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I have been riding as a passenger since I was 8. For many years I have been considering what it would be like to drive my own. Now that I am 53 the desire has grown tremendously and it just seems like a perfect time to finally learn.
Having complete confidence that I wouldnt have any difficulty in learning I signed up for a motorcycle safety class and paid my $200. I completed the first day of classroom time and passed the written test with flying colors. I showed up the next day for the riding portion at the scheduled time of 12:30 in the afternoon decked out in my jeans, boots, long sleeves, gloves and helmet. Since I am in Phoenix and it was the last weekend in May the temperature outside was 111 degrees. Of course there isnt any shade on the driving range so needless to say it was quite warm out there on the asphalt. At that point though, I was still very excited to be there and still had complete confidence that I would be able to complete the class without any difficulty. Was I ever wrong.
After about two hours in, I was told that since I was having difficulty completing the exercise properly I was done and needed to leave. Once you are asked to leave, that means you go away and dont come back and forfeit your enrollment fee. I was devastated and cried for three days. This was just this past weekend and even though I took a hard blow to my confidence I have not lost my desire to learn to ride and own my a bike of my own.
I contacted the instructor for the group I was in and asked him if being kicked out of the class really meant that I wasnt “cut out to ride” a motorcycle. He was encouraging and told me that some people, especially ones with absolutely no experience just need to take it a little slower than others but I should not give up.
So my question is, are there other women out there who have had a similar experience that have gone on to become riders? I have been looking at a Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider that I really like and can afford. I still have enough confidence to try learning and truly want to experience riding my own bike.
Would it be unrealistic for me to actually be able to learn on that type of a bike? Or do I need to start on a much smaller one? I am 5 feet 1 inch, 110 pounds and can reach the ground with both feet on my toes only, however my boyfriend can lower it for me. He is a very experienced rider and will be able to help me out with learning, however I am still a bit apprehensive about my ability to learn since I couldnt complete the course I signed up for and also whether it is practical to attempt to learn on a larger bike.
If anyone else has a story with similar circumstances I would love to hear it.
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You Flunked the MSF Course! Now What?
Beginners Guide: Common Obstacles and How To Overcome Them
You Flunked the MSF Course! Now What?
Beginners Guide: Common Obstacles and How To Overcome Them
127 thoughts on Kicked Out Of MSF Course
I am so relieved to find this thread. I have never ridden a motorcycle or driven a standard shift car, but I rode as a passenger more than 30 years ago. I took an MSF course and barely made it past lunch. But I crashed into a fence and my bike went down the embankment. Luckily the safety bars on the teaching bike—a Harley-Davidson Street 500—kept me from being pinned. I was asked to leave, but I would have anyway, since I was so shaken.I’m bruised and sore, but my ego is more bruised. The shame and embarrassment is still strong today. I agree with Annette from Phoenix—I appreciate that this is a course and not private tutoring, but the exercises went very fast, and it was hard for me to master the clutch/throttle combo, along with shifting. Granted, I am an old dog at 52 (didn’t think that before yesterday, but…), so I guess I wasn’t picking up on skills as quickly as others. My classmates were great and encouraging (4 out of 10 of us were women, and very supportive, as were all the men). One of the instructors was super kind and helpful, but the other one was less patient, and when I didn’t successfully shift into 2nd gear from 1st, he immediately threatened me about being kicked out of the class if I didn’t do the exercise successfully. I appreciated that I needed to complete it, but I just needed some time to practice—I wasn’t intentionally being difficult, and the way he said it did not help my confidence. I am still shaken, and this thread is helping me be ok with the fact that I need time to practice (although with no bike, not sure how). I still want to learn to ride, but wondering if I should give it up. This thread is making me see that some people just learn more slowly, and it’s ok. Thank you for sharing your experiences!
Hi Tina,Thank you for sharing your story, and know that there is no shame in trying something new and not being a master at it right away. I would in no way call you an old dog either!Here’s my suggestion once you’ve healed and feel ready to jump back into the saddle: Call the Harley-Davidson Academy manager—the person who signed you up for the class—and let her or him know that you are still interested in learning but had particular trouble shifting. Ask if the dealership has a Jumpstart trainer, and request some personalized time and instruction on it. The Jumpstart trainer allows you to sit on, start, and shift a motorcycle without having to worry about balancing or going anywhere. If the dealership is interested in your future business, they will be happy to help you in your quest to ride.You should also let them know your opinions about the coaches you had. A good RiderCoach is always interested in learning about how they can be a more effective trainer.Good luck and stick with it!
I, too, tried the MSF BRC course and was asked to leave before the end of the course. I had never tried to control a motorcycle before the class. In retrospect, the coach was right. It was way too hot (May) and I wasn’t getting the techniques quickly. Everyone else in the class had been riding for years (illegally) and there was no way I could learn what they’d been doing for years. However, my heartburn is that I was told over and over—they will teach you to ride. No problem. Everyone finishes with their endorsement. So it is the false advertising that I have significant heartburn with. Meanwhile, my husband bought me a Honda Grom and I discovered “motojitsu” so am practicing at my own pace to get the techniques. When I feel ready, I will try again but think they really should be more truthful about what is expected at the course before they steal your hard earned cash.
My MSF experience (a few weeks ago) was very much like Annette’s: I’m a short, lightweight, older rider with no previous motorcycle experience. However, I am an experienced bicycle commuter and have driven a manual transmission car for 30 years. That was apparently insufficient. I was so anxious about failing (and falling!) I panicked on the tight figure eights on the second day, and voluntarily left early (I was advised I could not take the test if I didn’t have all the exercises in the right order, so no time to recover).I was handicapped from the start by a class range that had a steep side-slope. Steep enough it’d be a real challenge for me to do the slow, tight moves on my grocery-laden bicycle. The very first exercise involves turning the bike around in neutral (which I could never, ever find), but having to repeatedly push the bike uphill to turn around exhausted me. I was so distracted and struggled to master the friction zone and throttle in simple cross-range driving. (Tiny hands don’t help!) I also didn’t extend the sidestand all the way after the first exercise and the bike tipped over. To my deep embarrassment, the instructor called the whole class over to show them how to pick up the bike.Bike #2 ran much worse than bike #1, the gears clunked horribly at certain parts of the friction zone (different from the pitch you get with popping the clutch). I never mastered this. The instruction never separated the skills to master individually before mixing them together. So I remained uncoordinated on slow twisty moves through day 1 and tipped over again (though fast stopping, shifting, and countersteering was a breeze). No opportunity to warm up on day 2 with simple laps just amped up the anxiety.I was devastated for several days, but now I’m more angry and determined to learn on my own. (I have since acquired my own Rebel 250 which feels good underneath me.) I will not be trying the MSF class again—no insurance discount and it’s $200 (no discount for retaking it or anything). I think being small and lightweight makes it harder to learn everything. Small hands, short reach, little weight to throw around, no height to catch a tipover. I got no individual instruction, and everything was too fast-paced with no time for catching up. Overall, there would have been 10 hours of on-range instruction time (not including the test), of which I did 8.5, which just seems bonkers to me.
Hi Trish. As a MSF RiderCoach and site manager myself, I have lived your story many times. I sympathize with your issues—you are probably right, that everything is harder for smaller people—although very tall people have issues as well. But you hung in there a long time and I’m sure learned a ton from the 8.5 hours you spent on a motorcycle.At this point, you can take what you learned to practice on your own motorcycle, which can be set up to fit you perfectly. Without the stress of keeping up with the class, practice the friction zone, shifting, and stopping, and controlling the motorcycle. Once you gain a little speed, practice pressing to lean and stopping more quickly.Once you have more confidence and practice, I would urge you to try the class again. In some states you can use your own bike, so long as it meets the specifications—which yours does. The other option is to ask around for a recommendation for some private lessons.Keep on practicing! You will get better every time you ride. Good luck! We are all routing you on.
I was an instructor for 19 years and recently retired from teaching. I have had students I had to pull out of the pond at the end our range pass and I have “experienced” riders fail miserably. I won’t say I have heard all the excuses but I have heard quite a few.A few items to think about when taking this BRC class. One, this is a class, not one-on-one training. Normally, about the time you think you might be understanding the skill they are showing you on the exercise, they move on the the next exercise. Although each exercise has a “recommended” time, it needs to be run until most of the students have shown proficiency in the skill being taught. But if you run all the exercises over the time, you are going to be out on the range in the dark. And most of the students, along with the RiderCoaches are going to be too exhausted to learn.Two, listen to what the RiderCoaches are saying. You are probably going to hear some things and think “they are a bunch of looney tunes, that can’t possibly work.” A good example of this is “you go where you look.” Try to practice and do what they are saying.Three, be realistic about why you are doing this. If you are being pressured by a significant other to get your own bike, you probably shouldn’t be taking the class. You have got to have the fire in your gut to want to learn how to ride. This class has been developed and evolved over very many years, but it is still no cake walk. It is a very demanding two days. You have got to have that fire to get through it.Four, consider the time of year you are taking the class. If you are taking it in the middle of the summer, expect temperatures to be at least 10 degrees hotter on the asphalt than what the air temperature is. Plus, you’re going to be in riding gear. If you are not used to the heat, I would recommend taking it in the spring or fall.I can’t speak to the quality of RiderCoaches. Some are there for the money but most of them are there to teach you how to ride a motorcycle. But even the patient RiderCoaches have to council out students. Please remember that we are responsible for the safety of each and every student out there. If we have one student who is putting the other students at risk and we have tried some one-on-one time with them, then it may be time to send you home. It is for your safety too.Riding a motorcycle is a thrill that I haven’t found a replacement for in 36 years. It has sucked more money out of my wallet than anything else I have done. But it isn’t for everybody. But if you have got that fire, then by all means, take the class. If you don’t make it, take it again. Just do it.
I see that this original post is from 2013 and I am so hopeful that the writer didn’t give up and went on to ride. I am 55 and started my journey this year. My husband rides and gave me the gift of a weekend certification course for my birthday. I didn’t feel comfortable going into that course without any prior experience except being in the back so I did some research and found an intro course. It was a three-hour course that gave you bike basics. At the end of three hours we were starting and stopping and switching to second gear. I was smiling cheek to cheek. At the weekend course I have never been so terrified. I came dangerously close to taking out a large dumpster but miraculously got it together in time. I passed. After that I still didn’t feel confident enough for the road so my very patient husband took me to a parking lot. Next day a little farther to subdivisions. Well I realized I wasn’t ready when I forgot my training, didn’t look past the curve but looked straight at the curb, went over it and dumps my bike. Felt like an idiot, had to have help to pick it up off my legs, gas spilling all over me like my shame. Shook myself off and got myself back to the parking lot to practice. I am determined to conquer this. It is way too much fun not to. I hope to be posting next year that at age 56 that I now consider myself a seasoned rider. My advice: don’t be afraid to practice in the parking lot until you are unconsciously competent. And remember to smile. It’s so much fun!
Get a dirt bike. Find some space and go learn to ride on private property. Then go back and nail that thing.
When I first tried for my license in Australia I was told I needed lots of practice and class instruction. I knew I was a good rider and went to a few lessons but decided to try another school and walked out three hours later with my license. I’ve been riding now for 18 months.I believe some places just try to make money from you, but we may do our motorcycle tests differently.My advice is never give up on your dreams.
Don’t feel discouraged. Take the test again and ride the Honda Rebel. I am assuming the instructors bring a few learner motorcycles, as was the case here when I took my MSF Basic RiderCourse in 2013. I had no prior experience, not even with starting a motorcycle engine before the course. I passed the written test and the first day of field riding, I kept stalling because I was having a hard time getting a handle on the friction zone. But after a few tries, I was able to proceed with the practice rounds. Nonetheless, I still kept stalling the motorcycle from a stop. I even contemplated not returning the next day because I just knew I would never get it right. But I came home and was greeted by my husband with the news that he already purchased an almost new Harley Sportster, so I didn’t have the courage to tell him I wanted to drop out. No way would I pass the evaluation with all my stalling amid a noticeably experienced group of learners in my class. I was disheartened by being the only one with absolutely no prior experience.But I decided to show up the next day, and sure enough, I still kept stalling. I then saw the assistant instructor heading my way, and I thought, this is it, she is going to send me home. But she took me aside and started giving me a one-to-one on how to handle the clutch and brake and find the friction zone, which I did! I am so grateful for that less than five minutes extra instruction from her. Otherwise, I have a feeling I wouldn’t have made it through! I just love riding now and I want to let you know there is hope. I now ride a Heritage Softail Classic, but I think it would be best to learn on a smaller motorcycle first.
I took the MSF class in early 2009. What’s always worked for me is studying everything I could find on the subject before attempting to try it myself. And also practicing ahead of time, if possible. I had bought a Buell Blast to learn on and a sport bike. I’d ridden dirt bikes when I was a kid so I knew how to use the clutch already, but still had to learn the basic concepts of controlling a much larger, heavier street bike. We were told upfront that they would not be teaching anyone who had never ridden a motorcycle before and did not know how to use a clutch at least a little bit. We still did the walk the bike in first drill, as I remember.I passed in second place behind the only experienced rider in the group, but it took me a couple of years riding with friends and my husband before I could get the confidence to go out alone. I now have three sport bikes and have started doing track days. I’ve ridden multiple states and have close to 100,000 miles under my belt since I started seven years ago! From some of the comments and the original poster, it seems it depends a lot upon who you get as the course instructor. If you have trouble or fail the course, don’t get discouraged and give up! Seek out private instruction or another riding school. I know it’s hard to keep going sometimes, but try to think positive and remember the reward in the end is totally worth it! You can do this!
I find it amazing that the course itself does not pre-screen riders. If you have not ever changed a gear on a bike before, surely an “intro to riding” course should be contemplated before having to pass a course that requires a higher level of riding to be achieved in one day?All of us girls can ride a bike, it’s just how it is approached that makes a huge difference, and having the right facilitator can really make the experience something very special. Here in South Africa we have started a Women’s Development Program, aimed at getting the girls riding the big off-road bikes, and the response is incredible from the girls. All age groups are represented and the capabilities that these girls exhibit is amazing. This year, we have ladies from their 20s to 50s representing and all are achieving amazing results. Some started riding the month before the selections were held.Never give up! As we say, “Dream it, Choose it, Live it!”
Don’t give up! I failed it twice—same reason twice! I was discouraged. The second time I choose a different location with different instructors and they were amazing! The first instructors I had I didn’t care for. The second time I took it, it was great. The third time was a charm. I truly think the instructors make a huge difference in the class. I had no riding experience. I started out on a Harley Sportster 1200.
It’s not your fault. It’s easy for instructors to teach riders with experience. A good instructor can teach anyone. Don’t get discouraged.
