Man oh MAN... what a weekend it's been!
So Thursday and Friday were the MSF Classroom exercises... which were, actually, very fun and informative. They really introduce you to the concept of motorcycling and get you familiar with the unique challenges that you'll face in the real world on your bike. It also really introduced you to the rest of the class.. cause we worked together on serveral sections of the book, and toured the Dealership together... answered each other questions, etc. It was a big help, refresher wise, if you already knew where all the controls are on a bike.,.. and for those who didn't know, obviously it was a big help.
So Saturday rolls around, and Saturday meant it was Range-Day.
Lets just do a recap of the weather this weekend... before we get started:
Saturday - Spotted Showers all day (rained 80% of the time) Temp in the mid 40's, cloudy with light wind
Sunday - Snow flurries & Frozen preceptitation all day, high of 39, wind gusts up to 30mph.
AKA... both days it was wet, windy and cold as all get out.
So Saturday... we get introduced to the bikes. They're Buell Blasts... which are Harley's line of 'sportbikes'... they're intro level though, 500cc's and only pushing about 40HP on 380lbs of bike with a single Cylinder. They're not aweful little bikes... but they're a little rough feeling; which probably wasn't a bad thing. It felt a lot like sitting on a two wheeled lawn mower... but it being rough let you really feel and hear where the friction zone was... because you could feel the bike's RPM's dip and the clutch starting to engage (you can't feel it as much on the F4..). It was balanced fairly well... but again, for it's frame it felt a little.. 'off' like the weight wasn't quite distributed just right. In short... I like my Honda 100x better =D
Anyways... Day #1: We get introduced how to properly address the bike, go thru the T-CLOCS procedure (Tires / Controls / Lights / Oil & Fluids / Chasis / Stands), mount it.. start it using FINE-C (Fuel, Ignition, Neutral, Engine Cutoff Switch, Clutch... go!). We started by finding the bikes friction zone... the point at which the bike starts transferring power to the back wheel.. we rocked back and forth, playing with the clutch... for about 45 minutes. Then we power walked the bike, using the friction zone, all the way across the range.. letting people get use to the friction zone and working the throttle the keep the engine from dying. After that, it was time for the first ride across the parking lot... which was remarkably easy. We had a couple of students that had a hard time, the two girls in particular, but they eventually got it.
Steadily we progessively built upon the previous exercises concepts... going from straight line driving, to braking, to easy cornering, to weaving, to 90 degree corners, to quick stops... everything progressviely built up on the previous exercise (Saxon Math for Motorcycles!). During the course of the day, we had 1 drop out... a girl, Alice, who tapped her brakes going thru a corner and 'High Sided' going about 8 mph and it just got in her head... she dropped the bike the next time she parked it, and then withdrew from riding. The day continued, with Cornering DEF. being the most fun exercise... I got, not really in trouble... but 'cautioned' about my leans during the 135-150 degree corners. Leaning is, by far, THE BEST THING about riding... so my leans might have been a little... over exagerated =) I had a perfect outside-inside-outside turn mechanic... but I would hug the inside and outside to the max, so that I could lean a little farther... the primary instructor just told me "When you go thru a corner you don't have to lean THAT far.." (he said that while smiling.. btw).. then the other instructor, Sam, said "Damn that felt good, didn't it? Thats what motorcycling is about!"... so.. yeah ;)
I lost the class bet tho... =( For non-fuel injected bikes (go go F4i) you have to turn the fuel valve to the 'on' position... or else once you burn thru the gas in your carbs... you'll go dead. Well, we bet that no one would do that.... but; I was the first one too =( (3 others did it after me).. so that kind of sucked, but it was funny =) everyone had a good laugh. We wrapped up riding about 5:30.. had some class room time then left for the day... I fell asleep about 9:05 that night; 10hrs in 'the saddle' will wear you out!
Bright and early the next day, I met the instructors for breakfast at a waffle house across the street.. which was pretty cool. We talked about what all we did outside of riding bikes... talked about dirt bikes, Jet Ski's... computers (David was a Network admin prior to working for Harley).. it was fun.
7:45a.m we started... it was really cold cause the snow/sleet/rain mix was about to move in, so everyone was kind of stiff, which was evident the first exercise. We had a lot of clutch control problems, a lot of braking problems and the bikes were having a hard time staying warm... slowly but surely, after a couple of warm up laps and easy exercises, we moved into the curiculum. Swerves were the topic of the morning... talking about avoiding danger if you don't have time to brake, and how to do quick head-checks prior to swerving. The swerves got progressivly more difficult.. with less time/space being available (went from 12ft swerves to 5ft). After that, we practiced riding over objects and performing U-Turns ( I HATE lowspeed U-Turns... hate, hate hate). finally we did a 'practice' run for abotu 30 minutes... doing all the exercises that would be expected of us on the Skill Evaluation (U-turn, High Speed Swerve, Measured QuickStop with downshift, high speed corning technique)... then we had the Skill Evaluation.
I was moved from 5th in line to the front... because the instructor said I'd provided a good example (omg pressure)... so the U-turn... I hate these. My front tires went outside of the box, costing me points =(. Next was the high(er) speed swerve which i did perfect. On to the quickstop... at 15mph you're supposed to be able to stop in 13ft... I stopped in 6.5ft. Next was the Cornering drill; which I Did just right... so the only thing I really got 'docked' on was the U Turn.
After that, we headed upstairs to get warm (OMG was SO COLD)... where they told us that everyone had passed the skill eval (yay!) and all we had left was the written on monday.
So Yesterday (this post was written over 2 days, btw) we had the written test where I missed only 1 question... which was something we didn't really cover that much (what to do if you run over a sandy spot). We had graduation, mingled and talked for a bit, then headed out!
So today, after I get done with work... it's off to the cobb Co. DMV to get my official Motorcycle license =) If anyone who is reading this is thinking about getting a bike, has a bike but has never taken this class, or just wants to get better (in general) at driving... TAKE THIS COURSE. It really will help you know what a motorcyclist goes through and will really improve your road awareness, even while in your car.