Riding a Motorcycle can be therapeutic. It has the uncanny ability to help quiet a frantic mind and relieve the tension and stress caused by everyday life. The other side of that coin is that Motorcycles are inherently dangerous due to the risks involved in dealing with surrounding traffic.
I believe that being a safe and well-rounded rider means going beyond simply putting miles on your bike. It is important to expand your skills in an environment that allows for growth. As Pennsylvania Residents, we have a number of No-Cost Options for Rider Education. Among those options are Free Courses like the MSF Street Smart Seminar.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Street Smart Rider Perception Program is designed to educate participants on how quickly the mind and eyes can effectively work to perceive a situation accurately. This course focuses on identifying Traffic Situations and Road Signs quickly.
Attending the MSF Street Smart Seminar at Martin Moto
At the start of each new Riding Season, I like to look back at the previous year. Did I accomplish the goals I set for myself the year before? Did I get out and see new things and make memories? Was there anything I wish I had done differently?
When it came time to look back on the 2022 Riding Season, I realized that there was one glaring issue – Rider Education was lacking. Sure, I read a few Motorcycle Books, but I didn’t attend a single class or seminar. I planned to change that in 2023, and the very first step was to sign up for the MSF Street Smart Seminar at Martin Moto.
Martin Moto is my Friendly Neighborhood Motorcycle Dealer. They are located in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, and offer New and Pre-Owner Motorcycles at reasonable prices. They also provide a wide range of Service Options and host Events that go beyond typical sales promotions in an effort to promote motorcycling amongst the community.
Getting a Ticket
Tickets for the MSF Street Smart Seminar were advertised on the Martin Moto Facebook Page. Entry to the seminar was FREE; however, seating was limited, so tickets had to be reserved through Eventbrite. Because Martin Moto is popular and has a large following in the community, tickets sold out very quickly. In fact, between when I saw the event and when I tried reserving a spot the following day, no more tickets were available.
In hopes of picking up a last-minute seat, I messaged Martin Moto on Facebook and asked to be placed on a Waitlist in case someone dropped out. The sales staff was prompt and got back to me, letting me know that they would let me know if a seat became available.
I got lucky the following day when a member of the WaltInPA Discord Server alerted me that Martin Moto posted on their Facebook Page that one seat had become available. I was able to log into Eventbrite and reserve that seat quickly.
When I arrived at the Seminar, I learned that another person had difficulty getting a ticket as well. They had come to the dealership with the intention of waiting to see if there were any no-shows. I just happened to be standing behind this individual when Dennis Martin told the man to take a seat and that he had no intention of turning anyone away that wanted to attend.
As it turns out – attendance was poor. Thirty seats were reserved, and only sixteen people arrived (including the one individual who was waiting for a no-show). Unfortunately, I think this is the byproduct of offering tickets for free – it is an incredible benefit to the community but a burden when those reserved tickets aren’t used.
With that said, the MSF Street Smart Seminar was well received, and Martin Moto will be hosting another on March 18th (Check the Martin Moto Event Calendar for Future Dates).
Listen to the Motorcycle Adjacent Podcast for More Info
The MSF Street Smart Seminar was a major topic of discussion in Episode 16 of the Motorcycle Adjacent Podcast. For convenience, the episode has been embedded below. Please feel free to listen for additional information on the seminar.
Street Smart Program Objectives
- Name several factors that affect perception.
- Explain how quickly the eyes and mind can effectively work to accurately perceive a situation (in the case of this program, that would be immediate identification of road signs and traffic situations)
- Identify traffic signs and their meaning.
- Identify factors in traffic situations that could affect rider speed, lane position, or path of travel.
- Increase the speed of identification of key factors in traffic.
- State the value of attention for identifying factors and managing risks.
- Name several collision traps that could affect rider safety.
Presenters at Martin Moto
Dennis Martin: Owner of Martin Moto
Dennis opened the seminar with a Greeting
Emily Keinm: BRC and IRC Certified Instructor at Total Control
Emily provided information on Free Motorcycle Training for Pennsylvania Residents through Total Control.
Kelly Knauss: General Manager at Martin Moto
Kelly led the seminar with Attendee Introductions.
Tom Schmidt: PAMSP Rider Coach (Retired)
Tom presented the MSF Street Smart Seminar and led the various Group Discussions.
As we found our seats and waited for things to get started, we were provided with an MSF Street Smart Workbook and Total Control BRC Quiz Sheet. We were encouraged to use this initial downtime as an opportunity to get into a riding frame of mind and complete a simple True or False Quiz on basic motorcycle information.
- The Front Brake provides most of the motorcycle’s stopping power.
- Both Front and Rear Brakes should be used simultaneously.
- When Riding, pressing the right handgrip will cause the motorcycle to lean right.
- A good way to be visible to others when riding during the day in traffic is to use the motorcycle’s high beam.
- A properly fitted helmet does not impair a rider’s vision.
- It is common for a motorcyclist to adjust position within a lane to respond to conditions.
- Convex mirrors found on motorcycles make objects appear farther away than they actually are.
- Motorcyclists should ride as if other vehicles do not see them.
- To help be seen at night, reflective clothing should be worn.
- A recommended minimum following distance is two seconds.
- A full-coverage helmet always provides more protection than an open-faced helmet.
