Getting Ready to Ride

Nothing quite gets your adrenaline pumping like riding on a racetrack. When you pull out of the paddock, your heart beats a little faster, your breathing is shallower and your palms sweat through your gloves. I love it.

Paddock at Calabogie Motorsport Park for Advanced Rider Training

Last year I got to experience these feelings for the first time when I registered for the day long Advanced Rider Training course offered by my local club.  The entire rider learning and practice experience was so good I’m registered to go again before I set out on my trip. Because it was on this course I learned the value of continuous training. 

Motorcycling is a skill that needs constant practice as mistakes can be unforgiving.  To be at the top of their game, pilots, first responders and armed forces personnel all train regularly. And it makes sense, especially as lives are at stake.  Motorcycling is no different.

Motorcycling is not, of itself, inherently dangerous. It is, however, extremely unforgiving of inattention, ignorance, incompetence or stupidity”

-Anonymous

My original reason for enrolling was because I wanted to ride on a racetrack.  And that unto itself is a cool experience.  But it was the learning and practice I valued most.  The BMW Motorcycle Club of Ottawa Advanced Rider Training course I took involved both classroom sessions and multiple laps on the track to practice what I learned. I learned more about mine and my bike’s capabilities in one day than the years I’ve been riding on my own.

As riders we all love twisty roads.  We seek them out at every opportunity we can.  Accelerating through curves is part of that adrenaline rush.  But what the course teaches is how to practice threading the needle through the turns, the need to always turn your head in the direction you want and learning your and your bike’s limits.

Yours truly leaving the paddock and heading on to the track – photo: Peter Sanderson Photography

Getting started, you need to prepare your bike before you go on the track. To do so, we cover all plastic and glass with tape.  This is for the safety of other riders.  If you go down, it won’t leave debris on the track that might cause an accident. But with your instruments taped, you have no choice but to listen and feel your motorcycle. And that makes you one with your bike.

Now this isn’t racing school. I imagine that is an entirely different level of an adrenaline rush.  No, the skills taught and practiced are ones you may well need and use on your next ride.  

Fortunately, these courses are regularly available all across North America.  And here is a tip.  You can even apply to get your training subsidized.  The BMW Motorcycle Owners of America Foundation, through the Paul B. Memorial Scholarship Fund, offers scholarships of $250 for members and $100 for non-members to apply to rider training and skill improvement.  You don’t have to even be a member or ride a BMW!  

So before I head out on a 10,000-mile journey around America to document 50 roadside motels, I’m heading back to school for the Advance Rider Training again.  And in doing so, I get to cross off another important item on my checklist as I get ready to ride!

  1. James Penfold says:

    Thanks for the post Mr. Beatie. I took a riders safety course before I bought my 1st bike. (12 yrs ago) I figured if I couldn’t pass it I should not get a Bike. I still have the course books w/the training diagrams. Your post reminded me that practice is very important to maintain the basic skill set needed to ride safely. I have become too comfortable in the last year or so, thank you for the reminder! I also plan on taking the advanced course some day.

  2. james powers says:

    I’ve done the ART course 4 years in a row. Always held on Memorial day. You walk away with your riding skills sharpened for a new year. I’m from Vermont and the club members are wonderfully inclusive. Like me, you’ll join the club membership.

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