Search Results for: motorcycle safety foundation

Number of Results: 11

Riding Your First Motorcycle

vulcan-900Many people, men and women alike, believe that motorcycles are easy to handle. After all, most of us mastered a bicycle by the age of eight and like a bicycle, motorcycles have two wheels as well. How difficult can they really be to manage on the road? The average person can get a bicycle up to around 30 mph on a flat surface. A pro cyclist can get to around 50 mph. A motorcycle can go from zero to more than 60 mph in under 4 seconds. That’s a steep increase over a bicycle, and one that should be your first clue that riding a motorcycle is going to take quite a bit of practice to get right.

If you are in the market for your first motorcycle or you know, as many riders do, that your life will be enriched through the travel options that owning a motorcycle will bring, you should take a few things into consideration before making your purchase and before hopping on the seat to take it for a spin. A motorcycle does not come equipped with an airbag or safety features like an automobile, and until you have been through some training, you simply do not want to just “hop on” and try to ride away into the sunset. A simple mistake when driving a car may end with a small scratch or even a slight fender dent. Making a mistake on a motorcycle can end your life. Be aware though that while riding a motorcycle is often thought to be dangerous, so are many other things in life and you can control the danger level by gaining experience and learning to be safe.

Before you ride your first bike, you may want to consider taking a motorcycle safety course with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) as they offer safety courses nationwide for motorcycle owners and those interested in riding. Taking a course is not mandatory, but (more…)

Mandatory Safety Classes?

Training course

I’ve been involved in a discussion on LinkedIn regarding licensing and whether or not motorcycle safety courses should be mandatory for obtaining a motorcycle license. Here in Pennsylvania if you have an automobile license all you need to do is pay a small fee for a motorcycle permit. With that permit you can walk out of the building, mount a bike (any bike, any size)  and ride away. Zero instruction of any kind. In my case I bought a bike, rode it on weekends on back country roads until I got proficient enough to venture out in traffic. Anyone who rides knows firsthand the kind of muscle memory that is required to ride proficiently and safely. That only comes from repetition and practice. Practice that, I believe, too many people acquire in the crucible of the open road rather than a safe, closed environment.

It is a bit frightening to imagine young, enthusiastic riders getting their permits and jumping on a GSX750 with a power to weight ratio they have no idea how to control and hurting or killing themselves because they haven’t had anyone tell them about situational awareness or clutch and throttle control, what to be aware of with regard to riding in traffic, safety gear, the importance and effectiveness of the front brake or any other instruction of any kind except from a friend, who most likely is also self taught. In fact, during my safety course my brother and I actually heard someone say “oh, my husband never uses his front brake”. Amazing that a seemingly experienced rider would say something so dangerously incorrect.

The MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) course is a good one but it’s not mandatory. Many riders get their permits, renew them every two years and never take a course. It’s a strange and potentially dangerous system. I’d favor a mandatory instruction course with graduated licensing, say under 500cc for anyone with less than 2 years experience. There are myriad ways to set it up that would be better than our current system. I’ve heard so many stories about riders who hopped on a bike with no experience or instruction, crashed, hurt themselves or their passenger and who consequently never rode again. I was curious as to the licensing methods in place in other states and countries. This blog has been viewed in every U.S. state and in nearly every country. I’d be interested in any feedback or opinions anyone can provide.

Ride safe.

A Silent Conversation – Guest Post

068_68The beautiful, large, brown eyes, which I fell in love with ten years earlier, gave me an inquisitive and sad look.  After being together for so long words were unnecessary.  I could see the question in her eyes.   And, I wish the answer was simple, or even something I could verbalize.

I did not grow up around motorcycles and came from a culture (former Soviet Union) where occasional Ural, Jawa or Dnepr were low frills transportation appliances, puttering along at the fringes of acceptable and far outside of the realm of desirable.  In a society that placed very little emphasis on personal joy (just check with Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy), riding a crude two-wheeled machine just for pure pleasure of it was unfathomable. 

Through the first 31 years of my life I had at most a passing curiosity about motorcycles.  To me they were like exotic dancers – interesting to sneak a glance at and excite the fantasy, but completely unattainable.

A conversation with a rider friend – the only person in my surrounding who had any connection to motorcycles – changed everything.  The unattainable dancer became like a teenage obsession.  Suddenly, I had to know everything about motorcycles.  The Zen and the Art, Jupiter’s Travels, the Long Way Round, countless blogs, podcasts, magazines – if it had motorized two wheels in it somewhere – I stood ready to devour it. 

