This comment just came in. It was spurred from a post I wrote in July. My objective is to provide some support and encouragement. The comment was posted anonymously. If you log in you can request to be notified of follow-up comments. Without logging in, you can't. This is my attempt to ensure you see my reply. It's a great comment. I'm sure a lot of new riders find themselves in this same situation. So this post is directed to you in particular. I hope some others will find some value in it, as well. It's also a reminder to the more experienced riders of how much benefit our reaching out to new riders can be.
Here's the comment:
I just discovered your blog, and it's making me feel much better! I took the Team Oregon BRT class this past weekend and was terrified--had never been on a motorcycle before and heard all the "you'll die" stories for years.
Toward the end of the second day, my instructor told me that I "wasn't ready for this" without further explanation. Needless to say, I didn't pass the skills test--but more disappointing was that I left feeling as if there wasn't an option for me to become a safe rider.
You're spot-on when you talk about building trust with students--it makes an enormous difference if a student feels she can trust you and that you want her to succeed, especially when they tell you how much of motorcycling is mental!
First off, welcome to my humble blog! Thank you for taking the time to offer the comment. You're not alone in your feelings, by any means. You are poised on the brink of a wonderful two-wheeled journey. My instructor journey was started in the same place, if I'm correct about where you are. I taught twenty some classes my first year at Lane Community College.
I'm sorry you didn't get more of an explanation. I'm sure the instructor meant well. I have often been faced with telling a student that they aren't ready for the street, even if they passed the skill evaluation. I figure it's my responsibility to be tactful, but honest. The other side of the coin is that a student may not always recognize that fact for themselves. The instructor pats the student on the back, hands them their card, and sends them on their way. What is the student to think?
"Must be okay, I guess. The professional didn't say anything different."
Sometimes a new rider can get into trouble under these circumstances. So I am kindly honest. However, I always make an effort to outline the next steps. This part was missing in your course, it seems. Instructors are people, too, and not all relate to students the same way I would. Maybe some instructors don't care enough. Maybe I care too much.
I'm sure that you are well aware of where you stand as to capabilities and limits. That brings us to the next thing to think about.
The best way to approach a Basic Rider Training class, or any training, is to think of it as a chance to explore in a safe environment. Sure, the instructors and students all hope the eventual outcome is passing the evaluations and moving on. Pass or fail isn't the primary objective, however. It's the journey of discovery that's most important.
Think about it for a bit and you'll see it's true. There's a variety of riders that come to our classes. Some, like you, have never been on a motorcycle before. Some have already determined that they want to ride. Some come to see if motorcycling is for them. Being in our safe environment is a great move. The alternative is what I often see. A new motorcycle is purchased. Training is eschewed. A nasty crash happens. After the newbie recovers, they decide that riding isn't for them.
Pass or fail, the new rider comes away with a pretty accurate picture of where they are. In other words, they know which skills they've conquered and which ones still need some work. They also get a chance to see how they react when under pressure. That's provided by the skill evaluation. As you vividly remember, students feel a great deal of pressure when doing the evaluation exercises. Nothing like having someone with a clip board watching you, is there? On top of it all, everyone's a bit tired. As an instructor I'm well aware of what a student is feeling. Nonetheless, I have to sit back and watch. During the course I've done all I can to be of help and encouragement. At some point it's the student's turn to show me what they now own.
It might not seem fair that the evaluation is a pressure situation. All I can say is that there is pressure on the streets. Failing there can easily mean a lot worse things than getting points in an exercise. A student might feel that they will gain experience and things will be easier to deal with then. That statement is entirely true. However, a student is going to have to ride to get that experience. Which means they will be out in traffic, etc. I'm sorry, but a left-turning car, or a corner that we got into a little too hot, and so on, isn't going to cut anyone any slack just because they're not experienced, yet. Injuries aren't on a sliding scale tied to experience. That's pretty darn critical to keep in mind. Not to be bummed out, but to be aware and prepare accordingly. So, during the evaluation, you've got to show me that you have a basic mastery of some skills.
