Taking the Experienced Rider Motorcycle Course

By: On: October 18th, 20080 Comments »Updated: October 14, 2012

After deciding to get back into riding motorcycles on the street after some years away from it, I attended a Motorcycle Course for Experienced Riders at a local community college.  Community colleges are a great place to find motorcycle courses.  In addition to learning how to properly control your motorcycle, if you are riding on a learner’s permit, then you also have the opportunity to earn a waiver so you don’t have to take the motorcycle road test at the DMV for your motorcycle license endorsement.

The course I took was taught via the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, also known as the MSF.  Two MSF instructors actively taught and demonstrated for 12 of us students.

In the Experienced Rider motorcycle Course, also known as the ERC, you bring your own motorcycle.  You also have to bring your motorcycle’s registration, and your motorcycle insurance card.  By the way, you’ll be on your bike for most of the day, so be prepared for the weather.  You will need to wear (1) DOT approved helmet and eye protection, (2) gloves, (3) long sleeve shirt (or jacket) and long pants, and (4) boots or shoes that cover your ankles.

Be aware that you will be doing a lot of engine idling while waiting for your turn, and a lot of clutch and brake usage.  Be sure your clutch and brake systems are in good working order.  Most motorcycles these days have wet clutches that are cooled in oil, but some bikes still use a dry clutch, like mine.  I did my best not abuse it or over heat it.  Fortunately, I didn’t have any problems with it.  Oh, don’t forget to be sure you have enough gas, but you shouldn’t need a completely full tank.

The best thing about bringing your own motorcycle for the course is that you learn how to properly control the motorcycle that you actually ride, since every motorcycle is different.  For example, if your bike is a touring motorcycle that weighs nearly 800 pounds, then you probably wouldn’t benefit as much from the motorcycle course if you only rode a 300 pound dual-purpose bike during that course.  Yes, you would still learn very valuable skills, but applying these new skills to riding your own motorcycle is important.

normal turningDuring the somewhat brief off-bike times, the instructors read from the MSF training manual and discussed examples so everyone could relate and understand.  Those motorcycle info discussions were extremely valuable.  Student interaction was encouraged and questions were welcomed.  As it got hotter during the day, we looked forward to these discussions, especially so we could shut off the bikes and cool ourselves down too. I wore my old leather motorcycle jacket with a long sleeve t-shirt under it and was sweating like crazy later in the day. I noticed some other students had newer motorcycle jackets that have better ventilation, reflective trim, and some built-in body armor.

You will practice a variety of skills, some are considered life-saving, and some are just general good riding skills that will help you become more proficient on the streets, especially in taking corners and avoiding obstacles.  In one of the first exercises, we weaved around cones grouped at a pretty reasonable distance apart, then came back weaving through a different group of cones spaced much closer together, and therefore a little trickier.  After we got used to this one, we had to try it again, but with our left hand on our left thigh.  Much more difficult!  My right arm was worn out after a few laps of doing that.

An eye-opening maneuver for me was the one where we had to enter a turn, then quickly straighten out and stop as fast as we could.  It wasn’t so easy to stay within the painted lines.  So, just imagine being on the street and going into a corner when all of a sudden the car in front of you completely stops.  Some asked questions about if we entered a turn way too fast, should we carefully try to brake while turning, or should we just try to stay with it and lean the bike farther to negotiate it.  It kind of depends on the situation, but the answer in general was that we should try to lean it a little farther and ride through it, but never ever use the front brake during a turn since that is a sure way to lose control of the bike.  So, the exercise was teaching us to separate turning and braking.  A very good lesson.  There are many more maneuvers practiced and a variety of riding topics were discussed in this motorcycle course, too lengthy for discussion here.

slow turningNow that I have completed the ERC course, I realize it would have been easier to have done it on a smaller motorcycle or scooter. As a matter of fact, one student rode a Honda maxi scooter.  I actually ride an 1100cc bagger touring bike though, and since I rode that in this motorcycle course, I learned to apply these new skills on it and I felt that it helped me to become a better and safer rider.

If you’re really not an experienced rider, my advice is to forget about your ego and take the beginner motorcycle course (BRC) if you’re just starting out.  You’ll be doing some advanced maneuvers in the experienced motorcycle course, and there is a good possibility that you could drop your bike and have a difficult time keeping up if you are a beginner.  You can usually bring your own bike to the beginner rider course too, but they typically provide the appropriate motorcycles for that.

You’ll need to sign up and pay the fee in advance (about $80 for the ERC, but price varies by location).  You often can sign up online, or simply by calling a community college near you to see if they offer a motorcycle course.  I recommend calling, because the motorcycle courses fill up very quickly, and if their full, you’ll want to ask them kindly to contact you right away in case of an opening.  That’s how I got in. I have met other people recently that told me they couldn’t get in a motorcycle course locally, so they had to go about an hour away to a different college for it.

Good luck to you in taking which ever motorcycle course you decide, and soak up as much of that valuable motorcycle info as you can!

About John Clay

John Clay is the author of MotorcycleInfo.Org. He and his family reside in North Carolina in the United States. A graduate of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced Rider Course, he enjoys riding his Moto Guzzi in charity rides and serves as a volunteer motorcycle marshal for an annual bicycle charity event in the Carolinas.

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