The Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Basic Rider Course

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[caption id="attachment_921" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="Triumph Bonneville 2012"]My Triumph Bonneville[/caption]As I've posted previously, I've gotten a new motorcycle. And in order to get the most out of that motorcycle, and to remain alive as long as possible, I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Basic Rider Course over the last two weeks. They have several class schedules that can work for you, and mine was two consecutive Saturdays. Now, before I took the course, I had only ridden a bicycle, and I can tell you now that as much as I would like it to be, riding a bicycle isn't the same as riding a motorcycle. They are two different animals, as I found out that first day when I jumped on my new Triumph Bonneville and ended up flat on my back with a broken toe shifter peg.The first day we went through the book and a couple of videos to learn the basics of riding a motorcycle and the importance of safety gear. Then we got out on the range. The classes will provide a helmet, gloves (if you didn't bring your own), and a 250 CC motorcycle. The most common bike type is a cruiser (either a Honda Rebel or Yamaha V-Star 250), but there are a couple of dual-sport bikes you can get on. I chose a Yamaha V-Star 250, as it was closest to my Triumph. We started by learning where the "Friction Zone" is on our bike, just rocking it back and forth as the clutch started to engage. This is something I didn't know about motorcycles: you are encouraged to ride the clutch (unlike a car). So much for a salesman at a Honda dealership (which shall remain anonymous) telling me the clutch and shifting is just like a car! We then power-walked out bikes across the range (in this case the parking lot of the Salt Lake Community College). We then hopped on and rode across.With each successive pass we found better experiences, faster movement, and increased difficulty. It all lead to a better feeling of comfort and confidence on a motorcycle, something I really needed after blowing it on my bike the day before. I was so excited that the next day I couldn't wait to jump out on my bike and start riding around in the neighborhood. By the next week, I was feeling really confident, and took my own bike to ride for the rest of the class. Because I took the class at the Salt Lake Community College, they will give you the option of using your own bike throughout the class, or even just when you test out. I'm glad I did, as I'll get to it in the end. Of course, with a broken shifter peg, I needed a replacement as the shop wasn't going to have one by the time I took the class. So, I found a bolt at my local Lowes with the same thread count (metric, because it's a British bike), and it's been working well.The second class was more about maneuvers, and preparing for the riding exam (which is essentially the same as the State riding exam). I was doing well, but because of a lot of waiting and holding the clutch in while stopped, my hand got tired. Then when I tried to take off at the end of the day, I stalled my bike, and it fell over on the temporary shifter peg. The peg, not being very strong, bent to the point where I couldn't use it. It was almost a disaster, but luckily I had a second bolt at home. My wife brought it over for me, and I was able to run through the practice run at least once before the exam.The exam had me sweating bullets, because I didn't have all the practice I wanted. I ran through the course, and messed up a couple of times (put my foot down in the U turn portion, and took the curve a little slow). But, even when I was certain I had screwed up, I passed. I was thrilled! So now, since I have already taken the written exam with the Driver License division, I can run over there and get my motorcycle endorsement for my driver's license, and for the largest size, so I can ride any motorcycle or scooter.So what did I learn from this little adventure? The best thing for anyone new to riding a motorcycle is to take the Basic Rider Course. I promise you, it will give you a better feeling of confidence on your motorcycle. From then on out, it's just learning to drive a clutch all over again, but using for