Nov 28, 2016

#136 When You Need a Faster Bike

Add Your Data to the Geezer Mileage PollFor a bit of self-entertainment, I created a spreadsheet to collect data about how many miles a typical motorcyclist rides in a year. A few other riders and I grabbed sale ads from CraigsList all over the country and the spreadsheet takes that data and turns it into a look at who rides what how far in the good old US of A. The numbers are enlightening and a little depressing. The gross overwhelming majority of motorcycles get ridden less than 2500 miles a year. My observations and suspicions were confirmed, Americans are not really motorcyclists (Except, possibly, in Mexico; which is, after all Central America.). 

caveman(Originally published in Minnesota Motorcycling Monthly Magazine.)  

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

One point I was trying to make with gathering this data is that justifying a bike larger than 250cc is a pretty specious argument. Even those cheap Chinese bikes sold off of trailers at swap meets can survive a decade of 1000-2500 miles/year use and abuse. However, I know a lot of you can't maintain your self-image on a small motorcycle. So, In the interest of providing a public service for those of you who desperately want to imagine that you're different than the average biker, I've decided to come up with a short list of reasons why you might need a faster motorcycle.
  1. It's the end of the world as we know it. The best reason I know of for buying a liter bike (and I don't mean one of those girlyman big-twin dingleberrys, but a real liter bike like an R1 or a GSX-R or a CBRR) is that your doc has given you a couple of months to live and you have decided to get shot out of a cannon instead of squeezed through a medical system tube. There is no better way to splatter yourself all over a wall or launch yourself from a cliff than from a 200mph motorcycle.
  2. An alternative to the above scenario would be that NASA has confirmed that QE2 is going to collide with Momma Earth and we're all gonna die in a couple of weeks. Of that big Antarctic ice shelf is sliding into the ocean and life as we know it is about to get messy. Might was well grab that bull by the handlebars and let 'er rip for one great, last high-speed chase. Of course, the cops will be busy with other stuff so they might not want to play along. Still, you can do a lot of damage with a 200HP, 200MPH motorcycle while the rest of humanity is trying to tuck it's head between its legs.
  3. Everybody hates you, nobody loves you. It's either eat worms or buy a fast bike, put on a wife-beater, some flip-flops, baggy shorts, a snazzy biker mask, and go out and collect some serious road-rash scars.
  4. You've been evicted from Mom's basement and, with no place to go and no possible future, you've decided that prison is the only place to spend your "productive years." Rev up that R1 and take if for a ride down Highway 61. The cops clocked you at 160mph and you're on your way to jail for a good long time. Hope they still do Spanish Rice on Thursdays.
  5. Your girlfriend dumped you, your dog died, your pickup blew a piston, and you lost your job. Like #1 and #2, you have nothing to live for and need a fast, guaranteed way to end it all. Pick a mountain road and drop the hammer. They'll be picking up the pieces for years. That ought to teach that old girlfriend a lesson. (#3, #4, & #5 are suspiciously similar, but so are the usual justifications for buying more bike than you can ride competently.)
  6. You have a beautiful new house with an impeccable 4-car garage and nothing to put in two of the stalls. Like Jay Leno, money is pouring out of your orifices and you need someplace stupid to spend it. The smart thing to do would be to buy vintage guitars, diamonds or gold, or really large and ugly "art." The second dumbest thing you can do is to buy a liter crotch rocket and ride it. I recommend that you drain the fluids from however many bikes you choose to buy and treat them like artwork. Put them on stands and make the highlight of the garage portion of your house tour, "And this is my race bike collection. I'm waiting for the fuel systems to be remapped and new hand-wrapped race tires." The first dumbest thing you can do is to drag home a trophy wife.
  7. You and the wife push the industrial meat scale's needle toward 650 pounds and no small bike will haul or support all of that pork. A big twin with a pair of chaise lounges perched on top of a low-slung, noisy, underpowered motor will be barely enough to put you and your honey into motion. Stopping is a whole 'nother problem, but why worry when you're looking so cool? (Yeah, I realize this "reason" is justifying a "girlyman big-twin dingleberry," but some of you are going to buy them and not ride them. I might as well concede to reality.)
  8. You are a banker and you need something really heavy to hold down all of that fraudulent paper you've been generating since 1981. If the paperweight is big enough, you hope the IRS will never ask to look at it. I recommend a HumVee for this application. They are heavier, harder to move, and cheap as dirt. Next best thing, Kawasaki Voyager XIII, tipping in at 960 pounds wet.
  9. You want to build the world's fastest ski lift. You don't really care about the motorcycle for this application, just the power plant and gearbox. With 200HP and the capability of rev'ing to 12k, you can launch skiers into the sky like down-encrusted cannon balls. I say "Go for it."
  10. You are a real racer, not a poser. You have graduated from a couple of years on a 250, moved up to a 650 twin or 600 four, and you are ready to race with the big boys. Pull the lights, safety-wire the fasteners, pick a number, and get ready to spend all of that trust fund because you're going racing! (In case you're not paying attention, this is the only good reason to own a race-replica motorcycle.)
Of course, buying a smaller, easier-and-more-fun-to-ride, more fuel-efficient motorcycle would make a lot more sense under most conditions and for the majority of US riders, but when has recommending practicality been an American marketing tactic? I realize that most of my ten "reasons" are suicidal. With a firm grasp on 14% of total road fatalities, for a good number of us riding a motorcycle of any sort appears to be self-destructive. At the core, I'm serious about this. If you are one of the majority of riders, you have no need, business, or fashion justification for a race bike wannabe. It doesn't make you look cool, younger, skinnier, smarter, or richer. The riding and general public just assumes you're on the monthly installment plan and will probably turn the bike back to the loan company the first time you drop it in your driveway and skin up your unprotected knees. The best you can hope for is to be ignored until you go away.

