want to completely disregard the MSF, but the BRC(aside from the classroom session) doesn’t prepare you for being surrounded by 3000+ pound vehicles driven by an army of people oblivious to anything except for what’s directly in front of them.

              • RyanO

                I think something that is being overlooked is the BRC not only instills basic riding skills but it also tries to get riders into a “safety oriented” mindset. I’m not saying that the course tries to get people to wear full leathers when they ride into town but it definitely puts a large emphasis on safety and how to mitigate some of the dangers of riding a motorcycle. Things that normally get overlooked by most new riders getting their licenses.

                • w0lfatncsu

                  They don’t go very much farther in depth than the NC Motorcyclists handbook that I had to study for the written exam. I definitely see the value in the BRC, especially for a completely inexperienced rider, but as a course to get your license after getting some on road experience? That’s a bit harder to answer. I think your average 1000 mile a year, every odd weekend hobbyist will probably glean far more from it than someone that commutes daily and ends up riding 10K or more each year. That said, the fact remains that the actual hands-on part of the course is spent completely in a parking lot at low speed. Control is valuable, but for someone riding on the street, there’s a equally great value to having an instructor follow you in traffic and in various conditions to evaluate your riding.

        • Cory McNair

          Some states that use MSF for licensing will use an “intermediate” class that is DMV-specific.

    • Slacker

      Well we also have to examine the MSF from it’s roots… back in the 60′s and 70′s there were a lot of motorcycles on the road and a LOT of fatalities. So the MSF was formed to help people learn and not, you know, get splattered. Most bikes of the period had less power than most 600′s have today. Unfortunately, the MSF has not updated much in the time since the technology started taking leaps and bounds because they don’t necessarily see the need. Nowadays with the greater understanding of riding dynamics, tire dynamics and the like, we can optimize a motorcycle to fit whatever need we see fit, but if the MSF still doesn’t adapt to make it so that people learn to work with the equipment they have, then those new riders are going to end up in over their heads EXTREMELY quickly. The thing I do when I have a friend (in this case now, as well my girlfriend), even after they have a bike and license, I don’t take them out on the street until they’re familiarized with their motorcycle properly. Even then, I’ll take them out and check their riding form and do a debrief after each ride. That’s the way to learn in my opinion… I learned from my parents through experience, and now even though I’m on a “big, heavy” R1150RS with 97 horsepower at the crank, every time I go riding with the guys on the supersports (600′s and 1000′s alike) I’m always lengthing them in the curves by hundreds of yards.

      • Brian

        Historically, their programme is of a general and dossil enough nature to make the “sport” or “pastime” of motorcycling approachable to almost any novice. The problem is not the technology of the motorcycles, but of the pace of the roadways and cars now. In the 70′s you graduated from MSF, hit the street with your sniny new endorsement and skillset on your CB350, and the guy behind you in the Plymouth Fury III wasn’t on a cell phone in a rush to get to the Black Friday Sale at the mall or the ATM. I think the roadways are hurried enough to warrant a “day after” class where the tension of passing the test is off of the shoulders and they can concentrate on how a motorcycle works in regards to traffic and roadways in reality beyond 2nd gear. It sounds like you are doing similar to what I have done, and if someone else I know passes the MSF BRC and wants to learn further, I shall do again.

        • Piglet2010

          We have about the same mileage of paved roads as in 1970, but nearly twice the amount of vehicles on the roads.

    • artist_formally_known_as_cWj

      At the end of my BRC, the instructor announced that everyone passed and that the certificate meant that we were now ready to PRACTICE. It’s meant as an introduction to motorcycling and allow one to see if he or she is ready/willing to move further. If so, then there are sequential courses that introduce one to street riding skills.

      The MSF doesn’t determine whether the BRC cert counts as the road test for a full endorsement. That is up to the states. In states where it does, it may be due to the DMV motorcycle road test consisting mainly of having the rider complete a circuit around a city block. THAT test should arguably be more stringent. This is stated be a person who had the advantage of endorsing in a state that accepted the BRC cert and a passed written test as qualification for a full M stamp. I saw people in my BRC class who absolutely did not belong on a motorcycle on a street yet.

