Babes Ride Out

My Personal Experience Taking the Motorcycle Safety School Class (MSF Training Course)

Ashmore Ellis

You gotta start somewhere. We always recommend starting in the dirt if you have never sat on a bike before but once you start figuring out the mechanics, what's next? I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's training course and wanted to share my personal experience with you. Proper training, knowing your limits, and a basic understanding of these machines is incredibly important. 

Signing up is easy. The MSF site will help you find places near you (using your zip code) that offer beginner training and advanced training.  Bikes and helmets are provided but if you have your own helmet, I'd recommend bringing it if you can. My class was small, about 13 people which was great and not intimidating in the least as everyone there was there to learn. We started in a classroom and had a bout 5 hours of going over safety, basic mechanics, group assignments (the worst) and finally were ready to head out to the bikes. The class I was in had low CC bikes of all kinds, all of which are banged up which takes out the fear of "what if I drop it?!". My instructors were amazing and helped me learn where my hands should go, shouldn't go, where my feet should be, how to counter steer, etc. These guys are trained to look for any bad habits forming and quickly break you from them before it's a problem. For instance, my right hand was hovering over the brake when in gear. The instructor noticed and told me what to expect if I grabbed it...my hand no longer hovered there. They pack a lot into the 10 hours of "on bike" learning and you stay under 10 mph. Before you know it, you are on your safety "obstacle test" which at the time was terrifying because I didn't want to fail or drop the bike (that is automatic failure while taking the final test only). But guess what.. people fail it all the time and that is ok! All it means is that you'll need some more time learning basic skills to ensure you won't fail when it really counts, in the street with oncoming traffic. We had 3 out of the 13 fail in my class and no one looked down on those people because of it. Infact, every single failed student was determined to come back next weekend and do the whole thing over again. I was excited to pass on my first try but even though I had this certificate in my hand that would allow me to get my moto license, I was far from ready to be turned loose on the freeways of CA. The MSF helped me learn the fundamentals of motorcycle safety and showed me what I really needed to practice in order to get road worthy.  Months went by of practicing in my neighborhood, back streets, up and down hills, etc. Over the course of a year I was riding from 10 miles from home to 100 miles into the desert solo. It took time, dedication, failure, scares, and some embarrassing moments to get me here. I am still learning every time I get on my moto and yes, I am still slow as hell and use all the hand signs when riding but that is just my style. 

So, let's break it down:

Motorcycle Safety School Benefits

  • You learn on their beat up bikes so you can't hurt them (or yourself)
  • They provide basic gear (helmets, gloves) and require you to wear boots & pants
  • You get a discount on your insurance after completing 
  • It's affordable! $180 - $275 and we hear some states are free!
  • You are learning from professionals who know what to look for and correct bad habits before they form
  • Classes are small and you'll have a lot of 1 on 1 help and guidance 
  • They offer advanced training after you pass the Basic Rider class 

Motorcycle Safety School Things to Consider

  • Passing this class does not mean you are road worthy. You will need tons of practice and continued education (trust me, I did!).
  • This class will not teach you how to ride in groups and you will not experience riding in traffic or on the street. All instruction is done on a closed course. 
  • The class is only 1 weekend and you'll be learning the rest of your life. 

If you have any questions about MSF, their training, and advanced skill classes, give them a call at (800) 446-9227 or email MSF@msf-usa.org

 

I started with the Basic RiderCourse (BRC) Standard, but look at all they offer!

Tips for New Riders

Anya Violet

We have had a lot of ladies reach out to us recently asking for advice on how to get into riding motorcycles. I think everyone will answer this question a little differently but I would like to share my thoughts on this with you.

Everyones journey to two wheels starts differently. Everyone will tell you something different and really you just need to see what is going to work best for you!

