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Motorcycle Education of South Carolina:
A beginners view

By Ralph Bell

Personal history:

My Name is Ralph Bell. I am a 42-year-old male. My motorcycle riding started when I purchased a used 2000 FLHRCI Road King on June 20, 2006 from a good friend of mine. I started out just riding around the neighborhood. As time went on I ventured out and tried to get a ride in everyday after work. I had tried the course at the Ballentine DMV but actually dropped the bike once. It was not until a ride back from Aiken that I decided to take a Midlands Technical College course. I had a rear tire blowout on I-26 just past the St. Andrews turnoff with my wife on the back. We were lucky that I handled the bike and no one was hurt.

The next day I went online looking for a motorcycle class. Unfortunately the beginner' s classes were filled up for several weekends and I had to register for a class several months out. After a couple of weeks I reregistered to take the September 8, 2006 Intermediate Motorcycle Class.

I had recently heard that Thunder Tower Harley Davidson dealership had a Riders Edge New Rider Course. I decided to sign up for the class since I plan on taking some form of riding classes every year. I signed up for the Febuary 2, 2007 course.

My perspective:

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has done an excellent job in taking the lead on motorcycle education. The course layout, handbooks, training of instructors, and the whole program works. There is no doubt that if every new rider took the beginners class prior to purchasing a motorcycle they would be a safer rider and have a better chance. The intermediate class is the way to get for someone that is currently riding on a permit and wants to get their motorcycle operators license. The problem is a person can purchase a motorcycle and get a permit without even being able to ride. They can have a motorcycle dealership train them on a small bike and then deliver it to the DMV so they can take the test for their motorcycle operator' s license. I saw a sign on a dealership in Charleston that said "Rent me for the DMV test."

You should test on what you ride and be able to show registration prior to taking the test at the DMV. If a dealership wants to get involved they should insure that people could ride what they buy and also pass the road test. If not then the DMV should make sure they regulate the licensing process and not let people whose interests are more for a sell than actual safety.

Midlands Technical College Intermediate Motorcycle class:

The first day of class was on September 8th from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.. We went over T CLOCK which is a pre ride inspection which I have done ever since. I wish I had done this from the beginning since my tire had a gash in it, which caused the blowout. The handbook we used was the MSF Rider Handbook 6.1. After going through all the sections and watching several videos and we went home.

The second day of class was on September 9th from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We started out by going over our bikes using the T-CLOCK inspection sheet. This was a good idea since one of the students motorcycle brakes had failed.

We did a weave exercise which had cones that we would weave threw at various speeds and distances. They also changed the staggered formation of these once we had done the easy set. We did a U turn exercise, which was a right and then a left hand U turn inside a 24' wide box. I had a hard time with this one at first and actually stayed through lunch to keep practicing. We did the sudden stop exercise, in which we would come at the instructor at various speeds and would stop using both the front and the back brakes. I thought it was interesting that they also required us to use all four fingers not just one or two which was already starting to become a habit. We had a cornering / turning exercise which we had various degrees of turns and various speeds. We also were required to look through the turn not just at the front .We also practiced how to stop in a turn which is something I never thought about and hopefully won' t have to do.

We had the swerving exercise in which we would come at the instructor in second gear and either goes to the right or left depending on which hand he raised. We also ran over some 2" X 4" wood and that was something I never would have thought about.

After going through all the riding exercises we were told we would now start the riders test. The instructors had us line up in a row and explained what we were going to perform. We then proceeded to go through each test one by one. Once all of the riding tests were completed we went inside and took the written test over all the subject matter that we had been instructed on. We received our grades and everyone in the class had passed. We were told to take the test with the signed card and insert it into an envelope that they had given us. They put a seal over the edge of the envelope and we were told we could take them to the DMV for a possible road test waiver. They also told us that the DMV can and may have us take the DMV road test within the next two years regardless of passing the road test waiver class.

Pros Midlands Tech Motorcycle Rider Education:

The various courses they offer from beginners to experts will allow an individual to continue to be trained through out. They have all type of riders including sport bikes, cruisers, and all makes that take this course. The courses are very efficient and although the range and handbooks are the same you can complete this course in a shorter time period. They also have several instructors. The costs of the courses are a lot cheaper. The Beginners course is $225.00, the intermediate course is $125.00 and the experienced course is $65.00. I must say that it was one of the best things I have done. They pushed me to do things I would not have done or practiced. After riding through the DMV road test I can say they have a harder test. I also did not feel like they were there but for one thing and that was to teach us how to ride safely.

Cons Midlands Tech Motorcycle Rider Education:

Although the course they offer are very extensive. Most riders have not taken these classes. Either due to having many years of experience or not wanting to take the class since it is not required. Some students are from the local bases and take the intermediate classes due to it being a requirement. There also is no information about these classes at the DMV, schools, or local motorcycle retail stores. You really have to know someone that has taken the classes to get any information or go online at

Harley Davidson Riders Edge New Rider Course:

The first day of class was on Febuary 1st from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. We went over course items and signed waivers. After that we went and had a tour of the dealership including clothes, helmets, gloves, motorcycles, and other items. We finished up the night going over risk awareness and unit I / II in the handbook. We also watched the first couple of videos.

The second day was on February 2nd from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. We went through the required safety gear for use on the track. We also went through the dealership and tried on various items (Gloves, helmet, jackets). We then went back and did the questions on unit III of the MSF Rider Handbook 7.0. We also watched videos.

The third day of class was on February 3rd from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. We went over Range exercises 1 through 9. These are the same exercises that I had done at Midlands and the track is the same. We then went and did unit IV of the MSF Rider Handbook 7.0.

The forth day of class was on February 4th from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We did range exercises 10 through 17 and at the end of the day we had our riding test. Everyone passed and we put the motorcycles and equipment away.

The fifth day of class was on February 5th from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. We waited while one of the students took the test for the motorcycle operators permit test, which was administered by a lady from the SCDMV. After she was done and passed we went over some simulated driving conditions and also about riding with passengers. We then went in and took the written MSF test. We had all passed and afterwards we had special certificates given. They provided pizza and cake. We then finished up and received our MSF Riders course certificate.

Pros Harley Davidson Motorcycle Rider Education:

As a Harley Davidson owner myself this was convenient. The one lady taking the class had just purchased a motorcycle from them and the other lady was getting ready to purchase one, which made it convenient. The course and instructor are MSF qualified and the material is well written. The classroom and the track are brand new and nice. Overall I did a refresher of what I had taken at Midlands except this class was on provided Buell blast motorcycles.

Cons Harley Davidson Motorcycle Rider Education:

This class seemed to take a long time and is stretched out over five days. The instructor Jason Roberts was a good instructor but he was the only one. Apparently the other instructor did not show up. We all seemed very tired after being on the range even though we had several breaks. Although they provided lunch the extra time to go through the dealership to shop seemed to be more of a marketing tool.

The Buell although they are new they were stalling throughout the two days of the riding. One of the students had dropped the bike a couple of times. Once in a turn and once when she forgot to put the kick stand down. Also the shift lever was bent due to the large amount of force you would have to use to shift it into gear Their small size also made them easy to move but unrealistic to a larger motorcycle like the one I own and ride. Cost of this class was $325.00, which is a large amount considering the Midlands class is $225.00. Anyone that did not own a non Harley Davidson motorcycle would not be drawn to take this class. Currently they do not offer any other level of classes. There is no class in which you can use your own motorcycle on the range. There also is no class to allow a waiver of the DMV' s road test although I was told that they would deliver a Buell to the DMV for students that wanted to take the DMV road test.

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