POSTSCRIPT: Oddly, the next issue (#166, June 2015) Victor Wanchena, MMM's publisher, felt the need to "correct" me in a "The Geezer Gets A Response" column:

In response to Thomas Day's article from last month [MMM #165] I would like to offer the following rebuttal. Thomas has missed the point completely. While focusing on the point that only a small handful of riders can use a liter-class sportbike (or an overweight, overpowered, poor handling hippobike, TWD) to its fullest potential, he misses the salient point. The beauty of freedom of choice is just that, you can choose. If I wish to buy an epically fast sportbike and wobble around corners like a noob that's my preogative [SIC]. We are free to ride what we want. No one should dictate what to buy as long as you aren't riding in such a way that endangers others or impinges on their freedom. [How about their medical insurance costs? TWD] There is an inherent beauty in the freedom to make choces [good or bad] on your own. We, as riders, don't need to be save d from ourselves [NHTSA and insurance companies would disagree. TWD] 

Does anyone need a fast sport bike? No, but that's not the point. I resist any attempt to tell me what I do or don't need. If motorcycle swere restricted to what someone else thinks we "need" then we'd all be trundling around on 49cc mopeds. [Interesting analysis of what motorcyclists really need. TWD] 

I support Thomas's decision to not own one as much as I support anyone who decides to buy one. Viva la difference. I now plan to go ride laps around Thomas's house on my loud piped 950cc dirt bike. 

Concerned reader [and publisher]
Victor Wanchena 

Since I submit about 40 articles for every one that gets published by MMM, the "concerned" part is pretty funny. I put 'em out there and Victor's editor picks them out of a big old hat. What MMM doesn't use, Rider's Digest does, and what I can't petal to those magazines I try to hustle to Motorcyclist and other magazines receptive to freelance writers. What's left or what isn't long enough or politically-correct enough ends up on the blog first. The blog gets about 50% of my original ideas.

