Riding Right: You Flunked! Now What?

Advice for dealing with failing the MSF basic motorcycle training course

By Susan Rzepka Orion

Congratulations! You flunked the Motorcycle Safety Foundations Basic RiderCourse (BRC), or other beginning rider class. No, really, this is great news. Why? Because you have some experience, a really good idea of what youre getting yourself into, and a clear assessment of your basic skills at this point. The rider course provided you with all the basic tools youll need to become a safe, responsible rider. And if you still have the desire and motivation to become a licensed motorcyclist, its highly likely youll become one sooner or later.

riding right you flunked now what basic ridercourse
Many first-time riders fail the MSF course, but just as many go on to become confident and experienced riders.

Think about the last time you tried to pick up a new sport. Maybe it was golf, softball or even bowling. Were you an expert right out of the box? Or did you slice the ball way off the fairway, swing wildly at the pitch and strike out, or dump a heavy bowling ball right into the gutter? Even if you did shoot an occasional par, hit a home run or manage to roll a strike or spare, your game left lots of room for improvement. In playing the game or taking a lesson, you learned what worked and what didnt, and you came away from the experience with some idea of how you might improve next time out.

So it is with motorcycling. Maybe you dont yet have the skill to swerve around a hazard or stop within the recommended distance for your speed. Maybe you havent quite figured out how to maneuver your motorcycle in limited spaces, and maybe cornering still makes you nervous. You flunked. So what do you do now?

riding right you flunked now what basic ridercourse range exercises
The MSF Basic RiderCourse, pictured here, provides proven and time-tested curriculum in the training of riding a motorcycle.

Retake the Course
As a RiderCoach, I often have to tell my students that they did not pass the safety course. In most cases, this is the result of failing the skill evaluation. The skill evaluation at the end of the course is nothing more than a snapshot view of your skills at one particular point in time.

Four major skills are assessed:
– limited space maneuvers
– swerving
– cornering
– the ability to stop quickly

When you make errors in the execution of these skills, you rack up points. Too many points, and you dont pass. When that happens, I usually recommend you retake the course where youll get more practice on a starter bike under the supervision of a trained RiderCoach.

riding right you flunked now what basic ridercourse skills
Students practice drills during the MSF Basic RiderCourse.

When Jan and Tanisha learned they had failed, they were both disappointed, but not surprised. Jan, a brand-new rider who was afraid to take a corner or swerve at speed, was a little relieved that she didnt pass. “Im still uncomfortable with the idea of going out on the road,” she said. She repeated the class, and although her cornering technique still needed work, Jan passed the second time around with skills adequate for licensing.

Tanisha, who had been a longtime passenger on her boyfriends Harley, took the class with him. She felt more confident learning on the small bike she used in class than she did trying to learn on his 1200. “Its harder than it looks,” she confided, “and my boyfriend has no patience.” Tanisha also repeated the class, this time without her boyfriend, and passed with a perfect score the second time around.

Tune Up and Test
If you own or have access to a bike, you can practice, with or without someone you know, then take your states licensing exam. When I learned how to ride, my state would not waive the exam on completion of the MSF course, pass or fail.

Although I did not pass the class, I loved the experience of riding. I bought a starter bike and practiced each evening in a church parking lot near my house for six weeks before taking the state test. I set up cone weaves, practiced quick stops, executed swerves and got real road experience. At the exam site, I watched several guys drop their cruisers in the dreaded U-turn box. I was scared, but I was prepared. The Basic RiderCourse had given me the tools I needed to work on my skills and boost my confidence. I walked away with a motorcycle license and a big smile on my face.

riding right you flunked now what basic ridercourse range
The MSF Basic RiderCourse, pictured here, provides proven and time-tested curriculum in the training of riding a motorcycle.

When you dont pass, it just means youre not ready to be licensed. You need more practice time. As a complete beginner in a basic rider course, you spent a whopping 16 to 25 hours learning how to ride. Thats not a lot of time to get your skills up to speed. Pass or fail, if you plan to ride, youre going to have to put in more time or give up the idea of becoming a safe motorcyclist.

I always tell my students to ask themselves these questions at the start of a rider course: What do I know about motorcycling now? What are my skills? Where is my confidence level? At the end of the course, I ask my students the same questions. Its a process, and it takes practice. Celebrate your successes. Have patience with yourself. Because the more you ride, the better it gets.

About the Author

Susan Rzepka Orion is a certified MSF RiderCoach. You can find her on the road on her Yamaha V Star 1100 Custom.

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112 thoughts on Riding Right: You Flunked! Now What?

  1. Our rider school in Anchorage, Alaska, offers a class called “Kickstart.” It consists of three hours of basic on bike riding instruction with a max of six students and two instructors. No test, no worries, and it will give you throttle and clutch experience before taking the Basic RiderCourse.They also have private lessons available.Check with your local school to see if they offer anything like the kickstart class and or private lessons. Hope to see you all on the road!

  2. So I took the class this past weekend and was unsuccessful. I aced the written part, but struggled with the tight corner and weave. Reading this article makes me feel a lot better because I truly do want to ride! I’m 53, recently divorced, and it is a lifelong dream! So I plan on getting my permit and a small starter bike and practice!

  3. Just read your article and it is very much appreciated. Failed my MSF beginner’s course today but I don’t consider it a negative but a clearer view of the skills I need to improve on. I have a number of friends who ride and can teach one on one so I am going to go get my learners permit tomorrow. Failure isn’t a finality, unless we decide it to be.

  4. My girlfriend took a Midlands tech motorcycle course in South Carolina. The course was listed as a beginner course.Obviously classmates had previously ridden motorcycles. She fell over twice on low speed turns.The instructor stated in a negative tone, “you need work.” She aced the written test, best in class. Clearly the course is not for beginner riders. She has not found any other beginner training course in South Carolina.

  5. I took my motorcycle class today and got kicked out. I did well the first part of the day. I was uncomfortable with an exercise (had to turn the handlebars all the way to the right and make a turn) and told my instructor that I was. I had to do it anyway and ended up falling off my bike. At that point I felt so shaken, I could not get my mind back into focus I ended up losing control of my bike in a later exercise and was told to leave. All in all, the class moved way too fast for my skill level.

  6. I failed the BRC fantastically this weekend and left in tears, feeling like an idiot and very disappointed in this first step of making a lifelong dream come true. We started with 12 in our class and there were 12 in the other class sharing the range. The second day our class only had 8 and I think of those 8, only 5 or 6 passed. We were in the full sun and heat both days with instructors who were more like drill sergeants than RiderCoaches.The other class was laughing and having fun both days and all 12 students successfully completed the course. I don’t do well in groups and let my nerves get the better of me, but I am also determined to practice and get my license in spite of this setback. I wanted to quit by the first half of the first day and I stuck it out until the end, so I hold my head up that I at least gave it everything and didn’t quit. Now I just have to figure out how to practice without a permit or license. When I schedule my next course, I will pick a weekend when I can have different coaches, so maybe a different coaching style would make me more confident to do better.

    1. Hi Paula,Don’t be too hard on yourself… you made it through the whole class! Some riders don’t even get that far. The next time you take the class, you’ll already have skills to build upon and will undoubtedly continue to get better with more practice. Many riders need more time to practice early skills before they are ready to move on to more advanced skills. I’m glad you recognize your accomplishments and are determined to continue the process.I suggest calling the school and inquiring about the RiderCoaches who taught the other class. Explain what your experience was to the administrator and ask if you can be placed in a class with one or both of those other instructors. Doesn’t hurt to ask, and it definitely helps to give feedback about your experience to the people in charge of hiring the RiderCoaches. You could also inquire about taking a private lesson with one of those other coaches.Good luck. You can do it!

  7. I was taking the MSF course through Harley-Davidson today. After the first few exercises when we were supposed to be using the clutch and balancing, the instructor suggested I take a private lesson as I was swerving and could not find the right balance of speed. I felt pretty defeated especially since about two weeks ago I bought my Street 750 and still cannot ride it. So hopefully the private lesson will help me get back into the MSF course.

  8. I failed two times and the third time I had my son go with me to take the course. Well, like they say, “third time is a charm.” I passed! I am glad it took me three times because I feel like each time I got better and better. I love riding and I feel like each time I learn something new.Words of encouragement: Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself. Do your best and when the time is right, the time is right and you will succeed.

  9. So glad to read this article. I was removed from my class last Saturday at the beginning of the second segment. I knew I wasn’t ready to move on from the friction zone lesson but was able to get through the power walking. It was downhill from there. I couldn’t use the throttle. I feel like the coach skipped a lesson. I was only person in my class of 10 who was not already riding. Six members were male, under 25 years old. I felt stressed and out of my league from the start. I’m not giving up, though. What are your thoughts on my purchasing a small, cheaper used bike and having my highly experienced boyfriend coach me until I have the basics down enough to try another class?I feel like I disappointed myself. Thank you.