The same thing happened to me. I’d never ridden a bike, I was always a passenger. In June, 2015 I took the basic class on a Suzuki 250. The first day wasn’t bad. The second day was awful. I was wearing my boots which are great when I’m a passenger, but I couldn’t get my toe under the shifter. I kept stalling out and actually dropped the bike once. I was so embarrassed. Long story short, I didn’t pass. I haven’t tried since. Maybe I never will.
I took my first class at the age of 68. Never rode a motorcycle before. Had been riding on the back with my boyfriend for a few months and wanted so badly to ride my own. It was July in Florida, hot, over 100 degrees out there. I have arthritis in my hips but still wanted to ride. I took the first morning of training in class, went out on the range, did great riding, felt great until I dropped the bike when stopping. Tried again, did OK, but again dropped it. I was determined to not quit. But finally, I was asked to leave. I came back the next day to complete the exam though, as I was going to return. I had a nice bike at home I wanted to ride. Here in Florida, you don’t get a permit. Well, my confidence was shot. I didn’t pursue it until a month ago, where I took a trike/3-wheeler class. I passed with no points off. Came home after riding a 350 Suzuki to my Honda 1300 with a Voyager kit on it. A little skeptical about going out, until four days later, I just told my boyfriend, let’s go. And I haven’t stopped since. I’ve gone solo, done more than 100-mile rides, and some small group rides. I accomplished this at the age of 71 and am going to continue riding and riding. I get some comments about a trike, but you know what? At least I am riding. Keep going. Don’t give up.
My husband and I took the three day MSF course together. Day one, classroom time was fine. Day two, course time was terrible for me. I simply could not get this bike to shift gears. I had been on a bike to learn all the functions, names of parts and shifting but not riding before. I was frustrated and sad when the instructor pulled me aside to tell me that I might want to practice more and then come back. I felt crushed, upset with myself and cried. I practiced with my patient husband, went back the following spring, took and passed that course with no errors. Since then I have taken the MSF course with my son as a brush up and again passed no errors. My plan is to continue taking the remainder courses and become and one day become an instructor. I was irritated to learn that it was not me who could not shift; it was a broken shift linkage. The first instructor was not able to take the individual time to check the bike that day, but when she did later she found the issue. She did tell my husband this on his last day of class. My suggestion, find a patient and more experienced rider to take you to a parking lot to practice, practice, practice; then go take the safety course. You will have a better understanding of the bike and will be more confident with your skills. I feel that MSF courses are for teaching a rider safety while riding and basic riding; not teach you how to ride. There are classes more suited to teaching you to ride.
Back in my day, which was way in the 1970s, they didn’t have MSF courses in farm country where I lived. If you wanted to learn to ride, your dad took you out on a long stretch of farm road, showed you the gears, and told you to get your ass home. If you could do that, you were a rider. Like any kid, I dumped and wrecked many a bike learning. But I do think it is best for a newbie to get some one on one time with a single instructor or someone who does know how to ride before signing up for a class full of people. That way, you have sat on a bike, know the gearing, etc… and have an idea what you are getting into with the pressure of peers. My two cents. I’m female and in my 50s and I made it through just fine not taking a course.
I recommend getting a learners permit and ride alongside someone with more experience for awhile. I also recommend starting on a smaller bike—one that is easier to maneuver.
I really liked this article. 21 years ago I lived in Idaho where they didn’t have the motorcycle safety/riding class. But they did in Utah, so I signed up for the class. My husband and four-month-old baby went with me and we got a motel room. My husband has always been very supportive of me. The classroom work was easy but it was very intimidating out on the course because the other six people were all friends and had some experience riding a motorcycle while I had none before I stepped out there. The day of testing there were no bathrooms out there and it was 100 degrees so I was drinking lots of water. I was also breast-feeding, so between a full bladder and breasts about to burst I didn’t do too well. Needless to say, I failed. I do have to say the instructor was very respectful about failing me. I cried for a few days then I decided to take everything I learned in that class and keep practicing on my Harley-Davidson Sportster 883. Now I ride a 2008 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic. All I have to say is practice, practice, practice. I think now I might be ready for the advanced class. If it’s in your heart then practice on! Good read!
At 47 years old, I took my MSF course in Bronx, New York. All the instructors were male, I was the only female student in the class. The class was three days long, Friday to Sunday. I was doing good until Sunday morning before the test. On one of my exercises, I passed the instructor when I was supposed to stop and he got angry at me and told me I did not listen. I was afraid to stop in front of him and hit him. I was just learning. Never had been on a motorcycle in my life. He told me he was going to give me another chance and if I did that mistake again he was going to cancel me out. I got angry at him and I told him to take the bike, I am not riding. I went home upset, I told my husband that I canceled myself and I was never going to ride. A month later I found another school called Big Apple Motorcycle School in Long Island, which also runs the MSF course. I signed up and stayed at a hotel nearby. The instructors were men and women. The class was mostly women, just one man. They offer more riding skills than lecture. They would take the students out and practice with them privately, I was not put into that group. Before the test they would practice with you and correct your errors. On Sunday I passed my test. I got my 2004 Harley Sportster and I enjoy riding. I am glad that I never gave up.
Five years ago I decided I wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle. I casually mentioned it to my daughter and she said “You couldn’t ride a bike.” That’s all it took! Game on—I was determined to prove her wrong. Not sure I could coordinate all the controls, I signed up for the Introduction to Basic Rider Course. It was a class of just three ladies and it was very helpful and I learned that I could do it. I then signed up for the Basic Rider Course with class time and riding time. Everything went great until I got to the test to get my endorsement. I didn’t pass, but I could come back and do a re-take. I was really disappointed, but scheduled it. I did everything right except the last part—a figure-eight inside a square. But I didn’t give up. I got a learner’s permit and bought a small Suzuki 250, just like the ones used in the class, and practiced. I took the test again, and again, and finally got my endorsement. I rode that little 250 everywhere and after about 1,200 miles I decided I was ready for a Harley. I bought a Sportster XL883 and I love it. I’ve learned that I did it the right way—smaller bike to learn and practice and then get a bigger bike. I really think that you would have trouble learning on a large, heavy bike. And it’s really not safe to just be able to touch your toes to the ground.So, now I have almost 16,000 miles on my bike and I love getting out and enjoying that wind therapy. During the last five years, I’ve had both hips replaced, and I turned 63 earlier this year, and I’m starting to think that I might want a bigger bike…
Don’t be discouraged, I am also 50-ish and took the riding class two summers ago and barely passed, but what I learned was invaluable. I did start on a smaller bike, a Buell, and rode that for a year before I got my Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200. In fact, I took the second riding class last summer and felt like it was pretty advanced and I should have taken the first one again. The instructors are key to a positive experience. My boyfriend has been great with my learning process, but he tends to get impatient with me, so I feel like I learned more at the classes. Good luck friend.
Well this happened to me twice and I got the same story. I passed the written test and showed up the next morning for the riding class and they told me I was having too much trouble keeping up with the class and told me to leave and try again next time. I registered for the class again, got a different instructor, and got booted again because I was too slow for the class. I don’t know if it has something to do with women riders or what. I want to take the course again, but don’t know where to go because I feel discriminated against. I am also deaf, but I’m not sure if that was their problem, because it was hard to hear the instructors with the bikes running. I am trying to overcome this obstacle. I just purchased my own bike, a 2009 Yamaha V Star 250. I am trying to practice on my own and hopefully get someone who is willing to work with me to get my license. I’ve been trying for several years now.
I took the class last summer. I did well in the safety course and aced the written exam and we went out to the do the riding portion. I own a 1984 Honda Shadow 700, but I had never even operated a motorcycle before, so I wanted to take the class to be sure I had all the safety skills I would need before I ever took my bike out. I admit I was a bit nervous. I did well the first day so I felt more confident when we went back the next day to finish up. After each portion of the practice we were asked if we felt comfortable with what we just done. Stupidly I raised my hand after the slow speed maneuvers practice and said that I still felt unsteady and a bit nervous doing them. I was immediately pulled aside by the instructors and told that if I can’t keep up with the class and they thought I was unsafe or a danger to others I would be removed from the class. After that it was like they became drill sergeants. They would yell at me to go faster and to do whatever they were having us do differently. After I dumped the bike during one of their yelling at me tirades, they told me I was out of the class and one of them actually said to me “if you can’t handle this 250, you will never be able to handle the 700 you already own.”I was unable to leave, because my husband was taking the class with me, and he needed to stay and finish. Imagine how devastated I was to see the final test and see that all the exercises they did were ones that we learned on the first day and I could have passed the final easily if they had not pressured me to the point of being unable to function and concentrate on the skills instead of making me terrified I would make a mistake. I came home in tears, deciding I was selling my bike and convinced that never operating one was my final destiny.Thank goodness I have a husband and friends that taught me otherwise. I will never go back to that class to get certified and I will never recommend it to any other women who want to ride. I have my learner’s permit and currently I ride with those who are endorsed. When I am ready I will go to the Secretary of State or a private testing facility and get my endorsement. And for those who want to know, I ride my 700 without any trouble and have not dropped it one time, even with slow speed maneuvers.
I failed during my first try. I was the only true beginner in a class of men who were experienced riders—they were taking the class to get a discount on their insurance. Working in a male-dominated industry, the all-men aspect of the class didn’t bother me, but my male instructors could have used a course or two in teaching. I received more encouragement and help from the guys in the class than my instructors! The instructors read from the book the entire time with no further explanation and the only advice they would give me after I begged for help was to “go faster.” I hated the cruiser-type bike they gave me—I barely reached the handlebars and gear shifter. I was crushed when I was told that I had failed—I had never failed anything in my life. One of the instructors recommended I take a couple of private lessons ($75/hour) and retest again. I was pissed off and felt like the $300 I spent was a total waste. I could have taught myself better because I had no support from the instructors whatsoever. I look back on the experience as a blessing in disguise.Two weeks after I failed, I bought a bike that fit me perfectly from the dealer who offered the MSF course. As part of the negotiation, the dealer credited the $300 MSF course fee back to me because I was still upset about how the course was taught. I rode every day for a solid 2 months straight, practicing in a back parking lot near my house and the local roads. When I felt confident in my skills, I scheduled a one hour private lesson and retest. I was given a different instructor this time who was amazing! He actually explained the concepts in such a way that was easy to understand and I did “the box” perfectly on my first and subsequent tries. I passed the retest with flying colors and wasn’t charged for the lesson (perhaps a further courtesy from the dealer who wanted to keep me as a customer). I really, truly, honestly believe that the success of your experience in the MSF course is largely based on the quality of your instructors. I’m sure my previous instructors were great riders, but that doesn’t automatically mean they are great teachers. Before signing up, ask the school if you can get some referrals from past women students. That way, you can find out if the school has good teachers or just some dudes reading from a book. A private lesson prior to the course wouldn’t be a bad idea either if you’re brand new to motorcycles and shifting. I hope my experience helps other lady riders who fail the course – it’s not the end, try again!
Go for the Harley-Davidson Dyna Lowrider. It’s a great bike to learn on. My first bike was a Sportster and I did not like it. I felt it was top heavy. I am 5 feet 3 inches. I highly recommend sticking with it. I was lucky and passed my class. I was the only female. This was back in 1999. Best of luck.
Hello Annette. As a Motorcycle Safety Instructor for the last 10 years, I have only asked one student to leave during that time. It was under very special circumstances. While I read your story, I need to ask at what lesson they asked you to leave? Did any of the instructors give you one-on-one instruction? I’m not sure what the course curriculum is like in the US but here in Canada, if you take the course in Newfoundland or British Columbia, the content and method of instruction should be very similar. Over the years I have seen both male and female students come in and were horrible in the beginning. I gave them time to improve, worked with them one on one, worked specifically on the issue that was giving them trouble. Adults learn very differently from children. Nine times out of ten, the student improved and by day two of the course they are at the same level as the rest of the group. I would say 80 percent of these students that were having a hard time pass the course. On the other hand, I have worked and worked with students that didn’t make it and the one student that I did have to ask to leave was an accident waiting to happen. They were a danger to themselves and to my other students. It was a hard decision that I had to make and I decided that I would rather ask them to leave rather than having to call an ambulance. I believe that most people that are having a hard time and do fail the course test just need additional time in the saddle to perfect the skills needed to safely ride a motorcycle. Don’t give up. Get out there and practice, practice, practice.
First of all, don’t let someone else decide for you whether you can ride or not. You’re learning style just might not be the same as theirs. I started riding 21 years ago. The first time I took a bike out on my own, it was my husband’s (newly married). He had a Harley Superglide which is a big bike but was actually very comfortable and fit great. I’m 5 feet 3 inches and at the time I weighed about 100 pounds. I was only going up the road a bit to get a feel and asked if he was coming with me. He said he wasn’t going to ride on the back of his own bike! I asked what I do if I start to fall (we all think the worst right)? He said to just let it go and get out of the way, knowing I wasn’t going to be going fast or going far. I had a nice short ride and was hooked. I did not drop it by the way.I bought a Sportster 883 a few days later, which is a superb bike to learn on; I still have it today even though I now ride a Softtail. I took a riding course and it went fine. I learned a lot about what not to do, which I did a lot of in the beginning but I knew what I did wrong because of the class. I’ve pretty much learned everything from my husband, beyond the basics of how to operate a motorcycle. The class is great to take to learn worse case scenarios, but I would advise anyone who wants to learn to ride to learn from someone they know on a small, less intimidating bike. Easier to maneuver and less expensive to fix. Then take the class. I guess that’s kind of backwards, but how are you supposed to be comfortable with strangers when you’ve never done something and are already nervous at what you’re trying to do. Like I told my boys when they learned to ride their bicycles and now on their motorcycles, ride like everyone is aiming for you and never assume what someone else is going to do. I love riding and do it as much as possible. I’m even getting ready for a ride with Women Freedom Riders, riding 18 states in 18 days. Good luck ladies! Get comfortable, then go back and show those instructors what you can do!
I was very apprehensive when I took the class a few years ago, and I wasn’t the most skilled rider in the group. I did pass, however. After I passed the class, my husband and I would go to a school parking lot and practice, practice, practice maneuvers. I started on a Honda Rebel 250, which was a great bike to learn on. I am five feet flat and not gonna say how much I weigh. I now ride a Star V Star 950. You should be able to get a learner’s permit in your state. If so, I would do that, and purchase a bike to hone your skills. You might be able to take the test to get your permanent license at the DMV.
