Note: MTF Member Larry Scalzitti (Scalzitti) is the chief instructor
Sidecar/Trike Specific Training
"I want to get to get trained, but I can't get in a course..."We sure hear this a lot. Let's see if we can't help you get in a course. But first, a word about rider training (MSF curriculum training). All of the following applies equally to either the MSF BRC (Basic Rider Course) or ERC (Experieinced Rider Course).
Rider Training will make me safer, right? This is just one trainer's opinion, but I say no. Ride Training will almost certainly improve your riding skills, and if you use that knowledge and skill to ride more safely, you will very likely be a safer rider. Said another way, Rider Training will give you the opportunity to be a safer rider, but it will depend entirely upon what you do with it. Does training always make the rider safer? At least some evidence says no. First, there is no definitive study on the subject. However, Progressive Insurance has discontinued extending discounts to riders who have taken MSF courses. They claim their risk analysis does not show the discounts to be warranted. Is this an indictment of training? Probably not. Perhaps trained riders ride more, ride longer distances, ride more expensive machines, or are more likely to survive an accident (i.e., expensive). Actuarial tables are often very simplistic. But, I think we have to at least embrace the possibility that students who take rider training are not making themselves safer. It is for that reason, that the emphasis of MTF rider safety is STFJR (Safer Touring From Judicios Risk). This point can be made another way. If you envision two riders, one who wobbles away from every start and makes every curve an adventure and another who can perform U-turns from lock to lock along with the perfect line and technique through a curve. The following is worth considering. If both of these riders ride at the same proximity to their personal limits, who is the safer rider? Who is more likely to have an accident in a given year? Who is likely to have the more severe accident? The point of all this is that training and skill does not inherently translate to safety. Motorcycling is a fun and exhilarating activity. We all love zipping through a scenic, twisting highway. However, as we improve our training and skills, if we use all of the advanced capability to increase the exhilaration of our riding , we may not be becoming safer at all. We may be riding as close to the edge as we always have and we may be doing it faster and setting ourselves up the "the big one!" It is only when we commit a portion of our advanced skills and training to a "safety reserve" that we can hope to become safer. Thus STFJR (Safer Touring From Judicios Risk)!
With the above caution out of the way, clearly rider training and advanced skill gives us the opportunity to ride more safely. The standard USA-wide in basic rider education is the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) training curriculum. With some differences, this curriculum is followed in virtually every US state. There are two basic MSF courses, one focusing on basics for newer riders and riders new to training and one which is more of a tuner for trained, experienced riders. Additional information on these can be found here. Some states offer additional and intermediate options in MSF Training. Check with your state program. There are additional private options for advanced riding. One of the better listings of these is here.
The MTF believes in training and hopes that all of its members will use training to build an increasing reserve and to become safer riders. So…, how do we get into a course. MSF courses are heavily booked almost throughout the country. Registering for a seat is difficult. The demand is very high. However, in that environment, I believe that anyone who really wants training gets it. How do they do it? I believe that the answer resides in some of the following tips:
1) Use the state links on the MTF safety page to develop a thorough knowledge of the program in your area. Know everything about it. Know of all sites in reasonable proximity. Know the registration procedures. Some states have web sites which provide all this information. Others list only a phone number. Whatever you have, pursue it diligently. Keep exploring and asking until you understand it thoroughly. If your state is not listed in the links, go to the MSF site and they will provide a phone number or in some cases they handle the state's registration themselves.
2) Do not sit back, and expect training availability to come to you. Some areas, especially larger metropolitan areas, have hopeless backlogs. Be willing to travel to areas where training is more available. Most of us travel to access higher education which will earn us a bit more, but we seem unwilling to do the same for knowledge that offers the opportunity to save our lives. Many times a neighboring state's program is honored by your state, and has training which is more available. Determine all of this and get yourself trained! Don't wait for it to come to you! In Ohio, it is only $25 for training and qualified registrants from all states are accepted. This $25 fee is often much less than neighboring states. Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan all honor Ohio Rider Training certificates. Know the situation in your location. Also in Ohio, we have a mobile program that takes training to smaller locals that cannot support regular training. These programs fill up much more slowly than the programs in areas like Cleveland and Cincinnati. Do what it takes to get trained, and make a nice weekend trip out of it - even to a neighboring state.
3) Standby for available seats - especially where registration is inexpensive. Many registrants simply do not show up. They have to register well in advance, their situation may change, and many do not bother to cancel - they just don't show up. Many sites accept walk-in registrations for available seats either on a first come, first served basis or as is done in Ohio, on a lottery basis. In either case, know the system and show up on Friday (or other) night until you get in.
4) Call just before a class to see if there have been any late cancellations. Know the site cancellation policy. If people can cancel up to Wednesday before a class and receive a refund., call the 1st thing Thursday and see if anyone has canceled. Many times they won't book you without having your payment. Offer to drive down at lunch and make payment if mail won't get there. You have to pursue this aggressively. Do it every week. They will get to know you, and they may even call you. Few sites keep a waiting list. It is up to you to call them. To the victors go the spoils! However, it is human nature when they get to know you to extend themselves a bit. Don't hang back!
5) If you can afford it, pay more. Private, for profit, training is proliferating as evidenced by the Harley Davidson Rider's Edge program. Most of these programs use the MSF curriculum and are honored by the resident state. Obviously, at higher registration fees there is increased availability. If it's that important to you, pay - if you use it properly it can save your life!
If you follow these tips, Rider Training will be available. If you try all of this and still seem to hit a brick wall, please post in the MTF Safety section and one of our members will give you personal assistance. You can also email email@example.com for personal assistance.
Used properly, training can be far too valuable to do without. Demand can be a roadblock to training, and too many people just allow this to shut them down. Pursue it like it can save your life and there's a good chance it will. We hope that this information will assist your pursuit.
Depending upon demand and interest, the MTF may consider coordinating through an accredited state program some future MSF ERC training for MTF members. If you have an interest in this, please make your interest known. In the meantime, use the tips above and don't wait! ….and don't forget, the real value of training will be dependent upon what you do with it!
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