    1. Hi Kim,The problem with this class is that it is designed to work for MOST people, but clearly does not work for all people, especially the first time out. It sounds like you will benefit from individual coaching so that you can get personal training at your own pace. I think it’s a great idea to purchase a small, inexpensive motorcycle that fits you and you can practice on in a parking lot. I hesitate to recommend your boyfriend as a coach, because even though he has lots of experience riding, he may or may not be a great coach or understand your needs as a brand new rider.If you can afford it, I would recommend hiring a certified coach for some private instruction. Once you master the friction zone, shifting (to second gear), cornering, and leaning, and feel comfortable going at least 15 mph, I would then get back into a class. I bet you’ll be wonderful!

  10. I have never been on a motorcycle. I’m in my early 60s, and weigh 260 pounds. I called the local MSF school and asked what the success rate was for the heavier students and was talked out of taking the course. Apparently the instructor’s experience was that heavier students don’t do well. In all the videos I have watched, it seems only thin women are taking the course. Is this going to be hopeless for me until I lose weight? I already lost 40 pounds and can ride a bicycle. What is a good weight?

    1. Hi Liz,First, congratulations on losing 40 pounds!I’m not sure which videos you are watching, but if you go to any motorcycle rally, like the ones at Daytona, Sturgis, or Americade, you will see plenty of overweight people successfully riding motorcycles.If you can ride a bicycle, it is safe to say you are physically able to ride a motorcycle. In my nine years of experience coaching, I have seen many overweight students take the BRC and pass. However, it’s true that riding a motorcycle is a physical challenge, so I encourage you to continue on your path of becoming more physically fit. Good luck!

  11. Though fascinated by motorcycles, and riding on the back for years with my husband, after being widowed the desire to have my own bike and ride it well persisted for many years. Finally I took the course. I failed miserably and cried in the car going home. And gave up. My problem was that I had never touched the controls, and the mechanics of operating a bike really stopped me. I hoped to find a safe place to just practice on my own, but I don’t have the resources to purchase a bike yet. So wish there were a “school” for novices, not just a 3-day immersion. I still have the desire, and read the adventure forums with relish but haven’t gone back yet.This article was encouraging.

  12. I had to pull out of the first riders course because I couldn’t do slow maneuvers around the cones. I felt like a complete loser. I actually cried going to my car and felt so defeated.I have done my M1 license a number of times as I want to re-take the course but as a woman with severe “woman issues” it made it hard to book another course. Before I took the course I was not told or taught about the slow stuff you must do and I panicked as I didn’t understand it.I have some learning disabilities and it means I’m a bit slower at learning but get it after practice. This class we were yelled at to “hurry up, we need to get through this part” and on and on. It became an issue with the safety council and was discussed and I can retake it at a reduced rate. No one deserves to be yelled at like that. I want to do another course as soon as they come up with another safety group but am truly petrified. I want to get through this to get my M2, I spent all last season on the road and feel 1000 times more confident but I am still worried. Am I over reacting? Oh yeah, I’m 52 and have been addicted to biking since high school.

    1. You certainly aren’t alone, as you can read from all the other comments here. Stick with it. Many students need one, two, three, or more classes before they finally “get it.” Consider asking around for recommendations on good RiderCoaches. Then request a class that is being taught by that RiderCoach.You could also inquire about one-on-one training. Many students who panic in the group scenario thrive in personal instruction classes. Good luck!

  13. I failed the skills test. Am a female age 60. I tried so hard. On of the instructors kept waving me over as I was doing wrong. I kept getting confused with the instructions. A lot of information and 10 in the class. (The cones were small and far.) Most in the class been riding awhile. I couldn’t get the friction zone, clutch. I learned so much.I bought a Honda Rebel before the class but cannot practice as I need to get it to a parking lot. Seems like a catch 22 since I can’t practice without my license. If I had to wait for someone in front, and there was a glitch, it was harder, especially when I was not ready to go. Still surveying the course and got waved to go. I was going to give up. We were all in a group in the end and the coaches told us results in front of everyone. Another woman and I failed. She went with husband who was an avid biker. I can take the skills test only, one more time within 30 days (I think) but can’t practice without license. I want to make sure am not fooling myself by thinking I am not cut out for this.

    1. Susan,Don’t be dismayed. Keep persevering. Many women need to take the class a second time. You really shouldn’t be practicing until you pass the class and get your license. That is the proper order to do things. This is why we wrote this story. Some women have to take the class a few times for a myriad of reasons. I don’t want you to give up.

  14. I agree with this article. I did not pass, but that has not stopped me. I am practicing now and trying to decide if I should just take the the test or the class again. Either way, I believe I may want to take the class again. The BRC helped me more in the long run than I ever thought it would. I am excited every time I am on my motorcycle and my confidence grows each time. But if I did not see other articles on here about the same information, I am not sure I would be where I am today. WRN members really encouraged me. And this article did again as well. Good luck to everyone and be safe always.

  15. This is a great article and the comments made by others are very encouraging to new riders.I took one of the local MSF courses a year ago (referred by a local dealership) and even though I passed (barely), it was one of the most humiliating experiences I’ve ever experienced in my entire 56 years. The instructor was a dismal failure at teaching not just me, but most of the class. He was impatient, dismissive and had a general attitude of not wanting to be bothered. Even though I passed and got my certification, I not only cried all the way home, I cried for a week afterward when thinking about the experience. It was only with my husband’s encouragement that I got my “M” license and ever rode again after that day.A few weeks after the class, we went down to the same dealership that had referred me to the course at that location to purchase a starter bike. When the manager of the store asked me how the class went, I was completely honest. He was noticeably angered by my experience and from that day told his staff to never refer anyone to that location again.So here I am a year later, riding to work most days, riding with my husband on the weekends, and having the time of my life. Don’t give up and don’t let the bastards of this world get you down. You can do this!

  16. I took the rider course over the weekend. I am 5 feet 3 inches and 54 years old. I’m recently divorced after a 30-year abusive marriage. I have been a passenger for a very long time and have always wanted to be able to enjoy the ride on my own. Needless to say, I had no experience going into the course, and the instructor was less than encouraging. I had difficulty with the first bike that was supplied, and his constant barrage of snide remarks did not help me to develop any confidence in the maneuvers taught. A survivor of abuse, I have PTSD, and after the course, as a result of his less-than-professional ridicule, had a two-day breakdown. I barely passed the skills test, but scored high on the written. Unfortunately, I would not recommend the MSF course to any women in my area unless a different instructor was supplied.

    1. As a MSF RiderCoach myself, I am always disheartened to hear of experiences such as yours. There is no tolerance for “snide remarks” from RiderCoaches who are supposed to offer encouragement and support.I would encourage you to call the program administrator and let them know about your experience and ask for a free re-take or a discount on private instruction from another coach.Good luck!

  17. Thank you for the article. I never started a bike before my training course. need to build my confidence and practice more. I would like to practice more. Are there practice course diagrams I can set up and use.

  18. Thank you for this article and the encouragement it offers!I too failed the skills test at the end of my training course. I was disappointed but not surprised as I knew I was not yet ready. Fortunately, my dad (who has been riding for more than 50 years) and my bike (2012 Yamaha V Star 250) arrived about two weeks later and I’ve now had plenty more parking lot practice. I’m due to take the skills test again this weekend and feeling far more confident that I’ll pass this time. At 46, I can say this is the most excited I’ve been and the biggest confidence building experience I’ve had in a long time and I’m looking forward to getting out of the parking lot and on to the road.

  19. I signed up for a class with my husband. He had a motorcycle in his teens and I’d never ridden and we decided our mid-life crisis needed to include something fun and different. Oh, and we had already purchased a Yamaha Vulcan 500 from a friend. I went into it knowing it was a new skill and would take time and practice. However, the course was taught on donated Ninjas. There were two shorter bikes that went to shorter people. My inseam is 28 inches and I couldn’t put my feet down (toes only with a stretch). I learned to drive on a stick so that part was fine but I toppled over three times because I couldn’t flat foot it. Then one of the instructors taunted me for not riding fast enough. At the end of the two days, let’s just say the sportbike did a job on me (leaning forward without being able to touch down bruised my bones). And between the spills and the double U-turn, I failed with two others in our class of 20. My husband felt awful for me and I was devastated as I realized I couldn’t even practice if I didn’t have a license. I was so mad I signed up for a class at a different location a month later, trained on a Suzuki (low and wonderful) and passed with flying colors, to the applause of the entire class. Nicer instructors, different “feel” for class (all in this together!) and I would recommend them in a shot. I bought a little Yamaha Virago and my husband and I enjoy riding to local parks and have still not found the need to do a figure eight. Love it though.

    1. I’m so glad to hear that you tried a second time in a different location. That is a good tip for readers, as the bike models are sometimes different at different locations. The MSF’s current curriculum has eliminated the figure-eight from the evaluation test. It now tests riders on just doing one u-turn, which is more realistic and potentially life-saving.

  20. I also took the MSF course. Made a 100 on the written, however I was the only one without experience. The 250 Rebel was too short for my 5 foot 9 inches. I will not pay for another class after the yelling guy at my class! I own a Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster and have been practicing on it.

