Scoot Commute

MSF Experienced Rider Course, Harley Style

Posted in Suzuki DR-Z400SM (Elsa) by sbahn on 2011/07/31
MSF ERC at CCRI Flanagan Campus: Which bike doesn't belong?

MSF ERC at CCRI Flanagan Campus: Which bike doesn't belong?

This hot, summer Sunday morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 6:45 am so I could get the Flanagan campus of the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) to take the Experienced Rider Course sponsored by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. I figured if I left the house by 7:15/7:20, I could get to CCRI for 7:45 am, arriving before the 8:00 am start.

Up, shower, clothes, English muffin, out. I roll the DRZ400SM out of the garage and down the driveway. I pack up my tank bag with water, sunscreen, granola bar and a lighter pair of gloves than I’m wearing for the ride to campus. I start the bike in the street so as to not awaken the neighbors and head out toward Broad Street.

Ah, Broad Street. It was empty. Normally this street is overflowing with cars, bicycles, pedestrians and you’re lucky to get up to 20 mph. But this morning, there was nothing. No cars, no people, shutters pulled down over shop windows. A sleepy city.

I continued up Broad as I wanted to top up in case we burned through a lot of fuel in the class. I pull in to the 7-11 gas station and top off. Not even a gallon. I continue toward the service road to feed me on to I-95, keeping an eye on the BMW X5 behind me. Then it hits me. “You left your license and insurance card in the bag you decided not to bring.” I do a quick head-check and of course, the X5 is trying to pass me on the right.

I push on the right indicator and start to drift over to make a right so I can head back home. The X5 jerks back over into the middle lane, and I pull a right U-turn to head back home. I no longer have a watch on my bike as it’s lying on a snowmobile trail somewhere in New Brunswick province. All I know is that valuable minutes are ticking away.

I get back home, run up the porch and bang on the door. The boyfriend opens the door with a “Wha?” look on his face. I shove my hand into the bag and grab my license and registration. He doesn’t even say a word. As I run down the porch, I yell up “What’s the fastest way to 95?” He yells back that the new ramp off Point Street is the best.

And away I go, again headed up Broad, but veering off at Pine Street. I sorta stop at the 4, yes, four stop signs as I head toward the highway. I can’t trip the light at the ramp and as I’m pondering blowing the light (as it’s around 7:30/40 am and no one is really around), a car finally comes up behind me.

Onto the highway, then onto Route 146 and I’m on my way. I push that little DRZ up into the 60s in an effort to not be late. I hate being late.

I pull onto campus and I can hear bikes. I ride down to the moto-range and there are bikes going ’round and ’round. But then I see another group of shiny chrome bikes. Phew! Made it in time. The range was for the Basic Rider Course (BRC). I had registered for the ERC through the community college but it was a special class sponsored by a local Harley dealer. I knew I would be the only Jap bike, but I figured, anyone taking a course like this has got to be beyond the “Harley or nothing” attitude.

I roll up and park. I take off my helmet and jacket and walk over to the gathered group who are waiting for one more student. “I figured I’d be the only Jap bike,” I say, and everyone laughs and it’s ok. Most everyone knows each other, but everyone was very friendly to me.

The class was quite good. The instructors had lots of experience and related personal anecdotes to help cement the drills we were doing. The ERC is basically the BRC on your own bike.

I felt kinda bad for some of the guys riding those heavy, low-slung Harleys.The figure-8 drill did them in. The only rider who could do it well each time was the other girl. I don’t know shit about Harleys so I’m wondering if maybe she was on a lighter bike with a better turning radius. Regardless, she was really good. At the break I told her so. She told me about her summer vacation ride down to Tennessee where her and her husband (on separate bikes) rode down and did the Dragon and other roads. She said the Dragon seemed overhyped, but there was some brilliant riding around there. I told her that we had planned on doing West Virginia and Kentucky this year, but it didn’t happen so we went to central/northern Quebec province instead.

One of the guys told me he got his start riding on dirt and I was making him want a dirt bike again. I told him to pick up a WR250 and come to Pachaug! Another guy told me that his first bike was a 1966 Honda Dream that he picked up in the early 1970’s. I told him I had a ’65 CA77 and he just stared at me. We both agreed it was a stupid fun bike to ride because it weighs nothing and looks like a steamboat.

The class was really fun. My reason for going was to have an objective outsider take a look at my riding habits doing some standard maneuvers and provide feedback

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