I just took the MSF BRC course and failed. I kind of felt I was in the wrong class. There was another person who had no experience just like me and he failed as well, and the remaining four passed. They were all seasoned riders, but I got no positive feedback from the instructor—he didn’t tell me how many points I got or what I did wrong in the skills test at the end of the day.We went back in the classroom and sat there while he did the forms. He called for me and the other guy to step outside and proceeded to ask us how we thought we did. I said “I don’t know.” He said, “well, you both failed.” He then told us you are supposed to get 16 points or less and we both got 20 or more points with a laugh and said, “Oh, you can retake the course at a later time if you want,” shook my hand, and said goodbye.I cried on my way home and now feel so discouraged. I paid $250 for the course, and was so excited to finally learn how to ride. Granted, the first day was rough (I never shifted before) but by the second day I was getting it down pat. So the point is, it was a big let down, and now I am a little discouraged. I just wish I got some positive feedback or some kind of feedback, but I got nothing. I kind of feel he just took my money.
I just read Kim’s article and consider myself very lucky. We had our first class last night, and the instructors are terrific with a great sense of humor (one being from Spain.) It was really a lot of fun. We only did classroom stuff, but will start the actual riding tonight. I explained my problem with curves/turns, and they said “don’t worry about it, we’ll get you through it.” I can’t imagine what Kim and her class went through with an ass for an instructor! There are several in the class, out of I believe 12, who have never “driven” a bike, so, to be honest, I’m a little relieved. I’ve got about 200 miles on mine since last November, so I’m kind of ahead of the game in that respect. I hope the guys keep their promise and “get me through it!”
I loved this article! I’m starting my classes tonight through Thursday night, and there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be the “granny” in the group (69 years old), and all eyes will be on me. If I fail, I fail … I’ll just keep practicing.
Update: Called school and asked how I could learn to ride because I was sent home. I was told I could pay more money for a one-on-one instructor. That worked. I actually recommend it for a true beginner with absolutely no experience. The others in class were people who had some experience and it was intimidating. The good thing is that I didn’t have to do the classroom portion over again.All I can say is don’t give up. It’s not the end of the world. No, I am not out on my bike every day (I should be) tooling around. I am actually afraid, however, I love and respect my bike. I don’t like riding in groups, I love riding alone, although I have two people I do enjoying riding with and we ride when we can. On the days I feel I can get on my bike and ride, I ride. When I can’t, I don’t. So for me it will be a slow process, but I have all the time I need to keep getting out there.I find it’s mental, too, and when I do get on the bike and ride, all the mental goes out of the window. It’s fun and free. Do I do everything right? No. Do I shift right when I should? No. Do I sometimes hop when I stop? Yep. Do I care? No. The only thing I need to do is find out how to lift this heavy bike by myself. But guess what? I have dropped my bike twice all when stopped. I am good when moving though. I also found out that someone will always come to help you get it back up if you just stand there. So armed with that knowledge, I am good. I just feel dumb, but soon that feeling passes.Oh, and chew gum when riding, it takes the stress off. Here I go down the path of a journey I never knew existed. You couldn’t have told me I would be a motorcycle rider two years ago. My retirement is so so sweet. (All Safety Equipment All The Time)
Tina,It’s so great that you didn’t give up, instead persisting through the fear and finding out about private instruction. I would be willing to bet that your instructor would know of someone who would be willing to give you more personalized instruction on your own motorcycle as well, which would be very helpful.Please check out our article here that will show you how to lift a dropped motorcycle.Keep on riding! ATGATT (All the gear, all the time) is an excellent motto to live by.
Beginners class started at 6:30 a.m. by 10 a.m. I was home. Talk about feeling low. I was nervous just barely passing exercise one; dumped bike on exercise two and I was told I was finished. Told me that they had more exercises and a time to get through them so I had to leave. I will ride. However looking for a one-on-one teacher with no time constraints. If I had known it was not a “true” beginners class I would never have paid for it.
I, too, took the Beginner MSF course a few weeks ago and barely passed. All of the course bikes had carburetor problems, which the mechanic overcame by just upping the idle speed – very disconcerting when trying to learn to ride and master the course. On top of that was an instructor who clearly wanted to be anywhere else but teaching the course. The snide comments this guy would make about each of us were just inappropriate. No positive feedback, just a lot of snarking comments at the end of each exercise. I got home after the course completion and sat down and just cried, mainly to relieve the stress that all of us in the class had endured from this jerk. Some of us, including me, even questioned whether or not we even wanted to ride any longer. After a lot of soul-searching, I decided that this one ill-mannered person wasn’t going to stand in front of me and anything that I wanted to accomplish. I went down the next day and got my endorsement and purchased my own “piglet” – a HD Street 500, and have been having a wonderful time, just taking it slow. Keep your chin up (as well as your head and eyes) and just do it!
I took the class in July 2015 and barely passed. I was the only one of 13 who had no experience. I’m 49 years old and was one of three females in the class. The instructors were very professional and encouraging and so were the other students, even when I knew I was holding class up at times. One thing I did suggest on the survey about the class we did when it was over was that they need a “true” beginners course. A class for individuals with absolutely no experience. Everyone would be on the same level then and you wouldn’t feel so much pressure.
When I took the course, I started out OK, but then gradually fell behind. We were allowed to try different bikes, and I thought I’d like to try the sports bikes. Big mistake – did not like the crouched position. Switched back to the bike I was on, which started giving me trouble. When I finally had a functioning bike, I had missed some of the key exercises and never quite got the hang of slow riding and tight turns. The next day, I did better but ended up failing the course with a very bad off course overshoot.I failed the make-up test as well. It was raining that day and I freaked out and fell. I would have given up if I hadn’t already bought a motorcycle.I went back and took one-on-one lessons and passed quite well. I’ve been riding since May 2014, recently upgraded my bike to one twice the weight and seven times the power of the original bike I owned, and have been told by more than really experienced rider that I have great skills.It all depends on learning style. Maybe a one-on-one lesson would be better for you like it was for me.
I think everyone will have at least some moments of frustration during a class, and that’s normal, it’s just about not letting it get in your head, and pull you down. I had some difficulty my first day, felt frustrated, but I had to get out of my head. I was also fortunate to have a very patient MSF instructor. Now, CAN you learn on that Dyna? Sure, it’s possible, but it will be harder and take more time, and a bigger bike can be intimidating for a newer rider, in the beginning. You want to keep your desire up, not fear. And there are great intro Harleys, if your heart is set on HD, but there’s so, so many great starter bikes out there to choose from that will make your heart sing. Very best of luck, and just remember, so many of us have had nights awake stressing, only to be out smiling, riding shortly after. Just don’t give up!
The MSC was a terrible experience. I had not ridden for 35 years. First day, had a bike that wouldn’t perform. Was not able to successfully do any of the exercised correctly the first day. Instructors kept shouting at me to lay of the brake, lay off the clutch. It was like riding a bucking bull. Almost didn’t go the second day.Saw a dude on a Harley parked on the side of the road and just talked it out with him. Got to the class, and the instructors gave me a different bike. Turned out the bike had three mechanical problems but the instructors were still dicks about it. It was missing part of the sprocket, clutch was not correctly engaging, rear brake was toast. I passed with zero deductions. The instructor told me they had a bet that I wouldn’t pass. I believe being a woman affected my credibility. They didn’t believe me that the first bike had mechanical problems and had no investment in my passing.Morale of the story, the instructor can make all the difference. The 15 minute conversation I had with a random dude on the way to class was better than the two instructors who had actually bet against me. Don’t give up. Seek out a different instructor. Lots of great videos online. (YouTube had a great one on how to beat the box). You can do this, you got it. Just have to believe it.
Keep chasing your dream of riding! When all of us were 2 years old, we learned everything by failing until we got it. Now that we are adults, most of us think we don’t have to go through that again, but sometimes we do! It sounds like the instructor could have made things a bit easier by spending a few minutes that day to make sure you didn’t leave without your confidence. But hey, here you are still pursuing your dream of riding. People learn when they are ready, and if it takes you longer, then so be it. I am going to give you one word of advice: don’t spoil your chances of attaining your goal by being impatient. Everyone wants their dream bike, and there are lots of bikes out there, and some day you will have yours. Just don’t get in over your head with a bike you are afraid of. Small bikes rock, and riding one until you are really ready to upgrade will make reaching for your dream fun instead of stressful and potentially unsafe. Enjoy the ride, no matter what bike you end up on!
I took my MSF class in 2008. I had already purchased a brand new 2008 HD Dyna Low Rider and had it sitting in my garage. I had absolutely no concept of how to ride but knew it’s what I wanted to do. I was the only one in my class with literally zero riding experience. I’ve never driven a stickshift car so I didn’t even have any concept of how to use the clutch. I started out OK but was a little bit intimidated knowing that everyone else had at least some experience. The class felt like it was going pretty fast and it was a lot to cram into my head in that short amount of time. I was doing OK but absolutely could not get the concept of that darn figure 8 in the box. I just couldn’t get it. Then as we were practicing another exercise I somehow lost control of the bike and down I went. I was so embarrassed but the only thing hurt was my ego. The instructor helped me up and I continued on with the exercise. A short while later another student locked up his front brakes and flipped over the handlebars. He was hurt but able to continue. Neither of us were asked to leave the class.The next day we tested. I still could not get the hang of that darn figure 8 but, at no time during the test did I go down. I clearly failed that part of the test but managed to pass overall. The instructor did however pull me aside and let me know that I barely passed and he suggested I be extremely careful on my brand new, much bigger and more powerful Low Rider that was sitting in my garage.I was excited to have my endorsement but now I was terrified to ride. I had a friend come over and ride my bike to a near by parking lot for me. It was there I took my first ride on my bike. It was terrifying. I just didn’t feel comfortable. When he had me ride it home I was really nervous but I did it. It took me a long time to get out on my own and find streets where I could practice without traffic being an issue but practice is what I needed. I just had to get out and ride.When I felt a little more confident and wanted to get comfortable with going faster, I had a very kind friend who was willing to follow behind me in her car to ensure no one crowded me, and for a comfort factor just in case something happened. After all that it really was just a bunch of baby steps for me. Short rides, getting used to traffic, not being intimidated by groups of other riders, etc. It was slow for me. In my first five years of riding I only put 3,000 miles on my bike. It wasn’t until last year when I met someone who took me on a small group ride where I gained a ton of confidence. Then I hooked up with a lady riders group out of my nearby HD dealership. Once I had people to ride with and really started riding, there was no stopping me. The friends I’ve met have been amazing and I have learned so much.Last year I rode 12,000 miles. This year I upgraded to a 2014 Street Glide Special and have 16,200 miles on him just since March. Not bad for living in MN. So the bottom line is, don’t give up! You can do it! If I did it, anybody can! I would however make sure you can flatfoot it on whatever bike you ride.
If you really want to ride, then you shouldn’t give up! I took MSF course after being a passenger for years. I had never ridden myself and couldn’t figure out what people meant when they talked about shifting — so many up and so many down. Just confused the crap out of me. Anyways, I wasn’t the only one who had never ridden in my class. The only thing the instructor was curious about was that we all knew how to ride/balance a bicycle and that we knew about shifting a standard. He was an excellent instructor! The class had twelve people and we all passed except the lady who dropped out after she went down from grabbing the front brake to hard. After getting my endorsement, I went bike shopping. I had fallen in love with a brand new Harley-Davidson CVO Dyna, but not the price tag, so I searched for almost a month with no luck. Nothing compared with that Dyna, so I decided that I would buy the bike of my dreams right then and I wouldn’t have to worry about getting a larger bike as I became more confident (like so many others do). I still wasn’t ready for the road, so practiced every day in a huge empty parking lot for three weeks. After that I did short rides on country roads until I felt comfortable about going into town. Seven years later I’m still riding the bike of my dreams and when I ride I feel like the bike and I are as one!
I first took the course in Lake County, Indiana, about seven years ago. I took a Friday, Saturday, Sunday course. At the Sat. class I forgot to put the kickstand down and dropped the bike. I was thinking no biggie because two guys in my class and a girl laid theirs down while moving. Instructor came up to me after Sat. class and said I think you need to go home and practice around the neighborhood. I was like WHAT? Are you serious? Isn’t that what this class is for? I was pissed. He told me, “you have to pay more attention.” I didn’t return. I was so pissed off I thought if I did I may want to hit the instructor. I had been driving a stick all my life and didn’t kill it once coming out of first gear. Three years later I was determined and took the class at the McHenry County College here in illinois. Passed with flying colors. Been riding for more than four years now. Sure wish I would run into that #%$hole and show him I ride a Street Glide now. I had excellent instructors at MCC. I do understand their concern for safety and I have seen men and women alike who probably shouldn’t be riding but to purposefully discourage women so that they don’t ride is uncalled for. And yes some people just shouldn’t be instructors. I feel if you really want to ride and you find this at a range happening to you ask for your money back and take it somewhere else.
They told me I couldn’t do it! Of course that made me want it all the more. The written test was a breeze; two people scored 100 percent. I was one of them. I had never ridden a motorcycle in my life and had no idea how to use the clutch. They tossed me onto a Yamaha 250 and I was on tip toes; I’m just 4-feet-10. I fell in five minutes, then I stalled it, then I got it. We were circling and another new woman rider t-boned me and down I went. She should have been tossed from the course right then, but she wasn’t. I got up and on a badly swollen, bruised ankle continued on. I gulped Ibuprofen at lunchtime knowing that the test was coming up. I passed every obstacle they put in front of me. I couldn’t reach the ground and my right foot couldn’t even hold any weight. I did get my license.What the course doesn’t teach you is how to ride in traffic, what it feels like to be tailgated by a mini-van, and that’s what took me off the road for a few years. I almost fell at a stop sign and sold my first bike. I lost my courage, but my husband was determined that I should realize my personal dream of someday riding a Harley. He bought me a Honda Rebel 250 to start with, but I was still a little wiggly, then he came up with the idea of putting me on a 110cc dirt bike, and I found it — courage, shifting, speed — and before I knew it I was going over jumps, laughing and giggling.Now, I ride the little Rebel as much as possible. I’m no longer bothered by tailgaters, cars that come to close, or even dogs chasing after me. I know how a bike feels, I’ve learned how to recover from a slide.The dirt bike taught me more than I learned in the licensing class. My new Harley is in storage and I look forward to riding it next season. I’m finishing this season on the Rebel and have decided that I’ll probably never part with it. My hands cramp sometimes and I can’t always reach the ground as well as I’d like. The lesson here is that you can’t not try, you can’t give up. I wouldn’t recommend a Harley as a first bike, especially if you’re 5 feet 1 inch; that’s not very tall and Harleys don’t balance as well as some of the lower Jap bikes, plus they’re expensive if they get dropped. Buy a small comfortable bike and putt around your neighborhood. Go a little further every time and in no time you’ll be feeling the wind. Good luck, don’t give up, and don’t let someone else tell you what you are able or unable to do. Ride safe!