      Perhaps the states should only give full M status after successful completion of the BRC2….this would, of course, result in complaints of communism, socialism, violation of constitutional rights, cause new political movements to form and inspire the rise of a plucky outsider political candidate with just enough gumption to make an impact though not win a major election.

  • Justin McClintock

    I need to go find where one of the local courses is and go play around on it. I actually kind of enjoyed the box. I mean, it wasn’t easy, mind you, but I always like a good challenge.

    Then again, I’d like to try it with each of my 3 bikes. The box with the SV1K might prove to be quite a challenge. With the DT175…yeah, not so much. I can U-turn that bad boy in about 8 feet.

    • Piglet2010

      At our local MSF range, the community college security will kick you out if you try to practice on there when it is not being used. :(

    • James Jamerson

      Go find your local harley dealer. They commonly offer the classes and are more than happy to let you play around on their range.

  • Nate Terrill

    I had the misfortune of hitting a huge patch of dirt during the panic stop test and started to go down. Luck for me the little Suzuki they had me on didn’t weigh much and I was able to get it stopped and wrench it back upright before the bar end hit the ground. The instructor just laughed it off and passed me.

  • Jeremy Cass

    I took the MSF here in Texas having never ridden a motorcycle of any kind. I easily aced the classroom portion of the class and enjoyed learning on the bikes despite the horrific clutches on the abused Suzuki GZ250s and not being able to adjust any of the usability on the bike (I’m 6’3″ and struggled to transition from the gear shift to the rear brake with my feet already hyper-extended upwards and my knees in my ribs).

    Frustratingly I failed the evaluation and did not obtain my license having only made two mistakes. My first mistake was putting a foot down during the second U-Turn in the box. My second mistake, which I struggle to call it such, was beginning to stop too early on the final “emergency stop” test. I found it impossible to not react early given their test setup using a set of cones to signal the beginning of the “stop”. Perhaps this is how TXDOT requires the test to be administered but it felt very unfair to punish a rider for reacting appropriately but too quickly. Unfortunately in Texas the DMV no longer offers the option of taking a “riding” portion of a Motorcycle License test, instead they REQUIRE an MSF certificate for every new Motorcycle License.

    I believe this test would be better for the rider and the instructor and represent a better actual test if there were a whistle / horn / light which signaled the beginning of the emergency stop. There could be multiple labeled lines on the pavement so that the instructor would still be able to accurately determine the distance it took for the rider to stop and the random nature would better represent a real world “emergency stop” scenario.

    I also agree with Brian that without ANY real-world-speed riding included in the MSF course I don’t believe it does as good of a job preparing a rider for riding as a Driver’s Ed course does preparing a driver for driving.

    I now plan to buy a bike when the opportunity presents itself, become comfortable with it in a controlled environment and then take the course again using my own motorcycle.

  • Karl

    I took the MSF BRC and found that it was great at low-speed parking lot maneuvers, but didn’t teach us *anything* about driving on roads. It got me my motorcycle endorsement, which I feel I shouldn’t have had without ever being on the street. Then I promptly crashed. :(

  • Ben W

    My first BRC was awful. I had no prior experience with bikes or manual transmissions. I didn’t “get” how the clutch and throttle worked together and tried to separate clutch release from throttle application. Compounding the issue was a poor instructor who just kept telling me to release the clutch as slowly as possible. He never noticed I wasn’t giving the bike any throttle. Thanks to the high idle speed on their bikes, I could take off from a start without stalling about 2/3 of the time and I even got the highest test score in the class. Still, I left the course knowing something was wrong but not what.

    I took the BRC a second time two years later, when I moved to Texas. I’d done a lot of reading in the interim and, combined with a more attentive instructor, breezed right through it. A good instructor makes a huge difference. These days, I really need to find a parking lot and practice some of those low speed drills. I almost never need to do those tight maneuvers on our huge Texas roads, but the rare occasion that I do highlights my very rusty technique.

