May 29, 2013

Fighting Over Small Stuff

When I first started teaching MSF classes, I tried to take every opportunity to ride the state's motorcycles in the course demonstrations. I felt that I had a pretty good grasp of the program's text and post-exercise analysis, but I was still doubting the concept of "traction" and some of the other core principles we were teaching. When I became an instructor, the qualification process "proved" that I could ride well enough to teach the course but I wasn't yet completely convinced. After my first year, that was no longer an issue and I found plenty of opportunity to ingrain the ideas and practices into my normal riding routine.

Like most of the state's instructors, I would still rather "ride than talk." For the next six or seven years, anytime I was given a choice between talking or riding I always chose riding. There is an aspect of showing off in doing the demos that is probably unhealthy and less-than-useful for our students. I have yet to work with an instructor who doesn't do some of that and I sure do. However, the compulsion to ride over standing around yakking and hanging out seems a little out-of-place with a group as diverse as our instructors. About five years ago, I began to ride my KL250 to class and most everywhere. When I moved to the small bike from my V-Strom my interest in demo'ing on the state's bikes began to decay. When I bought the WR250X, riding over talking took a big hit. Most of the time I pick whatever option will move the class along the most efficiently. If the other instructor talks too much about stuff not in the program or "enhancing" the same material until eyes glaze over and brains shut off, I'll take more turns talking. If it's taking too long to setup the range and do the demos, I'll ride. Otherwise, I don't care which I'm doing.

The fact is, my WR is so much more fun to ride -- everywhere -- than anything MNDOT owns that I don't get much out of riding the state's bikes. Figuring this out made me realize something about my co-instructors: they don't have anything as cool as the state's bikes to play with!

This all reminds me of a couple of neighbors and friends who own large, noisy motorcycles that require rearranging of the garage before the motorcycle can peek out of it's winter hibernation hole. Both of these guys are terrified of riding on the freeway and neither put more than a thousand miles a year on their bike. I am clueless as to their motivation for owning a motorcycle, other than the obvious fact that they have tied some of their self-identity to the idea of being "a biker" and owning a motorcycle is a prerequisite for that fantasy. That is a lot of stuff to mess with for a delusional self-image, isn't it? Insurance, maintenance, giving up useful garage space to a useless toy, frustration, and the continual disappointment that must come with looking at the tarp-covered hunk of hippobike every time you strap into the old family cage.

Knowing that most of my co-instructors drive a cage to their classes and all of the few who ride are one liter-or-better gigantatrons, I suddenly have something slightly like sympathy for their desire to ride something fun. Now, if I could only convince a few of them that small bikes are more practical than large.


  1. You sure like picking fights, don't you?
    It is interesting and perhaps not surprising to see that you suffer from the same "real mean ride BIG bikes" syndrome in the US that we have here in Oz. I am comfortable with my identity these days, so that I don't even need an engine to have fun on two wheels most of the time now. (most of the time). :)

  2. Damn, I thought this one was about avoiding fights. We're probably the home of "real men ride BIG bikes," for no good reason at all. You guys probably have bigger, more isolated space than us, but you hardly ever see a less-than-650 motorcycle on US roads or even in the city. Scooters, however, are going gangbusters now.


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