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TRAINING: MSF Course in Depth

 
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schlagle
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Joined: 17 Mar 2008
Posts: 203
Location: Newark, CA
Buddy 125, MP3 500

PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 5:55 pm    Post subject: TRAINING: MSF Course in Depth Reply with quote

There seems to be quite a bit of interest in what to expect and what goes on during the course so I thought I'd write up an article while it's still fresh in my mind. I just passed yesterday with a score of 3. You start out with zero and points are added for error during the testing phase. 21 is an automatic fail. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

THE CLASSROOM SESSION:

I took the class in the east SF Bay Area. The class consists of 3 sessions. The first is a 6 hour classroom session where everyone for the next week's riding classes meets at the same time. They'll ask who has which riding session you have so you can see who will be in your riding class. They seem to like keeping the riding classes to around 10 people.

This classroom session is very casual with lots of people asking questions and telling stories which got kind of annoying. We had a couple of people who had to tell some story about evey thing we discussed. This class could easily be cut by an hour with a little more discipline.

During the classroom session you're given a bunch of forms to fill out, of course. Then a work booklet is handed out that will be used to answer questions from its back pages. Basically, you watch a video segment on 1 or more riding/safety aspects then each table is assigned 1 - 2 questions from the back of the book. You work together as a group to find the page and paragraph that answers the question. Once every table has said they have it answered then each table will read the question, describe where the answer is, and then read the actual answer. After this some student will want to tell a story that only serves to make things go slower.

Anyway, this video/answer question thing goes on for most of the class. If time gets short they may just have the whole class answer the questions. After all of the questions have been answered it's multiple choice test time. You have to answer 50 questions, each has 3 answers to choose from. They are very easy, since you just talked about them. Missing more than 20 fails. People were finishing in about 10+ minutes. You can then either leave or wait for your score which takes all of 30 seconds to get.

RIDING COURSE, DAY ONE:

First of all, the instructors are strict. But strict in a good way. They're not yelling at you or anything but they will tell you exactly what they want and they want it done ASAP. Remember, they may save your life one day, so listen carefully. They start off with a gear check. You will be sent home if you are not geared properly. Don't take any chances here. Wear jeans, leather gloves, over the ankle leather shoes, and a sturdy coat or shirt.

You'll then go over mounting/unmounting procedures and the FINE-C startup procedure. You'll learn it in the classroom session. Also note, the motorcycles are on the small side and are quite junky. Mine had no working blinkers or nuetral light, the front shocks were shot, and during the test it started dying randomly while just idleing. You will be suggested a size and style of bike based on your riding experience and size to make it easier for you. Some of he bikes were a bit sportier while there were some low cruisers so you should be able to find something that fits. They even have scooters but I never saw them. You can also bring your own bike/scooter but I'm not sure what the requirements are. I would definitely ask if you're already comfortable on your own machine. They will also go over some hand signals since they'll be on the other side of the track many times.

Ok, next they will guide the class through various exercises. Every exercise is explained in detail, then one of the instructors actually does what they want you to do while the other explains it again. If you listen and do everything exactly the way they ask they'll think you're the greatest thing since sliced bread. Most people had to be told several times what to do and it does get annoying. The first lession starts with you just getting used to where the clutch engages, then to "walking" the bike as you feather the clutch to get a feel for stronger engagement, to finally riding the bikes a short distance. This took about an hour then it was time for a 5 minute break. They have a short break every hour or so. When you mount/unmount you'd better do it right. They're watching.

After the break they start setting up cones for the various skill sets you'll learn. First up was some basic weaving in and out of cones and cornering techniques. One side had the cones closer than the other and was a little more difficult. But you can go as fast as you feel comfortable so just relax and enjoy it. Down the middle of the course was a short section where you would come to almost a stop without touching the ground and then speed up and a clutch feathering zone. These offer some pratice but I got the impression they were mostly to slow everyone down and space everyone out.

EVERYTHING they do from here on out is all about you pointing your head where you want to go. They don't want you looking at cones or the ground. It's all about looking where you want to be. If you do this your body naturally reacts and takes you there.