  • Reid

    The biggest issue I had with the basic MSF course was a difficulty shifting smoothly and pretty much everything involving the clutch, which was pretty much everything at low speeds. The Kawasaki Eliminators we used for the course (and mine, wouldn’t you know it, had issues with fueling that caused it to sputter and die regularly) didn’t help matters. After becoming extremely frustrated, uttering many many swear words and developing a really crappy attitude that definitely came across to other students and the instructor, I somehow managed to pass with 12 points against me on the final exam. Then I borrowed and eventually bought a friend’s dirtbike to get back into the swing of riding after having been away from riding since my middle school years. Now, this bike was easily as abused as any of the test bikes we had – didn’t matter. Suddenly everything was easier, my confidence soared, I made almost no mistakes with the clutch or brakes, etc. etc. The moral to the story is…dirtbikes should be used in msf courses. And I should have not been a hotheaded whiny jerk too. I want to take the course again and see if I can do better. However, I WILL get one of the dirtbikes this time.

  • HoldenL

    I took the BRC without any motorcycle experience, except for dirtbikes almost 40 years previously. The most glaring weakness of the course, for me, was lack of preparation for turning in intersections. I think an intersection should be painted in the parking lot, and you have to get the bike up to 35 mph and then turn right and turn left as if you had a green light without any interfering traffic.

    On my second or third day of riding on the street, I almost ran off the road making a simple left turn. I wasn’t even going too fast. I just didn’t know how to do it. It’s crazy that you have to take the BRC in my state to get a motorcycle endorsement, yet the course doesn’t adequately prepare you for the riding on roads, in traffic.

  • SteveNextDoor

    I took it this past summer; didn’t miss any questions on the written test but screwed up majorly in The Box (still passed, thankfully). I really disliked that one, it frustrated me a great deal. Later, while practicing in parking lots on my own after acquiring a bike, I learned what I had been doing wrong (which was a lot), so I’ll share in hopes it helps someone (I do not claim to be an expert, so feel free to add comments or tell me I’m still doing something wrong, I’m serious about learning this stuff the right way):

    As noted in the article, you have to get your head around, and while I was trying to do so, I would also flitter my eyes back and forth between the point I wanted to go to and my front tire. Don’t do that. Turn your head, look at your destination, and you’ll go there. Your front wheel isn’t going anywhere, I promise.

    I was incredibly stiff, especially my arms. For fear of dropping the bike, I remember my inside elbow was up against my body, locking my forearm into place, and that was as far as the handlebars could turn. Obviously, if you want to make tight turns, you have to… turn. Pull your inside elbow back down your side (allowing your forearm and hand to slide back towards you as well), let the front end/tire swing around, allow the handlebars their full range of motion if it is needed; don’t stiffen up and prevent the bike from doing what it needs to do. Relax.

    Tied to the above, I wasn’t using counterweight properly.

    One thing I’ll add that has helped me a lot and which I did not see in the article: Drag your rear break. Don’t press it hard, just lightly apply the rear brake to help stabilize the bike.

    Good throttle and clutch control can’t be emphasized enough in regards to this maneuver. When I screw up today, it always has something to do with one or both of these (particularly given my bike has a very snatchy throttle in 1st, I’ve lost count of how many new cuss words I’ve come up with due to this).

    Practice. A lot. Some day, you might get it. I know I haven’t.

  • Alex

    I took the BRC a month ago at Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, NC. Overall I’d say it was a positive experience. There were also some drawbacks which the RiderCoaches talked about both in class and on the range. I went into the class without ever even sitting on a motorcycle. However, I learned learned to drive on a manual car (all my cars since then have been manual), and road raced bicycles as a teenager and in my early 20′s (some MT biking and cyclocross too). These two factors probably made the course way easier for me than people who have not done either of those two.

    With regard to the friction zone, the instructors did a good job of explaining it to everyone in class the first night, and before we got on the bikes the first day on the range. One commented that if you’ve ever driven a manual car, you’ve probably been told not to ride the clutch. He continued to say that it’s different on a motorcycle, and you really have to know the feel of the clutch on your particular bike – which includes spending time using the clutch to modulate speed during low speed maneuvers. This saved me a lot of trouble, as in all likelihood, I would have attempted to get the clutch engaged, and control pace at low speed with just the throttle. It would have been really difficult as a beginner to do this on the Ninja 250 I was riding with its super annoying low rev throttle response. There were some people who had trouble. The RiderCoaches took the time to help them one-on-one, and by the end of the exercise everyone looked fairly comfortable.

