A successful motorcyclist knows that the greatest upgrade to enhance one’s motorcycle performance is the one that’s found between the rider’s ears.
It was a perfect, late October, southern California Sunday. Twenty-nine riders gathered at Willow Springs International Raceway’s Horse Thief Mile to spend a day mastering cornering techniques and skills. This event was the first of its kind for the South Coast BMW Riders Club.
Five women, riding their bikes, and 24 men ranging in age from 40s to 70s, some two-up with their partners, took to the course with gusto and vigor. Lap after lap, on a closed track, Streetmasters instructors increased the difficulty with compounded skills sets. The success achieved made for a day nobody is likely to forget. Riders both new and seasoned gained confidence in leaning over their motorcycles. Participants were principled in a safe and smooth path to take corners. Braking skills and slow-speed maneuvering also improved greatly. Most importantly, all 29 riders had a great day of camaraderie, fun and appreciation.
Streetmasters classroom instruction.
At the end of the day, all 29 riders expressed increased confidence, skill and ability with their motorcycle. Each participant received a certificate that many insurance companies will accept for a premium discount.
This happy end to an amazing day started with events in November 2014, when the MOA chartered club South Coast BMW Riders Club (South Coasters for short) organized a ride to Kernville, California. During that ride, a couple of riders struggled to maintain a safe travel path on the twisting roads. One rider in particular, Hugo* struggled to keep his motorcycle on his side of the lane.
Walt Fulton aboard an R 1200 RS.
At the end of the ride, Hugo asked Danny Wassenaar how he was doing. Rather curtly, Danny looked Hugo in the eye and replied, “I have one word for you: Streetmasters!”
The South Coasters is made up of all levels of riders. Like many riding clubs, the South Coasters looks after newer and less experienced riders. During a subsequent club meeting, a suggestion was made to organize a group training session so that all the riders would have an opportunity to notch up their riding skill.
At that point, the magic started to happen. Danny’s first move was to talk over the idea of improving rider skills and safety training with Irv Seaver BMW in Orange County, California, the dealership that sponsors the South Coasters. Evan and Lois Bell, owners of Irv Seaver BMW, immediately warmed to the idea. They wholeheartedly supported a day of training and suggested Streetmasters.
Streetmasters Precision Cornering Motorcycle Workshops are one-day training classes designed specifically for touring, sport-touring, cruiser and sport bike riders. Former racer and industry veteran Walt Fulton and partner Nancy Foote own Streetmasters. A call was made to see if a specially priced members-only training session could happen. Walt and Nancy were both eager to help the club and extended a generous group rate for training.
Jim Foreman (the author)
At this point, three of four elements were in place. The South Coasters, Irv Seaver BMW and Streetmasters were all committed and moved forward. The last link was a possible sponsorship or grant to help offset the cost of the training, and the BMW MOA proved its worth in carbon fiber.
Walt suggested that Danny reach out to the MOA to see if the MOA would help offset the cost of the training. It was as if heaven opened up and light shone down as we were made aware of the BMW MOA Foundation. More specifically, the Paul B. Memorial Scholarship Fund was explained, exceeding the club’s wildest expectations.
Nancy Foote and Walt Fulton presenting Bob Wetzel with his certificate.
Named after its benefactor, Paul Bachorz, the Paul B Memorial Scholarship provides BMW MOA members with up to $250 grants for motorcycle rider continuing education and training. The Foundation reviews and awards up to 40 scholarships annually for BMW MOA members to attend the training of their choice.
Club members who wished to take advantage of the generous grant were informed of the simple procedure to apply. Registered participants began to fill the roster of available spaces. With all the pieces were in place, it was time to make a fun event out of getting there and staying the weekend.
The South Coasters
The South Coasters planned an overnight weekend, with a run up one of SoCal’s most storied roads, Angeles Crest Highway (CA-2). The adjacent Angeles Forest Highway also gave the riders a real-world baseline to determine their skills before and after the class. Irv Seaver BMW arranged a four-wheeler to take attendee’s gear to and from the hotel; they even picked up the tab for dinner!
The classroom portion of the Streetmasters course took place Saturday night. Attendees were able to reflect on late-apex cornering before going to the closed track the following day. The classroom session focused on specific encounters and potential dangers found on the streets and how to best position oneself and one’s motorcycle to take corners in the safest and most effective way. The class also covered other concepts such as braking, counter steering and pointing one’s nose in the direction of travel.
Time to go home!
During the track portion, riders went out in groups of three or four with an instructor. The instructors were former police motorcycle officers, racers and long-time motor safety professionals. They were all excellent! All of the riders expressed satisfaction and appreciation of the course. A few of those same riders previously voiced whether they would learn anything before the training day.
Edwina Carabajal is a new rider who recently purchased a 2015 BMW F 700 GS. She uses it for commuting in SoCal daily and only previously took the MSF Basic Riding Course. Edwina loved that she was not the only woman taking the course and that Streetmasters staff included two female instructors. Based on the day’s training, Edwina desires even more training to give herself higher skills and more options when out riding. She noticed the difference this training made, immediately when riding home.
Scott Hale said he had no idea what to expect. Scott had been riding for a year and a half, while clocking 14,000 miles on his 2012 BMW R 1200 RT. Scott said the MOA Foundation grant was a huge factor in deciding to take the course. He also believes now that ongoing training is a great idea and will seek out more.
Tom Hooper has been riding for 50 years and currently rides a 2015 R 1200 GS Adventure. He has never taken any motorcycle training, but has read many books including David Hough’s excellent book Proficient Motorcycling. Tom stated that making left turns and visualizing a pathway of travel have always been difficult for him. Although Tom has been riding for decades, he felt he was never really more than an average rider. The instructor’s specific and immediate feedback made a profound and noticeable difference in Tom’s riding. Tom expressed that he had substantially improved as a rider and will put into practice what he has learned.
Tom Hooper graduates.
Most of the riders chose to take Angeles Forest Highway and Angeles Crest Highway back home, to compare their skills. Everyone in the group expressed a significant increase in skill, confidence, and competence on their motorcycles.
Streetmasters’ teaching technics, patience and dedication are exemplary. As a result, my riding has become much better. No more white knuckles while riding through the curves.
Morning tech inspection.
Thanks to the BMW MOA Foundation for the final incentive to take this course. I would also like to thank Danny Wassenaar. I asked for advice on how I could improve my riding. Without hesitation, he said “Streetmasters.” He was right.
* Name changed to protect the innocent.
Instruction on the track.
Jan and Steve Leo
Lisa Catarineau and Sharon Wagner