  21. Don’t be discouraged—I failed the skills test in the basic rider course the first time as I was too nervous and tired to focus. The second time was at a quieter location and I did much better after an additional private motorbike lesson to go through some of the areas I needed help with (clutch and friction zone).I had no prior experience with motorbikes. I think it’d be helpful to get some private lessons or “practice time” on a manageable motorbike for students who are totally new to motorcycling. There’s a lot to coordinate and the weekend course was a bit too accelerated for me.Thankfully I had great classmates and instructors, so I was embarrassed with my slowness but not devastated!

  22. This is a great article. I ride a Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200. Nine years ago I took the MSF course … three times! I had had no experience operating a motorized bike and didn’t have a clue. My first instructors only knew how to shout at people. They had no idea, apparently, of the learning process of a total beginner. So I switched to a different MSF and the instructors were awesome. I ran over a cone the second time mostly from intense fatigue but then passed the third time. After my first MSF experience, I went home, bought a Honda Rebel and rode that for a season before going back. That made ALL the difference. They say MSF courses are for beginners but that really is not true. They go way too fast. I advise beginners to learn the basics with a seasoned rider in a parking lot before taking any MSF course. I’ve been riding now for nine years and ride everywhere. The last two years I didn’t even own a car. Did I mention I’m 66? Never too old to learn.

  23. I was horrible in the class with no riding experience. I failed my test the first time and I felt really bad because I had already bought a bike (Suzuki Boulevard C50T) so I could not give up because of being financially invested. I was not going to give up. Even though I failed the class it had given me enough confidence to get on my bike and begin shifting and practicing around the neighborhood. I got more and more comfortable shifting and I retook my test today and passed! Everyone learns at different paces, so time, patience and practice is the key! If I can do it anyone can. Don’t give up!

  24. A would-be bike rider here, pondering the possibilities…have enjoyed the thrill of pillioning so much I’m considering getting personally behind the wheel, well… bars.A couple of questions, for starters!If you have absolutely nil experience and are not licensed to ride on the road you must pass the “pre-learner” test (six hours over two days) before you attempt the Knowledge test which will grant you a learner’s license.I’m finding it hard to see how you can successfully complete the pre-license test knowing nothing at all. Granted I am in Australia and things may well be different here. Do people just have to keep retaking the course until they gain enough competency to pass it? Apologies if this is a dead-obvious question.

    1. It’s not an obvious question, so no apologies needed, however I do see that there is a difference between what the U.S. requires and what Australia requirements are. In the U.S., the MSF Basic RiderCourse requires a person have no experience. The curriculum is geared towards complete beginners.I’m guessing perhaps there is some book or manual you could read that would help you “study” for this pre-learner test because I don’t understand how one is expected to know anything about motorcycling, unless the pre-learner test is more about roadway regulations than operation of a motorcycle. I will put your question out to our readers in our Your Questions Answered section and have them respond as we have many readers from Australia.Thank you for question. I will email you when the question has been posted so you can check back regularly for responses.

  25. I also took the MSF course and like others feel afterward that the course is for riders who already have familiarity and some experience with bikes. I had to reschedule over and over as the range part of my class got pushed out. I did not remember from the class time the controls, etc. and the “instructor” just kept barking at me for not knowing how the gears shifted, etc. The first day I did well and improved throughout. I had trouble understanding fully the clutch and the throttle and the balance between, rolling off to brake. The second day this got worse as I kept thinking about and not focusing. The more I tried to get it right the more overwhelmed I got. The “instructor” just kept yelling, “Get with the program Mike.” Toward the end of the day I dumped the bike as I panicked, grabbed the front brake while in gear and the rear wheel threw me down. Sore but mostly embarrassed.I am glad to see that I am not the only one who felt the class was too fast, with no real “instruction.” I literally could use an entire day just on clutch and throttle up and down a parking lot over and over to feel confident. I will take a private one on one lesson. If I had done this first before taking the class I would have had a better experience. If you do not understand something they cannot stop to help you get it as they are just plowing through the exercises with group.I tried to find a course that would be several weeks long with instructor and there are not any. It would be a lot safer if they offered both “beginner no experience class” and then the MSF class that is for skill sets.Will try again and hope to succeed!

  26. I also took the MSF course and like others feel afterward that the course is for riders who already have familiarity and some experience with bikes. I had to reschedule over and over as the range part of my classgot pushed out. I did not remember from the class time the controls, etc and the “instructor” just kept barking at me for not knowinghow the gears shifted etc. The first day I did well and improved throughout. I had trouble understanding fully the clutch and the throttle and the balance between, rolling off to brake. The second day this got worse as I kept thinking about and not focusing. The more I tried to get it right the more overwhelmed I got. The “instructor” just kept yelling “Get with the program Mike” …….. toward the end of the day I dumped the bike as I panicked, grabbed the front brake while in gear and the rear wheel threw me down. Sore but mostly embarrassed ………. I am glad to see that I am not the only one who felt the class too fast, no real “instruction”. I literally could use an entire day just on clutch and throttle up and down a parking lot over and over to feel confident. i will take private one on one lesson. If I had done this first before taking the class I would have had a better experience. If you do not get something they cannot stop to help you get it as they are just plowing through the exercises with group.I tried to find a course that would be several weeks long with instructor and there are not any. It would be alot safer if they offered both “beginner no experience class” and then the MSF class that is for skillsets.Will try again and hope to succeed !

  27. I wholeheartedly agree with this article! I failed my first MSF course on a 500cc bike. I had a pretty good wreck on the range and was sure that it wasn’t meant to be, but I am incredibly stubborn and knew that I really wanted to do this, so I took the class on a smaller bike and passed. I feel like going through the class two times helped build confidence and also gave me extra seat time to hone my skills. I just bought a Yamaha V Star 250 as a starter bike and am super excited to get out and continue this journey!

  28. I was researching MSF course reviews and came across this site. I’m a guy who never rode before, and took this course today and was “counseled out” (aka “flunked”) after about two hours into the course. First I was having a problem with the shifting in and out of gear. The guy instructor was like a drill instructor and I felt belittled. This made me more nervous. Another instructor tried the shift and even SHE had a problem with it, but not before she was preparing to “counsel me out.” I wasn’t even there an hour yet. I was given a different bike, which helped tremendously. I still has a bit uncoordinated but got better. I had a problem during the emergency downshift from 2nd to 1st and applying brakes exercise. I lost balance but caught myself. I was then “counseled out.”It is my belief that this course is better suited for riders that have some experience. In my class, all had some prior limited experience or just refreshing skills. This class was humiliating and embarrassing as I felt everyone staring at me. I spoke to a fellow student before all this happened. He said I had the wrong bike to begin with and the instructor was being a “jerk” (stronger term omitted).They don’t have the time to do individualized instruction. It’s by the group and you better keep up. They have a time schedule to meet as well, and the next group will be waiting.So, my advice is if you are unfamiliar with the riding, don’t take this accelerated course. Find a place that teaches motorcycle riding. Also, what may help is to refer to friends who ride and find YouTube videos for some reference. I found a driving school that also handles motorcycle training. They give individualized instruction. I hope this helps. I’ve already got my permit. I want to complete this. If I knew that the course was like this and the instructors were like that, I would have saved my $275 and gone another route to achieve my goal.

  29. Thanks for the greal article. I’ve learned that I’m not too old to try, and wondered if the class pace will be too fast for me as some have mentioned here. Our classes are 16 hours, 12 hours on the bike. If you pass the course, the skills test is waived. I don’t have a bike to take the skills test at an exam station. Now I know that it may take me several times even though I’m watching all the informative videos on shifting and control locations so maybe I’ll have a little advantage. Fingers crossed.

  30. So I took the beginner’s rider course this weekend with my husband. Within two hours I dumped the bike and took a horrible ride across the parking lot. I got back up and did OK the rest of the day. But when we got home, my shins were severely bruised and my ankles looked like they belonged to an elephant. I couldn’t even get my boots on for the next day and could barely walk. So I didn’t go back. I have never disappointed myself this much. My husband passed with flying colors and so did everybody else in class. I will get this no matter what. I am on a mission now.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. You might benefit from the comments to a question asked of our readers about being kicked out of the MSF course. While you chose to voluntarily not finish the course, the responses here might help you.

  31. The best advice I give new riders is don’t take the course with your husband or a friend. That way you are thinking about yourself and the bike and the basics. Texas requires a passing a motorcycle safety course to get a license, but research who and how the instructors teach. Find a different course if it doesn’t work for you. I’ve ridden more than 60k miles in 10 states and I use the basic skills I learned in the course every time I ride, and it took a long time to “unlearn” a couple of bad habits I had before the course. Don’t give up if you fail. Think of all the great inventions we wouldn’t have if they quit after a fail… like this phone!