In my opinion, if you are thinking of learning to ride, I would recommend starting on a dirtbike (preferably one that is small enough to where you can dead lift it off of you if you need to). This will get you comfortable with the feeling of being on a bike and with the mechanics of shifting and breaking and Braaaaaaping. Make sure you ALWAYS wear proper gear because you will fall several times. We all do, that’s part of the fun! You can probably rent one or borrow one from someone and you will want to spend a solid amount of time riding it. One weekend probably isn’t enough. Get to a point where you feel confident hopping on it and maneuvering it through a variety of terrain. You don’t need to be able to shred massive hill climbs and jump doubles, but finding the confidence in turns and being comfortable with shifting and breaking etc is key. Ask yourself how you feel after learning to ride a dirtbike. Does it still scare the shit out of you? Is it fun, but more scary than fun? Or is it the most fun ever? It is important to check in with yourself and decide whether this is for you, or not, before taking the next step. Riding dirt bikes before hitting the road will make you a much better street rider! I promise!

Once you feel good on a dirtbike, take a motorcycle safety/training course!!! This is a super rad learning experience and they have great instructors and usually a variety of bikes so you can choose something that you see yourself actually riding (at least the one I went to did) A lot of people that take these courses have never even sat on a motorcycle so don’t be intimidated!

If you passed the motorcycle training course you are ready for the road according to the law (in California). Check in with yourself again. Do you consider yourself to be a confident driver when you’re in a car? That is usually a good indicator of what type of motorcyclist you will be. The number one most important question to ask yourself is this: does the thrill outweigh the fear? If you are scared shitless everytime you hop on your bike then you should NOT ride motorcycles. If you get more and more confident every time you ride and you love it more and more, then you are on the right track. Push yourself, but not too hard. You do not want to be a liability on the road! You will end up out of your comfort zone probably several times as we all do. You just need to broaden your comfort zone a bit more each time!

Riding a motorcycle is dangerous no matter what way you look at it. Having respect for that is crucial.  Aside from just learning to ride your bike is the “other people on the road aspect”…. that is a whole other thing that you need to decide if you are comfortable with. A lot of moto accidents are caused by collisions with cars and you need to be aware of how to ride in a way that is defensive while also being respectful to other people on the road. This is NOT for everyone and if you love riding but are not comfortable on the road with all the other cars then stick to dirt and have the absolute time of you life on beautiful mountain trails and open desert roads. I have been riding for several years and I still get butterflys when I hop on my bike but I am not scared. I have found myself in scary situations but I am 90%-95% confident on any roads. It is important for everyone to get to that point at their own pace.

Make sure that you get on a motorcycle for the right reasons. Some people will tell you to just fuckin’ go for it and figure it out as you ride. To each their own! This might totally work for you as well, but I say; take is slow and enjoy the ride!

-Anya

How to (Safely) Pack for a Motorcycle Trip | Expert Advice from Bill Bryant of Biltwell

Ashmore Ellis

We asked the most efficient person we know on two wheels, Bill Bryant from Biltwell, the safest way to pack your junk down for a multiple day camp trip. He gave us some amazing tips and tricks that will make your next moto trip much more enjoyable. Take a read and share with your road dawgs, this is a good one! 

The primary goal when packing for a multi day riding trip is to not be killed by all the bullshit you strap to your motorcycle. I’ve dodged more than my share of tools, water bottles and other dangerous debris riding behind friends over the years and lost a few bits of my own along the way. Here’s a couple tips that might make things safer and more convenient for you and the people following behind you.

In the military, people who can’t keep their shit together get nicknamed “Yard Sale” or “Soup Sandwich”. To avoid ending up with one of these embarrassing monikers, one has to learn to bring only what’s needed and not be in a hurry to pack it.

