Outside Edge June 2016

George_Tranos_Outside_EdgeLow speed control skill usefulness in real world conditions

By George Tranos


While motorcycle control has always been the primary component of motorcycle training, more emphasis has been placed in New York State this year on testing low speed control skills. Our school, the Big Apple Motorcycle School, is an approved provider of the New York State Motorcycle Safety Program (NYSMSP) which administers the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Basic Rider Course (BRC). In July 2015, the NYSMSP changed its curriculum to run a new version of the BRC in which testing for low speed control skills is further emphasized. As a result, we have seen more failures in the skill evaluation held at the conclusion of the class.Some students are surprised that they fail even if they do well in the previously emphasized skills of cornering, braking and swerving. In the prior version of the BRC skill evaluation, low speed control was tested in only one evaluation – the figure eight where you had to stay within the designated area (a 20 foot wide by 70 foot long box) while not putting your foot down. A student would lose points for crossing a line or putting a foot down. The maximum deduction was 8 points and a failure would only occur if the rider exceeded 20 points (or fell, dropped the motorcycle or committed an unsafe act). One could completely blow the low speed control skill and still pass the overall evaluation.


The updated BRC skill evaluation changes that. There are now five (5) evaluations and the first two are low speed control skills – a weave from a stop and a tight turn from a stop and U-turn. Skipping or missing a cone, putting a foot down and boundary violations in just one evaluation can cause a student to exceed the maximum deduction allowed for the entire test! This significant change puts more emphasis on these low speed skills.


This all begs the question – why? Look at any of the videos posted on the internet showing people trying to ride without any training and you will know the answer. If you can’t start out properly, it’s real easy to get out of control and crash. While it may seem funny to watch someone on video crash their brand new 160 horsepower sport bike because they revved the throttle to its stop and popped the clutch, it is easy to forget that you can hurt yourself or someone else doing this.


The real world is unforgiving. Minimum competency is not enough. To survive and grow, you need to be more proficient right from the start of your motorcycle career. In its previous iteration, the Basic Rider Course was (and still is) a great place to learn to ride. One of the knocks against it was that it churned out licensed motorcyclists who were unqualified to ride outside a parking lot. The new course attempts to remedy that by requiring a higher level of aptitude to pass. While this sometimes makes for unhappy students, it does necessitate more skill before success can be achieved.


In the end, the student needs to realize what is needed and be able to demonstrate control, precision and smoothness. All of these things can be directly related to street riding. Control has to come before speed. The faster you go, the quicker you can get into trouble. Clutch and throttle control are the basic building blocks of proficient motorcycle operation. Riders without those skills shouldn’t be out on the street. Rather than blame the system for their failure, these riders need more training to develop the talent they need to survive out on our mean streets. Failure of a riding skill evaluation is a minor hiccup and inconvenience compared to crashing on the street and hurting yourself or someone else.