  32. Great article. I flunked the course last year. I was so disappointed but not surprised. I was really nervous and it just wasn’t clicking right. I had never ridden before and I’m older (58). However, I didn’t let it stop me. It’s something I really wanted to do and at the top of my “before I kick the bucket” list. This year I got my permit and a small Honda Rebel and have been practicing and loving it. After three days it all finally made sense. My boyfriend is a great and patient teacher so that helps. Pretty soon I’ll be ready to get my license and a bigger bike. This is what has been missing in my life so I will continue because I know it will open the doors to great adventures.

  33. This past weekend my husband and I took the Rider’s Edge/MSF classes at the local Harley dealership. My husband has experience riding dirt bikes, but I have never ridden a motorcycle or driven a stick shift car. I went in trusting that the only prerequisite needed was knowing how to ride a bicycle. I was so excited about taking the classes and learning to ride. Well, my husband did great. He passed with flying colors. For me, it was a complete disaster. The classes moved so fast and didn’t offer any individual instruction. I didn’t know how to change gears. I couldn’t figure out how to use the throttle or the clutch. I kept stalling the bike out and slowing down everyone else in the class. I even dumped the bike, twice. The instructors asked me to leave before the first day was half over. It was humiliating. I embarrassed myself and my husband. I feel like my dream has been crushed.Being told that I’m not good enough to ride has devastated me and caused me to lose my self-confidence and passion. Still, I want to ride so badly. I’ve tried to tell myself that I hate motorcycles and I don’t want a bike, but it is a lie. I want to learn to ride. I want a bike so much that it brings me to tears. I just don’t know what to do. I’ve cried about it for days. My husband has told me that he will teach me to ride, but he has no patience with me. I don’t think that I am capable of learning to ride since I was kicked out of the beginner’s riding class. I’m so upset with myself for failing at something that I want so much. I’m glad that I found this article. At least now I know that I’m not the only person who has failed the MSF class.

  34. Thank you. I chose to leave on the second day of my MSF course and return to take private lessons with an instructor. Five hours (including breaks) was not enough time for a true beginner like me to complete a figure eight in a small rectangle. (I loved day one.) Since the other participants had been riding for years, I felt that I was holding them back. I too purchased a Dyna Low Rider. I know that I can learn this. If I have to take the course five times, I will. (My checkbook is hating this.)

  35. I took the MSF course and loved it. Everyone was very supportive and the instructors were awesome. I was doing really well. I was understanding the concepts and maneuvers. Several people dropped their bikes throughout the two days. I didn’t…until it came time to test. The instructors told us, “The only way you can automatically fail is by dropping the bike. So just don’t drop the bike.” Of course I got so nervous and fixated on that. I completed the u-turn only going out of the lines two times. I then completed the swerve exercises. I stopped and waited for instruction. They called me back to redo the swerve. Probably because I went too slow. And with both feet on the ground I turn the handle bars and watched the bike just fall. I was so mad at myself. I kept telling myself “just don’t drop the bike.” I was so anxious about it that I made it happen. The instructor came over as I was dropping f-bombs left and right. She looked disappointed for me because I had been doing okay all weekend. I had to sit to the side and wait for my boyfriend to finish. I was so upset. Now I will retake the test. I’m just so hard on myself and I really want to do well.

  36. I failed the first class that I took. I was in a class full of people that already knew how to ride and just wanted the insurance benefits. The instructors us ran through all of the exercises and gave us no help whatsoever. I was completely devastated and left after the first five minutes of the second class. By some miracle, I made it through the first day. I decided to go take another class because they are free in my state (yay!) I signed up for a different location to get new instructors and it was one of the greatest experiences that I have ever had. They actually went at the pace of the slowest person and helped you. I made it through both classes and passed the test, which gives you your endorsement. The classes aren’t easy for someone who has never ridden before. I know that first hand. But, keep trying. You will eventually have success!

  37. In my state you can’t legally ride a motorcycle on the road without taking the basic rider course so for many people taking it, its their first time on a motorcycle. I think the course is a good introduction to motorcycling but the riding test is somewhat unreasonable. They teach you how to use the clutch one day then expect you to be able to master slow speed maneuvers the next. I’ve been riding for two years now and have never had to make a u-turn inside a parking spot. I’m not saying its not a good skill to have but in the real world you can put your feet down if needed, not to mention the fact that most would probably opt for a perfectly safe three-point turn instead of taking the risk of dropping their bike. I’s difficult performing under pressure. Most of the maneuvers are very easy once you are comfortable on a motorcycle but you need experience to gain that confidence. My recommendation would be to try and practice casually with an experienced rider if you have the option. It may be better to find someone who didn’t learn that long ago because he or she will remember what it was like learning to ride a bike and can give tips from their own experiences.

  38. The entire website, but especially the comments from others have been encouraging. Like Annie R. I also was not able to complete the safety course I attended last weekend. I didn’t even make it through the first day before being asked to leave. I don’t know if it is stubbornness, but deep down I know I can do it. I just need a little time and a lot of practice. So determined to prove to myself that I can really ride a motorcycle I went out and purchased a Dyna Low Rider. Maybe that’s not the best way to start, but I am going to anyway. I will be back to report my success and motivate anyone else that has heard that maybe they just aren’t cut out for motorcycling.

  39. I am so encouraged by all these comments. Last summer I couldn’t continue with the third day of the MSF. It was too fast and looking back I completely understand the feeling of of failure and tears. I am too stubborn not to keep trying and have bought a Sportster 883. Getting past my fears and lack of coordination has been my biggest challenge but I know I can learn! This summer I plan on trying the course again.

  40. Thank you so much for this article. I failed the riding portion of MSF today and discouraged. With this encouragement I will practice a lot and take the class again. I was never on a bike before yesterday and could not do what was required in the class.

  41. Thank you for a great website. I’ve always wanted to ride a motorcycle and after five years on scooters, I purchased a motorbike but I’m a little scared but excited.It’s great to see that other people have had the same experience. I went to a Honda training centre (main one for training here) and the tool who tried to train me kept yelling at me and treating me as a “special” student. After one hour and my $220, he suggested that I watch YouTube videos.I’m over 40 now and I don’t intend to take any crap. I’ve had a lovely female instructor who happen to own a motorcycle shop and we rode 22 km down the highway etc., but I still need a lot of practice and despite what people say, I’m getting the hand of it – so there!I’m not mechanical but awhile ago, I took flying lessons. It’s the same. You just take it one step at a time, practice, practice and don’t listen to the negative “noise!”Thanks again everyone!

  42. Thank you all so much for your “disclosures” (I am a therapist…).I just took my MSF course last weekend. I already had my motorcycle and was so excited to start riding. Although I passed the course, I too cried both days, even after passing. The reason? I was afraid of my new bike. I had wonderful instructors actually but also couldn’t do the figure 8 (we called it a double U-turn), and was afraid to go fast through the corners. Most of my fellow bikers also had experience – or were very young and had no fear. Your stories have helped me so much; I’m going to keep practicing because I don’t have to impress anyone but myself, and nor does any other lady who wants to ride.

  43. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I flunked my first test. It was then that I realized not all rider training schools are equal. I did not learn the basics. The motto was “go out and practice.” Since then I bought a 250XT Yamaha so I could practice. My boyfriend has given me some lessons in the parking lot but I am considering taking the course with another training school as private lessons with an instructor are also costly. My experience at the first school has been very frustrating. I just know I can’t give up. I want to ride.

  44. I already posted about my experience with an overcritical instructor. Well, just before I quit my course that day we were practicing riding around the parking lot and at the third corner I got going a little too fast, panicked, but got it stopped, all the while the instructor was yelling/blowing his whistle. At home, since then, I had been practicing on my own bike in a parking lot. I was doing really well until I started around one corner. Panicked, hit the throttle instead of the clutch or brake and ran into a pole! Lots of bruising/swelling but luckily no broken bones. I would have known how to handle this if my instructor had spent the time to show me what to do instead of criticizing me. My bike had to be totaled. I will try again after taking a safety course, hopefully with a good instructor.

