Did you know that in Pennsylvania, the age group of riders most at risk of dying in a motorcycle accident is comprised of those more than 50 years old? This came as a complete shock to me!
Many riders park their bike for a prolonged period and stop riding to raise a family. Years later, when their kids are all grown up, many people return to riding. Since Motorcycle Riding is a perishable skill, it is imperative to take a refresher course and not dive back into it, thinking you can ride just like you used to when you were young.
The Total Control IRC is designed with those returning riders in mind and is a great way to brush up on the skills necessary to keep you safe on the road.
The Total Control IRC (Intermediate Riding Clinic) is the perfect next step for newer riders and those returning to the hobby. The clinic includes both classroom and practical range exercises that focuses on modern safety practices. The clinic can be completed in a single eight-hour day and is free for Pennsylvania Residents.
I recently completed the Total Control IRC in Norristown, Pennsylvania. I had a wonderful time and would like to share my experience with you, my fellow rider.
Table of Contents
Free Motorcycle Safety Training in Pennsylvania
One of the benefits of being a Motorcycle Rider in Pennsylvania (aside from the amazing roads) is that our state offers free Motorcycle Education and Training for residents. This allows anyone interested in riding to take a class and learn to ride. The basic courses provide a motorcycle and helmet so that anyone can partake.
For seasoned riders, Pennsylvania also offers a variety of courses to expand your skills and make you a safer rider. Like the Learn To Ride classes, these are also free to residents.
Classes are offered all over the state at dedicated training facilities, race tracks, and motorcycle dealerships. It is almost certain that if you want to take a class, something will be available within a reasonable distance from your home.
Beginner Riding Clinic (BRC)
The Total Control Basic Riding Clinic is a Multi-Day Licensing Course comprising 6 Hours of Classroom time and 10 Hours of Practical Range Time. The course is free for Pennsylvania Residents ($285 for Non-Residents). It covers riding fundamentals and strategies to keep you safe on public roads.
Intermediate Riding Clinic (IRC)
The Total Control Intermediate Riding Clinic is a 1-Day Licensing Course designed for riders with at least 500 Miles of experience. The course is free for Pennsylvania Residents ($250 for Non-Residents) and covers the following.
- Throttle Control
- Brake Control
- Line Selection
- Low-Speed Turns
- Evasive Maneuvers
- Road Speed Cornering
Advanced Rider Clinic (ARC)
The Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic is a 1-Day Course designed to teach advanced street riding skills. The ARC is modeled after the book Total Control: High-Performance Street Riding Techniques by Lee Parks. The course is free for Pennsylvania Residents ($350 for Non-Residents) and covers the following.
- Traction Management
- Throttle Control
- Mental State
- Line Selection
- Body Position
- Suspension Setup
3 Wheel Riding Clinic (3WRC)
The Total Control 3-Wheel / Can-Am Riding Clinic is a 1-Day Licensing Course for new and experienced riders. The focus of the course is to teach the physical and mental skills necessary to be a safe rider on the street. The clinic is free for Pennsylvania Residents ($285 for Non-Residents).
Registering for the Total Control IRC
Registering for the Total Control IRC is quite easy and can be done entirely online through LearnToRidePA Website. By opening the link, a Pennsylvania State Map will load with a Zip Code Search Bar at the top of the screen. Enter your Zip Code and complete the search to see available classes and locations.
It is important to note that not all locations offer the Total Control Intermediate Riding Clinic (just as not all locations offer the Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic). The search results will return available classes only – it does not show classes that are pending and subject to cancellation. This can be inconvenient as you’ll need to check periodically to see which locations have added classes to their schedule.
To begin the registration process, click on a location to open their course availability. Click on the button that shows class availability to begin the process. Have your Driver’s License handy, as you will need it to complete registration.
In the event that a class you want to attend is full, consider calling the training location. They will be able to place you on a waiting list in the event that a space opens up. Training Locations also allow walk-ins on a first-come-first-serve basis. If you are willing to arrive early and wait for a no-show, there is a chance you may get into the class.
To attend the Total Control IRC there are some requirements. Since it is an Intermediate Riding Clinic, you must have at least 500 miles of riding experience. You must also have a valid PA Motorcycle Learner’s Permit or Class M Endorsement on your PA Driver’s License.
Additionally, you must supply your own Motorcycle and necessary gear. In the event that you are borrowing a motorcycle from a friend or family member, you will be required to supply a letter explicitly stating that you have express permission to use that motorcycle in class.