My point was that riders get a lot of this kind of bullshit from dealers, uninformed "friends," biker gangbangers, and pretty much every publishing source. "Don't bike a small (under 1,000ccs) bike because you'll outgrow it." Motorcyclists are the most likely to die folks on public roads. Nothing with a license plate is more dangerous than motorcycles and a good bit of that is because too many mediocre riders are dangling from big bikes like cheap plastic streamers.

People in some occupations should be the last people to lecture about the glories of "freedom," but I don't give a damn about any of that silliness. If toy manufacturers, consumer product manufacturers, drug and medical device companies, food producers and packagers, car companies, grocery chains, restaurants, bartenders, and most of the rest of the service and manufacturing industry have liabilities due to consumer misuse or design flaws, gun and motorcycle manufacturers ought to be subjected to the same rules and penalties. If you put a fat, crippled-up, old drunk on a liter bike and he rides out of your lot and gets killed, you own some of that responsibility. Delivering that bike to an irresponsible, untrained dealer's sales staff if part of the sequences of liability.

We can continue to pretend that ignoring all of this shit is going to slip by the attention of the other 99.999..% of the population, but since we're going to be taking up a larger and larger percentage of highway fatalities as cars, trucks, and buses continue to become safer and safer that tactic is going to blow up in "freedom's face."

Nov 21, 2016

#135 Another Brick in the Wall

cavemanAll Rights Reserved © 2014 Thomas W. Day

Australia's South Wales legalized "motorcycle filtering" in 2014. A friend, Paul Young, sent me a link to an article about the event in, which was sort of news in itself. It's not often that any US media realizes the rest of the world exists, let alone Australia and, even more, South Wales. Paul's note, along with the link, said, "Never happen here in MN, we don't have enough folks riding in traffic to justify it." Not only is that true, but Minnesota doesn't really have the motorcycle traffic to justify the existence of motorcycles on public roads. Worse, we don't have that traffic anywhere in the US. As the AsphaltandRubber article indirectly said, US motorcyclists "have relegated their machine to purely recreational duties . . . " It's hard to imagine the mathematics necessary to prove good reason for allowing public road access for our noisy, polluting, unsafe, and antisocial vehicle of choice. But if we wanted to hang on to our on-road privileges, putting aside the old petty biker animosities and working together to get filtering and lane-sharing legalized all over the country would be a good place to start.

2061485331_183d17c23dAs usual, we motorcyclists are our own worst enemy. AsphaltandRubber's writer claims, "So, when ignorant bureaucrats eventually come to their senses about the realities and benefits of filtering, as riders we can congratulate our fellow riders while reluctantly patting the receding hairlines of those enlightened policy-makers." You wish. For one, the receding hairlines are those of aging motorcyclists, as our demographic rapidly resembles that of the Tea Party; old and uneducated (Except for California where we are old, rich, and married). What exactly would make "ignorant bureaucrats . . . come to their senses?" Our sterling reputation for citizenship? The love the rest of the country holds for the noisiest, most arrogant, least skilled, most expensive-per-mile-driven vehicles on the highway? Our safety record or our contribution to minimizing highway congestion? Again, you wish.

For two, what "realities and benefits of filtering?" I'm not arguing that filtering is a bad idea. The problem is filtering is only viable if there are enough responsible motorcyclists on the road to make the legislation worth the time and effort. The problem is, none of that is the case in the US. So, I am arguing that motorcycling's current demographic of hooligans and outlaws does not inspire confidence or warrant effort from "enlightened policy-makers." The country is swamped in problems of huge magnitude and we are a piddly little drop in the lake. Get real, kiddies. Honda had the right idea fifty years ago when they tried to convince the country that they would "meet the nicest people on motorcycles." If we want to get the kind of privileges the rest of the world's motorcyclists take for granted we're going to have to clean up our own act and at least become something better than the nastiest people on the road. One way to do that would be to crank up the requirements for obtaining a motorcycle license, drop the hammer on riding without a motorcycle license, and to start a new motorcyclists' organization that is directed at obtaining useful rights for motorcyclists (no more fighting helmet laws or exhaust noise ordinances). Obviously, ABATE and the AMA have to change or go. They are making about as many friends for the vanishing number of US motorcyclists as the NRA is for gun owners.