  45. I took the MSF course this past weekend. This was my first time ever on a motorcycle. When we were told to get on the bikes and start them up, I had no idea how to do that. I understood the lessons from the book but hadn’t applied them to the actual bike yet. Immediately the instructor went full force on the throttle while I was sitting on the bike and said, “Get that out of your system now.” At that point, I was labeled the “special student.” Everyone else in the class had prior riding experience.By the end of the first day, I was able to ride the bike and had gotten a good feel for the friction zone, but I often felt confused by what exactly I was supposed to be doing with the exercises. One of the instructors was helpful when I asked questions, but the other two seemed aggravated with me and were pretty condescending.By Sunday I felt confident and happy and exhausted. I hadn’t dropped the bike and I’d managed the shifting and stopping, so I figured I was doing pretty well! I aced the written test, but the instructor for the day was the most condescending of the two. He put me on a different bike for the road test, and when I said it felt like the bike was pulling me forward, he said, “Believe me, it’s not the bike.”When it came time to do the figure eight—which I didn’t understand was the “figure 8” because the instructor didn’t call it that and instead went through it step by step—I accidentally shifted into second and the bike conked out. The instructor then came over and accused me of not doing what I’d been told. When I tried to explain, he sent me to the other instructor’s line. I didn’t even have a chance to repeat the figure eight exercise. I felt humiliated, so I drove my bike over to the side, shut it down, got off, and started crying (and it takes a lot for me to cry). I walked to my nearby car, still with my helmet and glasses on, to calm down, and the same instructor followed me, yelling at me that I was not allowed to leave the course and that I needed to come back right away. I told him I needed a moment to collect my thoughts, and when he saw I’d been crying, he shook his head and walked over to the other instructor to talk about me. I was still crying as I made my way back to the course to finish the next four hours of exercises. I’d lost all my passion.During the next four hours, I was pretty much ignored or told in two-word answers what I’d done wrong. My confidence was shattered, I was humiliated, and I knew that I would fail the course either way. But even if I had passed, I would have seen it as a failure, as I did not learn the skills needed to ensure the safety of myself or others out on the road (and even if I’d felt that I had learned those kills, I still would have logged many practice hours in a parking lot before I felt safe mingling in traffic). I feel like the instructors failed ME. I am a strong woman. I am a perfectionist, and I am capable of learning. I decided to call the rider school today and schedule a private two-hour lesson for an additional $150 before taking the exam a second time. The MSF basic course was $280. I hope the private instruction will give me the one-on-one attention that I need, along with the confidence and skill level needed to pass the test. I specifically asked for instructors that were not at the course this past weekend. I think maybe a fresh start with a new instructor will help.I don’t yet have a motorcycle to practice on because I am waiting to see how much I like riding before making the investment. I loved riding on the first day of the course, but now I am just a mess. I want to do it, but I need good instruction that moves at my own pace. Not sure if I am making a big mistake with wanting to ride a motorcycle or if I just had a bad experience. Any advice?

    1. Hi, Ruth—We’re sorry to hear you had such a bad experience! And yes, this does sound like just that—a bad experience—and not a sign that you’re not destined to be a motorcycle rider. The good news, as I’m sure you know from reading this article, is that you’re not alone in failing the MSF course the first time. Many riders (not just women) feel that the beginner course moves too quickly for them. Individual lessons sound like a great idea. For more advice, consider posting in the “Beginners” section of the WRN Forum. There are a lot of riders posting there about their “newbie” experiences, and I’m sure you’ll find a lot of sympathetic ears (and hopefully some great advice). Good luck to you, and don’t give up!

  46. After reading these comments I feel a lot better. I have never ridden a motorcycle and was so nervous that the instructor had to tell me to breath several times. I even pulled off to the side and cried for a few seconds because I didn’t feel like I was where others were in the class. I began again…still nervous. I felt it was not enough time for me to learn the clutch process and how to gradually give it gas. I wobbled after the instructor stopped to ask me “did I feel like I was a safe rider at that point.” My nervousness went to an all-time high and when I took off I ended up hitting the curb and the ground, with my pride and feelings hurt. I was counseled out. I went home to cry the day out. After talking to several of my friends who have been riding for years, I came to realize I had never been in control of a motorcycle before and that I did accomplish something that day. And being that I am harder on myself than anyone can ever be I am more determined to learn to ride a motorcycle safely so my practice begins.

  47. I can relate to the woman that had an instructor that had no patience. My friend and I both quit our course, as he was so critical of us. Neither of is had ever ridden a motorcycle, we were nervous and tried our best to keep up with the others in the class. The others had all been riding dirt bikes/small motorcycles for years. We had advanced to shifting from 1st to 2nd gear after only two hours of instruction. We are both very upset but will try to get into another school. We won’t give up.

  48. After reading some of the comments I’m so glad I had the instructors that I did! I took the course just six months ago not knowing anything about riding, I was worried if I’d be able to reach the ground (I’m only 5 feet) but not once did I think that I may have rude instructors. I dropped the bike three times that day and they encouraged me, not cut me down. If they had I know I would’ve quit. I took the course with a girl friend of mine, not with the hubby because I didn’t want to embarass him! I did pass the course, which surprised me, and have wanted to ride ever since. Although I am nervous, I’m buying my first bike this weekend and will start practicing. I’ll be on the road in no time!

  49. In the summer of 2012 I bought a Honda Rebel. I got my permit and rode a few times with my boyfriend who has a Road King. I also signed up for the MSF course. I was glad I had at least some experience prior to taking this class. I also feel there isn’t enough practice time.There were two instructors. One had patience, the other didn’t. I felt he was more critical of the women in the class. I did make a few minor mistakes and he said maybe I should rethink this. I spoke to the other instructor and decided on my own to withdraw at this time. I did learn some new things from this class and I will retake it at a different location. Hopefully this time I will have more confidence. I will keep practicing because this is something I really want to do. If you put your mind to it you can do it.

    1. I have heard of some instructors, particularly men, who can be negative and critical of female students who are having a hard time grasping technique. This really bugs me. Instead of being critical they should be encouraging. Don’t let one instructor with a bad attitude discourage you or crush your dream of riding. The best thing you can do is retake the class at a different location as you are doing. Best of luck to you. Keep us posted.

  50. Well, count me in. Never having ridden any type of motorized bike, I signed up for the MSF course. I was told you didn’t need to know anything except how to ride a bicycle. So…without any experience whatsoever, I went into it confident that I would pass. I even picked out a nice Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200XL, certain that I would be riding it after successfully passing the MSF course.Wish I had read these comments before because I was asked to leave after popping the clutch and dumping my bike. (How embarrassing but I was laughing about it the next day.) The pace of the course was way too fast and the class was too big. I couldn’t hear the instructors because of the wind and they had no time to individualize the instruction. It was either sink or swim…and I sank!So, I went home, bought a Rebel and practiced in parking lots and side streets and found another MSF course with different instructors. They were wonderful! However, due to sheer exhaustion after five hours on the range under a bleeping hot sun, I ran over a cone during the test portion (an immediate flunk!). Oh also, during the practice portion in the U-turn, I dumped the bike. The instructor kept shouting: “Trust your bike!” After falling, I told him that’s just what I had been doing…and it didn’t work. So, I went home (again) and started riding new my Harley Sportster on my permit. I felt, by that point, fairly confident and ready to retake the test. Third time’s a charm! I passed! The second happiest day of my life after the birth of my son. I’ve been riding for quite some time now and am so glad I was stubborn enough not to give up. I love riding. It’s added so much to my life. If you love something enough, you won’t let a couple failures get in the way! Unless you’ve decided riding isn’t really that important to you, giving up is not an option. Be tough, hang in there and make yourself proud! (The MSF course is so important to take. You really do learn so much!)

  51. It is so nice to know I’m not the only one who thought there wasn’t enough practice time in class. I could relate to at least one statement in every story I read here. I failed the first time too, last year, but have now bought a Suzuki Savage 650 to practice on before I take the course again in May of this year. Thanks.

  52. At age 47, I took my MSF course last spring with my daughter, age 19. It was something I had wanted to do since I was 10 and my mother wouldn’t let my father buy me a dirt bike. I didn’t even tell my husband until I signed up. It was the biggest challenge I have undertaken emotionally and physically. Unfortunately, I failed, and my daughter passed. I was devastated but didn’t want my daughter, whom I was very happy for and proud of, to see my disappointment. It took me a couple of weeks to get my courage up to do the retest which I passed! I bought a Sportster 1200 that fall and am very proud to report that I get better each time I go out. My husband has since also gotten his license and bike. I am truly living a lifetime dream. I have had many accomplishments in my life, but none that I am more proud of than this. I am so happy my daughter’s mom never told her she couldn’t have a bike. She knows that she can do anything she puts her mind to and to never give up! I taught her that and believe it was the best gift I ever gave her and myself.

  53. I've ridden as a passenger a handful of times, and now would like to learn how to ride a motorcycle properly from the beginning, rather than form bad habits that are hard to shake. So I signed up for the Basic Course. Being slightly less than 5 feet tall, I was tip-toeing on the Rebel 250 (smallest bike they had). That bike also has a higher center of gravity than the Yamaha 250 I sat on in a showroom, making it more difficult to handle for me. About mid-way during the first day of on-the-bike classwork, I heard the instructions for the next exercise (where we start shifting into second gear along with a few other maneuvers), and my first thought was, “I don't even have the last exercise down yet, and they want me to add this?”

    During that exercise, I dropped the bike (for the third time that morning!), so they took me off the course. I would love to find a course that allows much more practice time for each exercise. Of course, I can go to a parking lot and practice on my own (if I buy a bike before I know how to ride one!), but then, even with a rider friend watching me, I can likely start picking up those bad habits I'd like to avoid. If we sign up as a drop-in within two weeks, we don't have to pay for the course again, but it's looking like I'll have to sign up every two weeks for the rest of the summer at the rate I'm learning! In our location, classes fill up months in advance and it's difficult to get a spot on walk in. Any advice?

