Learning, Or Relearning, Good Riding Skills

Half a dozen reasons why riders should attend a riding school.

Practice makes perfect, according to the old saying, but it’s not strictly true. Practice makes permanent, and if you’ve been doing the same wrong thing over and over it’s tough to break the habit. The best way to avoid developing bad riding habits is not to acquire them in the first place. But over time little errors can creep in and corrupt your skill set, like a virus in software. (Finally, something you can’t blame on the NSA.) That’s why it’s smart to try a track school or one of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s experienced-rider programs: to reboot your skills regularly to keep them up to date. Here are a few other reasons.

You got a new bike. Even though the controls are in the same places as on your old bike, the edge of the performance envelope might not be. Motorcycle technology moves along at a brisk pace, and hopping from an old bike to a new one without taking the time to get acquainted with it is a recipe for a big steaming bowl of hurt. A good way to make friends with your new ride is under the supervision of a professional in controlled conditions, even if that's not how you learned to ride a motorcycle in the first place.

You had a close call. That unexpected left-turning car last week shook you up pretty bad. Now you're so jumpy that every time you cross an intersection you're so tense it won't take a car to bring you down, just a shadow. Keep this up and you won't need anyone's help to have an accident. Don't live in fear of your mistakes; learn from them. Get over the shakes by taking a riding course to see how and why your near-miss almost became a hit, and find out what you can do next time to anticipate and avoid another code brown incident.

You spent winter in an armchair. Sitting by the fire dreaming about riding isn't the same as sitting in the saddle doing it. The reflexes and muscle memory you count on during the riding season fade over the winter. You're on your own on a bike, and unlike tennis or golf, motorcycling is a sport with serious and immediate consequences for those who don't react quickly or appropriately. Resist the urge to hit the streets WFO as soon as the snow melts. It'll take more than a few miles on the first day of spring to rouse your dormant skills out of hibernation. Sign up for a refresher course, ramp up those hard-won chops, and be ready for another summer doing battle with the four-wheeled foe.

You're hitting the road. If you're getting out of Dodge for a week or two, you could easily rack up as many miles as you do in several months of everyday riding at home, except on unfamiliar roads, knee to fender with cagers from different states with idiosyncratic driving habits. Along with packing your gear and prepping your bike for a road trip, take some time to tune up your skills. Coming home safely is more fun.

Your insurance is too high. Insurance companies change their rates occasionally to bring in new customers. Your rate also changes when you move or add a new vehicle to your garage. Check to see if there's a break available to motorcycle riders who take a refresher course. You might get the cost of the class back on your next premium.

You're riding for two now. Your significant other has finally gotten tired of you riding off alone every sunny afternoon and demands a spot on the passenger seat. It's no longer just your butt on the line but your sweetie's too. Not only do your skills need to be sharp, but they need to be adjusted for the extra weight's effect on steering, braking, and handling. Your partner can benefit from a course tailored to two-up riding too. Together you'll learn to work as teammates on the same bike.