In my last Blog Post, I talked about wanting to get back onto a Motorcycle after more than a decade away from the pastime. I also mentioned in that post that I am a goal driven individual and like to lay out a plan of attack for tasks. The process of getting back on a bike is no different.
This week I’ve started mapping out a financial plan (It is a rough plan as COVID-19 is causing a lot of uncertainty). In addition, I’ve also been trying to formulate a game plan on getting back up to speed with Rider Education. This has been a little more difficult that figuring out how I’m going to save my pennies…
Rider Education in Pennsylvania
The nice thing about riding a motorcycle in Pennsylvania is that the state does all of the heavy lifting for you. After applying for a learner’s permit you have two choices. You can take a Road Test at the Department of Motor Vehicles or you can take a Motorcycle Safety Course and bypass the formal Road Test (you have to pass the course to get your license).
The nice thing about the Motorcycle Safety Course is that they are offered in a variety of locations across the state and they are completely free to Pennsylvania Residents. The course that you attend (outlined below) determines the curriculum and duration. So if you are a new rider, the easiest way to get a PA Class M License is to register for a New Rider Course, get hands on training for free, and pass the course.
Beginner Riding Clinic
The BRC provides an introduction to the fundamentals of responsible motorcycling. It consists of five hours of classroom instruction and10 hours of riding instruction. It is designed for participants with no motorcycle driving experience. Students are provided a motorcycle and helmet for use during the training course. Adult students with a Pennsylvania-issued motorcycle learner’s permit and satisfactorily complete the course may receive a Pennsylvania-issued motorcycle license in lieu of skill-testing requirements at a PA Driver License Center.Pennsylvania DMV Website – Motorcycle FAQ
Advanced Riding Clinic
The Advanced Riding Clinic (ARC) is a motorcycle training course and is available to licensed motorcycle riders operating any street-legal two-wheel motorcycle that meets safety requirements. It is a nine-hour course consisting of approximately four hours of classroom activities and five hours of riding instruction. There is no formal skill evaluation. You must have your Motorcycle License and at least 3,000 miles of riding experience to participate in this course.Pennsylvania DMV Website – Motorcycle FAQ
Back when I took my Motorcycle Safety Course (many years ago) the training was handled by the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation). Since then Pennsylvania has changed over to a partnership with Total Control Training. The training remains free, however, the education itself has been modified. I’ve heard mixed accounts on which provider was better but it has become a moot point.
When Governor Wolf closed all non-essential business across the state, that effectively cancelled all Motorcycle Safety Courses. Since the cancellation of classes, the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles has announced that it has ended its contract with Total Control Training. At the time of this writing there is no word on when Rider Education will resume or who the provider will be.
To make matters worse, there doesn’t seem to be a database of course locations. Even if who was providing the education wasn’t important to you, you still aren’t able to see where courses are being offered because there are no courses being offered. Trying to find a location for a possible future course has become a real challenge.
With Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Courses up in the air – I’ve been polling friends on where I might be able to find a course once they become available again. I’ve been given a handful of potential course locations but nothing concrete. My objective is to get on the registration list early. I know they fill fast and I don’t want to get stuck waiting until August to reintroduce myself to Motorcycles.
Blackmans Cycle Center
When I took the New Rider Course many years ago, it was hosted at Blackmans Cycle Center in Emmaus. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and it appears that up until the state-wide cancellation, Blackmans was still hosting Rider Education Courses.
At this point in time it looks like Blackmans has the most potential for me as they aren’t too far from home and have a longstanding reputation as a Motorcycle Dealer (they may be hurting for business with the closure but I don’t see them not being able to weather the storm).
When I came across the news that Martin Motorsports was offering Motorcycle Safety Courses, I was downright excited! They are very close to home and they also happen to be the dealership where I’d like to buy my next bike.
Unfortunately, when I spoke with someone at the dealership they gave me some bad news. They were finalizing plans to offer Rider Education Courses and it seemed like a sure thing – right up until the location fell through at the last minute. With no place to hold the road portion of the course, they are currently not offering classes.
Recommendations from Friends
Update: April 27, 2019
I was giving this whole situation some additional thought recently and had to ask myself “What if PA Motorcycle Classes don’t resume in 2020 – what am I going to do?” While this situation seems unlikely, there is a chance that it could go from bad to worse.
The answer to my questions seemed to be perhaps I could find a local Motorcycle Coach as a last resort. The last thing I want to do is heap on additional costs to an already expensive endeavor but it was worth considering. So I did what we all tend to do when we need answers – I opened up Google and searched for a PA Motorcycle Coach.
The first few results were what I expected to see – loads of information on the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program. Below those results, however, was one titled PAMSP – Termination of Contract 4.18.2020. In a nutshell, it was a copy of an email that stated PennDOT was exercising a contract option of Termination for Convenience.
When I initially saw the news that Rider Education was canceled due to a terminated contract, my assumption was that there may be a problem with the program itself. Why else would your press release emphasize the termination of a relationship with Total Control Training instead of simply stating that classes were canceled?
After reading the email, I get the impression that PennDOT terminated the contract as a way to curb costs and that it had little to do with the rider education itself. This makes sense if you are under contract for 6 months of training and suddenly you lose at least a month due to a pandemic. The great news is that it seems like the infrastructure will remain in place and a new contract is required. In this scenario, the state doesn’t have to shop around for a provider and it should streamline the process of getting Rider Education back up and running again once the state reopens.
Of course I could be wrong in all of this – I’m making an awful lot of assumptions (and you know what they say about people who assume).
Update: June 6, 2020
As Pennsylvania begins to slowly reopen, PennDOT has updated the statement on their website regarding Motorcycle Licenses / Permits and Training. Programs have not yet been finalized but it seems that the state is working towards making Rider Education available once again.