You will also be required to fill out various forms and waivers. Four of those forms have been included below as a PDF document. The last form must be filled out at the training location.
Norristown Training Location
The Norristown Training Location for Total Control IRC is at 1901 Swede Rd, Norristown, PA, 19404. This street address will place you at the PennDOT Road Services Building, located next to the Range. The entrance to the range has been marked with a Red Arrow on the map below.
The Range is large enough to set up training exercises for two groups and is surrounded by concrete barriers. The classroom space is a repurposed steel shipping container. Restrooms are On-Site Porta-Potties. There are no running water or vending machines available, so please bring plenty of water and snacks to last throughout the day.
Attending the Total Control IRC
I attended the Total Control IRC on Saturday, April 8, 2023, at the Norristown Training Facility on my 2022 Yamaha MT-09 SP. My class was scheduled to begin at 8:30 am, and we were asked to arrive no later than 8:00 am to complete the necessary paperwork and have our gear and motorcycles inspected.
Our Welcome Email from Total Control detailed our class schedule and made a number of recommendations for things to bring to class. This included a DOT Approved Helmet, Motorcycle Specific Gloves, Sturdy Pants, a Riding Jacket, and Boots that protect the ankles.
The email also recommended bringing snacks and plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout the day. Since the Norristown Training Location is a Range and Makeshift Classroom, we would not have access to vending machines or water.
Fortunately, snacks and bottled water were provided free of charge. There was also sunscreen available, but as it was 32 degrees at the start of the day, I don’t think anyone thought it necessary.
In addition to snacks and water, I would also suggest bringing a small first-aid kit that contains medicine for headaches. I would also suggest a pair of earplugs and a tire pressure gauge that fits on your bike (more on this below). If you have a portable tire inflator, I would also bring that.
The Norristown Classroom
The Norristown Training Location is held in the parking lot of the Norristown Road Services Building. The classroom is a metal storage container that is repurposed as a classroom. It gets power from a generator and is heated with a propane-style jet heater.
In a nutshell, the classroom is a big metal box. In the cooler months, it is cold (especially with the door open). In the summer months, it will be hot. Be sure to dress in layers to modulate your temperature between your time in the classroom and on the range.
A few days before the Total Control IRC began, I received an email from Todd. The email provided general information about the class and directions since the GPS Coordinates for the location weren’t quite right (this came in handy and showed me exactly where to go).
He also explained that he wanted us to arrive by 8:00 am to complete the required paperwork. In order to expedite that process, he sent us PDF copies of most of the forms we would need to fill out. He requested that we complete the forms at home and bring them to the class. This would save a lot of time as they required us to copy information from our Driver’s License, Vehicle Registration, and Insurance Cards.
We did have to fill out one form in the classroom, but it was basic information and a signature. The instructors filled out the remainder of the form to issue our Total Control IRC Completion Cards.
Motorcycle and Gear Check
As each attendee got situated and headed into the classroom to get signed in, Emily asked if she could touch our motorcycle to perform a safety check. With our permission, she checked brake pressure at both the lever and rear brake pedal. She also checked tire wear to ensure that we had appropriate tires and 3mm of tread depth.
In addition, she also checked for the appropriate gear (Pants, Jackets, Gloves, Boots) and ensured that all helmets were DOT Approved.
As I exited the classroom, Emily pulled me aside and showed me a problem with my bike. She squeezed the brake lever and pointed out that it touched my handgrip before maximum stopping power was achieved. Fortunately, this was a simple fix. All I had to do was adjust the dial on my ASV Brake Level to move it away from the handgrip.
After Emily finished performing a Motorcycle and Gear Check, she passed around a tire pressure gauge and asked us all to adjust our tire pressure. Total Control suggests that our tires be filled 2-3 pounds below the manufacturer’s recommendation.
She explained that the tire pressure in our owner’s manual was designed to balance tire wear with performance. For this class, we would sacrifice a bit of tire wear for added performance. This would provide more traction for drills that we may be unfamiliar with.
I was happy to adjust my tire pressure as it seemed like a small price to pay to reduce the risk of dropping my bike while performing a drill. Fortunately, I had my new Fantik Tire Inflator in my backpack. This allowed me to easily adjust my tire pressure and not have to wait in line.
It is worth noting that if you have a bike that does not accept a standard tire pressure gauge or inflator (such as my Yamaha MT-09 with twin brake discs), being prepared with something that works for you is a lifesaver.