A the end of a long weekend of MSF classes, I had a fairly long conversation with a couple of "Seasoned Rider" students and my co-instructor about lane sharing, filtering, and riding in California. I was the lone rider who thought filtering and lane sharing are a necessity for motorcycles to be practical commuting vehicles and to make a worthwhile contribution to traffic congestion reduction. The two students were not only unaware that those two motorcycle options existed anywhere but were terrified of the concept. My co-instructor lived in San Francisco twenty or thirty years ago and "never tried it." You might know that I lived in southern California for a decade and filtered and split lanes ("shared" for the PC crowd) every day I rode on every road that I travelled. The college degree I finally earned was absolutely indebted to my "right" to split lanes and filter on the Pacific Coast Highway between Costa Mesa and Long Beach. My two recording studio-oriented businesses, especially studio maintenance, couldn't have survived without lane splitting on the 405, 5, and I10. I once hauled two highly-modified JBL 4311 studio monitors strapped to the back of my '82 Yamaha Vision from Huntington Beach to downtown Santa Monica Boulevard, LA, on a Friday afternoon, splitting lanes through 5mph freeway traffic to meet an otherwise impossible session date. The speakers ended up being rented for two months and several famous-name artist sessions. The rental fee pretty much took care of our overpriced apartment rent for most of a month.

To paraphrase a famously awful Minnesota motorcyclist, "You ask why I wanna lane share. Man, I don't believe you don't want it too."

Opinions on lane-splitting say a lot about individual motorcyclists. If you are afraid of splitting because you don't have the skills and confidence to do it, In my opinion, you don't have the skills or confidence to be safe in any highway traffic situation. If you hate the idea because your motorcycle is too wide, heavy, or awkward to split lanes, I think you and your bike should be confined to Shriner parades and closed-course clown-costumed demonstrations. You are part of the problem. Contrary to the loud pipe bullshit, the only worthwhile defense a motorcyclist has on the road is maneuverability. Gear and armor is fine, but if you are going to clash with a cage, bus, or truck the best you can hope for is that the gear will minimize your injuries. The best defense is a well-engineered motorcycle that can go places where no cage can travel. One of the best places to go is between stopped cars and as far from impending doom as possible putting as much inert iron between you and a distracted driver about to create a multi-vehicle pile-up.  Hoping for the best is not an crash avoidance tactic. A "safe" motorcyclists is always planning for the worst and doing everything possible to achieve that happy ending. One of the most basic tools available to us is an ability to split lanes in traffic and to filter to the head of a stopped line of traffic. How we earn the right to do that is a problem we're going to have to solve if we want to stay on the road.

Nov 15, 2016

A Motto for Our Times


I’ve had this tag on my keychain for at least 25 years. It’s not something I carry because I feel superior, but because it’s a warning I need to remember every day I’m out in the public. The world is full of flat-earthers (nitwits who think the world’s resources are infinitite and that angels and fairies watch out for fools) and they depend on the luck of the moment, rather than actually paying attention to reality. All of that just got a lot worse, so be careful out there: the idiots are feeling really lucky.

Nov 14, 2016

Change Is Gonna Come

cavemanAll Rights Reserved © 2015 Thomas W. Day

(Original published in Rider’s Digest, #188 Spring 2015)

My old MMM editor, Sev Pearman, sent a discussion group a link to an announcement from The Company about their prototype electric bike, Project Livewire. Expressing his Geezerly self better than me at my worst/best, Sev concluded, "I have zero interest in electric vehicles; pitiful range is but one of [my objections]."