I developed interest in riding during a turbulent time in my life.  For nearly three decades, I did, said and thought exactly what was expected of me, and I got excellent at meeting expectations.   I became a successful   lawyer and worked at a wonderful downtown firm; I married a woman of my dreams and was living in a beautiful suburban neighborhood, and our talks about starting a family began to take a more serious tone.  Yet, behind the emerald green facade, something was missing. 

That something was a sense of connection with that part of me that makes me tick.  Call it passion, inner purpose or just the ability to be completely present in every moment, it seemed as though that quality, whatever it is, was locked somewhere deep within.  Like a Stepford wife I was happy on the outside, in a mechanical sort of way, but empty within. 

It was this yearning for connection with my purpose that drew me to learn transcendental meditation – the most important skill I have ever acquired in my life.  The experience of going within took me to highs and lows I could never have imagined existed.  It was from this depth that the desire to ride arose.   And, no one, including the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, which rightfully failed me at my first Basic Rider Course, was going to stop me!  If I had to take the “basic” course three times just to pass the test – I was thrilled to oblige!

As I began to slowly hone my riding skills, I often stopped in my tracks asking myself the same question that I saw in my lover’s eyes.  The answer always seemed elusive and unsatisfactory because I was trying to justify a course of actions with logic, even though I chose it despite of it, not because of it. 

How could I explain that riding was an extension of my meditation – a time of total awareness, when I felt one with the machine underneath and the sights, sounds and smells of the world around me?  How could I tell anyone that motorcycle was the key to a locked treasure chest, which I did not even know existed, yet which reveals its endless treasures to me one at a time on every ride? 

I did not have to utter a single word to her.  As our eyes met, so did our souls.  She was not thrilled about it and did not want to ride herself.  Yet, she understood …  because she IS my meditation partner, my soul mate, and My Wife.

Henry YampolskyAbout the author: Henry Yampolsky is a new rider and writer who finds motorcycling to be an extension of his meditation.  When not riding, writing, meditating or contemplating doing one of the three, Henry spends time with his wife, Juliya, and works as a lawyer in Philadelphia.



February Madness

Feb_madness-180x180The article “February Madness” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 3/06/2012.

Last Saturday I was scheduled to attend an information and interview session with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation here in Pennsylvania. I had applied to be a rider coach last spring and of the three sessions scheduled this was the only one I was available to make.

The weather forecast was calling for high winds and a chance of light rain so I planned to check in the morning to decide whether to ride or not. I looked outside and saw clear blue skies. The temperature was in the high 30’s. “Excellent, I can ride today” I thought. I grabbed the heated liner and gloves and headed out to ride the 80 or so miles.

Ten minutes from home the skies started turning black and instead of light rain, light snow started to fall as the winds picked up. Since it appeared to be a decent weather day I hadn’t left myself much extra time so I was faced with a decision: turn around and get the car and show up late to an interview (and obviously ruin my chances) or plow ahead and risk calling for a ride if the snow started to stick. I plowed ahead. No problem, I thought, it’s all highway, not much traffic, I’ll be fine.

By the time I got to the interview I was at that point where I was using the back of my thumb to wipe the rain and snow mixture from my shield so I could see and my feet were wet from road spray. I hadn’t packed my waterproof boot covers.

So now I’m sitting in a room for a three hour interview and information session with cold wet feet. Of the twenty or so who attended only three of us rode our bikes. We were easy to spot. We were the ones with the wide eyed “why did I just do that and what’s the ride home going to be like” looks on our faces. We each exchanged smiles that seemed to say “how much fun was that?”.

By the time the session ended the winds were pushing 40 miles per hour and the owner of the cycle shop we were in was warning people to hold onto the door as they left so it wouldn’t get torn from their hands. I rode home leaning into the wind as the snow stopped and started every few miles. I kept reminding myself to squeeze the tank with my knees and weight the pegs to try and relax my arms. It was a fairly nerve-racking ride.

As stressful as it was, when I finally got home and warm, I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s those rides that are the most memorable. The ones that don’t exactly go as planned, where the weather is the worst and it gets a bit dicey, but you push on because you really have no choice. And even if you did have a choice –  you’d ride anyway. The rides where nothing but focus and skill keep you upright.

I’d say I would choose differently next time; but I’d be lying. I’d still ride and add another memory to the list of many.

Paying It Forward

The article “Paying It Forward” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 04/18/2012.

When I was 25 I worked as a Land Surveyor. I started out in the field as an apprentice and eventually worked my way up to party chief; which meant I had client contact. I would show up to do the work and quite often the clients were home. I’d let them know what we’d be doing, chat a bit about their plans for the property, and then get to work.