The next lessions included getting your bike up ~15 mph in second gear, then slamming on your brakes. They're trying to teach you to stop quickly, while downshifting, all without skidding or doing an endo. It was actually kinda fun and very easy. This is also on the test so try and stop as quickly as possible. The stopping distance during the test is measured. Next up was doing slow speed u-turns. This was actually the hardest thing for most people and I think it caused at least 2 people to fail the course (also failed my wife here). This is also on the test. Basically what it involves is a rectangular box painted on the track. You enter the box in first gear on the far right side, go almost all the way to the end then start your left u-turn, then go to the other end of the box and do a right u-turn in the opposite corner, then ride out of the box. You're almost doing a figure 8 inside the box. Any technique that you use that keeps you in the box and your feet on the pegs is valid. I chose to feather the clutch as I have had a lot of experience, most people just disengaged the clutch and used the rear brake to adjust their speed. They don't care how you do it, as long as you do it.

That was pretty much it for the first day. We ended early because everyone seemed to be doing pretty good at this. Even the u-turns didn't look that bad but what do I know?

RIDING COURSE, DAY TWO:

This day was actually easier than the first. The first two lessions had everyone asking "why are we doing this? It's too easy." Seriously, it's that easy. There is more of the quick stopping since it's on the test I guess and you practise lanes changes. The lane changing involved just looking over your shoulder and using the blinker. You also get to learn how to drive over an obstacle. They place some 2 x 4's around an oval track and you just ride over them. Super easy and boring. After that was an exercise where you drive into a turn, then straighten up your bike and brake hard. This is to teach you how to stop quickly in a turn. You don't want to hammer on the brakes in a turn as you have less traction when leaning. So straighten up to get all or your traction back and stop quickly. Very easy, kind a fun.

Next up was swerving. The cones are set up in a lane that ends with a line of cones and a swerving zone marked with green cones near the end. You speed up to 15 mph in second gear then as you're driving towards the swerving zone the instructor will give you a hand signal as to which way he wants you to swerve. He gives you plenty of time between the signal and when you enter the zone so it's very easy. During the swerve you are not allowed to adjust speed or use the clutch. Just keep going and wiggle the bike through. They might also throw in a rapid stop signal just to keep you on your toes. My instructor, knowing I have 10+ years riding experience tried to mess with me and waited until I was in the friggin swerve zone to signal my direction. I barely made it through, which impressed him, but we were laughing about how little time he gave me just to see if I could do it. Swerving is on the test but it's so easy I wouldn't worry about it.

The second to last part was the only tricky part of day 2 and is also on the test. It was a cornering exercise. You entered the course in second gear and made a small turn, then sped up to ~15 mph, then slowed to enter another longer turn. What they're looking for is you entering the final turn at the correct speed, keeping a steady speed throughout (or even accelorating through), and keeping your head pointed where you want to go. It seemed tricky for some people. I even got dinged for going too fast, luckily it was only practise Wink

Finally up was a combination u-turn box and swerve. This exact setup is actually the first part of the test so pay attention and try to master it. The u-turn is exactly like the previous day only the box is a couple of feet more narrow. This makes it a bit harder. You enter the u-turn box, do your semi figure 8, exit the box, speed up, and do a swerve.

THE TEST:

The test consists of 3 exercises that you have already practised. You can fail the test at any time, even if you're not riding. At all times during the riding courses when you are on the bikes you must have both feet on the ground, at least one hand on the handle bars, and all of your gear on. If you fail in any of these during the final test and they see it, you automatically fail.

The first test is the last exercise of day 2 so it's very fresh in your mind. Just do the u-turns, and a swerve to the right (yes, only the right), and back in line. On each of the tests the instructor may make you do it again. If you miss a cone or didn't understand something or just really flubbed it from nerves you'll go back to the front of the line for a second try. The next test is fast braking. In second gear you reach ~15 mph and then when your front wheel enters the braking zone (marked with cones) you stop as quickly as you can while downshifting to first gear. There are measurements on the side of the braking zone so the instructor can see how well you did. Then, back in line.

Finally is the short turn then long turn. This is actually more tricky than the practise session because it is timed. You have to do it pretty fast. Not the turn part, take that as slow as you want, but from the first short turn into the straightaway you need to pick the speed a bit, then apply BOTH brakes (they're looking for this) and slow to a safe entry speed by the time you hit the cones marking the turn entry. Then just hold your speed through the turn WHILE LOOKING AHEAD and then come to a safe stop. Then back in line. This is where I picked up my 3 point penalty. I adjusted my speed a tiny bit and they caught it.