1. Safety

If your gear feels loose, it is. You should be able to grab anything strapped to your bike and give it a decent tug. If it easily moves around, that’s what it’s going to do once you hit the road. Use high quality straps, and avoid bungees for anything major or heavy. There’s nothing wrong with deploying more straps than you need. They may come in handy later anyway. Think of the amount of air pushing on all that gear as you blast down the highway for hours at a time. Make sure all zippers and closures are tight, and face them away from the wind if possible. Recheck your load at every stop. Tighten down straps, look for loose ends dangling near the tire, etc. Your wheels and chain are hungry. More than one chopper hero has gone down when their shit got caught in the back sprocket. I’ve seen a single pair of surf trunks bring a bike to an immediate halt in the middle of a Mexican highway (Marco, you out there?) Likewise, a sloppy jacket hastily bungeed on a sissy bar jammed up in the rear wheel so hard once that we had to remove the wheel to get it out (remember that one, Eddie?). Make sure any loose ends on straps are tied up tight and can not rub against any of the spinning bits. Use the buddy system and always keep an eye on your riding partner’s gear, and make sure they are watching yours. If you see something getting loose or close to the wheel, lopsided, etc, wave ‘em over so they can fix it. That small hassle is way better than a big one if the offending gear gets wrapped around your chain at 80mph. Distribute the load as low and evenly as possible. Keep the heavy stuff like tools down low as possible to avoid changing the dynamic of the bike. Heavy stuff up high always tries to work it’s downward or off to one side, so pack it low and symmetrical. If you put all the weight on one side, it’ll all be hanging off in an hour. Put some stuff up on the bars/risers where you can see it, but not too much or it’ll affect the way the bike handles. Don’t put so much up there that you have a hard time seeing over/around it. That may sound dumb, but I’ve done it myself, so I know it’s possible. Doh! Reduce your kit. One of the best pre­flight measures you can take is to spread out all your gear on the floor or workbench before loading it. Then put about half of it back where you got it. The less you bring, the better your chances of keeping it all together. Share the load with your buddies if you are riding with friends. Chances are a group of four riders doesn’t need four individual stoves, so divvy up stuff like that instead of bringing more than the group needs.

2. Levels of Storage

Being able to access what you need with the least amount of hassle on the road is a skill that takes a little forethought. Dividing it all up into levels of storage reduces the chance of losing something or digging to the bottom of an otherwise nicely packed bag. Here’s the way I do it:

A) Immediate : This is the stuff I can grab without opening anything. It’s what I keep clipped on the outside of my bag or on my person: wallet, registration paperwork, multi­tool, pocket knife, sunscreen, phone, flash light, sun glasses and clears, shop rag or bandana, smokes, lighter. I usually wear a vest on a trip, not so much for fashion (I’m helpless in that department anyway) but so I can have all this crap on me and not sitting on any of it. No one wants to wait on you to get your credit card out of the bottom of a giant duffel at every gas stop and every time you dig into that gear there is a chance you’ll hurry through it and leave something undone.

B) Ready: You need to get at stuff like tools, oil, spare gas, and a water bottle with very little effort. So this stuff goes in outside pockets or top layers of your bag. I usually include a towel, trunks and flip flops in this category when weather looks nice. If there’s half a chance of rain or drastic weather changes, I’ll have rain gear and extra layers ready to go and easy to get to in a hurry. Likewise, if you start out early in the morning and need to shed layers in a couple hours, think ahead about where that stuff is going to go. I like to roll up a flannel or jacket and clip it to the front of my Exfil­7 bag on the handlebars so I can open two buckles and unroll what I need.

C) Buried: You really only need your tent, sleeping bag, food, cooking kit or change of clothes at the end of the day. This stuff can be buried a little deeper and harder to get to since you shouldn’t need it in an emergency or on the side of the road.

3. Adapt your Bike for Carrying Stuff

Build or buy a strong sissy bar and strap an appropriate amount of stuff to it. I’ve witnessed dudes putting a heavy gas can on a sissy built out of 1/2 rod and end up wearing it all a few hundred miles later when the thing gives out. Buy some decent throw over saddlebags and make sure they have mounts that keep ‘em out of the rear wheel. If you have a stock­ish bike, there are usually lots of aftermarket racks available. You need to carry at least basic tools so buy a decent tool bag that won’t give out from the weight. Don’t strap to things that get hot or have sharp edges. The best way to sort your kit is to go on the longest multi-
day trip you can afford and camp along the way. By the morning of about day four you will be donating junk you didn’t really need and you will have figured out what things belong in each level of storage. Don’t be afraid to watch some weathered road dog pack their kit in the morning, you might learn a trick or two. Remember, the tighter your gear is, the more time you have to enjoy the trip. Being thoughtful about how you pack not only keeps you safe, it keeps you from earning the “Yard Sale” nickname. 