On one occasion I met a man who was a police officer for a local municipality here in Pennsylvania. A nice guy, very affable, and I noticed he had a motorcycle in front of his house. At the time I was considering learning to ride and told him as much. He took some time to tell me I should take the motorcycle safety foundation course and to learn all I could. He was fairly serious and went into detail about close calls he’d had and how it can be dangerous on the road. Our conversation had an impact on me. I was young – I needed to hear it.

A few days later I was waiting for my car to be inspected at a local repair shop and I picked up the newspaper and read the headline. I’ll never forget that moment because I got nauseous and a bit dizzy and my hands started shaking. I’d never felt anything like it before. The policeman who took the time to talk to me about bike safety was killed, and his daughter seriously injured, when a driver turned left in front of them while they were out riding together.

The thought of riding didn’t even cross my mind again for more than 10 years. When I finally did decide to start riding, it was with a certain gravity. I remembered the kind words and serious look in the eyes of that policeman all those years earlier.

I now try to impart what I’ve learned over the years to less-experienced riders who are open to learning. I’ve always got an ear open for riders who have a lot more experience than me as well. The learning never ends, nor does the teaching. On group rides, lunch or coffee breaks offer great opportunities for both learning and teaching. There’s no denying that advice given with seriousness, caring, and mutual respect can have a lifelong impact on whoever hears it. I know it did for me.

Bike and Brothers

The article “Bikes and Brothers” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 03/04/2012.

My brother taught me to ride my first motorcycle. Dave had ridden for many years and we had a fairly typical brother relationship; but had decidedly different interests. He’s a hard worker my brother – honest, trustworthy, loyal to the core. When our father died suddenly at just 57 years old the desire to ride started to grow in my brain, partly because I wanted something Dave and I could do together. I think maybe most of the emotions between brothers are unspoken, the good ones anyway. In one of my favorite movies “The Straight Story” the main character says “There’s no one who knows your life better than a brother that’s near your age. He knows who you are and what you are better than anyone on earth.”

One day I asked him: “Do you think you can find me a cheap bike? I think I’d like to learn to ride”. My brother is always buying and selling ATV’s, cars, lawn mowers, campers, you name it. It only took him about a week to find me my ’81 Maxim. Man, I loved that bike. I kept it at my parents’ house because they lived in the country where there was little traffic. I would drive over on weekends and my brother and I would tour around the quiet Nazareth, Pennsylvania countryside together. He stayed close by, always looking back and nodding to see if I was OK.

My brother walked me through the gears, checked the bike to make sure it was safe, and told me about the gas reserve and how to access it. Mostly we just rode together while my brain got used to not thinking about what to do next to keep the machine upright. I remember my first few fumbling rides, “left hand clutch, left foot shift, right hand throttle, right hand front brake, right foot rear brake…” over and over again until they became second nature.

Dave is three years younger than me but, much like a father does, he’s taught me a lot and has never once failed to be there when I needed him. After I got fairly proficient at riding I suggested we take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation safety course together, which we did. Dave was “top gun”, which was announced, much to my chagrin; in front of the entire class as we received our signed permits (everyone knew we were brothers). “You had to tell him didn’t you? Now he’s got bragging rights forever – nice” is what I told our instructor.

That was 13 years ago. Dave and I still ride together, although he thinks I’m crazy for riding year round, and a couple of years ago he came with a flatbed to pick up my bike after it was crushed by a deer. He pieced it back together in his garage while I healed. So when I think about riding it’s inextricably linked to my father’s death and my relationship with my brother and that makes it all the more special to me. No one can ever tell me a motorcycle is just something you ride to get from here to there. Sometimes they take you places you never expected to go.

Training saves lives

Many studies show that over 90% of motorcyclists who are involved in accidents are either untrained or trained by someone they know. Knowing how to operate the controls of a motorcycle is simple enough and can be taught quickly; however, learning how to master those controls and implement them in a real world scenario takes specific training and practice. Venturing out onto the road having had no formal training is foolhardy at best and in today’s distracted cell phone happy society it’s downright dangerous. If you have anyone at home who cares about you the best thing you can do to ease their minds is to wear adequate safety gear, be a serious rider and seek out formal training from someone experienced and competent. Only after you’ve been trained and you can operate the controls of a motorcycle without thinking about the physical actions involved should you venture out into traffic.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is the best place to start; but the waiting times can be long before a class has an opening. I can provide both closed course and on-the-road training at a location of your choosing to help you get ready to ride confidently in traffic. My rates are reasonable and I can train novices as well as experienced riders and can also pick up where the MSF course leaves off, with specific on-the-road training.

Feel free to contact me if you are interested in training.