There are 16 pages of responses, and I haven’t read all of them, so please excuse me if I’m repeating something already said. Instructors, programs, the other students and even the training bikes are all different. Shop around for the program that’s right for you.I used to work in a program where you lost your money if you were counseled out. I now work in a program where you are “counseled on,” meaning that you come back and start the class over at no cost (you get three tries). It takes some people a little longer to get it, and there’s a limit to how long we can keep working with a student who needs more time. Coming back allows you to spend more time on the basics, so using the clutch and braking becomes more natural for you.Some instructors aren’t as patient as others, although if your instructor encouraged you to come back, that probably wasn’t the case. Experienced instructors may have the ability to rephrase coaching suggestions in a way that makes more sense to you. People have different learning styles, and I don’t know of many programs that take that into account. The new H-D Riding Academy does. If a program has bikes that are in rough shape, that can make it harder on student who is new to riding. That might be something to ask about if you feel that may have been an issue. However, some people claim it’s the bike’s fault when it’s really something they’re struggling with. In Colorado, some programs run classes all year. I imagine they do in Arizona. Sign up for a class in January. Full gear in a parking lot (where you never get above 15 mph) in summer is brutal and makes it harder. I agree with those that said you should get your endorsement before buying the bike. That will take a lot of stress off of you. As far as what you should ride, I’m on the fence. I learned on a Harley and have always ridden Harleys. But if you aren’t comfortable with the bike, you won’t ride it. Once you have your endorsement, you can test ride a motorcycle. That will tell you if you’re comfortable or need to work your way up.If you’re still determined to learn, go for it.
I had to take two courses before I found someone who explained it the way I understood. During the second of the two, one of the other ladies mistook the throttle for the brake and hit the cement wall of the school whose parking lot we were using. She survived, had months of physiotherapy but she persevered and is now a full fledged rider.I guess it’s just a question of how bad you want it. If it is meant to happen for you, it will. Best pf luck.
When I took the MSF course, I did fine on the classroom stuff, and the first day on the driving range, I almost dropped the bike. Second day, I started having anxiety issues and couldn’t get the figure 8 down, and one other slow maneuver. Rico, the instructor, took me aside, and told me “I know you can do this. Iif you are willing to stay after the end of the class, we can run through everything and you can retake the test.” I and one other person stayed after, and we re ran through all of the exercises, then each of us r- took the test, and we both passed. My instructor realized that I suffered from social anxiety and that having 15 other people watching me do stuff that I was unfamiliar with was making me too nervous to concentrate. I was also told that even if I had not passed the riding course, my fee was not forfeited, but that I would have to reschedule for their next class to take the course again. Perhaps your MSF folks will offer you the same opportunity?I would also start with a smaller used bike. I started with a 1981 Yamaha Virago. I paid $500 for it and we put a lot of miles on it before I graduated up to a V Star 950. That bike was also used. It was the bike I really started riding on my own on, and I did a lot of my newbie mistakes on it including dropping it and wrecking it (thankfully I was going pretty slow and it didn’t take much to fix).I graduated up to a 1300 Yamaha Stryker after 20,000 miles on the V Star and now I finally have the bike I have always wanted, my 2013 Roadstar Silverado touring bike.I am 53. I started this journey at 49. I have logged about 30,000 miles now and couldn’t be happier.Having an experienced partner to help you, pick you up and dust you off, and teach you all the things about your bike you will need to learn, including changing the oil and checking your tire pressure is a definite plus. I had decided to learn to ride a motorcycle before I met Toby, however, having him alongside me and all that he has taught me and the way he rides my flank guarding me on our rides has not only been a real comfort, but I really think, I would not be quite the rider I am now, if it wasn’t for his support.Don’t give up! You can do it, and when you do there is no substitute for wind therapy.
I took the MSF two years ago and after the first day of hands-on training, I thought I wasn’t cut out for it and was contemplating not showing up the next day (which would have the evaluation at the end). But I showed up and in the middle of the training, the assistant pulled me over to one side and gave me a one-to-one training on clutch and throttle control. I was stalling every time it was my turn to ride out the obstacle but I finally got the hang of it after the-one one-to mini instruction. I am glad I didn’t give up. I now ride a Softail Slim. I love it!Just keep trying. Hopefully, you find a very veritable instructor to help you succeed.
Oh yes,buy that bike and go take the permit class. Here in Maine it was $65. I did that and then rode my 1984 FXRS Harley-Davidson for about two months and then sent my paper in for the DMV to set up a date. Yup I passed it. I think any woman who wants to ride to do it. I also think that there’s a lot of men who don’t like woman riders. Ride on and be safe. Good luck.
I am happy to say that six months after being thrown out of the Basic Rider Course I now have my motorcycle endorsement and have been out riding my Dyna for about a month now. After my failed attempt I did go out and buy the HD Dyna but decided I should probably get the basics down on something smaller. So I then went out and bought a really old, really cheap but good running Honda Rebel 250. Before long I was buzzing all around my neighborhood and then the busy roads running errands and such.I saw that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation was giving out scholarships for the basic rider course so I could try again and only have to pay $50 rather than almost $300. So I signed up at a different training course that I had heard good things about and I passed the course without any problem and so did all the other people that attended. I was ecstatic and excited. I rushed down to get my license the day after and began venturing out on the Harley. I have been riding further and further every chance I get and having a great time. I even made friends with a couple other ladies that attended the course with me and I am looking forward to taking rides with them soon.
Yes, I failed the first time along with another woman and a man. The class is offered every weekend, so it’s not a big deal to come back. With this company it’s free to retake the class. I have put 59,000 miles on my HD since then — from SoCal to DC and back. From PA to SoCal.
Do not give up! Here is my story — I hope it helps. I started riding at 51 and I am also 5 feet 1 inch. (I wish I weighed 110), but weight has nothing to do with it. I also was a passenger for years. But what I did is I got a Honda Rebel and my experienced husband taught me basics and putted around my neighborhood and close parking lot. I still had a hard time at MSF.I chose to go back a second time and passed. But here is some advice to think about. All though we didn’t have a problem it’s hard for some couples to teach each other so think about an individual motorcycle coach. What a difference it made in my riding experience. I used Motorcycle Coaching 101 They were great! Keep your goal and stick to it. Anything worth doing is seldom easy. Believe me it’s worth it.
Annette: I wouldn’t look at the Harley as a first time motorcycle. The best one I found for women, especially short ones is the Honda Shadow. I rode a 750cc for years and was totally happy with it except for the fact that my knees could not take riding on two wheels any more.The Shadow seems to hug the road and become one with you. I’d start looking at those. Next time go to a tech school to get your license. They seem to have more patience than the MSF.
I had the exact experience myself. I live in Florida and I didn’t pass the riding portion also. It was very hot and I wasn’t feeling well. I would retake the class at Harley-Davidson dealership because they let me come back on another day and retake the riding portion of the test at no charge as they knew I was capable of riding after riding for two days in the course.I think the bike you want is too big. I am 5 feet 2 inches and weigh 110 pounds. I started on a 250 V Star rode it for 9 month. I’m on a 1200 Ducati Monster now and by the way I’m also your age. Good luck!
I am an Rider Coach for both MSF and Harley-Davidson’s Riding Academy (and a Ad-hoc Professor, Professional Speaker, and a certified teacher and school administrator). I have read every comment posted and here are my observations from the past five years of teaching motorcycle courses:With regard to Rider Coaches/MC Instructors:1. Every instructor is trained very well on the curriculum, safety, time management, documentation, and are passionate about motorcycling, but not everyone has the core elements of a true teacher. A true teacher is patient, excellent communication skills, and knows how to switch from one teaching style to another to help a student understand a concept. Not “all” motorcycle instructors are trained professional teachers. 2. If you truly believe that your instructor did not mesh with your personality or preferred learning style, simply sign up for another class. 3. Yes, some of the horror stories are true. In my rookie years of being an instructor, I taught with some not so pleasant instructors – I have a list of preferred instructors I will only teach with! I have to protect my name and reputation.With regard to you as a potential motorcyclist, you must reflect on these statements honestly:Just about everyone gets a driver’s license, and to tell you the truth, not everyone should! Not EVERYONE gets a motorcycle license because of three major items: lack of balance, unable to grasp the concepts of the controls, and lack of focus.1. So far in my short coaching career (five years), I have coached out of class a total of two students for not understanding the controls and disliking the idea of shifting! 2. I have coached two students out of class for lack of balance (they admitted to lying the first night of class stating that they knew to ride a bike). 3. Now finally the most important point, the majority of students I have coached out of my classes have been due to “lack focus” during class – either they had a bad day, not feeling well, stressed out, temperatures (hot or cold) are bothering them, the start time of the class, angry that the class is so fast-paced, don’t like the instructor, don’t like the fact that I am a female, the husband/boyfriend is putting pressure on the wife/girlfriend to ride her own ride, etc. Safety is our priority – you cannot afford to be distracted when you are on it! Motorcycling is a skill of the eyes and mind!So here are the REAL questions:1. Is the instructor the REAL problem – if so, sign up again! Don’t you dare give up! 2. Are you focused? Are you learning to ride for the right reason? If so, sign up again! Don’t you dare give up!**Many have asked me if I give private lessons – we are not allowed to due to liability issues.
Thank you, Michele, for weighing in. Some of the best advice I’ve heard from an expert.
You have described what happened to me a year ago, although I had already bought my bike (2003 HD Dyna Super Glide Anniversary Edition). Payed my $200 an was asked to leave because I was having difficulty completing the exercises. I had heat exhaustion. I don’t even remember the drive home. They did offer to let me retake the course under the original $200 fee as long as it was that same year and there were enough students to make up a class; it didn’t happen. I am now dealing with the apprehension of failure and fear because I didn’t get right back on the horse so to speak. I won’t sell my bike because I know some day I will learn to ride, but don’t make my same mistake and let too much time pass because it makes it harder. Good luck.
I have been volunteering for seven years with new riders and my mental checklist for women riders who are very new is to address the common stresses. Many people are very excited and forget to eat, which effects their coordination, strength and endurance. Is the bike lowered so they are capable of easily maneuvering? Establish clear goals with realistic hold points to address concerns; watch for residual anxiety that can build and effect focus and communication. The terms I use to describe the maneuver may be unfamiliar, so I physically show the new rider how to achieve the maneuver. A woman who makes the effort to learn can put so much pressure on herself to succeed that speaking to them about their riding is best done one-on-one, as a mixed group setting can illicit a defensive response where effective communication ceases. Often new riders will be concerned that they are holding others back if they take a little longer to achieve a skill, but our concern is they learn the basics and not crash.I like to introduce new riders to experienced women riders so they have a direct example and can relate to common concerns. It all works, just sometimes I have to step back when a personality clash will derail a reasonable effort.
I took the BRC twice. The first time I had zero experience driving the machine itself. I dropped the bike twice and I was out of the course. My instructor then was encouraging, but I knew that once I hit a certain stage, no learning was gonna happen. A few months later, my husband got me a Honda Rebel to practice on, just riding around the neighborhood; it took a few more months before I “found” second gear. I have found that although they assume that anyone who can ride a bicycle can pick it up in that one course, not a lot can. Long and short of it, I was not ready. Fast forward two years, I took another BRC class again. Did well on the first day, then dropped the bike on the second day when it got to the U-turns. I was ready to give up, but my instructor wasn’t. He got me to making donuts around him. Still unbelievable to me. I passed the course and now I can legitimately ride on the streets and get more practice, get used to traffic. I now ride a Shadow VLX 600. I had to learn at my own pace, with the help of my husband and instructor who believed in me. Forty-two years old and now riding. You’ll get there. too.
Wow! If you had that much difficulty controlling your bike in the MSF class then I would definitely suggest going even smaller for your first bike. What if you started out on a little 150cc dirt bike? Or maybe a dual sport? The lighter bikes are easier to control; dirt and gravel roads have less traffic to worry about, and it doesn’t hurt as much to fall over in the dirt. After you’ve developed your skills, then go ahead and get your Harley! Good luck!
Take private lessons. It sounds like the instructor did the right thing. He DID encourage you to keep trying, so you must have really been struggling on the course. You need to start small. A small bike that is easy for you to handle while learning is best. Practice! Keep stepping up in bikes as you improve. I had a 500, went to 650, then 750, now I have a 1700 Harley! You can get a bike that’s way too much bike for you. I rode for 20 plus years! I took a 16 year break while my kids were young. But even with all my experience, the bikes sizes I mentioned helped me hone my skills again. It only took 3 1/2 years BTW. You need to be nimble on any bike. Get rid of your ego, that dream Harley can wait. You need to be adept at handling a bike. It’s not if you get hurt on a bike, it’s how bad will you be hurt. I’ve been riding again for six years now, but even with all my experience would not have jumped to my big bike when I started riding again. Good luck! Don’t you give up! Just go about it differently.
I also took the course here in Kelowna, B.C. I had an awesome instructor. He went very slow with me. I am 5 feet 4 inches 108 pounds. During the course I started on a 125; then up to a 250 Virago in no time at all. I also had my eyes on a Harley. Bought a 2011 Sportster Low 1200, a much bigger, heavier bike. My husband helped me frpm the beginning to end in a parking lot. It’s the stopping and going, balance, hill starts, corners, etc. It’s whatever you feel comfortable with.
I am so sorry for the experience you had. I am a rider coach and can tell you that we give the student every chance to pass. I have even mentored students that have failed the first time through only to have them take the course again and pass with flying colors. Taking students out on a one-on-one basis putting in several hours several days all at no expense to the student is what I do. I love to see the ladies do well and Pass. Too bad you didn’t have a mentor like me. LOL! I love teaching the BRC.
If it was me, I’d get a small bike for the first two years. You’ll learn easier and faster on an easy-to-handle bike, and let it take the inevitable learner knocks. Plus easier to take and pass your test on.
Don’t let that instructor discourage you! As a kid, I rode go-carts and mini bikes, gradually moving up to dirt bikes. I didn’t own a street bike until my late 20s. I could barely touch the ground with my first bike, and often tipped over. I read in a motorcycle magazine for women that stated if you can touch the ground and pick the bike up off the kick stand, you can ride it. If you go with that Harley, make sure your husband lowers the shocks far enough that you can comfortably touch the ground. All it takes to ride, is a lot of practice. Before I applied for my license, I rode my cycle to work, and rode around the paved back roads. If a licensed rider rides along on his bike, you’ll learn more than going by yourself. When I was ready to take the road test, I passed with flying colors! When you take the test, you’ll have to drive a serpentine, etc. so make sure you use a cycle you are fully comfortable with. You might want to consider using a smaller bike for the road test. The trick is not to get so nervous that you freak out! Good luck, and ride safe!
