On Saturday, October 9th, I rode over to Brookdale Community College to attend the Experience Rider course taught by Rider Education. It was the second time I had taken the course. The first time I took it was in 2002 while riding my first bike, a Honda Rebel (250cc). However, for the last two years I have been riding a HD Heritage Softail. (This is my second bike-and no, there were no bikes inbetween!).
It was a beautiful day, (hey, no rain!) with a slight chill in the air. Although I am very comfortable riding the Harley, I was a little nervous heading over to the range. Will I be able to make the turns, etc… like I did with the Rebel? Well, I thought, this is why you are taking the course. Even though I remembered what to do, there haven’t been too many instances where I've had to use some of the techniques since I've been riding the bigger bike.
The first part of the day was a classroom review of basic motorcycling, braking, braking on turns, turns, motorcycle inspection, proper gear and evasive maneuvers. After lunch we met on the range and began the exercises. Here is where you put to test all the talk while riding your own bike!
As we began, my nervousness nagged at me. The instructors were great and had us weave around cones and ride around the course to loosen up. The exercises started out simple and then progressed with difficulty. I was fairly comfortable during most of the drills. However, the one that always challenges me is the tight turns while maintaining speed. In the past, when approaching a turn, I would enter it just a little too fast, try to brake and almost over shoot the center line or enter too slow and have to regain speed. So here I am working on this over and over. When the instructor went through the drill his floor boards were scraping at the turns! AGH! I will never be able to do that-or at least so I thought. I improved but I was still mentally holding onto the fear of approaching too fast or leaning too far and dropping the bike until…..
It was the end of the day and the instructors laid out an exercise that encompassed everything we had done that day. It started by bringing the bike into second gear, going into a 90 degree turn, speeding up then turning into two tight “S’ paths. They said it would be fun. Sure...
At this point at the end of the day I made the decision to relax both mentally and physically and just go for it. Hey, I wasn’t being tested so why not let loose and try to hit the turns? If I go down, I go down. At least there are people to help me up and I will know what it feels like. Well, not only did I nail each turn with speed but I also had those floor boards scraping! What a feeling!
What FUN! What a waste of mental energy worrying!! Do I see a track day in my future?!
The point of the story is this: take the ERC course at least every 2 years (there are those who take it every year). Take the ERC course when you start riding a different bike. Use the opportunity to refine ALL the necessary skills motorcyclists need to be safe-even those you may not use that often. I am that much more confident when approaching the tighter turns knowing I can (Slow, Look) Press and Roll without incident. Knowing this has freed me in a way words cannot explain. I will be taking the ERC course next year and hopefully every year thereafter. Remember that knowing what to do is important, but executing the skill/maneuver correctly may save your life!
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