My reply to that was, "The only thing that keeps me off of Zero's new bikes is the purchase price. Price per mile crushes internal combustion engines, but I don't have to worry about a motorcycle with a power train that could last 250000 miles. I won't live or ride that long. 150 miles is enough range for 90% of what I do and a 6 hour charge is fine. In a few years, capacitors should replace batteries, charge times will drop dramatically, weight and range will expand nearly exponentially for the size and weight, power and performance are already comparable to or superior to internal combustion, emissions will finally be as good as cars or better, and that fuckin' noise bullshit will be history. If you don't like maintenance, electric motors are the bomb. A bike you can tweek to your performance standards through a USB port is right on target with the current and last two generations of possible motorcyclists."

Sev's response was, "Blah blah blah No offense, Thomas, but this is the same 'in the very near future...' song that I have been hearing for 40 years. I distinctly remember reading this in both Popular Mechanics and Popular Science in the early 70's. Sorry, color me skeptical."

Obviously, I'm comfortable with skeptical. In fact, when it comes to the blathering of economists, southern politicians, the major media talking heads, and any so-called "authority figure," skeptical should be the default attitude. However, when scientists and engineers talk, I listen with a relatively open mind and some expectations. The fact is, no one writing for Popular Mechanics or Science was talking about semi-permeable molecular capacitors, lithium polymer batteries, lithium ion batteries, or even nickel-metal hydride batteries 40 years ago. Hell, sixty years ago Popular Mechanics and Science were babbling about flying cars and computers small enough to fit into a basketball gym and powerful enough to add really big numbers reasonably accurately. In 1989, some overly optimistic scientists claimed to have cracked the secret to cold fusion and the resulting inability of other researchers to replicate that experiment created enough psycho-babble from the media to convince the average schmoe that all science was fake and nuclear energy was at a dead end. Today, Westinghouse, GE, and a collection of foreign competitors are on the verge of making small liquid metal modular reactors available for applications from small electric engine power to portable electric generators and everything in-between. It could be a deal-breaker for the oil companies and revolutionary for electrical generation, but most people are fixated on Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the false cold fusion story. Stay tuned, electrical generation could be the new cheap energy. Ballard Power Systems, a Canadian fuel cell manufacturer, is contracted with Volkswagen's fuel cell development program and a couple of large bus manufacturers with working prototypes in service, not to mention providing the power for Toyota's corporate offices in Torrance, CA. All kinds of science fiction stuff is happening right now and almost none of it was predicted or promised 40 years ago. About the only prediction that has been reasonable useful from the last 50 years has been Moore's Law. ("The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year. . .") Gordon Moore's succinct technology estimate has been reasonably accurate for at least 30 years and there is every likelihood that it will be revised upward with new technology.

If the USA was driven more by technologies than by idle and incompetent corporate back-stabbers and lazy and corrupt old technology billionaires, we'd be enjoying a whole new world of high efficiency transportation and putting a serious dent in the atmosphere's carbon content. A real war on the world's terrorists, begun back in 2001, would have crushed the oil cabal, launched the US into the 21st century with a vengeance, and revitalized our technology industries like nothing since the 1960's space race. Instead, we choked, took the easy way out and invaded Iraq hoping for a quick fix with that country's "oceans of oil" and blew two decades on militaristic decadence. Catching up is much harder than staying ahead, in any kind of race. Technology and change don't depend on American exceptionalism and all of those technologies we ignored are going ahead without us. Just ask the remnants of the Ottoman Empire and the struggling descendants of the world's great powers of the past: Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, England, Russia, and, even, China (only now crawling out of the ruins of its 4,000 year old civilization).

technology-growthSemiconductor density is not the only technology experiencing exponential change. You know that bullshit small print thing stockbrokers hope you don't read regarding the odds that the stock they just conned you into buying will produce a profit (for you)?  "Past performance does not necessarily predict future results." Look at the chart on the right, that's what an exponential curve looks like as it approaches infinite change. Ray Kurzweil called this the "Law of Accelerating Returns." The steps in that chart are 50 year intervals and the X-axis is linear, but the Y-axis is more exponential than linear. The technology development required between the printing press and the telescope (a 200 year interval) was insignificant compared to going from what existed at the start of the space race to our world of cell phones, personal computers, and the Internet (20 years). The same comparison will be made between the last days of hydrocarbon-based energy and whatever comes next. The technological growth rate of the last decade will look absolutely stagnant compared to the next ten years.