  54. It was my idea to start riding, I think it all started with a ride on the back at 13. For more than three years I talked about riding. Finally, my husband agreed. e took his MSF course in the fall and passed, I was in the first class the following spring. The weekend I took the course, the weather in Ohio showed how fickle it can be. Forty degrees, rain that turned into snow, made for a slick course. My hubby ran and got me a rain suit. Then, extra gloves. he misery continued. I seemed to overcome the rain – but when the snowflakes came down during the final assessment, the fear must've got to me, and I failed. I was humiliated. And, as bad as I had wanted to ride, I didn't find the courage to try the class again for 10 long years. Instead, I rode the back and watched longingly as women passed us on their own rides.

    Finally, four years ago this July, I found the courage. I took the course, (in July this time!) it still rained, but I passed! Three months later I bought a Sportster and we lowered her. Now I have 50,000 miles to my credit. I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of myself, and how much fun it's been! My only regret? Those 10 years I wasted. Wonderful article – and a subject that needs to be addressed more often! Thank you!

  55. A very encouraging article, and wonderful Web site (that we've just discovered!). We're a mother and daughter team, just learning and going through all the emotions expressed by other beginner riders. At 49, I'm so thrilled to see heaps of other women starting to ride around my age. Jaz is 19, and hasn't ridden since a very young age. My only riding experience was an old DT in the paddock. Jaz previously rode a PeeWee 85. Our instructor growled at us, “You're not riding 'chook chasers' (in Australia a chook is a chicken, and a chook chaser is the derogatory term for a dirt bike). Our wrists and elbows were way too high and we weren't gripping the tank firmly with our knees (I can't repeat what the instructor said about that!).

    Anyway, now we're ready to practice on our newly restored Yamaha XJ650 before going for our L's. Looking forward to reading more stories and articles.

  56. Great tips and advice, I, too, at 50 will be taking my course this week. I have already purchased my dream bike. I am determined and very confident, however, in the event I fail, I will spring right back up, and most importantly at my own pace, not my husband's or anyone else's. I want it to stay fun and not be a chore.

  57. Great article! I'm signed up to take the BRC in May – the all women's class. I'm 49 years old and last year I decided I want to be the one in the front instead of my husband. I learned how to ride when I was 13, but just rode for one summer and that was it. Now that I have decided to ride again I have had so many people say I'm crazy. And the horrid stories I'm told would scare anyone from ever trying it. But, I've plugged on researching and doing tons of reading.

    I went to the BMV last December and took the written test and passed that so I hold my permit. I researched bikes and looked at so many bikes and sat on them. This past January I was at a Harley dealership and sat on a 2009 Heritage Softail and fell in total love! Two hours later I left owning it. Now people are saying I'm crazy and now stupid because I bought the bike before the course. They can't understand the feeling I got when I sat on her. She was part of me – my long lost part. I felt an immediate bond. My husband owns a 07 Dyna Super Glide. He is very supportive and keeps telling me to ignore everyone because he knows I can do it.

    Yesterday we took his bike to a parking lot and started to practice. Before I got on his bike all those people's comments came back to me and I started to question myself. Stupid for sure! I just stood there and stared at his bike (that I have ridden on the back seat hundreds of times – but never sat in the front). My husband just kept encouraging me to forget what others have said about my riding and to get on when I feel comfortable. Fifteen minutes later I was on the bike – sat there for another 15 minutes getting use to it feeling top heavy compared to my Softail. I then started it and found the friction zone and walked the bike to the end of the parking lot.

    What joy I had! And that was just walking it. That was all I wanted to do yesterday and I accomplished it. This weekend will be more. My husband was impressed and said I did everything right. My dream will be fullfilled regardless of what others say. I drive a car (which I have never had a ticket or accident and have been doing that since I was 13, too), so my motorcycle is next. And I will be riding my oftail this spring – regardless of the stories I have heard. I like seeing these positive stories. Not everything is life is negative!

    1. I'm glad you had a postive experience “practicing” before actually learning anything. Most people who try to learn from a loved one end up having an exercise in frustration and anger.

      It's hard for me to advocate going the route you're going — buying a bike and actually practicing on it or any bike before having learned the skills needed to properly operate a motorcycle. There's a high chance you will drop the bike. That inevitably shakes what little confidence you already have. You could damage the bike and be out thousands of dollars from a small cosmetic ding.

      I applaud your confidence and willingness to follow your dream despite the naysayers. I'm certainly not nay-saying that. I'm going on record though to those who think of going the route you have that it's best to learn the skills to ride first, from someone proficient in the proper execution of those skills (i.e. an MSF instructor) and then go to a parking lot and practice. Then, you'll really have something to practice. You don't need to practice for the course. The BRC starts at the very beginning. They assume the students have never sat on a motorcycle. Doing it the way you're doing – learning from someone other than a certified instructor, there's a high chance of picking up bad habits that will be in conflict with things you'll learn in the class.

      I wish you all the best.

  58. What a great article. I have been a passenger with my husband for 19 years. He has encouraged me me learn for many years and I decided this year to go for it. My biggest fear was learning how to shift. I took the BRC class in September during the record breaking rainfall of more than 6 inches each day, with massive flooding. It's hard to go around those little cones when they are floating away. I have never been so wet in my life.

    At 56, I was the oldest women in the class and after the first day I wondered if I was too old to really do this. (Yes I dropped the bike, practicing the U-turn.) But I passed the test and am so proud of myself. I started with a 250 Suzuki and lots of practice in a school parking lot, and have now bought a new 650 Yamaha V Star. My husband is a great rider with loads of patience with me as I gain experience. We have had some great rides. I am so glad I decided to ride my own.

  59. I am 47 years old and I took a MSF course last June 2008 and did great in the range practice until test time came, then I blew it bad. I went back two weeks later and retook the second day and passed. My reward was riding the bike back home by myself about 25 miles. The hardest thing in the course was getting use to the smaller bikes (250 Hondas) after practicing on my ol' mans 08 Dyna Super Glide.

    I am so glad that I went back and passed the MSF course. I can't tell you how many times I have used what they taught me, riding the freeways and highways in Los Angeles. n July 08 I bought my own 08 1200L Anniversary edition Sportster. It has been 5+ months and I have put more than 4,000 miles on it.

  60. I have been around Harleys all my life. When I started working for Harley-Davidson Financial Services, the bug hit me. I talked about getting a bike for six months. My husband thought that it was a stupid and unsafe mode of transportation. I won a Harley 883 Sporty last December at our company Christmas party.

    Well, when the Sporty fell into my lap we decided to take the local college's MSF BRC. It was the first class of the season, and cold! was taking it to learn to ride, and he was taking it “so he could learn how to move the bike if he needed to.”

    I was not the only female in the class, but I was the only female to pass. I dropped the poor little Suzuki GZ250 once, practicing the sudden stop in a curve (I looked down!) After cracking a couple of ribs in that incident, my husband and I decided we needed something smaller to practice our basic skills on.

    We found a 2002 Virago 250 in June and we took turns riding “Virgil” to work. He got the bug, and we ended up fighting over bike time.

    I felt that I was ready for my Sporty in early August, and brought him home with no problems. My husband ended up dropping my Sporty in some gravel the second week I had it home because he had learned a few bad habits on the 250 and wasn't used to a heavier bike.

    He took it seriously and practiced his slow speed maneuvers – and we now are proud owners of an 08 Dyna Low Rider as well as the Sporty — and to think a year ago he was totally against motorcycling!

    Too bad winter is coming up! 🙁

  61. I came across this just after I had registered for the basic course. Had never ridden a motorcycle other than as a passenger. When I read these stories it made me realize how hard it was going to be and I was determind to do well because of that passion for my own bike.

    Went to find a bike and realized they were hard to come by at the end of season. I ran an ad and found a 250 Rebel in great condition which fit me perfectly being 5-feet-3 and short legs. I practiced on a church parking lot every day I could. Got a permit so I could ride with a friend and get more experience, studied the online written tests until I knew all the answers, and read the motorcycle riders manual.

    Finally, my weekend came the beginning of Sept. Did great and passed, but by the time the riding test came around on the third day, I was exhausted, driving an hour both ways every day and not getting enough rest. I passed just fine the first time, but I don't know if I would have if I had not read these stories & prepared myself (almost overprepared myself probably).

    I am 52 and there were women there much older than me and almost as many women as men. So don't be intimidated. It was great fun. It's also great to finally have that license. Now comes the fun part of finding that keeper bike.

    1. Congratulations on passing and getting your motorcycle license. I do want to point out for those reading this interested in taking the MSF Basic Rider Course, that you do not have to buy a bike or get a learner's permit before taking the course. I actually recommend buying a bike after passing the class so you have an idea of the type of bike you want to buy.

      The Basic Rider Course is designed for people with no knowledge of riding a motorcycle. It starts with the very basics and assumes you've never been on a motorcycle.

  62. The first time I took the MSF course I passed with no problems. Well, the box gave me problems, but I did fine with the rest of the test. I took my written test and passed that as well. However, it was a whole month before I got the chance to ride (I was out of town), and I felt like I didn't remember much of what I'd learned. So I took the course again!

