TIRE IN A JAM TEACHING THE BRC
Spring of 2001 and I’m thoroughly enjoying motorcycling, so the decision is made to give back
something to the community in recognition of a sport and hobby that has given me so much
pleasure. I decide that having been a Flying Instructor and Ski Instructor perhaps a teaching role
in motorcycling would be a good deed, especially as what I see on Arizona roads does not exactly
portray a great deal of motorcycling knowledge or common sense!
First I have to undergo the course but as motorcycling is an “international” language hopefully
this will not be too difficult. I consult my American/English dictionary, learn to spell tyre with an “i”
and pronounce le-ver as lev-er, also note that manoeuvre has lost an “e” in the trans atlantic
crossing (must have gone down with Titanic) and that mudguards are now fenders and the
gearbox is a tranny and petrol is gas.
The Instructor course lasts about 3-4 months with 2 full weekends per month going over the
entire classroom package before setting foot on the range where we will teach. As the site is new
and purpose built this should be an excellent facility but during our course it was still under
construction so we would meet in the most unusual places, tops of hotels in their storerooms,
coffee bars in dealerships, backrooms etc, etc but I guess we achieved our objective without
being arrested as terrorists.
Finally our group of 12 now ventures out on the range and we go through the full course as
students then on future weekends run the exercises as “instructors”, “coaches” or “facilitators”
…. what a dreadful word! call a spanner a spanner…. oops! I forgot spanner=wrench.
So on 11/11/01 the 12 of us qualify and now we do a few weekends U/T until we are on our own.
I teach for T.E.A.M. Arizona and the organization has several facilitites all over the state but at
Gilbert we can push 48 students through every weekend, and sometimes a smaller course of 6 as
well. The Basic Rider Course (BRC) comprises about 5 hours of classroom instruction and 10 hours
on the range riding the set exercises. As a seasoned motorcyclist and instructor it is difficult to
fault the course in both design and content, and as always you wish there had been something
like this some 40+ years ago.
So who are we teaching and where is the course pitched? This course is for Beginers, and the
students usually fall into one of the following groups; those that have just bought a new bike and
realise they know nothing about it, or have tried to ride it, fallen off at the dealership, or have
frightened themselves fartless on the way home! The complete beginer. The “come back rider”
usually self taught dirt bike rider at 17, now 50, with kids through college and looking for some
weekend fun, but with a degree of common sense and self preservation. The 30+ lady rider who
wants a Harley Sportster. The “backseater” who has been persuaded by her husband to do the
course. It is also a pity in my mind that the Police and Courts don’t impose this course on
irresponsible hooligans that give motorcycling a bad name.
Normally the course will meet on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. for 3 hours of basic groundschool
with lots of student participation as we move through the necessary knowledge for them to ride
safely on Saturday morning. One of the sections covered is “riding gear” and I usually spend a
little more time on helmets, as 70% of all motorcycling fatalities are head injuries it follows that
you should wear the best helmet that you can afford. $100 helmet=$100 head. $500 head= Arai/Shoei/Suomy/AGV. I throw in the “stone through the car windshield” concept to try to give the
students the damage a stone could do to an eye or dental work without a helmet and then show
them the effects an Arizona Bug had on my vizor!
When they arrive on Saturday morning we will fit them to a motorcycle, most being 250cc but
there are Buells that are allowed as the course machines may go up to 500cc. We will provide
helmets, bearing in mind Arizona still has a ridiculous “no helmet law” but woe betide you if you
are caught without “eye protection” and even worse if the lens has the wrong colored tint!
What f***wick made that law? Ok, then be a vegetable but at least be a “seeing” vegetable!
So now with helmets, and also we provide gloves (home depot) otherwise they would walk, the
motley crew assembles and some have been shopping……. not one piece full leathers but some
interesting apparel nonetheless, jackets with fracture boards in the back and kevlar elbows and
shoulders. Harley boots with huge soles that would be better for deep sea diving and the Harley
gloves made and dyed in India!……. lets see what happens in 110 degrees when your hands
For some the fitting of helmets is very confusing and the tricky buckle is causing all manner of
problems, which is why I suppose airlines still do the “seat buckle routine” as there are some
people who just don’t get IT! By 7 a.m. we are all ready to go.
