Motorcycle class can save gas, your life

With soaring gasoline prices, more people are thinking about motorcycles or scooters for transportation.

Donald Kane is the instructor at the Modesto Junior College Community Education motorcycle training course. Kane shared some thoughts with The Bee about motorcycle training and safety last week. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

Q: With the high gas prices, are you seeing more people coming through the program?

A: This is a topic that comes up quite a bit when site managers of various motorcycle programs get together. Some are seeing it and some aren't seeing it. Overall, the industry is still going through a two-year slump in motorcycle sales. But some of the smaller places are definitely seeing an increase in scooter sales attributed to gas prices. ... We are actually seeing an increase in demand (for training) more than just the seasonal increase for summertime. So we are seeing more admitted scooter riders going to the course for the gas prices. We are also seeing quite a few returning riders coming to the program that haven't ridden in five, 10, 20 years, to try to get some refresher training so they are safer in the street.

Q: How important is it that new riders and those returning to it after a few years get formal training?

A: The biggest thing I like to bring up in class is that motorcyclists need to practice. Most long-lived motorcyclists, the ones who have not had an accident in 30 years, have an increased awareness, and they practice. You must practice on a motorcycle -- emergency stopping, swerving, cornering. The things that are going to save your life.

Returning riders, I'd say, are going to benefit more from taking our class than absolute new riders. New riders are going to absorb just so much. We give them mental awareness and the fundamentals of physical skills to get them started on the street. Returning riders are changing bad habits and developing the skills they may have had. It can instill a sense of self-responsibility in them.

Q: What advice would you give people who are interested in getting a motorcycle or scooter?

A: Three things. First, take the safety class. The fees aren't that much, and with most insurance carriers, you'll make the tuition back within your first year if they offer a discount. A lot offer a 10 percent discount for anyone who takes this class. Take a structured training course every time you can. The Experienced Rider Course after that, a track school, a dirt school, whatever you can. Keep learning.

Second, budget money for gear before you buy the motorcycle. I don't want to throw around gruesome statistics, but we all know that asphalt hurts. Make sure you cover your skin, make sure you wear armor over your joints, make sure you have a DOT-approved helmet, preferably full face, although that's a personal choice. Make sure you have full-fingered gloves, make sure you have sturdy footwear. What you want to do is dress for the crash -- the crash you hope never happens.

Finally, check your insurance rates before you buy your motorcycle. Too many people buy their dream motorcycle only to find out either because of their driving record, or because of the age group they are in, or the amount of time they have been licensed, they can't afford the insurance.

For more information on motorcycle training at MJC, call 575-6063 or go to www.mjc.edu/commed/motorcycle.html.

Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at tmoran@modbee.com or 578-2349.

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