A few days ago I was afraid of getting on a motorcycle, let alone taking it for a ride. I can get into any car and drive it like I stole it, but with motorcycles it was different. I found them intimidating and nerve-racking. The BMW Rider Academy changed all of this and for the past few days all I can think about is getting on a bike and riding.
A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a track day by a very good friend of mine. That day, standing next to the racetrack, something inside me awoke. Whether it was caused by the deafening sound of horsepower racing by or the competitive side of my personality, I do not know, but since that day all I have been wanting to do was get in the seat and experience it for myself.
No one can deny that motorcycles have a bad reputation for being high risk vehicles, and with this in mind I decided to approach my craving responsibly. Scouring the Internet for reputable novice motorcycle courses I came across one that stood out. One that promised world-class standards, a very comprehensive curriculum and a community to back their credentials. The BMW Rider Academy Novice Motorcycle course.
Arriving at BMW Motorrad’s training facility at Zwartkops Racetrack in Pretoria on Saturday morning, I was uncharacteristically nervous. Would I be able to do this? Do I have the coordination necessary to actually operate these machines? As I walked past the 250cc Yamaha training motorcycles standing outside, a small amount of doubt ran through my mind and got just a little worse as I passed the bigger 650 and BMW 1200GS on my way to the door.
As I entered the training facility, my nerves quickly subsided as the most friendly, down to earth trainers greeted my fellow students and me. Groups are kept small; two to eight pupils per day, promising that every student receives the attention needed to successfully complete the day’s activities.
After briefly introducing ourselves, going over the basic motorcycle controls and getting dressed in beautifully BMW branded helmets, jackets and gloves we were off to get on motorcycles for the first time in our lives.
The morning was filled with over revving engines, squealing brakes and cones, a lot of orange traffic cones, doing their best to make life difficult for all of us. We learned to walk first, mastering the art of maneuvering a motorcycle at low speeds while getting to grips (pun indented) with the controls and actions needed to successfully get the motorcycle moving, stopped and turned…no feet on the ground! Only once we mastered all of these basic skills were we given the green light, and a bigger piece of tarmac, to start practising gear changes. A sense of freedom started to raise its head, and then it was lunch.
Another classroom session made us acutely aware of the risks and safety aspects of operating a motorcycle safely on the road and in traffic, after which we were off to go test our newfound skills on a mini-track and obstacle course. Here we spent the rest of our day honing our skills while practising to brake, swerve and maintain balance whilst being subjected to a variety of different conditions. Confidence grew by the minute and every one of us felt a bit of ‘Rossi’ awakening in us. The highlight of this training session was being given the opportunity to ride the BMW G650GS that in the beginning of the day seemed a long way off from becoming a reality.
One of the coolest things we learned was that you can actually keep any motorcycle, doesn’t matter how big or heavy, upright with just 2 fingers. Who knew!! It is just one big balancing act, and a surprisingly easy one at that.
We ended the day with an outride, the first time any of us experienced what the open road and a motorcycle had to offer. It was during this time that two things I love, machines and nature, were presented to me in a completely new and unique way. No longer was I confined to my steel cocoon, and with that came a sense of freedom that cannot be expressed in words. For those brief few minutes it was my machine, the road and me. Nothing else.
I was hooked. I am hooked.
The BMW Rider Academy turned a once nervous wreck into a confident rider in a single day. No doubt I still have a lot to learn, but they provided me with a solid platform on which to build and I will, without a doubt, be back in the seat at Zwartkops attending the various training courses offered by the BMW Motorrad family.
I came across this video where Jeremy Irons (Pope Alexander from The Borgias) attended BMW Motorrad training after twenty years of riding and learned things he should have “learned in the first year of riding.” Makes me feel great about choosing BMW to start my riding ‘career’ with.
BMW Motorrad offers a range of training courses and can be found here.