Safety Foundation classes
throughout Missouri teach
and a mindset of safety
(photos courtesy of Bootheel Motorcycle Training)
in a Basic Rider Course at Bootheel Motorcycle Training practice
weaving in and out of cones set on a closed section of Malden Airport
runway that serves as the school's training ground.
The temperature nears
100 degrees as the sun beats down on a closed runway at the Malden
Airport. Despite the oppressive heat, a group of eight men and women
stand waiting, each clad in long-sleeved shirts, boots and gloves.
the beginning of the riding portion of a two-day motorcycle safety
class conducted by Bootheel
Motorcycle Training, a twice-a-month
school operated by Lynn Sullenger and Rick Earnheart. In addition to
riding motorcycles, students will sit through five hours of classroom
instruction and training videos. One of the first lessons they learn
is the need for appropriate riding wear — which
includes long sleeves, regardless of the weather.
The curriculum for
the Basic Rider Course was developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation,
or MSF, an international organization based in California. The same
course is taught around the nation and is widely accepted by the motorcycle
industry and state license bureaus as the standard for motorcycle instruction.
Rick Earnheart provides individual instruction to a student during
a Basic Rider Course conducted by Bootheel Motorcycle Training.
The private school, held at the Malden Airport, is one of 18
sites in Missouri where motorcyclists can take safety courses
developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
entry-level rider who’s never sat on a motorcycle can do it,” says
Lynn, who works at Associated Electric Cooperative’s New Madrid Power
you can ride a bicycle, and have average coordination, you should be able
to do the course.”
At least a couple
of the students hope Lynn is right. Two have never ridden a motorcycle.
Several more can count their total day’s experience on their
fingers and toes. The rest have spent decades off the bike. By the end
of the next day, all will have learned the fundamentals of riding a motorcycle
safely through a series of carefully scripted exercises.
The Basic Riders
Course is one of two rider classes offered through the Motorcycle
Safety Foundation. A one-day Experienced Riders Course is also available,
though much less popular. On the statewide level, the Missouri
Motorcycle Safety Program, headquartered at the Missouri Safety Center in Warrensburg,
administers the program.
The statewide program
promotes the courses, trains instructors and provides motorcycles for
use during the class. Currently, the MSF class is taught at about 18
locations around the state. “The goal is that nobody has to drive
more than 50 miles to get training,” says Neil Meyers, state
coordinator for the Missouri Motorcycle Safety Program.
begining and returning riders, the Basic Rider Course begins with
fundamentals. Students start the riding portion operating the motorcycle’s
controls and getting a feel for its weight.
are offered at community colleges, motorcycle dealerships, private
schools and local chapters of the Freedom of the Road Riders organization.
Each school sets its own price but MSF caps fees at $210 per person.
The price for the 15-hour course includes instruction materials,
a loaner helmet and the use of a motorcycle.
Upon completion of
the course, riders receive a certification card that exempts them from
taking an additional riding exam before receiving a license. With
the MSF card, a Missouri rider needs only to take a written test to
obtain a motorcycle endorsement. In addition, many insurance companies
offer discounts to course graduates. The card is required to operate
a motorcycle on a military base.
While the tangible
benefits are attractive, most riders come simply to learn.
had never ridden a bike until two weeks ago,” says Jay Wallis
of Dexter, who signed up for a Bootheel Motorcycle Training
course after purchasing an 1100cc Honda Shadow motorcycle.
I was shopping for a bike, the two dealers I went to, they both
need to take a riding course.’ Even people I know
who ride a bike said the same thing,” Jay says. “I’ve
been excited about this ever since we signed up. I wanted
Lynn Sullenger explains a riding exercise to a student enrolled
in a MSF class.
While the class teaches
the basics of motorcycle handling and operation, the emphasis is on
safety and avoiding crashes.
“We teach overall
control of the motorcycle,” says Rick, a motorcyclist
with decades of experience. “If you know how
to make a bike swerve to miss objects and can stop
it quickly, stuff like that can save your life.”
riding portion of the class begins with absolute
fundamentals. Each student is assigned a motorcycle — usually
a small 250cc street bike — and
begins to get comfortable with the machine. They
lift the kickstand and sway the bike from side to
side, getting a feel for its weight. They operate
the horn and turn signals and learn to stop and start
“We start off
familiarizing people with the controls of the motorcycle and then,
with the bike in gear and engine running, we show them
how to use the clutch,” Rick says. “We
build from there.”
The process begins
with riders shuffling their feet on the ground as the
bike motors forward barely faster than an idle.
Soon they’re are riding with
their feet on the pegs and shifting gears as
Bob McEowen, took the MSF course at Bootheel Motorcycle Training
in preparation for this story.
Before the course
is over students will practice emergency stops, perform rapid lane
changes, weave in and out of cones and ride
over obstacles in the road.
“We teach the
basic physical skills necessary to ride a motorcycle but we also provide
them with a mental strategy on staying safe,” Meyers says. “We
teach folks how to look ahead and what to
About 5,000 Missourians
took the Basic Rider Course last year. Although literature promoting
the courses is available at almost any motorcycle
dealer, many riders don’t know about it or believe they don’t need
training. Others though, embrace the program as an essential part of the motorcycle
experience — as
necessary as a helmet and proper riding
it was great,” Wallis says. “The main
thing that I’m more confident with now is taking curves. Now I’ve
got all the confidence in the world.”
Danny Tumbleson of
Harley-Davidson in Cape Girardeau says that with the increasing popularity
of motorcycling and the trend toward ever-larger bikes, his customers increasingly
are asking for training. “It’s
definitely something that the customers
have wanted for years,” he says.
dealership supplies Suzuki motorcycles to Lynn and Rick’s
school, as well as another class
in Cape Girardeau. He sends his own employees to the course and says
he eagerly suggests training to his customers.
so many people that are getting into biking,” Tumbleson
says. “The more training we
can give people, the better off they’re
going to be and the more we can cut
down on accidents.”
To find a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course near you, call 1-800-801-3588
or log onto www.mmsp.org. For information about Bootheel Motorcycle Training,
phone (573) 748-5756 or visit their Web site at www.geocities.com/b_m_training/bmt/index.html.