Monday, June 20, 2011

MSF Advanced Riders Course Experience

Dear Gateway Ducati Owners Group Members,
What follows is the promised report of my day at the MSF Advanced Rider Course held at Forest Park Community College on June 18, 2011.
The day started with tornado warnings and heavy downpours.  As advertised, we gathered at Tower D by 7:45AM, in a heavy downpour.  Once we arrived in the room, we found out that two of the 6 participants’ significant others (husband or otherwise) were going to deliver their motorcycles at the lunch break.  The remaining 4 riders rode in the rain.
The class consisted of 3 men and 3 women.  The motorcycle makeup: 4 Harley Davidsons, 1 Yamaha VStar 1600, and one Ducati Multistrada 1000DS.  Rider experience ranged from very experienced to 3 months of experience.  Mileage per year went from 16,000 miles/year (a female Harley Rider) to 1500 miles/year (another female Harley rider).  We had 3 very senior instructors Jeff Pittinger, John Scala, and Chuck (I do not know his last name).  Karen, Jeff’s wife, was in attendance as well.
The first 3.5 hours were held in the classroom.  The class was broken into 3 groups of 2 riders and we discussed the following topics:
1- Cornering and risk factors
2- Curves- lines of travel
3- Cornering- techniques and limitations, both mental and physical
4- Braking and Swerving- proper techniques, ways to understand distance likely to be traveled, using Search, Evaluate, Execute when riding
5- Safety and Risk- understanding the rider’s responsibility
6- Rider Perception- how to improve perception which will then lead to better skill application
7- Inner Voices and Personal Choices- how listening to the wrong inner voice can lead to disastrous riding behavior.
8- Range Rules.
From my perspective, the key take-aways from the morning session were as follows:
1- Before even thinking about going for a ride, make certain your brain is engaged and you are thinking about risk-management.
2- Peer pressure can be very powerful and hard to resist.  Always ride your ride, not someone else’s ride.  Resist peer pressure at all costs.  
3- Always ride below the line of where your abilities and risk-taking tendencies exist.  This means you are riding with a margin of safety.
4- Use progressive braking at all times regardless of whether you use all four fingers or only two fingers.
5- When riding, continue to chunk your focus throughout your scan area- you need to see everything in front, at your sides, and behind, because threats are everywhere.
6- The time to exercise proper risk management for cornering and curves is before you enter the turn.  Proper preparation includes motorcycle placement, speed, gear setting, and handlebar pressure.  Also, keep your head up and look through the turn, with power on the throttle.
7- Think ahead at all times.  Not just 2 seconds, but 4, 6, 8, and 12 seconds.
The afternoon session was held out on the range.  There were 8 exercises.  I was able to stay for 7 of them due to a prior engagement.  The exercises focused on turning classroom knowledge into usable, physical skills that can and do improve rider techniques.  By improving the rider techniques, rider skill improves, risk management improves, and rider safety and survivability improve.
For me, this was a great time.  My muscle memory was rusty due to lack of use.  Also, since my MTS had been at the Ducati Spa for 2 months, we needed to become reacquainted.  For me, the following errors were pointed out multiple times and I tried to correct:
1- In the past, I covered my brake with my index and middle fingers.  It was suggested, and then demonstrated to me, that covering the brake with all four fingers increased safety, especially in a full brake situation.  Moreover, I can still 2 finger brake, even though four fingers are on the lever.
2- When turning, even though I thought I was looking through the turn, my head was down, and I was looking down, so I was worked on keeping my head up while looking in the direction I wished to go.
3- Counter-steering to avoid an obstacle works well.
4- Smooth throttle control, at all times, is the key to riding well.
The day was long, but worth the time.  There are some concerns regarding the use of our motorcycles when taking the class.  My RPMs were under 3000 for entire class.  Max speed was under 30 MPH.  The combination of high gearing, dry clutches, and slower speeds made it a challenge.  The MTS did well.  I did less well.  
Two items are worth noting.  This class was originally designed to reduce rider fatalities for those riders who are in the Military.  It has proven successful.  The military riders, for the most part, are young and ride Japanese Sport Bikes.  These are significant because younger riders tend to feel more invincible.  The motorcycles used by these riders also have a wet-clutch, which makes lower-speed riding easier.   Second point- this class, even if started on time, will last longer than advertised.  This is ok, but be prepared for the inevitable.
I decided that there was no time like the present to implement my newfound knowledge and experiences.  I rode down to Highway P and Highway C, South of Potosi today.  On the ride, I experienced animals darting in and out, debris on the road, poor road visibility, decreasing radius turns, rain, water on the road, cars taking their half out of the middle, etc.  In other words, this was a normal day of summer riding in Missouri.  I focused on chucking my scan area, covering my brake with four fingers, smooth throttle control, progressive braking, looking up (not down) and through the turn, and proper risk management when approaching corners, intersections, and when driving on the road.
Today, I was happy with the results, but there is plenty of room for improvement in all areas.
Gary Kwawer
Chief Contact Person and President
Gateway Ducati Owners Group

1 comment:

  1. Great write up Gary! The key take-away notes are spot on for daily driving on a motorcycle on any road. Thanks for sharing - Drew