Total Control IRC Class Schedule
After registering for the Total Control IRC online, I received an automated email with pertinent information. Included in that email was a course schedule that stated that we would be on the range from 8:30 am until 1:00 pm. We would then have a lunch break followed by Classroom time from 2:00 pm until 5:30 pm.
Quite frankly, I was dreading a three-and-a-half-hour classroom session. No matter how good the lecturer was, I couldn’t imagine them being able to keep the group engaged for that length of time after nearly five hours on the range.
Fortunately, our instructors deviated from the script, and I appreciated that a great deal. Rather than giving us one long classroom session to end the day, they broke it up into chunks that corresponded with the training we received on the range. This allowed us to spend about forty-five minutes in the classroom and then go to the range for an hour to put our lecture into practice.
After we were signed in, Todd and Emily split us into two groups and had us run through a short drill. We would accelerate from a stop, shift into second gear, and travel to a green cone. Once at the green cone, we would downshift and slow to a stop. From a complete stop, we would turn left and stop at the instructor.
This exercise was done after sign-in and before any classroom lectures began. I mentioned earlier that the Total Control IRC has a prerequisite of 500 Miles Ridden. I suspect that this was a little test, of sorts, to make sure that everyone in attendance could operate their motorcycle.
Once we demonstrated that we could complete the drill, we were asked to park our bikes at the staging area and wait for the other students to finish. After about five repetitions, everyone had completed the exercise, and we moved into the classroom.
First Classroom Session
When our group finished our Skills Assessment, we were asked to park our motorcycles in the staging area and enter the classroom. Once inside, we found a seat and received a Total Control IRC Student Workbook. I leafed through the workbook and was a bit surprised by the little information it provided. It served more as a roadmap for discussion than a resource for information.
Emily started things off with a short meet-and-greet session. Each student was asked to introduce themselves and provide a little information. What did we ride, how long have we been riding, and what did we hope to take away from the course?
When the introductions were finished, we turned to our Student Workbooks, and Emily began the lecture. We covered items such as Safety, Motorcycle Riding Statistics, Alcohol, Traction, and Fear. The classroom session lasted roughly forty-five minutes before we moved to the range.
Our First Range Session during the Total Control IRC was Emergency Braking. Our objective was to accelerate to 20mph smoothly. As we approached the braking cone, we were instructed to get our bodies into position by scooting back as far as possible in our seats while leaning down towards our gas tanks.
As we crossed the braking cone, we were to perform a push-up motion while simultaneously applying the front and rear brakes. The tricky part was feathering off the rear brake as we came to a stop, preventing our rear wheels from locking up (or activating ABS).
After everyone completed the Emergency Braking Drill several times, we moved on to Throttle Control. This exercise had us ride in a straight line while smoothly rolling on and then backing off the throttle before stopping. The objective was to teach us how to control our throttle and how not to upset our suspension in the process.
This drill was harder than it seemed – especially for those of us with fuel injection. Any jerkiness in the throttle input telegraphed through the suspension and created a bounce. One student on a Kawasaki Ninja 300 seemed to have a lot of trouble with this exercise. Several days after the Total Control IRC, I performed a practice drill on my 2023 Kawasaki Ninja 400 and found it extremely difficult due to the twitchy throttle in first gear. It was significantly easier on my 2022 Yamaha MT-09 SP.
Second Classroom Session
Once we finished with our Emergency Braking Exercise, we once again parked our motorcycles in the staging area and made our way into the classroom. Todd led this classroom session while Emily set up the range for the next exercise.
The focus of this lecture was vision. As humans, we are hard-wired to go where we look – as uncomfortable as that may be on a motorcycle. It is important to point our head and body in the direction we want to go, and our motorcycle will follow.
This classroom session lasted roughly forty-five minutes before we made our way back onto the range.
Slow Speed Cornering
Our next exercise on the range was an elongated figure-eight of sorts. We were to enter a 40-foot circle and perform two laps in one direction. We would then exit the circle and enter a second 40-foot circle turning in the opposite direction for a single lap. Finally, we would exit the circle and come to a complete stop at a set of cones. With our forks turned hard left (full lock), we had to make a tight left turn and avoid hitting boundary cones.
I found the circles relatively easy, as this is something I do in parking lot practice. The hard turn from a stop, on the other hand, was something I struggled with a great deal. I couldn’t seem to get the hang of it and either put my left foot down to stabilize myself or ran outside of the boundary.
It was abundantly clear that these types of turns are something I need to work into my practice sessions.
Third Classroom Session
With our Slow Speed Exercises, Complete, we parked our motorcycles in the staging area and returned to the classroom. Emily led this session while Todd set up the range for the next set of exercises.
