Part of why I love my riding club so much is their eagerness to give back to the community. Between donating to charity as a group, organizing charity events, and escorting charity rides, I’d like to think we do a good job. There is one venue, however, that I think is more impactful than all of the others. It’s also the hardest to orchestrate: Skills days.
Statistically speaking, the most dangerous time for new riders is their first 6 months on the road. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation does a fantastic job at teaching them how to operate their bikes in a parking lot in their Basic Rider Course, but they don’t necessarily prepare them for riding in real world conditions with real world hazards. We do.
For the better part of a decade now, we’ve set up cones courses in parking lots across the north end of the greater Seattle/Everett area in order to prepare new riders for the challenges that are coming their direction. We build courses with increasing and decreasing radius turns, braking zones, slaloms, and long sweepers, then we follow riders through the course in order to give them tips and pointers about how to best tackle the course.
Mostly what we do is showing the newer riders where to look at any given time (UP!), to loosen up on the bars, to lean into corners rather than away from them, and how to feather the clutch in low speed turns. For the more advanced riders that show up we can demonstrate proper body position for knee dragging, braking and downshifting tactics, and how to find the cleanest line through the course. During all of this we also take riders aside and talk them through proper maintenance, address their individual goals and concerns, and generally just try to build up their confidence on their machines. This is not an event for those that want to do wheelies/burnouts/stoppies. We’re very respectful of the opportunity we’ve been given to use these lots.
The very best part is that this is entirely free. We pay for it out of our pockets to contribute to our community. Any donations we collect go directly to a children’s hospice charity.
To pretend that it’s entirely altruistic would be a bit disingenuous. We love skills days. We also get an enormous sense of satisfaction from helping new riders out. They’re the future of our sport, and we’ve even gained members from our interactions with them.
Up to now it all sounds fantastic, right? That’s because it is, which is why it confuses the hell out of us why nobody will let us use their parking lot.
We, as a club, have gone so far as to register as a nonprofit in order to enlarge our pool of potential parking-lot-owning partners, but to no avail. Every venue we locate requires event insurance, which means skills days would no longer be free. We’re not willing to do that. This is not a service for only those that can afford it. I absolutely understand the liability concerns involved, so there’s no ill will toward the companies that have turned us down, but we fear that unless something changes we’ll be unable to continue this service.