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I’ve always wanted to ride on a bluebird day. No, I’m not talking about snowboarding—I’m talking about jetting through Colorado’s epic scenery atop a motorcycle.
It turns out, I’m not alone in this aspiration. In the decade between 1997 and 2006, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics found that motorcycle registrations had increased 75 percent in the United States. And people of all ages and genders are joining the two-wheeled revolution: In 2015, the Motorcycle Industry Council estimated that nearly 25 percent of all riders in the United States were female. So, at age 35, having spent minimal hours on a bike, I enrolled in a Basic RiderCourse (BRC) through Full Throttle Riding Academy, located at Loveland’s Tri-City Cycle, which offers the largest selection of pre-owned bikes in Colorado, as well as new models, atvs, watercrafts, and more.
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Whether you’re a newbie looking to learn how to ride, or your skills need an update, spring is the perfect time to jump in. Read on for more about what to expect:
If You Want to Learn…
Don’t let the name of the course fool you—the BRC is for every kind of rider, regardless of experience level. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) class that I attended included truck drivers, web developers, oil field workers, and veterinary technicians, all hailing from the Front Range. Some were in college and another was a mother of four. Some had never ridden, and others had been riding for years, but needed the state’s endorsement on their license, which gives people permission to operate a bike. One thing’s for sure—all of us felt challenged.
The two-day class—one-third of which is spent in the classroom and the rest practicing learned procedures on a closed course, which consisted of riding on a closed course from 7 a.m. to noon each day before returning after lunch for a few hours of classroom time to go over our completed handbooks—is thorough. Riders learn the challenges of the road, including the many possible reasons why, according to Colorado Department of Transportation official Sam Cole, our state’s motorcycle accident fatality rate has spiked in the past two years, to its highest level in over a decade. According to CDOT, there were 125 motorcycle fatalities in 2016—a 15 percent increase from 2015. Students learn how to deal with real world situations, like a texting driver who is coming in hot from behind, or what actions to take if a deer suddenly appears in the road.
You will also learn about proper riding gear and Colorado motorcycle laws. Most of all, you will learn how to safely operate and maintain a motorcycle, including how to check your tire pressure, how to ride a figure-eight without putting a foot down, and how to navigate Colorado’s curvy roads. “In like a grandma, and out like an outlaw,” is how Full Throttle’s owner and primary course instructor, Jason Curdy, explains the latter.
At the end of the course, you will take a riding and written test. In my class of nine riders, eight passed, and the ninth was given a chance to return to the course for additional instruction. Having passed, I was given a card that allowed me to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to have my license updated without needing to take any additional tests. The following week, for $28 and 20 minutes of my time, I walked out of the DMV as a legitimate, licensed motorcyclist.
If You’re a Licensed Rider…
If I’ve taken away anything from this course, it’s that the learning never stops. More than once, Curdy expressed that the BRC is not the course that will save your life; the next course—MSF’s Experienced RiderCourse, a half-day course practicing technical skills on your own motorcycle—can do that. There are also a number of Colorado motorcycle clubs that host group rides and practice courses for riders to hone their skills. But in the meantime, Curdy and his fellow coaches are available as a resource to me as I shop for a bike of my own and plan my routes along the Front Range.
In short, Colorado’s highways and byways offer every kind of riding there is. Head east, out onto the plains, for long, straight, uncomplicated stretches. For some of the most technical (not to mention, beautiful) riding in the whole country, ride west, into our mountains. According to Curdy, that’s the benefit of riding in Colorado—it will make you a skilled rider.
For me, when I find my bike, I have a date planned with a dirt road in my West Loveland neighborhood. I’m going to practice braking on something other than smooth pavement while building the muscle memory required to operate the clutch (left hand), the throttle and front brake (right hand), the gear shift lever (left foot), and the rear brake (right foot) smoothly and effectively. Then, you’ll be able to find me in those famous Colorado curves, with the wind in my hair.
Learn for yourself at Full Throttle Riding Academy, 3675 Clydesdale Pkwy., Loveland. The Basic Rider Course is $275. 303-503-7381; fullthrottleacademy.com