Just failed my MSF yesterday and was the only one in my class. After 14 years of not riding (I had learned on and successfully ridden a ’98 Dyna Super Glide back in the day), and after successfully conquering cancer, I was determined to make the next 50 years count and get my dreams in hand; just turned 55. I decided to take the course and obtain my endorsement with my permit in hand. I’m also a military veteran, so I’m not unfamiliar with bias as I am a small Asian chick and always wear pink. Maybe it was the pink helmet or all the factors combined, but man, did I get singled out and asked to return for 10 more hours. I had to agree with the instructors since my nerves were shot by the time I was evaluated since their criticizing and head shaking had destroyed my confidence, and I choked on the figure 8; I felt their eyes rolling while I scrambled through the simple curve, went blank when they hollered for me to keep my head up, look at them, go faster, go slower – I tanked out mentally! Having said all that, I’m researching private lessons now, will pass the course, determined to fight back and get my money’s worth. My battle plan is to never give up, but my opinion is the course moves quicker than expected, and not all instructors are created equal, (they passed a young man who dropped his bike before we even left the staging area, just not during eval). And I plan to wear my pink helmet. 🙂
Annette, If you truly want to learn and are not doing it for someone else, don’t give up! The first time I took the class, I was asked to leave the third day. After a giant temper tantrum, a long bout of pouting and a bit of research, I went and got my training permit and bought a 250cc motorcycle. I bought what my mind was ready for and not what everyone said I should have. I did everything at my pace but had great support group from my husband and brother-in-law. I went through all three of my maximum allowed training permits and also took the class a second time. I made it through the class but didn’t score high enough on the riding part to pass but was invited back for a retest. At the very end of my third training permit, I took the DMV test and the re-test with class. Finally I passed! I put 1800 miles on my 250 before I declared to my husband I was ready to move up. The most valuable lesson I walked away with is embrace my weaknesses and ride within my ability. I love riding but am still a tentative rider in certain situations (which happen to be the same situations that affect me in a car). Stick with it, ride safe and enjoy it! Good luck.
Annette – I’ve been riding since 2002. I’m 4 feet 10 inches, 105 pounds. and 52 years old. When I took the course, I’d only ridden as a passenger. The instructors were very helpful, even modifying a Honda Rebel so I could touch the ground better. It was difficult, but I made it through the class. Don’t give up. You do it.I graduated from a Honda Rebel to a Honda VLX. I was always nervous with the bigger bike, especially at slow speeds. Now, I have a Can-Am Spyder. Although I do miss the lean on curves, I have no fear of falling over. I have a 1100cc’s so I can keep up with everyone. Love it.No matter what you choose to ride, don’t give up. Learning to ride my own has been the most empowering thing I’ve done and it brings me so much joy. If you choose to join the Spyder ranks, come join our virtual group – Girls on Spyders (GOS). There you’ll find tons of support and encouragement! Shop around and find the MSC that will make you feel supported and encourage you. I agree with Jennifer’s suggestion of interviewing the instructor first. Good luck and keep us posted on your success!
I learned to ride when I was 46, and then took the course again when I was 53. I took the class from Harley-Davidson. With those classes you get more seat time and I interviewed the coach over the phone and explained that the first class didn’t think women should ride and gave me a hard time (I still passed though). He said that was unacceptable and proved that I could ride. I am still really nervous and haven’t made it to the “big street,” US 19 in Florida, but I am determined and will get there. You can do it. Find another instructor, there are lots of them out there. Do a phone interview and see how you feel with that instructor.
After 45 minutes struggling with a hard-to-pull clutch and a faulty shifter, I withdrew from the class on my own. I was slowing everyone down and my lack of control over the machine was a danger to myself and others. I did, however, stay and watch for the rest of the day, which the instructor said no one else had ever done before. So he encouraged me to keep trying until I passed, which I eventually did.Not everyone is ready for the beginner course. To be honest, most of the riders in my class had been riding a while on a temporary permit or were back for a refresher – I was the only one who’d truly never sat in the driver’s seat. My advice is to find a class of REAL beginners, preferably women, with no more than 5 or 6 in it. If you can find someone to give you one-on-one instruction, even better.
I got my endorsement for my 50th birthday. I was able to do it on a scooter which was much less intimidating. You should see if the have scooter or women only courses. I know in Washington state you can find them. I got my endorsement and within a month got a used Suzuki GZ 250 and rode that for the summer. This spring I moved up to a Honda Shadow 750. This has helped me get more confident on my terms without feeling pressured. It also helped that I had a very kind and encouraging MFS instructor. Don’t give up!
I thought it was going too fast too.They scare the crap out of you about all the dangers then they push push push. I didn’t get kicked out but I wanted to smack one of my instructors in the face due to the way he was “coaching” me in a “silly-women-pick-it-up-too-slow” patronizing attitude. I just tried to ignore everything they were trying to coach me and tried not to over-think it. I passed everything on the test even though I thought I wouldn’t because I tried to just ignore them and just do. Screw them, just go back and do it. Watch the DVD “The Long Way Round” and you’ll feel better. Their cameraman flunked the class and then rode around the world two weeks later. You’ll get it. Just practice around neighborhoods. The faster you go, the easier it gets. The slow speed stuff is the most difficult.
I can relate to Annette’s situation of taking the MSF in the heat here in Phoenix. My husband and I took the course together in late April 2012. It decided to get to 100+ that day.The classroom portion went great for both of us, and we both aced the written test with no problem. However, during the first afternoon on the range, the heat, combined with his diabetes, made my husband not able to finish the riding portion. I toughed it out, but at the end choked on one of the tests and failed the riding exam.But, the school we went through was great. I went back the very next weekend (and didn’t have a bike of my own to practice on during the week), and they let me practice a bit with the class, then took my test and, while I could have done better, I shaved off enough points to pass.The school also let my husband come back and do all of his riding training, and when he was done, he aced the riding test, too.Now, we have a nice Honda Shadow VLX (600) that I primarily ride at the moment.I guess the biggest thing I can suggest is that if you really want to do this, don’t let anything stand in your way. Some have suggested private lessons. That is one option. You might try looking into a different school, too. Not all schools (or instructors), even with MSF certification, are created equal. We went through Team Arizona and couldn’t be happier.
Just this morning I took day one of the MSF riding course, or I should say 1/2 day. I was not asked to leave by the instructors, I made the decision to remove myself from the course. I felt that the class was moving too fast for me. I was still trying to coordinate my clutch, throttle and braking activities and they were moving to shifting into second! I became very anxious and that is not a good feeling to have while riding. It was also pouring rain and my glasses kept fogging up so badly I could barely see the cones. One of the instructors offered to work with me privately and I will probably take her up on the offer. I don’t blame the instructors for my failure, I just couldn’t keep up with the fast pace of the class. I have a Honda Rebel and I feel with additional practice of the basics I will be able to take the course again with more confidence.
I also was told to leave the class because the instructor told me I was an endangerment to the group. It was August and 105 degrees and no shade, hot pavement, wearing long sleeves, boots, gloves, helmet, I was overheating; the day before two of the people went home throwing up for it being so hot. Well the group voted for me to have a second chance, so during the test I did not take the curve at the speed the instructor wanted me to, so I failed the test by two points.Also this lady was hateful towards me during the whole class which made me very uneasy. But, I did go take my driving test at the police department and got my license anyway. That has been 15 years ago and I go where I want, alone or with someone else, long story, but if you want to ride, do not let being told to leave stop you. Go get your license and Ride Sister Ride!
I am 65 this year and have been asked out of both the MSF class and the Rider’s Edge class. It has taken me a total of four years, but this year (after both knees being replaced) I finally got the hang of it and got my endorsement, thanks to a great instructor who really cared if I made it or not. I did have to trade my Softail in for a Tri-Glide because of balance issues, but I now know what I had been doing wrong before and ride with confidence. My logic was that if others can do this, so can I. I’m running out of time and I know there has to be some fun somewhere in life! I am determined to find it! Good luck, girl you’ll win if you don’t quit!
I would agree that the Suzuki 650 LX (Savage) is a great first bike. I sold mine and regret it. A friend of mine failed the MSF course. She actually crashed and broke her wrist. Her husband is an avid motorcyclist. She rode alongside of him and learned to ride that way. She logs several thousand miles a year now. I started riding at 50. I am now 58.
I wasn’t kicked out of my class, I failed the test by one point after spending three exhausting days on the asphalt in 90 degree heat. I was devastated, especially since I’d been riding a dual sport for three years and was a pretty confident rider. I couldn’t believe that some of the people in my class were passed. I wouldn’t want to be on the road with some of them. Don’t give up. I know many people who failed or were disqualified from the program who went on to get their endorsement. I continued to practice my skills and re-took my MFS skills test with a private evaluator and passed. That was four years ago and I am a successful rider, today.
I was in the powersports industry for 25 years. Everyone says aRebel for first bike. I respectfully disagree. I always recommended the Suzuki 650 single. (I think they call it the LS650 now; it used to be called the Savage.) It’s close to the Rebel in size and weight, yet will keep up in traffic without being flogged to death like the Rebel. It’s single cylinder 650cc motor, while not the fastest thing in the world, has ton of torque and if you make a mistake and forget to downshift, it doesn’t care. Just roll on the throttle and it goes. It might shudder a bit, but will not stall in most situations. To top it off, it’s a much better chance you’ll be happier with it longer, and be less likely to make the jump to a bigger bike too soon…before you are truly ready.
I had a similar experience. I am 54 and wanting to ride my own ride has been a passion for a long time. I took the class six years ago, and it was miserable. It was hot, and I was nervous and the instructor was not very encouraging. I have been riding with my husband for many years and really wanted to ride my own bike. So I took the course again, but this time I took private lessons. Although it was more expensive it was worth it to me. My instructor was great. He was patient and made sure I learned every skill thoroughly. I learned a lot physically, mentally and emotionally. At first, I thought of buying the Dyna Low Rider, it is a beautiful bike, but after a lot of thought and consideration, and talking with several experienced riders, I thought it would be a bit much to begin on. I rode a Honda 250cc Rebel for awhile to build my confidence and now have moved up to the 2014 Honda 750 Spirit. I love the ride! It is comfortable for me, has plenty of highway power and I smile more all the time. Don’t give up your dream.
I am a female retired MSF instructor who taught the course for 17 years. I understand your frustration and have to say how much I hated having to dismiss a student whether male or female, but we were under pressure not to let students hold the rest of the class up. I always felt there should have been a true novice course one step below the basic rider course as so many students who had never been on a bike needed a little extra practice with balance, friction zone and shifting. There were times I took students with difficulty aside on their breaks to work extra with them. I strongly urge you as well to purchase a small used bike to learn on first. My heart goes out to you.
I empathize with your experience. This time last year, I was only thinking about learning to ride, and had about three hours total on a bicycle since 1980 and never got within 10 feet of a motorcycle. But after my first ride as passenger last July, I was determined to learn. At 51 years old and possessing little confidence in a group situation, I paid for a 90-minute one-on-one introduction to riding. Took the peer pressure and embarrassment factor out of it. Two weeks after that I enrolled in the Basic Rider Course and I can affirm, the pace was very, very fast for this older gal and brand new rider. As the only person over 40 and the only woman, I felt pressure (from myself), and it was my nerves that nearly DQ’d me on Day two. At one point the instructor said “Control your machine!” and at another point I rode out of the pattern to calm my nerves. Unlike your experience, the instructors let me stay, and after I convinced myself I was going to fail, I relaxed and rode the patterns. I passed, but was not confident at all. I echo Karen and Cathy in starting smaller, then working up. The 250s aren’t that expensive. I’m still on my Yamaha V Star 250 after seven months. At 5 feet 6 inches with a 31-inch inseam, I don’t have seat height issues, but am willing to practice and master the skills on a lighter weight bike until I feel confident to handle a more expensive, bigger bike, which I plan on acquiring in December, a year after I got my 250. It seems like “starting small” is not the popular route, but for me it was definitely the right one. Good luck, and don’t give up! Maybe you just need more individually-paced instruction. Yes, you can learn to ride after being kicked out of the class. I bet my instructor would be very surprised to see me commuting on my bike! Without a doubt, I was the most insecure rider there.
Sorry you had a rough time. My class was good, but my husband failed his class. He felt intimidated and nervous. He gave it up. I been riding nine years. My advice is to start small. I highly recommend the Honda Rebel 250. Low seat, light weight and easy shifting. Almost like riding a bicycle. Don’t be encouraged to move into a large bike right away. Harleys are powerful bikes. You will grow confidence on a small bike more quickly than a larger one. Look for a used bike in good condition. Take someone with you who has bike maintenance experience. Try craigslist. You can find good deals there. Don’t give up. Be patient. Your confidence and skills grow with mileage. Best wishes. Cathy (age 65) Suzuki C50
I think these instructors should be reported to the MSF. Cry, because it would be terribly embarrassing, but then take action to keep this from happening to someone else. I took and passed the MSF course in the early 1980s. When I started riding again 10 years ago, I took a private ($$$$) course. Sadly in both classes, I noticed instructors picking on some of the more petite women. Since I’m not very girly looking I sailed right through both classes. If I could go back in time I’d report the instructors. The reason we go to classes is to learn. They should be prepared to teach *anyone* to ride a motorcycle who can ride a bicycle.
My first experience riding a motorcycle was on the passenger seat of a friend’s Harley-Davidson shovelhead. I wanted to ride and get a bike. So I registered for the MSF class. The first two days were classroom training. It was very interesting and I learned a lot. The day we went out on the track, they gave me a 250cc Suzuki to ride. A girl I had met in the class who could ride was given a 125cc. Most of the class were heavyweight bikers who were taking the class to get their license.They started us out pushing the bike with our feet and then feet up on the pegs. I didn’t have any problem balancing the top heavy bike. I could ride it slowly and stop on the the assigned mark and start again. The one instructor said I was doing well. I rode around the track several times. Then we had to ride it through a slalom course and not hit any pylons. I did it just fine. The other instructor started getting annoyed at me yelling to speed it up. Then he would jump in front of me waving his hands to stop. When I rode back around to the first instructor, I told him that I couldn’t do this. He said, “You’re doing fine.” Then the second instructor said, “You’re not keeping up with the class and need to quit.” He had me in tears. He said another girl “dropped” her bike and you will too. Apparently he was the boss and what he said went. Also he said to use the front brake and not both the front and rear brakes. I felt the MSF class was not to teach you to ride. It was an easy way for the heavyweight bikers to get their endorsement. In Indiana if you pass the class you don’t have to take the state test. And it was much easier to take the test on a lightweight bike. That’s fine if I wouldn’t have passed the class, but I should have been allowed to continue to learn to ride a motorcycle. Many of the other students thought I had been treated unfairly. I have a Harley-Davidson Sportster 883. I still want to learn to ride.