Our lecture focused on the mechanics of how a motorcycle turned and how we could aid in this process by applying proper body position. Setting up for the turn with body position would not only smooth out our turn, but it would also improve traction.
After roughly forty-five minutes, we went to the range to put our lecture into practice.
Road Speed Cornering
Our Total Control IRC Final Range Session was all about Road Speed Cornering. The range was split into two sections, and a large oval was set up at each end. The Oval included boundary cones (Inside Lines), a green action cone, and a large orange vision cone.
From the start position, we were to accelerate to 15mph and shift into second gear. As we approached the green action cone, we were instructed to get our body into the proper position – weight shifted to the inside of the curve with the bike upright, creating a V pattern.
At the green action cone, we were to look to the vision cone and begin pressing the appropriate hand grip to initiate the turn. Using body position, counter-steering, and throttle control, we were instructed to take the curve smoothly in a single line and avoid multiple turns (fifty-pencing).
When we exited the first curve, we had to maintain our body position and repeat the process at the opposite end of the Oval. We would do two laps around the oval before exiting and stopping at the instructor for coaching.
Of the exercises performed throughout the day, this is the one I enjoyed the most. I also learned a lot about properly setting up body position and using it to my advantage in a curve.
This range session also included an evasive maneuvers exercise. During this drill where we were to enter a cone funnel and swerve around an obstacle with two quick presses on our handgrips.
Final Classroom Session
After completing our Evasive Maneuvers and Road Speed Corning Exercises, we parked our motorcycle in the staging area and made our way into the classroom one final time. Todd led this discussion while Emily completed the necessary paperwork to issue our Total Control IRC Completion Cards.
This lecture served as a wrap-up and ended with tips on riding at night and the importance of reflective gear. We also touched on Group Riding and improving safety when out with friends. This lecture lasted roughly thirty minutes before we were dismissed.
Once the final classroom session was complete, we were asked to adjust our tire pressure before leaving the facility. As we topped off our tires and said our goodbyes, Total Control IRC Completion Cards were distributed. It is important to note that some Insurance Companies offer discounts to riders who have completed a motorcycle safety program. It doesn’t hurt to send a copy of your card to your insurance agent and inquire about a discount.
The Norristown Training Facility has several Total Control Certified Instructors. For my particular class, we were coached by Todd and Emily. They each had their unique coaching style, and I felt they complimented one another very well.
When the Total Control IRC classroom session began, it was led by Emily. During this time, we all introduced ourselves to get to know one another. While this was happening, Todd was on the range getting it set up for our first range session. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a complete background on his experience.
As we got to know Todd both on the range and in the classroom, it was clear that he has an extensive motorcycle background and has been teaching for quite some time. He is also the site administrator for the Norristown Training Facility.
Tom has a very calm and collected demeanor and a laid-back coaching style. He is concise with his words and provides coaching that is both clear and technical. “Walt, did you notice that you ran wide on that turn? That was because you looked uncomfortable; next time, try shifting your body this way instead”. Todd is the type of person that I felt like I could talk to for hours about technique and body position.
I first met Emily at the MSF Street Smart Seminar at Martin Moto. She was not a presenter; however, she spent some time before class explaining to the group the various free motorcycle training opportunities in Pennsylvania. She explained that she was a Total Control BRC and Total Control IRC Certified Instructor at the Norristown Training Facility.
During introductions, I learned that Emily has been riding seriously for the past four years and has taken a number of classes – including the Total Control BRC, Total Control IRC, and the Total Control ARC as a student to further her skills as a rider.
Opposite Todd, Emily has a very energetic personality. She isn’t shy about exaggerating body movements to help explain an exercise. She is also blunt in providing coaching. “Walt, you successfully avoided the obstacle, but I think you can do better. Can you push harder on the handgrip for me next time?” This isn’t a criticism; I appreciated the direct coaching style.
I debated including Kevin in this section as he was not an official instructor. When we met Kevin, he explained that he is a Certified Total Control BRC Instructor and is working on getting his Total Control IRC Certification. He was in attendance to shadow Todd and Emily and get hands-on experience in seeing how a class operates and see the coaching supplied by the instructors.
Kevin was not involved in the coaching sessions; however, he was extremely friendly and made sure to sit and talk with us during our various breaks. He was encouraging and positive in his role as a spectator.
Total Control IRC Survey
|Please Rate on a Scale of 1 to 10
|Survivability, Traction Management, and Mental States
|Throttle and Brake Control
|Vision and Line Selection
|Steering and Turning
|Low Speed and Road Speed Turning
Which Range Exercise Helped You Improve Your Riding The Most?
