M.S.F. Experience, thoughts, and what to expect
I took a 3 day course starting Friday night at 6pm; This was all classroom instruction. It's VERY similar to drivers ed class in high school (lots of videos, talk of safety, small talk, learning basic controls, etc). It was a bit redundant in my opinion, and the material seemed so 'textbook'ish it felt silly. We basically talked about safety and the fore-mentioned things for 4 hours and went home; Nothing too crazy.
The next morning we met at a range bright and early in the morning (horrible after a night of partying... don't do it). You start by talking and gearing up. If you have bad skin like me, you might wanna consider buying a helmet before you take the course. After your fitted for your helmet, they teach you how to mount a motorcycle. The instructors really grind into your head the basics of starting a motorcycle and to NEVER even mount a bike without your gear. You'll start off by spending a good amount of time learning about clutch mechanics and practicing getting your bike to move or using the 'friction zone' by rocking the bike back and forth. If you know how to drive stick shift this is going to be very boring and a walk in the park. You also will probably already have a substantial advantage over those who don't know clutch mechanics. After, you start going further and further, eventually getting to ride about 50ft to the other side of the range. You'll learn about braking, upshifting, downshifting, and turning on this day also. It all moves at a pretty slow pace since it's the first day. It can get pretty tedious after a while, make sure you bring food/drink for breaks. After about 4 hours you'll head back to the classroom. THIS is the horrible part. More than likely you'll be extremely exhausted from riding and doing slow paced excersises all morning. Most of the material went through one ear and out the other. In the classroom, your basically following up on what you learned the day before (Safety, lane changing, etc). After a few hours you'll take a sad and pathetic excuse for a test. It's silly and composed of common sense questions that anyone, regardless of training, can pass.
The following morning you meet at the range for all-day riding and no classroom instruction. You'll gear up again and practice some more 'friction zone' to hone your skills. Your introduced to some more advanced turning techniques, quick stop, and the dreaded box. I'll cut to the chase since your basically just doing excersises until you go through evaluation.
We started off by doing the box. This is widely known as the most difficult of the challenges. Basically, you enter a marked area which is pretty small, no more than the size of the cab on an 18 wheeler. You have to do a figure eight inside the lines. The trick is to look at where you want to end up and ride the living sh*t our of the clutch. Also, keep the rear brake covered, it's your friend and you might want to ride that as well. As long as you have a good sense of balance, fearlessnes, and clutch operation you'll do fine. Points off for your feet touching the ground or going outside the lines.
Right after you exit the box you go into a swerve. This is incredibly easy, just ride about 15 mph in 2nd gear and... well, swerve after you hit the cones. It's not a tight space by any means so you have some room to work with. This one is pretty hard to fail. The only people who didn't do so well were the women who didn't want to go fast enough. You need to ride at least 12mph I believe. Points off for hitting a cone or touching the white line.
After you do the swerve you'll line up to do a quick braking excersise. Again, incredibly easy. You start off, shift up to second gear, come to two cones and stop as quickly as you can and downshift into 1st gear while stopping. Just maintain a good speed and you'll be fine. This is probably the easiest one, just stop aggresively. Points off for anticipating, going to slow, or not braking within' the alloted distance.
Finally, you do a turning excersise. You'll start off, upshift to second gear, go around one turn, accelerate down a straightaway, then go around a longer turn. The key is to maintain throttle speed and look where you want to end up. No real tips or tricks for this one, just have to turn at a reasonable speed. Points off for not going fast enough, touching the lines, not braking before entering the turn, braking while in the turn, not looking around the turn, and rolling off or on the throttle mid turn. (The most critiqued challenge).
After everyone is finished, you'll be scored. If you pass (which you probably will), you get your waiver forms and card.
All in all, it was a decent experience. Classroom instruction was boring, and the riding was tedious. I can't say yet if it was worth it or not. Things will obviously change a lot once you factor in high speeds and traffic into the equation. Practing in an enclosed lot is far different from being out on the streets. Just like an employer would say, it's no substitute for experience. A benefit is an immediate license (no permit process, waiting 6 months, road test at the DMV, etc.) and SOME riding time under your belt. Be easy...