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Lowering the Risk for New Riders

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What do you guys think is the best way to get into this riding stuff?


Let's say that Joe decides to take up motorcycle riding and buys a new sport bike. Joe goes down to the local community college and takes a 4 day course and comes out with a shiny new license and he's now legal to ride on the streets.  While Joe is legal, he's certainly not safe - he's missing a lot of experience. The problem with experience is that it teaches the "not do's" with a stern wrap on the knuckles (and head, and elbows and...you get the picture). Now that Joe  has a couple days of classroom and practical learning he's realized that riding in traffic with people on cellphones, dogs and children in the street and just so many other distractions, it isn't conducive to him learning nor enjoying his new bike.

Joe learns about California Superbike School and thinks it's the ideal environment, but then reads the FAQs and finds out that he will need ~2,000 miles before he can have enough attention units leftover to benefit from the school...and besides he has never ridden beyond 25mph, much less been on a high speed racetrack with other students buzzing around and past him at over 100mph.

Joe's friend asks him to come to his trackday org and ride with them, no experience required. It's legal and within their regs but is it the best environment for Joe to learn about riding his shiny new motorcycle? He's tempted and doesn't know what he should do.

Who can help Joe?

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Joe needs to get "right" with riding his new bike at speeds >25mph while dealing with people on cellphones, dogs and children in the street and all the other distractions. A big, empty parking lot can help with the former, but is a racetrack the best place to develop one's threat assessment skills? Any kind of seat time is useful, but if he's not learning or enjoying his bike because of all the distractions....he needs to see if that changes over the course of..say..2000miles...and if not, sell it.

You're welcome Joe.

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A small dirt bike is a great way to get comfortable with bike control, using the clutch and brakes on a bike, and shifting. Look for a dirt riding instruction course, or a go-kart track that allows minis or small dirt bikes, that way you can get BOTH bike experience and track experience. Leaning how to manage the controls is the tough part - once a rider can comfortably start and stop, shift, use the clutch and brake, and ride around at 25 mph, adding speed is really not very difficult. We certainly have riders come to school that start out worried about speed but very quickly get comfortable with it, once they have some education about how to control the bike and have certainty about what it is going to do.

I would send a relatively inexperienced to a school - ANY school - LONG before I would send them to an open trackday. Those can be VERY intimidating, and not all are well controlled. Generally the staff and other riders at a school are more accommodating and welcoming for inexperienced riders, take more time to acclimate them to the rules, etc. You should research the trackday org very thoroughly before you send someone with little riding experience and make sure they are open to that - some organizations are, but many are not - and make sure there is some good classroom instruction for newbies to give the rider an understanding of racetrack safety and etiquette (not just a 10 minute riders meeting) , and someone to help if the rider is having trouble getting around the track in control of the bike.

Distractions like cars and dogs and kids and distracted drivers is a whole other thing - way scarier than riding on a racetrack, if you ask me. :)


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Joe really need experience. But there are two kinds of experience - bad and good. It doesn't do you any good if you have "10 years of riding experience", but it's all bad experience! You can gain good experience through the application of systematic training that teaches the core basics of motorcycling. 

I wish I had started on a dirt bike - lower speeds and having a little spill at low speed on dirt sure is a lot less intimidating than crashing on the street (or heaven forbid, track)! 

Don't over estimate what is required of you at CSS just because they're held on a race track... My first time on track at CSS I was actually thrown completely because everyone was riding so much slower than what I was used to seeing on a track!! All the students are there to learn, doing the same drills and the majority will be riding at a similar pace. The way I would describe it to anyone wondering is this - if you're comfortable making the bike stop, go and turn, then you're ready to go to the school!

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