After all, when a student gets their completion card it means DMV will waive any further testing. So guess where a new rider could be the very next day? That's why instructors will tell a student that they aren't ready for the street. It's rare that I tell a student that they shouldn't be riding at all. Really rare. I'm sure your instructor was talking about street riding but wasn't clear.
I'm sorry this seems to have rambled on a bit. It just seemed important to set the context.
So now a new rider is standing there at the end of class. They haven't passed the skills test and they're pretty sure they've barely gotten it. I hear that a lot. Students will tell me that they just started to "get" it when we moved to the next exercise. This does not at all mean that the student has "failed" in any way whatsoever. Some people live closer to Disney World than others. Some arrive earlier, some later. There's no difference in the quality of the experience. All it means is that a few people looked at a map ( a measuring device ) and "discovered" that their journey would take a bit longer to pull off. It's not a reflection on anyone's worth, only that some started from a farther away destination. Does that make sense the way I'm describing it?
As a quick side note, depending on the score, a student who didn't pass the test can do it again later. Most students do better the second time. The only thing that happens during the retest is a warmup exercise and the evaluation. Students have more energy and concentration working for them because of it. I offer my sincerest encouragement to you in this regard.
Remembering that we are separating the pass / fail from the discovery, let's talk about the next steps. Here's my advice.
I kow economic times are tough. I know it's a big expense, but big picture wise, I'd encourage someone in your position to take the class again. There's no mystery to it now. You've been through it all. You'll benefit from the added practice and coaching. Both your skill level and confidence in those skills will grow. You'll be so much better off when you mix it up out on the streets. We also have the IRT which is one day and less expensive. It's the second half of the BRT. Same exercises but we don't do the basic learn to ride stuff that you did on Saturday. We conduct the same skills test but not the written test. You could do that at DMV when you go to get your endorsement.
Barring that, I'd encourage you to go out and ride. With a permit you could do it legally. That's just a matter of taking a written test at DMV. Have somebody you trust ride with you. Go somewhere where there's as little multi-tasking required as possible. Get comfortable that you can make the bike respond to you rather than the other way around. Press on the handlebars and feel how the bike leans. Practice stopping smoothly. Work on your head and eye placement. Once you've felt these things over and over, you'll start trusting them on your own. Whether you take another class or go test at DMV, the testing will go better with some more seat time.
This is often my recommendation whether a student has passed the test or not. My focus is on how well equipped a rider is to deal with the real world.
The biggest thing to remember is to keep looking ahead. In this case, I'm talking figuratively. You see, you might feel discouraged by last weekend. Here's some encouragement. Just because last weekend wasn't "your" weekend, it doesn't mean that a weekend in the future won't be yours. Weeks, months, and years, can be yours for that matter. That was a snapshot of a place in time. It's a photo of a place you visited. You went and found out what you wanted to know. It's not a photo of where you live.
You've got a lot of great stuff in your head, now. Oh, you might not be aware of just how much there really is lurking about in there. Once you go out and ride, in whatever venue, you'll start remembering. It's not the basic knowledge that's missing. It's the cementing of the mind and body into a cohesive unit that can smoothly operate a motorcycle that's waiting to happen. Once that happens, it will form the foundation that learning by experience can be laid upon.
I'd love to help in that process. It happens that I have a bit of experience with riding a motorcycle. We all need to feel useful and sharing makes me feel that way. If you care to share your journey, it would be an honor to hear from you now and then. I used to have a blog post every week called "Share the Road". Riders, both new and experienced, shared photos and stories. I've been wanting to revive that tradition. You're invited to help with the awakening by sharing. Or to simply ask questions. I truly care.
Send me an e-mail, if you'd care to, at firstname.lastname@example.org
That invitation goes out to anyone reading. Some of you already correspond with me and my life is richer for it. I sincerely believe that we all have the duty and pleasure to reach out to each other. We're much better off together than alone. At least in most things!
Miles and smiles,