- It is a wise motorcyclist who dresses for comfort and protection.
- Most motorcycle shift patterns have neutral located between first and second gear.
- Counterweighting is a good technique when turning sharply at very low speeds.
- Safe riding is more a skill of the eyes and minds than the hands and feet.
- Good motorcyclists are always looking for hazards near intersections and near curves.
- The “No Zone” is an area related to a truck’s blind spot.
- “Overriding the headlight” occurs when riding too fast at night.
- A 12-ounce beer has the same amount of alcohol as 1.5-ounces of liquor.
- Always riding within your limits is a good way to remain safe on a motorcycle.
See the Difference
After completing the Total Control BRC Quiz, we were encouraged to look over the first couple of pages in the MSF Street Smart Workbook. It contained several pairs of images, and the objective was to find minor differences between them. I didn’t realize it then, but these mental exercises set the tone for what was in store for us as the seminar progressed.
The MSF Street Smart Seminar opened up with a simple mental exercise. We were provided with a workbook that contained a sheet of numbers. The numbers were all jumbled up, and our objective was to draw a line, in sequence, from Number 1 to Number 60. This was a timed activity, and participants were given ninety seconds to see how many numbers they could track.
When our time had elapsed, a poll was taken to see who completed the most numbers. The highest number in our group was 27. Tom (our presenter) explained that this exercise was designed to show us that we could achieve far better results if we trained our minds on what to look for.
Scanning for Information
After spending a few minutes in the MSF Street Smart Workbook, the interactive part of the seminar began. It is important to note that the presentation was done on a projector which produced an image roughly six feet wide by six feet tall.
This large screen demonstrated that the human eye has a fixed focus cone. We can see something clearly if it is within this cone, but anything outside will be blurred. This was demonstrated by having us fix our eyes on the center of the screen while numbers flashed toward the outside. The farther those numbers were from our focal point, the more difficult they were to identify and recall.
This demonstration laid the foundation for the remainder of the seminar. We learned that as motorcyclists, we have minimal time to identify and respond to the warning signs that appear while riding. In order to be effective at assessing potentially dangerous situations, we must understand our limitations and know what to look for.
The next exercise in the MSF Street Smart Seminar was identifying numbers. It started by flashing a four-digit number on the screen. The numbers and placement were random, and we had less than one second to identify and record the number.
After a series of five four-digit numbers, we repeated the process with five-digit numbers. After that, we repeated the process one last time with six-digit numbers. We quickly discovered that the difficulty increased dramatically as the numbers got longer.
The lesson we were being taught was that reaction time was critical. At the speed at which a motorcycle travels, we must be vigilant in searching for and identifying potentially serious road conditions and hazards.
As the MSF Street Smart Seminar progressed, we changed gears and repeated the previous exercise with Road Signs. We were given less than one second to identify various signs and record them in our workbooks. This process became much more difficult when we were given two road signs to identify simultaneously (in the same sub-one-second timeframe).
I found this exercise a little easier than six-digit numbers, but it was still difficult – especially when we got to two road signs simultaneously. I could focus on one, but the second was only visible in my peripheral vision. Identifying that second sign was a serious challenge.
Now that the group was warmed up identifying Numbers and Road Signs, we again changed gears. This time we were shown a photo depicting a traffic scenario. Our objective was to identify the immediate threat. The timeframe started slow, allowing us several seconds to scan the image. After a few scenes, the time was reduced.
After each photo, the group was polled to determine what was seen. This was interesting as different group members identified different issues. We learned that we could become biased and over-sensitive to different things. This increased sensitivity made us less likely to identify other problems.
The MSF Street Smart Seminar concluded with a test that threw us a curveball. Not only did we have to identify the immediate threat, but we also needed to identify the why behind the threat. For instance, we may see that we’re in the blind spot of a vehicle, but the issue is compounded by the road sign that identified that there was a lane merge farther in the scene.
The aspect of the Street Smart Seminar I enjoyed the most was that I didn’t feel like I was being talked at. Rather than being fed boilerplate facts from a textbook, our instructor took the time to discuss various group questions and responses. This made the seminar feel dynamic – not stuffy and loaded with facts and figures.
I enjoyed the seminar and hope that Martin Moto continues to host these types of events throughout the riding season. Before we dismissed, Kelly asked for input on future events, and the group had several suggestions. Personally, I’m very interested in participating in an MSF Group Riding Seminar.
In closing, I think that Tom, Emily, Kelly, and Dennis hosted a wonderful event, and I’m glad that I was able to participate.
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Total Control Instructors Needed
When the MSF Street Smart Seminar concluded, I made my way over to Emily from Total Control. During her introduction, she mentioned that her Home Range was in Norristown, and that is where she did the bulk of her instruction. I was curious if she would be one of my instructors for the Intermediate Riding Clinic I signed up for in April.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance t talk to her about that; however, I did ask her about Training Locations for the ARC (Advanced Rider Clinic). She explained that, as of now, there are only three locations in Pennsylvania where the clinic is offered. The limited locations aren’t for lack of interest – they are struggling to find and train instructors.
If you or anyone you know is interested in becoming a Total Control Certified Motorcycle Instructor, check out the Job Opportunities Page on the Total Control Website.
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