Hello, fellow riders.  It seems like since I’ve started this blog, I’ve been posting like the end of the world is coming in December.  Damn, it is coming–I keep forgetting that.  Anyway, I’ve been experiencing a lot of new things, and I want to share what I’ve learned.  Today, I attended the Advanced Rider Course held at Old Glory Harley Davidson.

Let me start by saying that every rider, young and old, new or veteran, should take this course at least once every ten years.  It allows you to brush up on skills you may rarely use or discard those bad habits that we’ve all picked up as we ride.  At the very least, you may get a break on your insurance, that’s got to be worth it alone.

Anyway, we had to report to OGHD at 8:30 this morning.  We first had to do the preliminaries–you know, sign the paperwork and verify that we all had insurance and a license.  There were 11 students in my class, including myself.  All of us, except one, ride Harleys and large bikes, so this course allowed for the variants in wheel base weight, which normalized the course into acceptable ranges.  After we completed the paperwork shuffle, we headed off to the track.  Literally, we drove to Laurel Race track, which is where the rider course is held.  We had two instructors, both very knowledgeable, friendly, approachable, and comical, which is important for me.  They gave us a rundown on what we were going to do: eight exercises, a written test, and a road test.

Sample Rider

Yesterday, on the advise of one of the OGHD salesmen and course instructors, I purchased 10 feet of 1″ clear PVC tubing.  Now, I only really needed about 3 feet, but it doesn’t come that small.  I would measure a section to cover the lower portion of my engine bar and the bar that sits in front of my saddle bags.  Basically, I cut 4 8″ pieces.  Slicing them down the middle, I zip-tied them to protect my chrome, in the off-chance that I lay the bike down during one of the exercises.  Since the bike is only about a month old, it only made sense.  I ain’t too proud to realize my limitations.

The course concentrated on maneuvering the bike at slow speeds.  Overall, you never really pass a speed of 20MPH, and take it from me, you really never want to.  We had to do single weaves and offset weaves, both with two hands and one-handed.  You immediately get a feel for your bike and what you can do with it.  Following that we did some 90 degree turns and the box (dramatic music plays here).  Prior to this class, I’ve gone to a school parking lot to practice friction zone and turn my bike in two and a half parking spaces.  This was beneficial for me today.  If you remember nothing else, remember two important things about your abilities: if you practice U-turns and figure 8s, and apply the techniques of friction zone and head and eyes, there is very little you can’t accomplish with your bike, regardless of its size.  I was able to perform the maneuvers within a 24′ box with very little problems.  I was actually proud of myself.  After you completed the box, you had to do two S-curves and these appeared more challenging than the box.  Following that we had to do some quick braking, and for my bike which is loaded with ABS, this section was a breeze.  There were a couple of people who locked up their rears, but no one tipped his bike over, so we were all successful.  Usually, all of these exercises are done in one direction and then the other.  You know, you would turn to the left, then you would turn to the right.

We performed some additional cornering exercises and braking, and to this point I was feeling pretty good about my skills.  Now it is

Sample Rider

on to the quick stopping in a curve.  If you’re a rider, then you already know that slamming on your brakes, while in a lean for a curve is one of the quickest ways to lay your bike completely over.  For our training, we had to right the bike before we would begin braking.  Now this sounds easy and, in fact, it is; however, remaining detailed is important.  What I mean is that having the bike vertical isn’t all that is required, you MUST have the front forks facing straight.  Well on my first go around, I drove to the turn, switched to second gear, started the lean, identified the obstacle and righted the bike, then immediately mashed the brakes.  The bike came to a halt and I dropped my feet.  Unfortunately, I didn’t remember to switch to first gear before that and my front wheel was tilted to the left a little.  Before I knew it, the bike was getting really heavy to the left and try as I might, I couldn’t keep her up, and, allowing her to lay down, I tumbled off, doing a professional combat roll to a standing position–it was a nice move.

Anyway, the instructor explained my mistake and I started to right the bike, but I was on a supreme hill and was having trouble.  He helped me out and I had the bike back on the stand.  I did a quick inspection and the rubber on that side took the brunt of the impact.  It was totally excellent–I spilled the bike and it came out with zero damage.  Just to let you know, I performed this maneuver three additional times with no problems, in both directions.

Enough of the details.  I just want to say that this course was well worth the money.  I feel more confident about my skills handling the bike at slower speeds, which I used while going back home.  The preceding weekend helped increase my confidence when riding in rainy weather.  To echo the instructors: practice, practice, practice.  If you don’t practice, you may lose a skill which you’ll need in any given situation.  I would have added more pictures, but we were off the bikes only long enough to get the instruction for the next exercise and to discuss exactly how to execute the exercise without falling down.

My ARC card

Based on this blog, I am going to generate a poll regarding riding courses–I would love to hear your opinion on their usefulness.