Back to electric motorcycles, the only thing that keeps me off of one is the cost. Certainly not the cost of operation, but the cost of ownership. At 66, I can't justify a $10,000 motorcycle of any sort. I don't expect to live long enough to consider that a rational expense, especially in Minnesota where half of the year is lost to rotating my battery tender from the V-Strom to the WR250X. $5,000 is a whole different game. Zero's 2015 battery pack is expected to live for 2,000 charge cycles (at least 200,000 miles) before it deteriorates to 80% of new capacity (probably the recommended replacement point) at 185 city miles or 94 highway miles per charge.  At the current 6-8 cents per kilowatt, Zero's 1.4kW charge requirement makes for pretty cost-effective transportation. You just have to have a 200,000 mile life expectancy to justify going electric. I do not. If you are a decade or three younger than me, you should start thinking about what your first electric motorcycle is going to be, because that's very likely going to be a big decision in every motorcyclist's life in less time than you expect.

Nov 8, 2016

Two Human Sized Motorcycles

The BMW G 310 GS

And the Honda CRF250L Rally


Postscript: As I was quickly informed by a couple of readers, I missed one great new bike: the Kawasaki Versys-X 300.
ABS, a slipper clutch, a 19" front wheel, decent suspension travel, with accessory center stand, crash rails, and luggage. What's not to like?

Nov 7, 2016

#134 Changing the Rules, Mixing My Emotions


All Rights Reserved © 2015 Thomas W. Day

On the last October weekend of the 2014 MMSC training season, I taught a “Seasoned Rider” class (aka Experienced Rider Course, ERC, BRC II, etc.) for a few Polaris company employees. Because the course had some experimental qualities (“There will be a test.”), the course was prepaid to the college regardless of the number of students. Saturday morning was right at freezing and no one was compelled (either by work or because they’d laid down $60) to be there, so only four students showed up. On top of that, due to the lateness in the season and the “test,” the Polaris employees were allowed to ride the course on the state’s 250-and-under motorcycles, instead of bringing their own rides. Due to those points, I was the only guy on the range who rode to the range. The first 3 1/2 hours were identical to the usual course, but it was pretty obvious that we all had a different kind of edge on due to the impending “evaluation” (PC for “test”). The students, because they were in a pass/fail situation and instructors because we’d never conducted a BRC II with a test at the end.

The big exception to this course was the students were offered the choice of riding their own bikes or the state’s. Because it was specially offered to Polaris employees by Polaris and some of them are beginning motorcycle owners and may or may not actually own a motorcycle, it made for an interesting experiment. By design and purpose, the BRC II is intended, I think, to be ridden on the students’ bikes. At least, that’s the way we’ve always done the course as long as I’ve known about it. And, of course, there has not been an evaluation at the end to determine what has been learned in the course during the time I’ve been an instructor. That has not always been the case, though.