I live in South Dakota and I currently ride, but a friend of mine who is new to riding took the MSF course a few weeks ago, and she also was asked to leave the class. I thought that is why you went to the class, to learn to ride. She was told that “she just wasn’t getting it” and that “she was holding up the class.” She felt like a failure, she was embarrassed. We have taken her out to a parking lot and worked with her and she is doing well, but she is still going to take the course, from a different instructor. I was fortunate enough to have started riding after the course on a Suzuki Savage, then went up to a Volusia, then a Kawasaki Vulcan. Now I ride a Victory Vegas Low, and it is perfect. I wish her the best because she really wants to ride with us.
AnnetteI didn’t fail my MSF class, but we were pushed through all of the motorcycle riding (range work) in one day due to snow the day before. I passed, but had zero confidence. I took the class in the fall. So, in the spring I took another class and went out and bought a V Star 250. I know women who started on much bigger/heavier/more powerful bikes…but, for me, the 250 was the right way to start. The bike was not in the least bit intimidating so I had fun every time I was on it. Once I had ridden it for about three months, my husband suggested I try a 750. I did and traded for the 750. What I didn’t realize was that all that practice on the 250 was building skills and muscle memory that translated to riding the bigger bike and the transition to the 750 was not at all difficult. One year after getting the 250, I sold the 750 and bought a HD Deluxe. I think smaller bikes are easier to learn on. You don’t have the mental issue of getting over the size/weight/power of a bigger bike. Once you have gained some experience and confidence, a bigger bike may seem easier to ride just because they are not pushed around by wind and feel more planted to the ground in curves.
I’m 59 and have been riding for about 3.5 years. I took the MSF class through Ride Now in Tucson. There were four women in our class, only two walked away eligible for a license; luckily I was in the happy group, but only by a few points. (Two men also failed that second afternoon, but nobody really paid attention to that statistic.) When I registered for the class there was an option to wait a few weeks for a female only class. I wonder if that might be an option for you? I’ve read a few articles that have concluded that some women are less intimidated and more confident when they aren’t in a mixed gender environment. Although I got my license two days later, I wasn’t ready to hit the road by myself. My fiancé (now husband) took me out almost every night and on weekends for anywhere from a half an hour to two hours of riding on backstreets and quiet country roads. He rode in front of me so I could watch and learn; he also rode behind me to see how well I was learning, and we sometimes rode with a third rider who could help evaluate how I was doing. By early spring I was riding by myself, becoming more confident, testing and pushing myself to learn my comfort zone and abilities. I ride a 2011 H-D 883 SuperLow and I love it! At 5-feet-2 I thought I would ride this bike forever, but we have started wandering into the local H-D dealership to look around. I can now handle a Softail Slim Low, but since there is now a 1200 SuperLow available, I’m leaning in that direction.I encourage you to keep trying, listen to your own inner voice, don’t let others tell you yay or nay. Like others have said, sign up for some garage parties, maybe find a women’s riding group for the occasional ride. Welcome to riding!
I hope Leigh Ann of Thousand Oaks sees this message… Chrome Divas of Socal Go to Meetup.com and search that name. I belong to this group of women only riders.
Mary, we will make sure she sees it. Thanks!
My experience as a beginner started with an MSF class which I did pass. I got my license and then thought I was ready to practice on the H-D Sportster my husband had for me to ride. The problem was we live way up on the side of a mountain, up a class 5 dirt road. I couldn’t even get the bike up our very steep driveway. He had to drive it into town; find a flat place to practice; then drive it home. Finding time to do this in between snows and before the tourists hit the area (meaning no quiet places to practice) wasn’t working. I was ready to give up until this year. We bought a H-D Trike and now I can ride up and down the mountain, my driveway, and to Santa Fe and back. This may not be quite as romantic or sexy as a two-wheeler but it gets me on the road with my husband and I’m loving every minute of the ride. However, none of this would have happened had my instructors not been encouraging and patient which I understand many of them are not. I also agree the class isn’t long enough for the incredible amount of basic skills one has to acquire in order to pass. It’s too much for a beginner to absorb and really mucks with the self-confidence when taking the test. I did it but it left me shaken vs. feeling victorious.
My MSF course was in Georgetown, Delaware, during a NorEaster storm, 60 to 70 mph winds and rain. My eyeglasses kept fogging up so I couldn’t see where I was going so I dumped the Honda Rebel. The instructor was very kind and helped me up. The second time it happened I told him I will take this class again when I buy contact lenses. A couple months later I had contact lenses and rescheduled but my dad passed away from Multiple Myeloma. I again canceled the class; they refunded my fee. Three months later when I came home from Florida I scheduled the class again and passed it. I purchased a used Honda Rebel from a girl on craigslist that I upgraded to a Harley. I loved that bike, It is what I learned to ride on. It was great riding it on the back roads to Broadkill, Rehobeth, Lewes, Fenwick Island beaches. My Rebel got 65 mph; it saved me tons of money on gas. I believe that a new rider should start on a smaller, lighter bike first before moving to a larger bike. A 250cc is easier to control and so much fun and are so inexpensive if you buy used. Also, remember “All The Gear All The Time!”
I took the motorcycle safety course about six years ago after not riding a motorcycle for 20 years. I guess I was lucky because all the bikes were 250cc and well maintained. I would suggest that the reader buy a 250cc dual sport bike so she can go out on the back roads to practice. Buying a used bike costs less and if dropped repeatedly is easy to pick up. She can always buy a bigger bike when she gets more experience.
Annette, sorry to hear that you had a less-than-ideal experience. Forgive me if I’m reiterating things that other commenters have said, but having just entered the world of riding about a year ago myself, I did want to put in my two cents:First off, your instructor is right about one thing: don’t give up. The BRC is a great start, but just because a rider passes it does not mean that she’s ready for the road anyway. I took the BRC last year with a female friend and about nine guys – while we all passed the course, I don’t believe that a single one of us was actually ready to share the road with four-wheeled vehicles. Be patient, and explore some of MSF’s additional course offerings like Private Lessons or Additional Practice which may be a better fit for you, and request a different instructor who teaches in a manner more beneficial to you. I’m not sure what your state requirements are, but if you’ve already passed the written portion you can likely take the road test at your DMV when you feel ready – you don’t need the BRC for that. From a mechanical standpoint, I wholeheartedly agree with the commenter who said that learning how to drive a stick shift car really helps with coordination. I truly believe that I never would have grasped the shifting concept on a bike if I didn’t already know it from a car. But, if you’re less concerned with the mechanics and just want to enjoy the road, consider that there are bikes available with automatic transmissions and scooters that can get you across the country. Neither involve shifting, and you still get the wind in your helmet.On that note, I’ll share the story of my first bike: on the heels of passing the BRC I was so excited to acquire my own motorcycle that I threw my usual good sense to the wind and bought an old Yamaha Radian off of eBay. Never did it occur to me to go LOOK at it before buying, and I ended up with a 600cc bike that felt like a monster to me. It weighed about 500 pounds (not a lot by bike standards) and while the seat height wasn’t terrible at 31.5 inches, the bike was W-I-D-E, and at 5-feet 5 inches tall I had nothing but tiptoes on the ground when I sat on it. Before I ever even rode it, I dropped it on myself in my driveway and enjoyed a gigantic, ugly bruise that took up most of my calf for three weeks. I kept thinking, what if I did this in an intersection? At that point I had to admit: I was not ready for the bike that I loved. So, without putting one mile on it, I sold the Radian and bought myself a 125cc scooter. The way I see it, a motorcycle is definitely in my future, but I want to be confident that I know how to share the road and handle a two-wheeled vehicle that goes over 20 mph before making that investment. Riding is a combo of balance, physics and coordination, so if I can get used to those things on a friendly scooter first, it’s less that’s new to me when I decide to transition to a motorcycle in the next few years. Even more so than cars, bikes depreciate hugely the second they’re off the dealer’s lot, so I don’t want to purchase one again unless I’m sure I can ride it.It’s so easy to be in a rush to hop on your dream bike, but riding is only fun if you can do it safely and with confidence. As you find your riding style, it may end up that you’d even prefer a different type of bike altogether! Best to start with something that you’re not going to be heartbroken about if you give it a few scratches while still getting to know the ropes. You will get there – and it’ll be worth the wait.
I hope I am not too late to comment on Annette’s experience. I completed the MSF class in May and my experience was so much like hers. I did topnotch in the classroom portion, but once we reached the driving area, everything went south. I did pass the class but my score was the lowest in the class (mortifying). I could not get the slow maneuvering down and had to do the swerving portion twice. The class seemed to move so quickly that I had difficulty getting one exercise down before they started on another more difficult one. At one point, I even went over to the side and told the instructor I wanted to hold off on that particular exercise. He said if I did, I would not pass the class. So, I performed it and barely passed. Prior to taking the class I had purchased a 2008 Harley-Davidson Sportster. Although it was rated as one of the best for new riders (women especially), it was higher and more top heavy than I expected nor could handle. With the help of a friend, I have recently lowered the bike and wear higher heeled boots to accommodate my 5-foot-4 frame.Since the class, I have been practicing slow maneuver turns, stop-starts, etc. and it is SLOW learning. I have even considered giving it up several times but I hate quitting anything. I have since lowered the bike which helped tremendously and my turns are finally coming around. What they say is true, you have to have faith in your bike and confidence in yourself and this only comes with time. As far as the class is concerned, my personal opinion is that had I the opportunity to start over, I would have learned the basics through a friend/family member who had a bike, practice, and then take the class to fine-tune my skills. How long to practice before the class depends on the rider. I still struggle with it, but since I am seeing small improvements I plan to continue riding. The motorcycle has proven to be one of the biggest factors in my ability to ride confidently. Had I started with a bike I could stand flat-footed with a bended knee, I think my experience would have been far better. Lowering it has definitely helped!
Dear Annette,I can understand your fear totally. I had always been a passenger, but upon seeing so many women riding their own motorcycles when I was in Sturgis, I was convinced I had to try to see if I could do it, OR would like riding my own bike. It took me three tries before I finally got my license. My first MSF class through Harley-Davidson, I locked the wheels I dumped the bike, and after that fall was too afraid (and shaken up) to continue. But I’m not a quitter, and I felt as if I hadn’t really given my self a chance. I realized what I had done wrong, and fear was the real culprit. I signed up for a second course. I was doing really well, but the weather wouldn’t cooperate; as it poured and thundered on and off, we had to stop the training. I aced the written tests, and we were all given the chance to take the road course again. My husband (a Harley rider) was a great encouragement and was with me every day during the riding part of the course. I was the only female in the group, and knowing my “story” the guys were rooting for me too. I guess I wanted to succeed and do this so badly that the fear finally subsided and I actually began to have fun on the bike. Well, I got a perfect score on the skills exam and now had my motorcycle license! That was 2007 and I have been riding my Honda Shadow Aero 1100 all this time. We purchased this bike before I had even passed the test. I thought it was too big after using the 500 Buell Blast for the course, but the Honda Rebel I would probably out-grow in a few months, and I don’t like Sportsters, The next Harleys would be too big or heavy. The Aero was a good choice, being a big bike, but well balanced and lighter (about 600 pounds). It was a bike I could keep forever. And I have never thought of buying another. I am so glad that I didn’t give up on the first AND second try because I realize all the wonderful fun I would be missing. My motorcycle, Lolita, is my BFF (LOL) and she has given me more confidence, strength and pride. I still ride my own ride and stay within my comfort zone to stay safe. I wear the proper gear, even in the summer. I keep my bike well maintained and safe.Bottom line: if you really want something bad enough, don’t let fear get in the way. Keep the “what ifs” out of the picture and the fear will lessen. It’s what gets us into trouble a lot of the time anyway! Get all the skills you need to feel safe, practice, practice, practice and if you feel that the bike isn’t good for you, there are plenty of motorcycles out there to suit every rider.Good luck and happy trails to you!
I’m so glad I took the time to read this article. I, too, failed a MSF course and was devastated. It was raining that morning and the instructor wanted to rush us through the course. The other students were experienced riders but I was not. Because she was rushing us through the course, I felt very intimidated. I felt like I was holding up the class so that added to my nervousness and I just couldn’t get it down. She failed me. I have a Harley Sportster but I feel it is too big to learn on so I am trying to sell it to get a Honda Rebel. My biggest hang-up in my head is will I get the shifting part down. I really want to ride with my fiancée.
Bigger, powerful bikes are great for some things – touring long distance on the freeway, for example. But they are a pain to pick up (and likely to be dropped) and it’s annoying when you park facing slightly downhill and have to get somebody to push you in reverse to get out of it. I don’t think getting a bigger bike means you have “graduated” or that it proves you are a better rider.I started about nine years ago on a Ninja 250 (twin), then went to a Honda 599 (inline four), then to a Tiger Triumph 800 (triple) and loved them all. I was very comfortable on all of them, and even rode the Honda alone to Mexico once. Recently I sold the Tiger and bought a 2006 dualsport Kawasaki KLX250 and it is a total blast. Easy to maneuver, easy to pick up, really fun and challenging on dirt roads, through ruts and mud. I don’t even mind it on the freeway. It corners beautifully at speed. And I get 75 mpg.All kinds of motorcycles have their good points and I’d have four of them if I could afford it. My Kawi is kind of tall for someone to learn on, but there are lots of other really fun small bikes. Keep in mind that not too long ago a 250cc was considered a “medium” bike and a 500 was big. I recommend Lois Pryce’s books about her solo trips from Alaska to the tip of South American on a 225 and all the way down through Africa on a 250.I guess my point is that riding a motorcycle should be something *you* want to do and you don’t need to listen to people who push you towards getting a larger bike – especially if you’re just learning. You don’t need to prove anything to anybody.Again, I’m not saying big, powerful or fast motorcycles aren’t fun. But I’m very happy with my choice to downsize. Your mileage may vary!
I like your viewpoint: “I don’t think getting a bigger bike means you have “graduated” or that it proves you are a better rider.” For some reason there is this unwritten notion that the better rider you become, the bigger more powerful motorcycle you should ride, or graduate to. I think this is worth exploring in an article. Thanks for the idea.
For me, the obstacle to riding a motorcycle is not having a safe place to learn how to ride in traffic. I live in some of the worst traffic congestion in the country (West Los Angeles). I took the MSF course a few months ago, and while I was gratified that the riding coaches passed me, there is NO WAY I am ready to get out on my local streets and start riding. I was surprised and disappointed to learn there aren’t instructors/schools who provide classes on good bikes where you can learn for a few months before buying a bike. (I could take private lessons from the same people who ran the MSF course, but it is horribly expensive because they have to cover the range fees, and the bikes are in bad shape — even the riding coach has trouble finding neutral on many of them.)You would think that the MSF would encourage or sponsor more training options for people who took the BRC and got their license, but need supervised practice for a few months of regular riding before buying their own bike. This would be instruction on city streets, not just the range.