    Some people were epically slow. They made it hard for me to go slow enough to let them in front of me, so I could go faster in the weaves or around corners. More importantly they made it harder on themselves to control the bike. It was visibly painful to watch them struggle to balance when going so slow, or not rolling on the throttle around a turn. I wish you were allowed to pass people during the exercises with four corners (which a lot of people turned into an oval track with 2 sweeping turns). Although, I do understand that there is not enough time to determine which students are capable of executing a safe pass during an exercise.

    We only had one dropped bike the whole weekend which is probably some sort of record by the looks of the bikes. The Ninja I was on had a lot of scrapes on the fairings, and the bar ends looked like meat grinders. After the drop the whistle was blown, and the nearest rider coach went to see if the student was OK. He was fine, as it was a low speed turn. There was some paperwork for him, and the people who saw him fall; however, it was clear that the foremost concern was for the student’s safety and well being. After the exercise a RiderCoach made a brief comment about how falling on the range is no big deal, and is in fact the place you want to drop the bike (if you’re going to).

    The box. Oh man, the box. The instructor makes it look so easy in the demo. Then you try. Promptly, you feel like you’ve never gone too fast for anything like you’re going too fast right now. You forget to turn your head, counter-weighting on a motorcycle feels a lot scarier than your 17lb road bike you used to race (if you ever did that), and your foot instantly drops because your SURVIVAL is at stake man! Lots of people made wider turns than they had been doing in the previous exercises. The first time we did the box I eventually made it in the wide version, but not the smaller (evaluation sized) parameters. Before the eval I nailed it three times in a row, but during the eval I went out by the width of my front tire.

    Sitting on the bike thinking why am I so nervous? I’ve nailed every one of these exercises multiple times. I creep into the box. First U-turn, nail it. Hooray! Second turn, am I going to slow? I’m not sure. Oh crap, I’m looking a the line … and I’m over it. Whatever, they said it doesn’t matter, so I hit the throttle into second, swerve, and forget to stop. Eventually I do stop, look back at the instructor, and he waves me to the next station. Only one person completed the box. About half the people had to repeat the braking portion.

    After the written test (joke) the rider coaches asked us if we wanted to know our scores from the range. We all agreed, and found out that no one got it perfect, but also no one failed (one person within a couple points). They asked us what we thought passing the skills portion qualified us to do. It qualifies you to ride around in a closed off parking lot under 20 mph. This is a major point. They said some people are probably OK on the road, but others clearly should not go on the road without much more practice. I personally went and bought a 2012 Ninja 250R on the Tuesday. First time on the road was at night during the tail end of rush hour. I was going about 15 mph below the speed limit, and didn’t even realize it. Once a car passed me I sped up, and have not had any major issues so far (save upshifting in a turn and getting some rear wheel dancing).

    INB4 TL/DR
    -Take the BCR.
    -Listen to the instructors.
    -Don’t be afraid to fall.
    -Don’t go on the road until you can do all the skills they teach you.

  • William Connor

    Nowhere does the MSF say stop learning after the BRC or that it is all inclusive. Most people posting seem to have taken the BRC because the state they live in mandated it. Well then it’s not MSF who failed at the curriculum it’s you who failed at learning to ride. The BRC is designed to get you started on your learning. The ERC or BRC II is designed as the next step and then there is the advanced course or Sport Bike course. In order to progress you didn’t take one math class once and then expect to have learned it all. You can’t expect to learn it all riding a motorcycle either. It is not someone else responsibility to make you learn to ride, it is yours. So you had to teach someone more after they took a class. Find me something that you learn in a short class that doesn’t require more training.

    • Brian

      I am not disagreeing with you on what you said at all. A thought for a moment though is this, You said that “most people take the BRC because it is mandated” ( loosely paraphrased) , but that is not the case most times in this area. Most take it because it is much easier to get your “M” endorsement through the MSF BRC than if you go and do it the way I did. I took the learners written test and then got the learning permit and then you try and find someone to ride with you and learn per what they teach you in the DMV/MVA/MSF book ( mostly all saying the same things!) and then borrow a bike ( if you haven’t already bought one to learn on while you are on a learners) and go take the test at the DMV/MVA. If you happen to fail, oh well, and you sorta start the whole process over again. MSF BRC is an easier to deal with route and quicker in most states. At the end of it, if you pass, you have a certifercate to say “Hey, I passed, now put an “M” on my licence so I can go ride the streets.” which is like saying ” I don’t have to learn anymore” until you get out on the street and learn that you are above your head and out of your element for most people.