Then you go and park your bikes, return all your gear, if you used any. And wait to be called over one by one for a private chat about whethor or not you passed. They are very discreet here but you have built up a bit of comradery so people will ask if you passed. 2 people that I overheard fail just walked away. 1 guy I didn't know failed but I was hanging around and heard him screaming at one of the instructors about how he couldn't understand how he failed. It was kind of tense but they are very professional and courteous, even if you're being a real a$$.

Now I just wait about 10 business days for them to mail me my completion form. I'll then take that to DMV and get my real license.

SUMMARY:

Overall the experience was a good one. I have been off of a bike for about 6 years now with 10+ years of riding and I felt the course was worthwhile. I actually even learned a few things and got to get some practise in on somebody else's bike Wink And the lower insurance rates don't hurt. I paid $250 for the course and from what I hear it's about $20 savings per year on your insurance.

The instructors are all professional and courteous. They are strict but in a good way and they do try to make it fun by telling stories and talking shop. The riding course was pretty easy and only teaches you very basic slow speed skills. You're not an expert, but you're probably a better rider than when you entered. My class had an experience level that ranged from me to a guy who had never been a motorcycle in his life. He did really well and didn't slow down our class at all.

The exercises are well explained and demonstrated. Each lesson also includes a practise session where you sit on your bike when it is not running and just practise the motions of the upcoming exercise. The courses are about an hour long with a 5 minute break after each.

I'd say money well spent.
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thepezident
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Joined: 12 Oct 2007
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Location: Bethlehem, Pa
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 2:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AWESOMELY well written!!!!!
Thanks SO much for that. I'm signing up for my class in a few days.

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jfrost2
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 2:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The MSF i took was slightly different, but same over all. Glad i took it, but hated my jerky teacher who hated me because I was "taking the class to get my waiver form for my MC license for a scooter"
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schlagle
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Location: Newark, CA
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 3:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad it was helpful thepezident.

jfrost2, sorry to hear you had a bad experience. During my course I got to experience 4 different instructors and they each had their own quirks Wink Mostly they were really cool but 2 of them were quite strict and 1 was a little impatient when people didn't follow the instructions closely.
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Pita1963
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2008 12:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like the course I took!! Good review, frighteningly accurate, I loved every minute of it! I got a 3 also - the second best score in the class.


Robb

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vitaminC
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Location: Redwood City, CA
ex '06 B125

PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2008 2:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

schlagle wrote:
Glad it was helpful thepezident.

jfrost2, sorry to hear you had a bad experience. During my course I got to experience 4 different instructors and they each had their own quirks Wink Mostly they were really cool but 2 of them were quite strict and 1 was a little impatient when people didn't follow the instructions closely.


They're people/teachers, not saints! Razz
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jfrost2
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2008 2:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We got our cards and forms the day we passed, it took 30 minutes, but we got them same day! Very Happy
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Christy
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2008 3:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sounds just like how my class went.
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Xena
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am taking mine tomorrow in Providence, Rhode Island and I must say that I am a bit nervous. I ride a scooter really well but have never driven a motorcycle and the course is done on their motorcycles. I do drive a manual car but have no idea if that helps at all.

Anyone have any insight to this particular class???
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ericalm
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Xena wrote:
I am taking mine tomorrow in Providence, Rhode Island and I must say that I am a bit nervous. I ride a scooter really well but have never driven a motorcycle and the course is done on their motorcycles. I do drive a manual car but have no idea if that helps at all.

Anyone have any insight to this particular class???

If you ride a scooter, you're already going to be way ahead of much of the rest of the class. The class starts assuming the students know nothing, which is true for many of them. I know there's some anxiety about learning to shift, but they're very patient and take you through it one small step at a time. Occasionally people do fail the class, but honestly, I think they're often people who would probably fail on a scooter—the ones who just don't really get it and have no business on two wheels. We had some super n00bs in my class, a couple of whom were pretty scared and nervous at first but who came through with flying colors. Driving a manual car will be a help because you at least know the basic mechanics of using a clutch and shifting.

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Xena
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Location: Providence, RI
07 Pink Buddy 125

PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2008 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you SO much for the input! I would be devastated to fail, but I am pretty darn good on two wheels, and it is only the shifting I am worried about, but if they take it slow then I should be fine!

Tomorrow is part 1 and then the last 2 parts are July 12th and 13th.

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
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Drum Pro
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 5:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can use your own bike/scooter if it 300cc or less. At least in California.
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