Team Oregon's Basic Rider Course is aimed at new riders who wish to gain skills while becoming endorsed to ride a motorcycle in the state of Oregon.
Riding can be dangerous enough, but pair hazards of the street with a rider who has little to no experience and you’ve generated the perfect recipe for a trip to the hospital. Everyday people across the globe begin the process of incorrectly learning how to ride a motorcycle. Sure, acquiring the skills through friends and family can serve as a great introduction to motorcycling, but how much experience do they have? Have they learned the proper techniques? Do they ride responsibly? It’s because of all these questions and more that I decided to hit up Team Oregon’s Basic Rider Course in Medford, Oregon to get the latest intel on learning how to ride. With previous dirt bike experience I considered myself well-acquainted with motorcycling. While experience in the dirt helped, it took just a few short drills on the street to show the flaws in my assumption.
The BRT course was well-organized and had an easy online sign-up process. With 12 riders limited to each training group every student received personalized instruction throughout the three-day course, which was quick but thorough in the information it covered. Taking place late Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday, the course was especially convenient for those with weekday work schedules. One thing I quickly noticed about fellow classmates as I entered the classroom on the first day – diversity. No two students were alike as both young and old, foreign and locals attended the first meeting. Included in our course was someone who couldn’t speak English with a translator in tow as well as a 17-year-old who needed
Initial exercises included learning to use the friction zone with the clutch and how to properly brake.
approval from a parent to participate in the class.
Headed by instructor Tom Nott, the class was broken up evenly between in-class participation sessions and exercises on what instructors affectionately called “The Range.” Students had to supply themselves with proper riding attire such as gloves, a long-sleeve jacket, pants and boots with ankle protection, but motorcycles and helmets were available through the course. Putting a total of eight hours in the saddle between Saturday and Sunday makes the $179 tuition fee seem reasonable as five instructors coached and built the student's confidence through specialized drills. Our training units included a fleet of Yamaha TW200 dual sport models in addition to some Suzuki GZ 250s. I was assigned to a TW200, which overall was extremely easy to ride but felt cramped on my six-foot frame. Exercises began with the basics of finding the friction zone with the clutch and how to utilize both brakes while making a stop. Instructors made it quite easy for our group and within minutes we were off and running.
Anyone who attends Team Oregon will quickly realize how much stress is placed on learning acronyms. S-L-R-P, S-I-P-D-E and S-M-O-G-C may seem complete gibberish to outsiders, but in the context of the course they’re extremely effective reminders of core principles while riding a motorcycle. For me the most difficult aspect of the course came about while learning to lean through curves. I struggled coming to grips with trusting the traction of my rear tire; no doubt a remnant left from my dirt riding days. I guess it’s a good
Because the course is designed to prepare riders for real world situations exercises are carried-out rain or shine, or in this case while it's snowing.
thing Team Oregon had us ride so many circles that it left us feeling like NASCAR drivers. With continued practice I managed to overcome it and before long I felt ready to take on the infamous corkscrew at Laguna Seca.
While the range proved extremely useful in getting me up to speed on basic street riding maneuvers, the classroom sessions also uncovered some important lessons as well. The style of classroom teaching at Team Oregon heavily relied on participation from students in the course. Don’t expect to sleep through this class. Instructors kept everyone on their toes by asking questions to students at random, and while some of the material seemed common sense it all factored into some of the less intuitive concepts of the course. Of particular note was the classroom section on mental motorcycling, which stressed a rider’s mental preparation in terms of predicting and avoiding certain situations by staying alert. Everything from proper riding gear to hazardous roadway conditions was covered. During one useful exercise the instructor used a projector to flash screenshots of hazardous environments for riders. It was difficult as the pictures remained on screen for only a fraction of a second, but it proved a valuable point that motorcyclists should be taking in large amounts of information in a short period of time. Scanning aggressively and purposefully was the mantra constantly preached by instructors.
Evaluations took place on the final day, which left many in our group rather tense. The on cycle skills tests included five different exercises students had to complete one at a time in order to receive a motorcycle endorsement from the course. These drills included weaving in between cones, performing an emergency brake, handling a curve, executing a swerve maneuver and completing a small U-turn. While
Students must pass a skills evaluation test on the final day which included maneuvers like braking and swerving.
the test did rattle a few nerves it was hardly a pass or fail ordeal. Instructors allowed students multiple attempts if they had issues, and in the end everyone from our group received a passing score. The course also required students to pass a written test which covered classroom material in addition to some chapters found in Team Oregon’s Introduction to Motorcycling handbook.
Overall the experience was extremely positive. Two of the main selling points of this course were the instructors themselves and the ability to gain practice on motorcycles. Instructors shared their own riding experiences and mistakes made throughout the years, which provided a glimpse of common errors that most new riders make. There was also a traffic simulation exercise on the final day of riding which became a personal favorite of mine. The range was setup to replicate common street conditions and included elements like a four-way stop and two-lane traffic. Students had to not only maneuver their own bikes but had to be aware of those around them as the entire class participated in the simulation.
In the end, I’m glad to have taken the initiative to learn how to ride properly the first time around.
For more info on Team Oregon’s course or to enroll check out www.teamoregon.orst.edu