Annette,I live in the Phoenix metro area and I can’t imagine taking the MSF class in the heat. Rest assured that beginners often have issues learning and are sometimes told that they need to take the course again. I wasn’t asked to leave but I did fail the test miserably the first time I took the class and I too cried for days, so disappointed in myself. However, I went back a couple weeks later and retook the riding part of the class and passed the test with the best score in the class. So, don’t give up! You may want to talk to the instructor to see if there is someone that could do some one-on-one work with you in preparation for taking the class again.As far as the Dyna Low Rider, well, I’ll tell you the same thing I tell all new riders: I took the MSF course and bought a brand new bike and wrecked it within 100 miles. I’m not saying this will happen to you but I can almost guarantee that you will drop your bike that first year. Dropping your new pride and joy totally sucks. Instead, I suggest that you buy a bike that is a few years old and is about 500cc. Ride that bike for a year and in that year two things will happen: 1) You’ll know if riding is really something you want to do; sometimes people discover it really isn’t for them. 2) You will have gotten some good experience on a bike that is more forgiving.Wishing you all the best and many miles of fun.
Annette,I had a slightly different experience than you, but I hope my story will encourage you to not give up. After I expressed to my husband I wanted to ride he got me and my 19-year-old son signed up for MSF classes. He got us a 250 Honda Rebel to get started on before classes. I did OK; my son, well being 19, did great. I was 51 at the time and I am 5 feet 1 inch. So while we were learning just in our neighborhood my husband found this awesome HD 883 SuperLow and bought it. Nothing made wanting to learn more than a motorcycle sitting in the garage waiting for me. The day before I was to go to the riding portion of the MSF, my husband said, “You’re doing pretty good; let’s get you up on the Sporty.”I should say, he is the most patient of men and I trust him with my life. I was so nervous and I didn’t have any idea how powerful my Sporty was. Well I didn’t feather the clutch on a turn and crashed into a curb. I was bruised and sore and I had this class I had to go to with my son the next day, which I did. I had a hard time to say the least. But the instructor came over to me before I did the final and said that I looked unsure of myself and suggested I come back (which you can do at no charge as many times as you need to). I confessed to him what had happened and he said I was brave (nice guy) but I was crushed! I cried the whole way home. I did go back weeks later, but not after questioning myself and my ability that I could do this thing. It took my son to say, “Mom you never let me give up on anything so you can’t give up you have to stick with it.” I went back and only passed by the skin of my teeth, but I was so happy I jumped up and down for joy! I rode my 883 for a year and took some private lessons just a couple of months ago and I feel that it made me a better rider. I just bought a 1200T SuperLow, so baby steps are a good thing. I hope that this is of some help for you.Please consider a private instructor. They teach just you and it is totally confidential. Might be a bit expensive, but worth every penny. I wish I would have tried a private instructor sooner. I don’t know where you live but I used Motorcycle Coaching 101.
I had a bad time in the motorcycle safety class. I got overheated and had to drop out. The next year I passed the class and have been riding ever since. Started with a small bike 800 Suzuki now I have a Kawasaki Vulcan 900 You have to make a commitment to just do it.
I have an experience that is somewhat opposite to Annette. I aced the course, got 100 percent on my riding skills and I have experience many years ago riding a dirt bike. My first street bike was a 700-pound+ bagger. I wound up with this beauty (it was a beautiful bike) because the salesman pointed it out saying it was lighter than most cruisers. After sitting on it and finding I could stand the bike without much effort I bought the bike. No test ride. The dealership would not allow it. In my area of Florida the only dealer that will let you ride a bike before buying is a Harley dealer.Long story short, I tipped it over several times, hurt my leg and lost thousands when I sold it. Could never figure out why the bike kept going over, lost my confidence and on top of that I gained a phobia. The mere act of sitting on a bike had me shaking! BUT I still wanted to ride, got mad at myself every time I saw someone riding a scooter down the street or a group of ladies out for a ride. So I kept sitting on bikes every chance I got until I stopped shaking and had the will to fire one up again. It took a year to get over the fear.I now have a 400-pound used 535 Virago that I absolutely love, have been catching up on my riding skills and one day expect to buy a bigger bike. But for now I am just enjoying the ride.My morale to this story is baby steps. You need to be on a bike that you can easily move around, both with the engine on and off. Take more lessons, in fact find an instructor who will work with you one on one. If you have to earn your riding chops by starting on a scooter so be it. Be safe, go slow, find an instructor your comfortable with, you’ll be riding before you know it.
Hi Annette,I would echo Tricia’s sentiment (posted June 23, 2014) and take a look at the Harley class. While I took the MSF course, my sister took the Harley course. It’s usually covered over five days and seems to have a good amount of hands-on practice. I would also suggest going to one (or several) of Harley’s Garage Parties. Many will have a bike to pick up or a bike set up so you can work through the gears while the bike is stationary.I had trouble with the final in the MSF class and barely passed. I immediately started looking around for bikes. This was September of 2008 and anything in a 250 was very rare – gas prices were insane at that time and many people were trading cars for motorcycles. After test riding several bikes in different sizes, I ended up with a 2005 Sportster 883 Low (another craigslist find) and moved up to a Dyna Low Rider eleven months later. I’m not sure I would love my Dyna as much as I do (38K miles later) if I learned on her. Different story for my sister. She doesn’t have a practice bike and has rented a few times. She lost her nerve recently when she decided to rent a Street Glide and promptly freaked once we got out of the parking lot. I can’t tell her to get a small practice bike – well I could but I would be wasting my breath – she has to figure that out on her own.If you’ve got the bug, then go find a program and instructor that will work for YOU. Get someone you’re comfortable with and don’t settle for less. Take care of yourself during the class and stay hydrated.Best wishes and hope to see you on the road soon!
I decided to learn to ride at age 66 and this is my fourth season riding. I love it! I first tried an all-women HD Rider’s Edge course, with two female instructors. They used Buell Blast 500cc bikes which, in my opinion, are too powerful for an absolute beginner. Seat was a little too high for me. Dropped it twice. I also found one of the instructors a bit condescending.On the second range day, I felt that I wouldn’t be able to pass the road skills test, got discouraged and decided to cut my losses and left that afternoon. Some rider friends/acquaintances encouraged me to re-group and try the MSF Basic Rider Course the next spring (same course as Harleys, costs less here). This time, I was one of three female students, and the oldest, among nine males, many of whom were teens or 20-somethings. They used Rebel 250cc and Suzuki 125cc small bikes, much easier to handle. The two male instructors were mature, patient, encouraging. One of them said that people have varying learning curves…some seem to “get it” early on, then level off; others go slower at the beginning, then jump up to a higher level. Anyway, I passed and felt more confident, but certainly knew I’d need plenty of practice in a parking lot before dealing with actual road traffic. Riding with a patient, small group can also help develop your skills, plus other riders are happy to offer practical tips.So stick with it, Annette. Just learn on a smaller, more maneuverable bike to reinforce what you learned. Happy riding!
I don’t have a long story about the MSF course to tell. My experience was OK but I was a nervous wreck. By chance I bought a small motorcycle before the course without knowing how to ride, and I ended up with the exact bike in the course. My advice I give to women I know and run into is to start SMALL! Too many women in my opinion start out with a bike too big either by someone telling them to or they don’t know what to get and then they give up. Get a used, cheap small 250. Practice on it as much as possible and ride it for at least a year. Gradually move up. I went from 250 to 750, to an 883 and now have a huge Harley all because I took my time and learned how to just ride first.
When I learned long ago than I’d like to admit, the mantra was start small and work your way up to bigger. The course I took used Honda Rebels which while not my favorite bike was great for the course. Smaller, lighter bikes are best for low speed, tight maneuvers and their lower power keeps things safe and reasonable.Trying to learn on a HD Dyna strikes me like trying to do motocross in a semi tractor (without the trailer). In my opinion it’s way too much bike for an entry level rider. My first bike was a Kawasaki 125, then a Honda 400 and finally a Kawasaki Vulcan as I could never find an HD that felt “right.” Although this may not be what you want to hear I hope it helps.
I can sympathize with ladies getting into riding later in life. I was in my mid-40s when I first got my license. Failed the course the first time, tried again and got it. A couple of years later I became an instructor. here’s already been a post from an instructor and I would echo a lot of what she said.I would like to add that most locations have an intro course, which is only half a day and covers the first few sections up to moving off under power. You can then take the full course after this, usually at a discount. Most new riders who run into issues in the course usually have a hard time figuring out the clutch/gas/moving off part and without that, each new skill isn’t practiced as much and they get further behind. If you take the first course, you have had more time to figure that part out. If it’s something you really want to do, keep trying. I wouldn’t suggest trying to learn on your own on a full-sized bike. There’s a good chance you will drop it. The higher powered bike could get you into trouble, and you don’t have an instructor watching for potential problems.
I’m probably gonna get chewed here because I did the opposite, but then I’m a chrome cowgirl, stubborn and ornery and I go down my own road. Anyhow, I took the one-hour pre-class to see what was up. I decided after riding bitch all my life I wanted my own because I had dreamed of it for years and didn’t think I could. I had gotten sick and done four rounds of chemo and was in the warrior mode. We (the coach and myself) decided it was better for me to take the private class because it was slower paced. Third class I crashed the bike. Too fast, got fixated on a mud bog and went right through it and felt the back tire slide. The bike went one way and I the other. I tore up my elbow, bruised all the way down one side. The coach asked me what I wanted to do? I said I wanna ride, I hopped back on it and rode, I never had a problem again. I passed everything. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I have command of the motorcycle, I DONT YET! I need a lot of practice and I won’t go out in public till I do. But, I did just buy my bike, I bought a used 2013 Harley-Davidson FLS Softail Slim. I have been going and sitting on this bike for two years. When it arrives, I will have my girlfriend, who rides a Street Glide, come over as she is my mentor! She also looked at bikes with me. She would say, “Too much bike for you,” but she said after a few days of watching me, she said when I got on the Slim it fit me perfect. She said I looked comfy on it, at home so to speak. We will see what happens when I practice on it. The one thing I do know for myself, it is fear of the unknown for me. I was afraid if I got this big bike in my garage I would be too intimidated to ride it, but I now again have my warrior ‘tude on, I can kick anything’s ass with that! I will ride…one way or the other I will ride! There are private riding classes out there. Check them out!
To Annette – I took the MSF class in Austin, Texas, in the summer and I have to say the instructors were awesome. It was not my first time on a bike since my prior husband (had a few of those) used to ride and I was normally a passenger until he showed me how to ride one of his bikes. Needless to say when I didn’t come right back, he rode out and found me running along side the bike, jumping on and dropping the clutch to get it started again (kick starter was not working for me). That was the end of riding with him.I didn’t get a bike until I moved to Colorado and my first bike was a Yamaha Virago 250. The dealership owner said it would be perfect to make mistakes on and he was right. I rode it until I got the brainy idea to try and go to the mountains. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. I traded the bike in on a 1100 Virago which the dealership tried to talk me out of because it was too big of a jump in size. Yes, I made mistakes, but I did have fun and learned to deal with learning and asking questions. I also found some great people to ride with who were willing to teach me.I now ride a Yamaha Road Star 1700 and have more than 51,000 miles on it. I highly recommend getting a smaller bike no larger than a 650cc just so you can make mistakes without dealing with more power than you can handle. A used bike is the best way to go because you will drop the bike at least once or twice. Don’t worry about picking it up. Check out a gal called “Skert” who shows women how to pick up almost any size bike using leverage. People also are more than willing to help too.If the MSF class doesn’t work, check somewhere else. There are all kinds of instructors. Check with friends whom you trust and see where they went and who taught the class. Remember one thing – no matter how long you ride, you are always learning every time you go on the road. So go sit on some bikes, get the license and ride!
I have read the other comments and have to say that they are right on. I took an MSF class at a local dealership and was the only one in my class who didn’t ride their bike to class (without licenses). The bikes were in horrible condition (Buell 500s) and broke down routinely. I was in tears most of the class. I had to enter the class with my permit, so my husband purchased a small bike for me and we practiced and practiced what we did in class at a grade school parking lot.He did not want to teach me initially as he felt that was an instructor’s job. My instructor spent more time with the younger females who had experience than with me, who was 55. I am grateful that my husband is patient. I now have graduated to a 700. Baby steps; why not find a private individual to work with you. I took my state test on a rented scooter as the course is pretty crazy in Illinois. Just an idea. I feel your pain. Don’t give up. It’s pretty cool when my grandchildren say that their grandmother rides a motorcycle!
Annette – I’m so sorry you had a bad experience with the course. I took the MSF course at the local county college back in September 2010. I had no desire to ride myself but I wanted to learn to at least know how I might make a better passenger riding behind my husband (the instructor said I was the first person who ever told him that!). At the time I was 5 foot 2 inches at around 200 pounds. I took the course with gardening gloves because that’s all I had available at the time (small hands). I passed the course but there were two other women in the class who didn’t. One of them was taken aside some time during the second day and she left right after that. She already had her license but was taking the course as a refresher. I never found out why she didn’t finish with us – it was handled very discreetly. The second woman was almost a senior citizen and was trying to get her license to ride a scooter. She failed the final riding test and very vocally left the room. It was uncomfortable for everyone.Since then I have lost 80 pounds, I’m 48 years old and yet I find myself doing things I never thought I’d do. Late this past winter I casually mentioned to my husband that maybe this year I could get my own bike and he ran with that! The next thing I knew we were driving all over the place sitting on bikes. We ended up at the local HD dealer because we’d seen a new Street at the auto show but it wasn’t available in dealerships yet. My husband asked if we could look at some used bikes. They took us to the used HD section. Then he asked if they had any used bikes that weren’t HDs. They took us to the back room of an unheated warehouse and the first bike inside the door was a 2011 Suzuki Boulevard S40 650cc. My husband has a 2008 Suzuki Boulevard C50T 800cc so it seemed kind of cute to get the same one. As soon as I sat on it I knew it was destined to be mine. We went back the next week for a test drive and there was an autograph signing session with hockey players at the dealership. The place was mobbed. I hadn’t ridden since I passed my test and the parking lot was so crowded I couldn’t get out of first gear.When I rode down along the sidewalk on it to go faster the sales girl said she knew I’d be fine with it. It took two more weeks before I could even pick it up because there was too much snow on the ground to get it through the back yard to our shed. It cost $3,000 and had 2,500 miles on it. It’s a wonderful starter bike and my 15-year-old niece has already put it on dibs.Since then I’ve put 485 miles on it. My goal for the summer is 1,000. This past weekend I went over a bridge for the first time. I also had a bee fall down the front of my leather jacket on the way home and sting me in the chest. I was able to stop, put it in neutral, unzip the jacket and flick it off without falling! It helped me make the final decision to add a windshield. I also rode on the back of my husband’s bike this past weekend because we were just going out to dinner and I wanted to have one beer but knew I would be OK as a passenger after that but not a rider. I really missed being on my own although riding with him is really nice.You sound like you have the riding bug. The comments from the MSF instructor had great ideas. Don’t give up on your dream.Michelle from Marlton – you live really close to me – my phone number is listed under “Germano” if you ever want to ride with us.
