Wednesday, March 31, 2010

MSF announces new Rider Training curricula

MSF has long borne the brunt of criticism for its rider course offerings.   The Basic Rider Course was considered to have been dumbed down after the last major revamp in 2002, and its more advanced offerings, the Experienced Rider Course is just lame, compared to what's available in Europe and Canada, and from competitors like Lee Parks

The new ARC-ST (the slightly misnamed Advanced Rider Course - Sportbike Techniques) spun off from a course MSF developed for the Army and was well-reviewed, although it is essentially in its first season of civilian roll-out. 

The new curricula include the basic rider course, a new on-street segment where an instructor is in radio contact with up to three students, a basic 'Bike-Bonding' course, an optional track-style course developed with Kevin Schwantz and a more advanced street raining segment make up the elements of the three curricula.  

We're excited by this new approach from MSF.  We wish them well with getting the trainers trained and selling their concept to the independently franchised training operations nationwide, which are overseen by the states. 

We have always said that a skillful, well trained rider is safer and has more fun on his bike.   If this initiative is a success, we would expect to see a reduction in crashes, injuries and deaths.  

That's not to say that it will be plain sailing for MSF.   The training regimes we mentioned in Europe, Canada and the military have a compulsory graduated qualification system, where basic training and initial qualification is followed by a probationary period with restrictions, and another series of training and testing is required to obtain a full license.  MSF's training regimen would be entirely voluntary, as in  many states it's possible to get a motorcycle license by doing a simple paper test and a trivial parking-lot  test, which is often skipped.    

It remains to be seen if MSF will use it's considerable lobbying muscle in all 50 states to toughen up the licensing requirements.  In the past, it has seemed that the bike makers, who own MSF, have wanted to relax the requirements in order to maximize the number of potential customers.  Perhaps the Feds might get involved in providing incentives to the states to improve their training and licensing standards.  Various levels of government might also provide incentives to riders, in the shape of training subsidies like some states already have.

The MSF have a lot of work to do, to make these new curricula available to riders nationwide.  We all have work to do to persuade government to support this initiative by bringing licensing requirements up to international standards. 

This announcement is a very positive step.   Good work, MSF, we now expect great things in the coming years. 


MSF Comes Off the Crash Study Fence

MSF announced today that they are partnering with Virginia Tech to run a motorcycle crash study which uses instrumentation mounted on bikes to collect data about crashes and near-crashes.  This type of study has been done with some success in cars and trucks.  This will be the first time it's being done on motorcycles, we guess the electronics have gotten small enough to make that feasible.  The data collection devices include miniature video cameras, motion sensors and GPS transponders, which provide very detailed information on what the bike, rider and other vehicles are doing.  We'll bring more on previous studies of this type when we get some homework done. 

Of course, there are always risk of sample skew in such a study.   Bikers who volunteer to have the gadgets attached to their bikes might have a different attitude to safety,  and maybe the knowledge that big brother is watching might cause the rider to change her riding habits, like speed a little slower. 

The advantages of not being confined to a single city location and a helmet-law state, and the ability to study events that don't result in a 911 call, not to mention avoiding the political constraints piled on the OSU study, might result in information useful to bikers. The technique has potential for producing more information at less expense.

The successful Maids study was financed by the European Manufacturers association, and the Thailand study was financed bu Honda, so manufacturer-financed studies have a good record. 

We have been enthusiastic supporters of the ill-fated OSU study, which has been accursed by an evil politician, Daniel Inhofe, who gave the study as pork to OSU, and and incompetent chief investigator, Dr. Samir Ahmed.   The late Harry Hurt expressed disappointment in the OSU study, and clearly MSF has decided not to throw good money after bad.  Who's to say they are wrong.

The non-motorcycle-rider Dr. Ahmed has been reported in recent weeks to be on tenterhooks awaiting the result of last week's MSF meeting, where the final touches were made to this policy.  He was expecting MSF to restore the funding they withheld from his study, and will no doubt take this development as a kick in the teeth.  He can now get back to 'proving' that a 300-sample study is as good as a 900 to 1200 sample study, and whining about his expense account.  OSU, by politicking the SAFETEA-LU grant and holding out for up to 12 million in pork, have shot themselves in the foot and done a great disservice to bikers by wasting research money and alienating the previously supportive MSF by their antics.   The MSF action should be interpreted as a censure of OSU and its flacks and minions. 

We'll be watching what MSF and Virginia Tech do with their study and hoping that the OSU study can somehow be rescued by handing the project over to someone competent.