    The second time around I was much much more comfortable on the bike. Instead of being nervous and trying to figure out what I was doing with the bike along with mastering the skills, I could concentrate on improving my skills where I was weak the first time. It made a difference. I passed the second time around with a perfect score, and my confidence was much higher than it was after I passed the first time. Nothing wrong with taking it a second time, even if you passed the first time.

  63. I read this article several weeks before I took the MSF Basic Rider course. I flunked, yesterday. I nailed the swerve and quick stop, but the dreaded box and turn got me. I was (and am) so disappointed! I thought about this article, and read it again. It was just what I needed. I will be going to get my learner's permit, and will re-take the class as soon as there is an opening.

  64. I wrote in May that there were five weeks until my scheduled BRC. Well, I took it with my husband, and I ended up withdrawing myself from the class after a few exercises when it was clear that I could not “get” the clutch, not to mention several other skills. Since my husband was in the class, I stayed to do the classroom work, written test and watched the remainder of the skills course and skills eval. The head of the school gave me re-mediation on the clutch problems after the course was over, and told me that she would call me if any cancellations came up so that I could re-take the course.

    Lo and behold, a couple of spots opened up and I completed the course and passed the skills evaluation just one week later. Since I had passed the written test already, I didn't have to worry about it — and that was a relief!

    I believe it was to my benefit that I stayed to watch the course. Besides finishing the classroom work and being a part of the class, I had the opportunity to see each skill, and saw how they built on each other. The instructors never made me feel like a “failure,” and the other students were non-judgmental in either class.

  65. I also failed the class the first time. I fell off twice and was the only one to fail in my class. Felt like a total idiot. The truth was, I was scared silly. It would be two years before I tried it again and I passed without any problem. Different instructors who were very easy going and encouraging made a big difference.

    Spent about six weeks and 125 miles on back streets before going out on main streets. I got a Honda Shadow Aero 750 and it was a little hard to transition from a 250, but I am glad I didn't start with a smaller bike which I would have quickly outgrown. Now it is fun and my husband and I can ride together. Soon to take the Experienced Rider Course to continue to work on my riding skills. I am so glad I didn't give up

  66. Last May I took and failed the MSF course. Naturally I was disapointed but determined that I would not be defeated by an inanimate object. I thanked the instructors and told them I learned a lot and would take the skills I learned in the class home and practice at my own pace.

    I immediately went out and purchased a new Yamaha V Star 650 (hard saddlebags, chrome accessories, sissybar, luggage rack, windshield, fringe, etc.) The rationale was: 1. I had to learn because I'd spent all of this money. I had made a commitment., and 2. I would be very careful not to get one scratch on my shiny new bike.

    I practiced in my quiet, sparsely populated subdivision for about a month before my husband took me out into the “real world.” After about 1000 miles of practice I enrolled in one of the October Harley's Rider's Edge New Riders Course and graduated at the top of the class.

    In November I traded my baby for a big girls bike (V Star 1300) so I could keep up with my husband. Failing is not always a bad thing if you use it as an instrument for learning. I consider failing in May as a blessing. It may have saved my life.

  67. Back on April 21, 2008 I wrote about failing the MSF course in May of 2007. Well, I just re-took the course and finally passed. I was still nervous even though I had a year of actual riding under my belt. Testing always made me nervous. Anyway, all six in my class passed, including a 40+ year-old gal who's fighting breast cancer and undergoing chemo, and a 72-year-old fellow.
    So there is hope for anyone who really wants to learn to ride. Don't give up and go for it. I'm glad I did.

  68. Thank you Susan for this article. I failed my Gearing Up class two weekends ago and was very discouraged. I ended up learning on a dirt bike that was constantly stalling or not running very well. Did I mention it had a kick start? The bruise on my inner right knee is slowly disappearing. This was also the weekend that it rained continually. I was tired, cold, and my brain was overloaded with all the information I had taken in.

    I'd purchased a Suzuki S40 Boulevard (650cc) and thought to myself, “Great now what do I do?” I'm not going to give up. I got in touch with the bike school, informed them of my situation with the ill-tuned bike and I'm waiting to hear what the Board of Directors decides. I've been told that I may get the opportunity to take the course again (no charge).

    Sisters! Do not give up. Pat yourself on the back and say to yourself, “So what if I failed once. I just need more saddle time.” I'd rather fail once and become a safer rider – for myself and for everyone else on the road.

  69. I finally went and did it! I am 54 and passed the Motorcycle Safety Class. I still can't believe it. Sitting here thinking about it makes me smile. It was hard and I was so stressed out about it. I was not worried so much about riding the motorcycle and practicing the skills as I was mostly worried about failing.

    I didn't tell anyone I was taking the class – even my own daughters. I knew they would think I had gone off the deep end or something. I had a hard time on the U-turns. I just couldn't get it for some reason.

    I do have a small bike, my dream is to get a Harley some day. I have always envied the women who ride and when you get that bug, well, you just have to follow through with it. For all you women out there who have failed the class, keep practicing. Don't give up. You can do it!

  70. I ran across this Web site a week before my basic rider course and I wasn't really thinking about failing the test until I read the article. I then prepared myself for what could happen if I don't catch on so easily since I have never even started a motorcycle before. I told myself that no matter what happened I would just do my best and even though this is something I wanted to do for 20 years doesn't mean it will come naturally to me.

    The course was great and I did pass but it also taught me that I need a lot of practice but first I need to pick a bike that I can handle safetly. That Harley I wanted will have to wait awhile until I get enough experience.

    A friend of mine is taking the class next week and I am sure she will do fine. I was also the only girl in my class and dropped the bike on the first day, but I didn't give up, and on day two did much better and felt more confident.

    Your article gave me a good attitude, pass or fail – I told myself I would not give up.

  71. I am taking the Basic MSF class in five weeks, and had not even considered that there was the possibility I would fail — even though I have no experience on a bike. After reading this, I am looking to take a private lesson or two before the course so that I can go in with as much experience as I can get. Thank you for the article! Also, thanks to those who responded with their own experiences.

  72. Thanks for the article. It was just what I needed to read. After spending many years riding on the back of my husband's Harleys, I was smitten and determined to experience the freedom of the road for myself. I bought a used Honda Hawk and practiced as much as I could without a license on the gravel roads of our remote northern community. My best friend, also the wife of a rider, convinced me to take the Motorcycle Safety course with her.

    While she passed the course (yet never rode again), I failed and have always felt ashamed and disappointed in myself. It is 10 years later now and I have a new boyfriend who lives for riding. He is encouraging me to try again, yet the fear and shame of failure is still there. Thank you for giving me hope and courage to try again.

    P.S. I was diagnosed with MS four years ago at age 40, and now I am more determined than ever to fulfill my dreams before its too late. I want to tell everyone, “Never take your health for granted. Make your dreams a reality while you are able.”

  73. I took the course last weekend, and passed, but not with a perfect score. It was a great learning experience that I'm glad I got a chance to participate in. Our class was evenly divided into men and women. The women grouped together, talked about how we did, and gave each other encouragement. Only one of us didn't make it. She pretty much talked herself out of passing. Don't let anyone, including yourself, tell you that you can't succeed. I'll be cruising around our neighborhood learning all the ins and outs for quite a while.

  74. T

    I took my MSF course in November, in anticipation of getting my Low Rider in December. I passed the written test with a 100, but when we got out on the course I couldn't keep up with the rest of the class in learning the skills. I'd been given a 250 Rebel with a sticky throttle that kept lurching forward on me and scaring me into either killing it or stopping. I tried to tell the instructors all of that, and they insisted the bike was fine and it was my lack of skill and nervousness. By the end of the first day, I was in tears.

    The next morning the same thing started all over again, and the instructor pulled me aside and told me I needed to either calm down or quit. That made me mad enough to insist they give me a different bike. They finally let me trade with another more experienced student, who immediately said that it did indeed have a sticky throttle. I was fine on the new bike, and passed the course, but I still never really got the extent of teaching and experience that the other students got, because I basically missed the whole first day. I borrowed a Rebel from a friend and practiced on it for a few weeks before I got my Harley, so that I would feel a little safer.

    The moral of this story is: You are paying for the course, and if you feel that there are problems with either the instruction or the bike, SPEAK UP immediately and insist on changes, or get your money back and take a different course.

  75. I failed the BRC skills test the first time with my boyfriend watching. I was determined not to spend another ride as a passenger and I had already invested so much time and money. After practicing the same skills immediately after the course on his Yamaha 750, a 250cc bike felt much easier and my confidence was way up. So I retook the test on the same day and passed!

    I've been riding solo ever since and everything I learned has been helpful on the road. Don't get discouraged ladies and just get back in the saddle — the sooner the better!

  76. This is very good advice. I had about 20 years experience as a passenger only when I took the basic course. Even though I had all those years of “riding” experience, I had no idea how to start the bike. I was the only girl of about 12, and to my surprise, I passed the first time.