The course starts with a famil then works through all the basic disciplines culminating in stopping
quickly to round off the first morning. Day 2 puts a little polish on what has been learnt and
explores some new territory before a controlled practice session and then the “test”. As we are
all MVD Examiners we will issue test certificates for all those that pass. At any stage along the
way we may drop individuals from the course for any number of reasons, but normally it would
be for lack of progress or inability combined with safety issues.
Having done quite a lot of instruction in many fields there are few things that surprize me but
just when you think you have seen it all up pop a couple that leave you speechless. Here are a
couple of my favorites,
The one and only student to fail the famil!!! A gentleman the same age as myself in a course of
12 with 2 experienced instructors.
Breifing; “When you have all your kit on go and stand by a bike you like and we will size you up”
This guy almost runs out to the 12 bikes lined up in the staging area …… grabs one and walks off
with it…….Oi, Oi…..YOU! STOP!!
Eventually catch up to him and can’t help but notice something is wrong, but can’t quite put my
finger on it. Tap him gently on the shoulder and get in front of him to explain we don’t want the
bikes moved when I realise he has his borrowed 3/4 helmet on BACKWARDS! ….. and the peak is
down his back!
So now with “wayward” back in the pack, we start the famil. Getting on and off (demo), he puts
the stand up overbalances and falls off, no matter I’ve seen this before. Everything is a struggle
but we are nearly with everyone else and now dismount, which he does but forgets to put the
stand down and the bike now falls on the parking lot. OK lets cover the complexity of this stand
Some time later when I’ve wrestled his hand off the horn button we get to “Starting”
“OK everyone start you engines, using F.I.N.E.C.” (not difficult, F=fuel, I=ignition, N=neutral,
E=engine cut off, C =clutch, and choke if you need it.)
Blank look…… “Hello” “you remember FINE C? from Thursday night?… More blank looks….. “OK F
is for FUEL” at this point he unscrews the gas cap and shakes the tank while peering in to the full
container splashing fuel everywhere!
Finally we have her running, and while I wrestle with his “death grip” on the throttle to get the
revs back under 2000, I’m trying to see if there is any glimmer of comprehension, but regrettably
the lights are on, (dimmed), but nobody’s home!
Now we need to “shut her down” ….. the briefed signal is given and a reminder of the sequence,
THUMB…… KEY ……..FUEL
My man can’t quite get the THUMB thing on the Honda Nighthawk. OK let’s go over it again “When
these 2 are lined up the engine runs…… rotate the knob either way and the engine will stop” …..
Brrrrrrm, brrrrrm, brrrrrrrrrrr….brrrrm, brrrm…………brrrrrrrrr…brrrmmmm…brrrmmmmm and finally
BRRRRRRRRRRRRR…click, click! He has rotated the knob round and round and round until the plastic
sheared off in his hand!
Here endth the first Lesson…….. and in your case the course!
……and here’s one you will need a tissue for!
Day 1 Exercise 7 Cornering;
In the middle of the range there are 2 semi circles forming an oval. We will do the exercise twice
in groups of six going anti clockwise, then reversing the turn to go clockwise. We will then stop you
and send you back to the staging area. Of course as one Instructor briefs the exercise the other
rides the demo. When all’s ready one Instructor goes out to the oval to conduct the task while the
other monitors and discusses technique with the other waiting group in the staging area.
An all female class today, and we are coming to the end of this exercise and the first group are in
waiting to go out again for their second session. I see one lady from the group that is on the range
coming out of the turn and heading back towards the staging area, or so I thought……… but she
has actually just put the power on way to early and is now in full flight running very wide and
coming towards us at 45 degrees!! She now sees the problem and grabs everything, clutch,
front brake, feet down, screaming….. and collides with all six parked bikes and riders, at which
point with panic front brake and 3000 rpm she drops the clutch and falls off the back, and the
riderless bike goes through my six pack of riders like a bowling ball picking up a spare! All 7 women
are on the ground with bikes everywhere and the lead lady who was, shall we say “vertically
challenged and also a little wide in the beam” is face first on the parking lot with the wayward
machine parked in her rear end and it is still UPRIGHT!!!! It was all I could do not to put my boot
on her rump as I extracted the bike…………..
TONY DOWN MSF Instructor