More reading on the subject from my friend Kuda, who has logged way more miles than I ever will:

Chop Cult : Pack on the Road with Kuda

- Bill Bryant - Biltwell Inc. 

Riding Motorcycles in Groups

Anya Violet

Riding a motorcycle solo can be a very therapeutic experience. All the stress of work or thoughts about the week just drift away mile after mile. But riding your motorcycle in a group can be an even more exhilarating experience.

Whether you’re headed out for a weekend road trip or just a fun day ride to your favorite lunch spot, there is nothing quite like spending the day on two wheels with a group of friends. Babes Ride Out is one of those kinds of events that inspires female riders to find a group to hit the road with. Here are a few tips for riding in a group.

Communication is Key

  • Before you start your engines it’s a good idea to gage everyone’s riding style in the group. If there are different riding levels mixed in the group then you want to take note of that. If the group has both very experienced riders and beginners, it would be smart to make sure that all the riders are good with riding at beginner level pace. If not, we suggest splitting the group up so that everyone can enjoy their experience. It’s easy to set meet-up destinations along the way and regroup when you get there.
  • If you live in a state in which lane-splitting is legal, definitely double check to ensure all riders are ok with it. Not everyone is comfortable with this so it’s a good idea to ask.
  • Checking everyone’s gas tank size is another key point. Whoever has smallest gas tank determines how many miles until you stop for gas.

Establish a leader

  • If everyone is down to ride at the same pace the next step would be to establish the lead rider, as well as who plans on riding sweep. Having experienced riders at the front and rear helps to keep the group together and keep everyone safe.
  • If you have Bluetooth communication devices that’s even better, as it makes the navigation so much easier and allows you to chat between the lead and sweep rider.
  • The lead rider has a very important job. Not only does she set the pace for the group, but she’s in charge of navigation, choosing the correct lanes and signaling throughout the ride. Even if her turn signals and tail lights are perfectly functioning we still recommend using hand signals to alert the group when you are turning or slowing down. If you’re the lead rider, one of the things to remember is that you have to set aside the way you normally ride on your own and make sure you’re riding for the group. Stay safe and don’t make any sudden moves that can put the other riders in danger.

Establish a Sweep

  • Riding sweep is just as important as riding lead. It’s ideal if both the sweep rider and the lead rider know the directions to the destination and can easily navigate in case some riders get separated from the group.

Keep your Distance

  • One of the biggest tips we can recommend is that you keep your distance between riders. While you may see groups of riders riding very close together out on the road that doesn’t mean that’s how you should be riding, especially if you’re riding with a new group. Two bike lengths distance between you and the rider in front of you and a staggered formation gives everyone the space they need.

Keep your Pace

  • Riding at your own pace is always important. If the group is riding faster than you’re comfortable with do not try and keep up. If you fall behind don’t worry about it. Lets face it, we all have cell phones with Google Maps so you’ll be able to find your way if you get left behind. Riding above your skill level or outside of your comfort zone puts the whole group at risk. It is much easier to just hold your line and stay at the speed you like riding.

Riding in a group is not for everyone. Some people like to ride motorcycles for the independence and freedom. If you like to ride fast and make quick maneuvers then riding in a group is not for you. You can just meet your group at the destination, that way you can ride the way you want to and not put anyone else in danger.

Being able to experience your favorite roads and destinations with a group will create fast friends and provide you with incredible memories that will last a lifetime. So grab some friends and saddle up! All roads lead to Babes Ride Out!!!!

Written by Anya Violet of Babes Ride Out for Progressive