  • Jay

    I took the MSF advanced rider course as an experienced rider to get a break on my motorcycle insurance. I learned a few things and disagreed with a few things. I felt, in general, that the MSF course was mostly oversold as a way to reduce accidents. Those who promote motorcycling hype the MSF because they desperately want there to be some convenient thing that will greatly mitigate the hazards of riding. The MSF just doesn’t measure up.

    In my experience, and the experience of my friends who also ride, just paying a little more attention to the traffic around you as you ride is the most proactive and effective way to increase your safety. Paying more attention requires extra effort and that’s why most riders won’t do it.

  • Donnie Byers

    I wish I had read this BEFORE taking my MSF class last month…lol

  • HammSammich

    When I took the MSF Basic Rider Course, I already had decades of riding experience on dirt bikes and low displacement scooters, but I purposefully went into it with an open mind and found the instruction very rewarding (had never even heard of countersteering before).
    But my favorite part of the course involves a bit of schadenfruede. There were a broad range of experience levels represented in my class, including a 63 y/old widow who had never been on a motorcycle but decided she wanted to try something new after her husband had passed. There was also a loud obnoxious @sshole, who made sure everyone knew that he didn’t really need to take the course, but he had to get his endorsement after getting busted for riding his “Sweet Gixxer Thou” illegally for the third time. Throughout the course he continually rolled his eyes and made dismissive comments about the instruction. When the final practical test came up at the end of the second day, it was unimaginably gratifying to see the old lady pass, while the Gixxer D-Bag failed…

    • Mr. White

      Had a very similar situation with a d-bag in my class who was constantly bragging about riding his Harley for 10 years without a license. Loudmouthed know-it-all who wound up dropping his bike during class (only one of two people), I also learned that he failed his written test.

  • Christopher Rector

    This article hits just about every major issue students have during the BRC classes. We as RiderCoaches try to stress these points to students in every class. The one this this article doesn’t stress is the BRC is not a one size fits all class, it’s a basic class meant for someone that may have never touched a motorcycle before. The students should come away with the basic skills and understanding to operate a motorcycle, but may need extensive practice to become proficient in the skills of motorcycling. We try to prepare the students as best we can in the time we’re allotted for the program. I stress throughout the weekend that this is a basic class and that by no means does that mean you will be 100% roadworthy at the end of the class. Like another comment stated, you’re being trained to ride in a secure environment with 12 other riders at speeds less than 18-20 MPH. There will be a significant difference on the training range vs. the real world. The class is designed to give the basics and teach ways to cope with everything that you’ll be thrown to when your on the road for real.

    It’s by no means a guaranteed pass for anyone either, student safety is of the utmost concern. If I see you riding in a dangerous manner on the range or creating a hazard to yourself or others, we’ll have a talk and a little break and if it happens a second time you’re on your way out the door.

    We try to explain the reasoning and purpose for each of the riding exercises at the beginning of the exercise and throughout the coaching period of the exercise. When the exercise ends we try have the students to summarize their experience with what they just did on the exercise and how that relates to the real world. I definitely don’t sugar coat the exercises that they are learning. You’re doing X now, so that when you get out on the road Y doesn’t happen. Does it work? Absolutely!

    One other point that the article doesn’t mention that maybe should be taken into account is that the program runs 15-20 hours depending on where you take it. Beginning on the motorcycle for the first day of riding can be a long, stressful, and tiring experience. Your first day of riding may be roughly 5-6 hours and depending on weather conditions that could seem like an eternity. The first day you come through relatively intact mentally. You’ll be pretty tired mentally and physically, but your still functional. Now add the second day of riding in (Sunday) and by the time the evaluation comes around you may be so physically and mentally spent that you can barely walk across the range when you’re done. I’ve seen great students literally fall apart by the end of the second day as the stress, fatigue, and weather conditions take their toll on the students. When this starts to happen we give more frequent breaks to try and revive the students and lessen the fatigue that may be experiencing.