The exercise that I feel improved my riding the most was Road Speed Cornering. I have a basic understanding of how countersteering works, but body position has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I found the lecture, demonstration, and excise very informative, and it helped me discover the answer as to why body position is important and how it impacts taking a curve.
Which Range Exercise Was The Most Difficult?
The exercise that I found most difficult was making a left turn from a dead stop with the forks locked. I can’t explain why I found it so difficult. It was simply an exercise I found hard to complete without putting a foot down to stabilize myself.
Which Range Exercises (if any) Did Not Improve Your Riding Skills?
Answering this question would imply that I found an exercise useless. That is far from the case, as every exercise was taught in a way that allowed me to expand on my existing skills (or lack thereof)
Which Range Exercises (If Any) Was Difficult To Understand?
Some of the longer exercises were difficult to understand from a purely spoken description. Seeing the instructors demonstrate the exercise cleared up my confusion.
Which (If Any) of the Lectures Was Difficult to Understand
Todd and Emily both did an excellent job keeping the class engaged in discussion. If something was confusing, they could engage the group in a way that cleared up any confusion.
What Could We Have Done More Of?
One aspect of this class that I was most surprised by was the lack of physical course material. Our Student Workbook was effectively a pamphlet that contained a heading, a single sentence, and then several lines for students to take notes – for each lecture.
While I understand the importance of self-written notes, I thought this was a bit extreme. I was unable to scribble notes in my workbook and came away from the class with hastily typed notes on my phone instead. I would love to see more written information provided in class so that we could revisit it weeks or months after taking the Total Control IRC.
What Could We Have Done Less Of?
What could I have done less of in the Total Control IRC – this is a tough question to answer. Had the Norristown Training Location followed the class schedule sent via email, I would have said I would like to see less classroom time. 3.5 hours of lectures to end the day is a lot.
Because the classroom time was broken into more manageable chunks, I’m hesitant to say that I’d like to see less of it. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I’d like to see more of a hybrid session where instead of looking at photos on the projector, we did static exercises on the bikes to feel instead of trying to comprehend a talking point.
|Please Rate on a Scale of 1 to 10
|Overall Riding Improvement
Do You Have an Interest in Becoming a Total Control Instructor?
During our last Classroom Session, Todd wrapped up by asking us to please fill out the Total Control IRC Survey before leaving. He explained that Total Control is always on the lookout for Instructors, and if anyone has an interest, please note it on the survey.
Todd went on to explain that his personal riding capabilities have increased exponentially as an instructor. This hit the nail on the head for me. I am interested in becoming a Certified Total Control Instructor, but it is for selfish reasons. I see it as an excellent way to improve my riding skills with the added benefit of helping others learn as a byproduct.
I’m not entirely sure I have the time to maintain certification (Teaching 5 Clinics per Year), but I would love to get more information.
Comments, Concerns, Compliments, or Suggestions
I have been in the Woodworking Industry all of my working life and have spent far too much time around loud machinery. Spending years in these loud environments hasn’t done my hearing any favors, and I find it difficult to comprehend voices in noisy environments. I can hear the sound but can’t make out the actual words.
Early on in the Classroom Session, Emily was leading the lecture while Todd set up the range for our first session. After the setup was complete, he began practicing for the demo. This demo required him to rev the engine and slowly let out the clutch to complete a tight turn from a complete stop.
The Engine and Exhaust sound boomed against the classroom wall, and I found it impossible to hear Emily for brief periods. Fortunately, this was the only time during our classroom sessions that I could not hear. My suggestion would be to perform all practice drills on the far side of the range.
I want to stress that no one else in the classroom seemed to have difficulty hearing at this time, and it was likely only an issue for me.
Will I Take the Total Control IRC Again?
The beautiful thing about Free Motorcycle Training in Pennsylvania is that you can take classes as often as you like. I got so much out of the Total Control IRC that I will likely take it again – this time on my 2023 Kawasaki Ninja 400.
One of my goals for the 2023 Riding Season was to take the Total Control ARC. As much as I’d like to sign up for a class, this experience showed me that I have room for improvement before I take an Advanced Riding Clinic. After some additional practice and perhaps another go at the Intermediate Riding Clinic, I think I’ll be better prepared and ready to sign up.
If you are a Pennsylvania Resident and want to improve your riding, the decision is simple. Sign up for a class and learn skills that have a direct impact on your riding abilities!
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