Response from an MSF instructor: I would like to respond to Annette’s original post, and some other negative comments regarding being “kicked out” of a MSF class. Almost 20 years ago I took the MSF class to learn to ride, and felt that same apprehension, excitement, and nervousness. But for as long as I can remember, I’d had an intense desire to ride a motorcycle. I signed up alone, and thankfully, was one of three women in the class, all of us new riders. Happily, I picked it up pretty quickly. Though I was one of the better students, my instructors were surprised when I panicked during the final evaluations, and nearly failed the final evaluation, just scraping by with one point to spare. My instructors were both wonderful, encouraging, and patient, and I am eternally grateful for what they taught me in that class. I now know that not all instructors are as wonderful.Today, with hundreds of thousands of miles of experience under my belt, I am extremely lucky to have a job that allows me to test ride all kinds of new motorcycles with some of the best riders in the world. But what I’m truly proud of, is that I also teach the MSF class to new riders like Annette. Being a RiderCoach keeps me in check with how it feels to be a new rider, offers me the opportunity to meet new, passionate riders, and I end up learning quite a bit from my students. I’m honored and thankful for the opportunity.I can’t speak for all instructors, but I work on being patient, understanding, and considerate while teaching, but ultimately, safety comes first and I can loose my cool at times. I mean, this is motorcycling, and it is dangerous – even in a parking lot. There are times when the group class situation just doesn’t work for a student. The MSF program is designed in such a way that basic motorcycle riding skills are taught and practiced for a certain amount of time that allow most students to “get it.” (We have a 97 percent pass rate.) The exercises add new skills on top of the previous ones learned, and they all get harder as the day progresses. If a student does not meet the expectations within a reasonable time frame in an exercise, they may become a danger to themselves or others in the succeeding exercises. Spending too much time on one exercise can bring on fatigue, which is also why we can’t always accommodate extra practice during breaks. Sometimes, unfortunately we have to ask some students to get off their motorcycle without continuing. They should never, however, be asked to leave the class. They should be encouraged to stay off to the side so that they can watch and continue learning what they can from that vantage point. Then, if they decide to try again, they will have that much more experience. But most of the time, exhausted and humiliated, the student is feeling like Annette, devastated that her dream did not come true that day. I feel badly every time this happens.But, I’ve had many students return to take the class a second or third time (usually with a different instructor), and they do eventually “get it.” Sometimes, students have a hard time due to the weather, time of day, bad night’s sleep, other classmates’ attitudes, instructor’s attitude and teaching style, type of gear worn, etc. There are many variables that may either work in your favor, or work against you. So, my advice to anyone who takes the class and fails or is asked to be removed; keep on trying, but try to change something about what you did the first time around. If you took a one-weekend class, break it up into two weekends. If you took the MSF class, try Harley-Davidson’s Riding Academy. If you didn’t like your instructor, ask to have a different one, or a female instructor. If you had trouble working the shift peg, get some riding boots with a stiff toe. If you have trouble with the coordination, practice while just sitting on a friend’s bike – or just put your hands in the air and practice going through the motor skills that you learned in class. Do whatever you need to do to try again.And let the MSF or your state’s program director know how your experience was. Your feedback is important to developing the curriculum and how the MSF works. Take this online survey, regardless of your personal experience. msf-usa.org/survey.
I had little motorcycle experience to speak of but a huge desire to ride. It’s been a desire of mine for quite some time, but it was one of those things that I thought would be cool to do and would never pursue. When it began to look like a reality to me, I got a little overzealous. Granted I had discovered the incredible WRN website, but I was not a good reader and did things a little backwards. While signing up for the HD Rider Academy, I sat on a couple of bikes. Initially, I was leaning towards the Sportster Iron 883 but I sat on the Softail Slim and I was in love. I got that bike as a birthday gift. Did I mention I had little motorcycle experience to speak of? My husband rode the bike home and I got a few days on it (neighborhood and local train station parking lot). We ventured somewhere different for some practice, and something didn’t feel right. I was nervous and lost my confidence. Needless to say, those things combined made for an unpleasant practice session where I ended up under the bike. I’m totally fine, but my husband freaked out and I haven’t been on that bike since. I wasn’t ready or prepared for that much bike…bottom line. I wasn’t deterred from riding, but knew I needed to take the course and get licensed before I got on another bike. Fast forward a few days from my spill and I’m sitting in class feeling good about the knowledge stuff. Day 1 on the range was excruciating. I felt like the worst student in class and was about to call it quits. After encouraging words from my instructor, I decided to show up to the range on day 2. She said I was doing well, was getting the basic stuff down, and was beating myself up unnecessarily. I learned that day to not compare my ride to others. There were different experience levels in the class and we were all there for similar and different reasons. The common denominator was SAFETY. I was feeling more confident after day 2 on the range but knew I was not ready for my Softail Slim. I found a 2007 Yamaha Virago 250 with less than 2000 miles on it for $1,850. CRAIGSLIST SCORE! The Lil’ Barracuda and I have been practicing daily since I got her. I feel much better on her and feel as though I have a much better handling on my bike riding. I say all this to say…take baby steps, Annette You have to crawl before you can walk, let alone run. I completely get the urge to get out there and do your thing. HD has an incredible marketing department that makes us believe we can do anything…which we can, but all in our own time. Don’t give up and keep at it. That is my own daily mantra. I’ve taken and passed the MSF course and was licensed the next day. I have a horrible habit of trying different things, but if after a few attempts, I’ve not mastered it, I give up. I’m forcing myself to stick with this. I want to prove to myself that I can stick with something and practice does make almost perfect.
Thank you Vicki for sharing your story with such great insight! All the best to you!
My first time through the class, I had a horrendous time. I was constantly stalling or dumping the bike.The harder I tried, the worse it got. Several lessons into the riding portion of the class, I ended up gashing my elbow. Long story short, I called my husband, and had him come out to take me to urgent care to get stitches. A few days later I called the dealership and spoke to the person in charge of the classes. Because I didn’t complete the class, I would be permitted to take it again, when I was ready, for half-price. I ended up taking the class again about a month later, and passed it with no trouble.The issue I was having was getting all my limbs coordinated to shift, brake, clutch, and control the throttle. What helped me, was learning to drive a manual shift car. My suggestions to every person I meet who expresses any interest in riding a motorcycle: 1. learn to drive a manual shift car, and THEN 2. take the classI would say, hold off buying a motorcycle until AFTER you pass the class. That way you’ll have a better idea of what you’re doing, whether you truly want to do it, and what bike fits you. Also, keep in mind that whatever bike you purchase does not have to be your “dream” bike. It’s better to start with something smaller/lighter so that you can get good experience without feeling overwhelmed. When you feel confident, that’s the time to move up to something bigger and more powerful. Just a suggestion: look into a used Virago 535, Rebel, or something along that line. They’re cheaper to insure, with lower seats, and are able to take a beating – so no worries if it gets dropped.Keep the shiny side up. Take your time and don’t rush. You’ll be fine.
I cannot speak to the bike you are looking at, but I can speak to my own internal desire of wanting the same thing as you…to ride on my own. It had always been a desire of mine. So at 50, and in a new phase of my life, (and city to boot as I had just moved across country from Vegas to Jersey) I took the leap of faith. I enrolled in the HD Rider’s Edge course. Best decision I ever made! I was also sure, as you, that my years of being around bikes would somehow make this a little easier, though I had never been the one in control. My instructor was knowledgeable, but most importantly, patient. He saw that, even though I had some difficulty with some of the exercises, I had the desire and ability to ride, and kept motivating me. I am a licensed rider now, but am still in need of constant practice. Keep pursuing your dream and good luck!
I also was a passenger for many years. I always wanted to learn but was a little worried I would not be able to do it. I am 53 years old and took the MSF class last August. (I did pass). So I started looking for a bike. I was looking for a 250, but soon realized that at 5-feet-8 I overpowered that little bike. So I bought a Honda Shadow 600. That was perfect for me. A great bike to learn on for my height. I have heard many stories from people that went out and purchased a large HD soon to realize they could not ride it. The moral of my story is just take small steps and you will learn to ride.I felt after taking the MSF class that there were things they did not teach you. So I purchased the DVD Ride Like A Pro. What a great tool. I have watched it many times and now feel my confidence is greater because of it.I just purchased a 07 Kawasaki Vulcan 900. I hate to sell the Shadow, but it’s time to move up and on. Take your time and take small steps. Don’t set yourself up for failure, start out small and move your way up. I love riding my own bike. I am so glad I took my time and started out small.
I am a smaller-framed woman (5 feet 5 inches and around 125 pounds) in her 30s, and have never been the athletic sort (I try, but my body doesn’t always cooperate with behaving in a coordinated manner!), so while I had loved riding as a passenger on a motorcycle, I had never thought that it would be something that I could do. Thankfully, a good female friend of mine (5 feet 2 inches and around 125 pounds) who rides a motorcycle convinced me that I could do so, too.I took the MSF class on a very hot summer weekend, and was also very nervous that I wouldn’t be able to pass (that nervousness assisted by the pressure of performing the maneuvers while being observed with my seemingly more-competent classmates). Since I own a Yamaha Virago 1100 motorcycle, I was given a cruiser-style bike to use during the course. That bike’s smaller size (both weight and overall size in comparison with my own bike) made it much easier for me to be able to wrangle the motorcycle around during the maneuvers. Although I most certainly did not perform perfectly, I did do much better than I had expected, due in no small part to the calm manner in which the instructors guided the class, and the overall support exhibited by the other students. The “oops” moments that were experienced during the class allowed me to know what to expect if certain situations were to present themselves again, without the potential dangers which might accompany learning those lessons while in traffic. here were quite a few moments that I thought of quitting the class before I made a big enough mistake to be kicked out of the class, but I was able to not only persevere, but pass the class.Prior to the MSF class, I had spent some time with my motorcycle in parking lots, learning the very basics. The MSF class allowed me to have more confidence in my abilities as well as the knowledge of what to expect and how to ride safely. The added input from the instructors on how to be a successful female rider (the wife of one instructor–a smaller-framed woman rider–sat through the class, and passed along riding hints) was also very helpful. I have been riding for almost a year now, and even though the “pucker factor” is still there for me when I head out on my motorcycle, the thrill of the ride more than makes up for any potential butterflies in my stomach. I can’t tell you how alive riding makes me feel. I am so very glad that I don’t have to ride behind my husband–I can ride on my own (and go for rides with my other female rider friends–an incredible experience)! I would encourage any woman who might think that she might not be able to ride, but who really wants to, to try for it. You won’t regret it. After all, if I can do it, you can, too 🙂
If everyone was born with their knowledge then we would have no teachers, no doctors, neurosurgeons, no professional athletes, no hairdressers, no chefs and well you get the picture. If this is something you want to do you will learn it and you will reap the rewards. First of all, I would write a letter of complaint because the teacher was not doing his or her job. They get paid to teach you. We don’t tell kids to go home in classrooms because they don’t understand something.
I am 5 feet 2 inches and took the MSF course when I was 49 using, of course, their 250cc bikes. Even with these small bikes, I managed to drop it on a turn. It’s a lot easier to make mistakes on a small bike (and practice picking it up) than on a larger bike. It isn’t natural for everyone to get in the saddle and be able to perform perfectly within a few hours. As mentioned clutch and shifting, braking (safely), cornering, and many other basic aspects of riding take longer for many to learn. Passing the MSF course is only the first step; there are many hours of practice in empty parking lots that a smart rider will endure before venturing into traffic situations.I also recommend that once you are really ready to buy a bike, to go to a local dealer that has a warehouse full of used bikes and just go sit on them and pick them upright from the stand. You will find that many bikes are difficult to pick up from the stand and they have a vertical top-heavy feel. No matter how pretty, stay clear of them. Others are easier to pick up from the stand and allow for more side-to-side play without feeling like it is tipping. A much safer choice for someone with limited experience. Go for a smaller used bike with a well-balanced low to the ground feeling for the first season or two. If you drop it here and there, it’s not a big deal. When you are ready to move up in size and power, your small bike will be perfect for another newbie to buy as their starter bike. I went and sat on many bikes as I recommended above, and found the one that I felt most secure on and was easy for me to lift. I then knew where to concentrate my shopping time. My current bike was a craigslist find and I couldn’t be happier. Paid $2,500 less than the same bike with many more miles on it from the dealer.Best wishes, and don’t give up! A bad experience can be discouraging, but hang in there and practice, practice, practice!
I had a similar experience as Annette: I had really never been exposed to motorcycles until I was 50! Recently separated, I started dating someone who had a Harley. I instantly fell in love (with the Harley). We rode all over Southern California and I couldn’t get enough. I thought to myself that even if the relationship didn’t work out, I still wanted to ride. I went and passed my permit test and then signed up for the riders safety course. I passed the written no problem and proceeded to the range portion. Arriving excited bright and early Saturday at 6:30 a.m., I was surrounded by teenage boys. After about two hours and feeling like the instructors were annoyed with me since I had never been in the drivers seat before, I was told I needed more practice. What does that mean?I asked if I could go off to the side when everyone else took a break and practice. Again, I was told I needed to go home and try again later. After two hours, I was sent home devastated. I cried and then decided it was up to me to make this happen. I searched craigslist and found a Honda Rebel 250 which was perfect for me to learn on (and she is cute too). I named her “Pearl.” I then had my boyfriend at the time take me to a parking lot and I slowly gained my confidence back. I then practiced on neighborhood streets for a couple of months. Went back to the class and passed!I have been riding for about three months now when I can and am looking for a Harley. I still have not gone on the freeway because I feel my bike is not fast enough.The problem I have now is finding someone to ride with. I don’t know any other women riders and the boyfriend is no more. I am determined, and I will find my way just like I found my passion for motorcycling!
Thanks for sharing your story. One way to find other riders to connect with is by visiting your local dealer and asking them if they know of any women’s riding clubs. You can also visit our National and Regional Women’s Riding Clubs page here on WRN and see if there is one in your area.