  • Jacob D

    Mine was a bit different as I did it in Canada. Instead of the box I had to do two figure-8s in each direction. Then a slow-speed slalom, a higher speed slalom, a second gear corner and a judgement call (an instructor telling my to either go left, right or to stop). I had previous experience on dirt bikes but took the course for the benefit of getting a full MC license earlier than otherwise. I learned a few new techniques, but for some reason the instructors swore by four finger braking and clutch-work, not sure why that was…

    • ThruTheDunes

      I ran into the same four finger thing in my class, too. After years of mountain biking, it was a tough instinct to crack. On the brake hand, the instructor’s point was, if your finger is between the lever and the bar, it could be pinched and prevent full application of the brake.(assumes a loose adjustment, I suppose).

  • Mark D

    I took an MSF course before ever throwing a leg over a motorcycle. When I got my ninja, I took the refresher course on it, as opposed to the little rebels and nighthawks they have on hand. There isn’t anything in the refresher course you can’t do on your own in a parking lot, but having instructors watch you and offer advice is worth the price of admission.
    The best feedback I ever got was when I locked up the front brake during a panic stop on a little Rebel. I let up on the brake, but didn’t let go, and didn’t drop it. The instructor, rather than telling me what I did wrong, give me a big thumbs up and told me what I did RIGHT; kept my head up and didn’t try to ride it out (into an inevitable low side). What would have been a scary moment, leading to nervousness, became my first “Motorcycles; fuck yeah!” moment.

  • cloroxbb

    I did fine on the “box.” It just took a couple tries before I perfected it. The biggest problem is not looking where you want to go, and some people being afraid of leaning the bike. I had zero experience on a motorcycle before taking the BRC.

  • Rob Wilson that should link to practicing the box on an 800 lb. GTL . Some people say the course doesn’t prepare you for higher speeds but the technique for cornering at 55 is the same as it is at 15 mph like skill eval #4 chances are if you were not proficient at 15 mph the flaws in your technique are more noticeable at higher speeds. It is not uncommon for a person to pass the course and pick up 5 or 10 points in the curve for rolling off or decelerating and going to slow both of which cause much more major problems at higher speeds. Taking the course a second time to increase one proficiency and hone the technique is never a bad idea. Ride safe!

  • charlie

    For the most part, the instructors can tell what students just made a mistake and who is going to need a lot of training. Unfortunately, I don’t think the course offers enough to get people riding confidently in real world situations. I just kept riding back roads after my certification to get comfortable. When it comes to people criticizing the ones who are trying to learn, remember that you had to learn at some point too. Not all of us grew up riding dirt.

  • Piglet2010

    Those “Big Twins” have 50+ pounds of crank and flywheel, which makes low-speed maneuvers easy with a brake-torque technique (which is what pretty much every police riding school teaches).

  • eddi

    Tensing up is my biggest problem whenever I try to learn anything involving physical actions. I can beat it but first I have to notice it. We’ll see how I do this summer.

  • Dubknot

    Just adding my 2 cents, but I really enjoyed my BRC. It was my second time ever riding a motorcycle, and I think the low speed drills are very important. My coach would say, “The skills you learn at low speed translate over to road speeds, but it doesn’t work the other way around.”. I tend to agree (other than when cornering).
    After my class I spent about a month just riding around my neighborhood. I live near a tollroad without much traffic, so when I felt like it, I’d hit freeway speeds there until I was comfortable. I think the main thing that helped me though, is that I totally geeked out about riding. I mean, anything I could read about it I did, and my library grew really quickly. There is so much info out there that there just isn’t time to fit in a BRC class, but all together I think it builds a great foundation.

  • Don Birren

    There are a great deal of wonderful things in this article, but l’m very disappointed the U-turn box video ended with a wheelie. That’s just irresponsible.

  • Mr. White

    I raced mountain bikes during the ’90s (as I like to joke, 20 years and 30 lbs. ago). I took to the handling of a motorcycle like a fish to water, but the damn friction zone dogged me all during the sessions. It wasn’t until right up until I had to take the DMV test that I finally just “got” it. Even though I was very comfortable with every other aspect of a motorcycle, I still found my class experience extremely helpful and beneficial.

  • Matthew DiTarando

    As an MSF Rider Coach I always wish I could tell the class not to worry about the U-Turn Area. Max points at 8 for completely flubbing it still leaves plenty of room to pass.

  • Schuyler

    I put my foot down once in the box on the second turn, I have difficulty going right. Otherwise I lost no points and had the greatest improvement in stopping distance in the class.