I know some of you have wondered where I have been lately as I haven’t been tapping away at the keys of my keyboard here at my blog. Well having the time and a few extra dollars, I decided to participate as a student taking the California Motorcyclist Safety Program ( CMSP ). Yes, I did have a great time doing so.
People that want to acquire a motorcycle endorsement for their drivers license in the State of California have the choice of taking the CMSP course or taking the DMV motorcycle driving test to acquire the motorcycle license. You are still required to take the DMV written test regardless of attending the CMSP course. I have been riding motorcycles on and off since I was about 14 years old, and I love them. It matters not if it a small scooter or a full dress Harley, pretty much anything with an engine on two wheels just seems to breath new life into me. Anyway, back to the school . . .
The CMSP course that I attended was the Basic Rider Course which teaches the prospective rider the basic fundamentals of driving a motorcycle. The course starts off with 5 hours of classroom instruction followed by a 50 question multiple choice test. After the classroom portion there is 10 hours of driving instruction during which students participate in supervised driving segments learning the basics of riding. The CMSP provides motorcycles and helmets for free to those taking the course. Although students pay a fee of $100.00 to $250.00 to take the course, students are allowed to use their own motorcycle for the course or use the CSMP equipment.
The classroom portion of the course was very well taught, with lots of student participation to enhance learning the material. However, the lack of any form of break allowing students to go grab a coffee or snack after most had just completed a full work day, was exhausting to say the least. But in all fairness, students were warned that they would be required to bring any such snacks or beverage to the classroom with them as there would be no break that allowed doing so later. The problem being that there is little opportunity to make such provisions when you work the day through and then go straight to class. It made concentration difficult for some in the later hours of the class, which may have effected their test performance.
Some advice for any that have difficulty maintaining attention to classwork when tired. If you are less than alert, stand at the back of the class and just listen to the material discussed. Standing will keep you better focused. As for taking the test: All DMV and similar multiple choice tests have a couple things in common. One answer is always “absolutely” incorrect, another is written so that it sounds “possibly” correct, and one is correct. How do you tell which one to choose? Trust your mind. The first answer you select is usually the correct answer. It is common for students to make the mistake of “second guessing” themselves by taking the time to consider the other possibilities, and selecting the wrong answer. Most often if you just read the answers and select the answer that is your first choice, you will do fine. Never pause, never go back, just quickly go through the test and select your first choice. If you fail to pass the test doing it this way, you failed to grasp the learning material and will likely have to retake the classroom portion again. One of the students that failed the classroom test was likely the best rider in the class, and possibly the most knowledgeable of the material prior to the class. But due to fatigue and second guessing himself blew the test
Use of motorcycles for class instruction easily attests to the toughness of motorcycles. The CMSP course I attended had about 15 motorcycles and a scooter that I observed. Any vehicle that can take the abuse of student drivers on an on-going basis proves it worthy as a means of recreation and/or transportation. And, these motorcycles did a fine job although it was obvious prior students had mishaps during their usage. Regardless, the equipment did a fine job for the CMSP course. But if you are a big/tall person, you might want to consider bringing your own motorcycle as the CMSP bikes are a bit on the small side. We had a two guys in our class that were so tall their knees were darn near touching the handlebars when seated on the motorcycle used. They still did fine and the at least one of the gents involved did very good in the driving portion of the course.
One of the mistakes I made was not using my own motorcycle for the driving portion of the course. When you ride your own motorcycle as a regular means of transportation you become accustomed to your motorcycle. Jumping from bike to bike can lead to confusion. The gears shift different, it brakes different, and just does not operate like you are used to when you use a different motorcycle. It works the same way when you jump from one of their bikes back to your own after 5 hours of riding one of their bikes. The driving portion of the course would have been significantly easier for me had I of ridden my own bike.
Their were two things not taught or discussed during the course that I think should be added to the course as both will happen someday to almost every motorcycle rider. Students need to know how to pick up their motorcycle when dropped. Most motorcycles weigh a minimum of 300 pounds, average rider maybe 150 pounds. Many smaller riders and women ( Yes, we also had woman riders attending the course. ) weigh closer to 100 -120 pounds. Picking up a dropped motorcycle is not only important as a task to do immediately, but damaging to your pride when you cannot do it without having to call for help. The next topic that I feel should be included is, what to do when you run out of fuel while riding. Sooner or later every rider will experience their motorcycle running out of gas while riding. Most motorcycles do not have fuel gauges that warn you in advance, but do have a fuel reserve selection on their motorcycles fuel valve that allows the rider a few more miles of riding when selected. However, the reason riders need to learn about this is because when it happens at 65 miles per hour on a busy freeway, the rider has to know exactly what to do to recover quickly and safely in this situation. Mind you, these are just my opinion of what the course needs to present the rider. The CMSP has been teaching these courses for a long time and my opinions may not be the same as theirs.
Anyway, at the end of 5 hours of classroom training and 10 hours of hands on training, I completed the course. And, as I have been riding motorcycles for years without this information, I did learn some very good stuff. Some of my bad habits were corrected by observant instructors. And, I must admit I enjoyed the course very much. It was also a learning experience for the instructors involved. By the time I completed the course they learned how to handle a senior citizen that is a smart-ass most of the time, without the need for physical violence. ( I jest, I am actually a very good student. ) And, the gents that taught the course ( Robert and Glen ) did a first rate job of teaching the course. In the event either ever hears of this article, thank you to you both.
Would I recommend that prospective motorcycle riders take this course? In a heart beat! Riding motorcycles is fun. Motorcycles are absolutely one of the best vehicles ever made. But, even the most qualified and experienced rider can find themselves in a bad situation anytime they ride. The CMSP has compiled information and experience that can easily be the difference between making it back home or being a statistic for a motorcycle rider. Don’t make mistakes that have already been made. Learn from the mistakes of the riders before you. Take the CMSP course. You will be glad you did.
( Anticipate some future articles relative to my experiences with riding and/or working on motorcycles, because if a mistake can be made I will likely do it. )
Oh by the way . . . I missed one question on the classroom test and scored 6 errors on the ridden test. Which was stupid. Fifteen minutes prior to the ridden test I did the same maneuvers without error at least 3 times, and choked on the test. It was still a good score . . . damn paint lines must have moved closer when I wasn’t looking.