    My biggest concern was the handling of the bike. I drive a 5-speed truck, and felt that helped me understand the controls better. Even though I passed the first time, I still needed a lot of practice. So I put about 1,000 miles on my bike and never left my neighborhood. I, too, know many men who are very experienced riders, and some of them are not so understanding of the learning curve. Do not let them intimidate you because you are intimidating them by learning how to ride and seeking your independence on a motorcycle.

    If possible, seek out other women riders in your area. You'd be surprise the number of women who would love to ride with you and teach you what they know. But by all means, try again!

  77. Great artical and advice. I took the MSF course a little over a year ago. Had done a little riding on my own. Thought I was pretty good at it, untill I took the course and discovered all the things I was doing wrong. Needless to say, I failed the first time. I got my learner's permit, got some more riding in to gain confidence and passed the second time. I have since had one minor accident but am back riding and thank God for the course, because without it, my minor accident could have been so much worse.

  78. I could not believe the title of the article when I was browsing through this Web site. I just took the Basic Riders Course and flunked the test yesterday. I was too nervous for the U-turn evaluation and, for the life of me, could not do the U-turns within the box. I still can't get a grip on counterweighting technique, but I am determined to go back, improve and learn the U-turn technique and get my license. Thank you for the article!

  79. Add me to the list of those who failed the course the first time around. I was the only one in the class to fail, too. There I was, taking the Riders Edge Class the same weekend my new 2007 Dyna Low Rider was being delivered to the dealership. You can imagine my excitement. My husband was all smiles when he came to pick me up after the test thinking I passed with flying colors. I was devastated and my confidence in the tank. How was I going to tell him I got 100 percent on the written test, but failed (by 1 point) the riding part? He was very supportive and felt so bad for me. I just got too nervous when we were doing the “for real riding test part.

    Anyway, I rode my new bike all summer, gaining more confidence and skill. I've signed up to re-take the class this May. Riders Edge promises you a free of charge full repeat course if you fail the first time. I know I'll pass this time around. So don't give up, and keep taking it until you pass. It's not the end of the world, and you'll be a better rider for it.

  80. I also didn't pass my first class. It was my first time on the front of any kind of motorcycle, and I think the combination of the controls not feeling natural to me, and my being extremely nervous did me in. I got a learners permit and I spent a month on a loner bike, riding around with my husband in parking lots and on quiet streets. I retook the class a month or so later and passed. I was much less nervous the second time around. My husband was glad I had taken the first class as it gave me the information I needed for practicing and preparing for the next try.

  81. Thanks for the encouragement. I just failed my test and was very discouraged. I have not had a lot of experience riding but did learn a great deal through the class. I will be pushing on to another day of practice and retesting this week for the second time. I will not give up. Thanks.

  82. OMG, I nearly cried reading your comments and stories. My boyfriend and I broke up this past January after having ridden with him all last year, and putting on nearly 2400 miles on the back of his Indian. I was mostly devastated about not being able to ride this year.

    So I bought my own bike, a 250cc, something I can handle. Took the basic rider course (not my first time, but I never had a bike to ride and practice on) and I passed. Like the others, I need lots of practice in exactly the areas they mentioned: stopping, swerving, cornering.

    I just can' t wait to get out and practice. Being from Iowa, we got record breaking ice and snow last year so right now there is a ton of sand on the road. So, I sit on my bike, in my garage (with the door down so my neighbors don't think I am totally whacked) and go through the motions just to make my memory and my muscles react without hesitation.

    I practice getting on the bike and going through FINE-C and braking to come to a near complete stop and putting my left foot down and then squeezing the front brake to hold in place, putting the right foot down, and putting the kick stand down, and then “turning off” everything, including remembering to turn the fuel off. All without running the engine.

    Then I put the garage door up, start it, and let it run for awhile. Then with feet planted on the ground, put it in 1st and let the clutch out slowly so I'm very familiar with where the friction point is.

    For now, it's enough to just be on my own bike. But I can't wait for that sand to be cleared off so I can get to the nearest parking lot to practice. I'm tempted to go out and sweep it myself.
    Guess what? I'm no longer reliant on a man to go riding. I love it!

  83. I flunked the first time I took the MSF course. I was devestated. I went back two weeks later, took the test again, and had the best score in the class.

    Thinking back, know I failed the first time because I was exhausted by the time we took the final skills test. In addition to the stress and effort from taking the class, I had to drive an hour each way to the class and it was the weekend time “springs” forward.

    Now when recommending the course to others I make it a point of telling them not to plan anything else that weekend and to get plenty of rest beforehand.

  84. I am absolutely surprised that I passed the class! I dumped the bike once (still have the scar on my elbow) and I dropped the bike once when we were doing the u-turns. While it was not a requirement to wear a riding jacket, I'd recommend it. We were told to wear a long-sleeve shirt, which did nothing to protect me when I dumped the bike!

    I had no previous experience prior to the class except for sitting on the back of my husband's bike, so learning the clutch took time. While I would not hesitate to recommend this course to anyone, I really don't think they “taught” me how to ride. My husband has been riding dirtbikes since he was a kid and motorcycles since he was old enough to drive so I took what they told me and showed me in the class and had my husband really explain to me and help me practice the skills from the course.

    It's a scary thought knowing that although I passed the course, received my license through the course, I still needed a ton of practice. After the course, I joked that I was an OK parking lot driver, but just don't let me on the road. There is so much to learn in such a short amount of time. It's funny when you think about the number of hours of experience required to get a driver's license for a car in relation to the number of hours of experience for a motorcycle.

    1. You make a good point. The thing with motorcycling is that some people pick it up right away; it's almost second nature. Most, though, do need considerable practice time — off the streets — to feel comfortable and confident in the saddle.

  85. Thank you. I needed to read this. My fiance is an extremely experienced rider. He's got an older Yamaha Venture Royale 1200. He's a genius (literally) and I cannot ride with him because he truly does know it all and has difficulty dealing with my slower learning curve. I started MSF classes late last fall. I did not even attempt to ride my starter bike, a Honda Rebel 250, before I finished the classroom portion of the training.

    I was more nervous about the whole situation than my initial excitement had led me to believe. I was too nervous to remember specific instructions like, when you get to the last cone, make a sharp left, slow down at the second cone, etc. I would always forget one piece of it and then become forever lost and even more nervous for the next set of instructions. Not to mention, the bike kept stalling at slower speeds.

    This eventually lead to a nasty little fall, introducing me to a ride in an ambulance and a final diagnosis of a dislocated hip. I couldn't finish the course section at MSF before the season ended.

    I've had all winter to heal up and I am even more excited this year. Yesterday, with the wonderful spring weather, I went out to ride around the neighborhood for about an hour. I was much more relaxed in spite of all of the sand and gravel on the roads. It was so much fun! Yes, there's a lot I still need to work on. The Rebel's a “leaner,” — doing tight turns scrapes the engine bars on the pavement. This startles me. Gotta get used to that.

    Anyway, I still want to do this. Perhaps more now than I did last year. Should I spend the $160 for the MSF course again, or try to do it on my own?

    1. You should take the class again. The right mental attitude is half the battle; plus you know what to expect; plus, it's very unlikely you'll fail twice. Do it!

  86. Great advice. I failed my exam the first time, too. Having never been on a motorcycle before the class, it was tough. However, my MSF branch (in NY state at the time) offered private, one-on-one sessions with an MSF instructor who could license me if I passed the skills test.

    After three hours alone on the course with private coaching, I was able to pass five days after I failed the first test. This option proved cheaper than retaking the entire course, and it focused on what I really needed — riding time.

    I highly recommend this to anyone who is given this option, even if he or she passes the test. Sometimes you just need a little extra help to feel confident on the road.

  87. Three years ago I flunked my MSF class. I was the only girl, and the only one who flunked. I was so embarrassed and cried for days. I convinced myself it was just too hard.

    Six months later I decided the desire was stronger than the pride. I got the best score (I knew what to expect) in my all guy class and never looked back! Don't ever give up on a dream. The empowerment I feel every time I strap on my helmet is worth more to me than gold!

  88. The basic rider course was the first time I ever rode in the front seat. That course was where I learned to ride and never had enough time to practice the new skill before the next skill was introduced. I flunked the test and was devastated. I immediately went to McDonalds and ordered a Big Mac, (something I never do) and sobbed on the phone to my boyfriend. I was determined to ride so I went back in two weeks — took the course again and I passed! I'm tellin' ya, I was on top of the world!

    Since then, I've also passed the experienced course, on my third bike, have 60k miles under my belt, and plan to ride through nine western states in June/July 08. Never ever never give up!

  89. Great article and advice. I didn't pass my first MSF course. I was very angry becasue I was the cheerleader in the class. I gave everyone encouragement when they lacked confidence and then I didn't pass myself. I was very hard on myself. However, I didn't give up and went on to get my license a few weeks later. I wish I had your article at that time. I'm still a novice, but I'll get in a lot of practice this riding season.

  90. Excellent advice. I took the class last year, and out of the 20 people in our group, there were seven women. We all did much better than the men. I think we did better because we didn't go into the class with all the “macho” baggage, and were more willing to learn, and not just show off.

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