Aug 11, 2013

What Is Training the Answer To?

On a recent MMSC Facebook post, the organization wrote, “Over 60 percent of riders killed to-date were 45 and older. Whether you’re returning to riding or have been on the road for years, continued training is essential to staying safe.” Having done a good bit of “45 and older” motorcyclist training in the last dozen years, I’m not convinced that training is as useful as my employer. For starters, the majority of over-45 riders are hooked on image and can’t see themselves on any motorcycle that isn’t a Harley or, at least, looks exactly like a Harley.

At the risk of reinforcing my “motorcycle bigot” image, this is a problem. Motorcycles that don’t turn, stop, or handle safely in any situation that isn’t a straight line on perfect pavement are a poor choice for old, weak, fat, slow-witted and reaction-time, former or current rummies. If the rider isn’t an athlete, the motorcycle needs to be. The right choice for most over-45 riders in the US would be a small (250-500cc), lightweight standard motorcycle. Something like the new Honda CB500F/X models or a Kawasaki Versys at the largest.

Yeah, I know. You want to ride two-up to the bar and you can’t get two of your Minnesota-sized butts on a smaller motorcycle seat. Read the first paragraph again. 60% of the riders killed this year are 45-and-older. Why do you think you are talented enough to be carrying a passenger? If you aren’t safe by yourself, you’ll be twice as unsafe with a passenger.

To be sure, training is a good thing. We can all learn something from other experienced riders and bad habits are more easily ingrained than good. Still, training is not a magic bullet. You can only train the trainable. Some/most people do not belong on a motorcycle and no amount of training will fix that.


  1. Stereotypes do hold some truth, we don't call them potato wobblers for nothing. Image is a huge deciding factor when buying a bike, but do we blame the rider for this or "The Brand" marketing department and Hollywood for creating such an image?
    There are several instructors who ride The Brand and do so very well, so training does help... but I believe that it is continuous training that makes a proficient rider regardless of bike type.
    Do we turn our backs on the close minded that are only there to get their endorsement? I give each student 110% and have had some come out from behind the image to thank me that they learned something new.
    I have also told many a graduate that they are not ready for the street and recommend more training in hopes that they heard me.

  2. As a teacher, I try to blow past my personal stereotypes and biases and give everyone the best effort I have for the day. As a person, I don't have to bother with that. The day I can't separate work from life is the day I give up on one of the two; probably work. I do not, however, have to "honor" anyone's foolish opinion, erroneous "facts," or marketing-based lifestyle.

    I'm unconvinced that the "training" is what make "The Brand" riders proficient, too. Personal ability, habits, attitude, etc are what make up the kind of person who becomes a good rider. I know several wonderful, long-term riders who have never taken a course from anyone anywhere. I know a lot more goofballs who think they are riders because they managed to pass (or teach) an MSF course and have a license.

    You can not, by the way, give anything 110%. I suspect, at best, a typical human can probably shell out about 70% before becoming overwhelmed, exhausted, or done for life.

    The image thing is chicken-and-the-egg. Marketing only works because it appeals to some deficiency in our personalities or other low-IQ issues.


Disagree? Bring it on. Have more to add? Feel free to set me straight.(Spam goes straight to trash and is never read.)