I took my first prototype-ERC at Willow Springs Raceway, back in the late 1980’s. It wasn’t called the ERC, as I remember, but I don’t remember what it was called. There was a fair amount of lecture along with the usual emergency stop, obstacle avoidance, turning, and riding technique instruction. There was a short performance test at the end of the course and, as I remember, we were presented with a certificate that could be used for a drivers’ training discount with our insurance companies. The next time I took the course was in Denver, at Bandimere Speedway, the drag racing track. The “range” was a marked-up and coned section of the speedway where the cart racing is today. The course used the same kind of exercises, along with an opportunity to play panic-braking on their big training-wheeled 500 Nighthawk. You could wind up the bike to about 40-50mph and hammer the brakes and the skids kept the Nighthawk from falling over. I don’t think there was a test with that course. The last time I took the course as a student was in Minnesota on the Guidant parking lot in Arden Hills. The parking lot had been oiled earlier that week and employee cars had been sliding into each other at low speeds, morning and evening. I know because I worked there. I usually bicycled to work, so I missed out on the parking lot fun until Saturday at the ERC. The course continued the sliding and crashing the cars had demonstrated earlier in the week. Almost everyone in the class crashed at least once and a lot of chrome and plastic looked worse for the wear. I “anticipated” the emergency swerve exercise because I didn’t think my Yamaha TDM would look better coated in greasy black oil. The next week, another asphalt contractor cleaned and recoated the parking lot, this time with materials that didn’t come from the county oil recycling sludge pit. That’s the history of my student experience with the ERC and it’s ancestors and all of that was on my own motorcycles.

That behind me, I had a little built-in resistance to teaching the course to “experienced riders” on what most of those riders would consider to be “beginner bikes.” The fact is, a lot of experienced riding course students do not ride well enough to be called “experienced.” Maybe that’s the motivation for the recent renaming of those classes as “Basic Rider Course II” or “Seasoned Rider Course.” Another fact I have often expressed is that I think about 90% of Minnesota motorcyclists choose motorcycles that require skill levels far beyond the riders’ capabilities. Unlike ABATE, the AMA (the motorcycle group, not the doctors’ AMA), and the Industry, I believe tiered licensing is just common sense and that our current license testing is a joke. Not a funny joke, but a cruel, sarcastic, vicious joke that costs lives and billions of dollars in death and injury. From observing street riders over half-a-century and training them for a dozen years, I’d estimate about 50% of Minnesota riders should be limited to 250cc-and-under motorcycles, 90% should be limited to 650cc-and-under, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the 10% who are smart, competent, and safe enough to be on 650cc-and-above would probably choose to ride their big bikes on closed courses 90% of the time.

All that baggage under my belt, we started this course with a little apprehension. A lot of my doubts dissolved quickly, though. After the first couple of exercises it became clear that our students were riding a lot more aggressively and testing their skills more confidently than the typical BRC II class. Some of this was because this was a younger-than-typical class, but I have to give a substantial credit to the fact that we all ride small bikes more competently and confidently than large ones. We decided that I’d administer the test, since I’d studied the BRC II test procedure and had a couple of on-line conversations with California MSF instructors who’d done the test in the BRC II’s early years. The BRC II test is more like the DOT’s test. Which means all four sections of the test are performed by each student, more or less non-stop. More concentration is required, along with competence, memory, and attention, all qualities directly related to being safe on the road. Again, this was a small class filled with better-than-typical students, but at the end they all scored well enough to be qualified as MSF instructors.

I thought about this class for several days afterwards. There are some subversive reasons I am inclined to like the whole concept. The test is more important than I’d imagined. We often have old, unskilled, and/or arrogant riders who simply ride through the harder exercises on their abysmal hippobikes, imagining that there is no relationship between low speed closed course exercises and their delusional “real world.” The apehanger crowd that is overrepresented in mortality/morbidity statistics is typical of this character. Handing them a card that indicates successful completion of the course is particularly galling. Mostly what that group achieves is four hours of an out-of-control riding demonstration on an overweight, unmanageable motorcycle that has put the other riders and the instructors at risk. Most of that alcohol-demented bunch would totally blow the BRC II test because they’d forget half of it before they left the gate. If they were allowed to perform the test on a small bike or their own, the result would probably be the same; massive failure. Nearest and dearest to my heart, allowing these intermediate-level riders to do the course on our small motorcycles might encourage some of them to consider, or reconsider, their choice of motorcycle. A tiny percentage of riders might discover that “small is fun” and take that lesson to the street. If that, alone, happened, I’d be all for letting BRC II riders take the class on whatever motorcycle they chose.