The Ultimate Rider Course
It is widely understood and acknowledged that motorcycle police officers are among the best trained and most proficient riders on the planet, in any country. The extensive and strenuous street training they undergo challenges the limits of man and machine. Very few police officers undertake the vigorous course. Fewer still successfully complete it. Yet those who do possess a skill level in riding virtually unknown to the rest of the motorcycling world.
Ken Anderson is one of those elite riders. With over 30 years experience as a motorcycle officer, including hundreds of hours of intensive training on multiple levels, and a seasoned police instructor himself, Ken has now brought this training to the civilian motorcyclist. ProRider Atlanta takes main skills taught and drilled into motorcycle officers and translates these into a civilian format, to benefit the wider rider world.
I had the opportunity to participate in Ken’s ProRider class back in October, and the 8-hour course was one of the most challenging and rewarding I’ve ever undertaken. I took the course on my 1998 Yamaha Royal Star since it’s equipped with front and rear highway bars in the event of a drop (which didn’t happen, I’m proud to say). I’ve always been very confident on the big Yamaha, having logged nearly 16 years and 90,000 miles on it. By the end of the day, I would come to realize how much more I and my bike are truly capable of.
Led by Ken and aided by Ken’s wife Patty, we were coached through riding tasks as basic as the proper way motor officers mount and dismount their bikes (from the right side, never the traffic side), how to correctly lift a dropped bike, and the safety reasons for always staying in gear while at stop lights. Ken taught then demonstrated proper clutch/throttle modulation, with Ken asserting, “The power of your motorcycle is not in the throttle, it’s in the clutch. You can twist the throttle all day, but the bike won’t roll forward until you release the clutch.” So, learning your clutch’s “friction zone” and how to manage your throttle and rear brake in unison with it, is key to improving slow control riding, obstacle avoidance, and negotiating tight cornering without resorting to “duck walking” your bike through parking lots.
We worked on the skills of clutch/throttle/rear brake management all day through a series of increasingly difficult cone courses, from simple cone weaving, quick lane change, deep & wide corner negotiating, and performing a complete “360” within a tight circle of cones. As we drilled these over and over, Ken would stop and give individual observations and instruction, as well as group debriefs before moving on to the next exercise. We didn’t master the techniques fully in one day (moto cops take months, even years to master the skills), but we each dramatically improved as the day progressed.
Ken also taught essential skills such as braking in curves, keeping eyes up and looking where you want to go, “not at your front wheel” as he calls it, and rear crash avoidance. We ended the day with a nerve-wracking exercise in emergency braking and escape, as in hard front/rear braking that results in a controlled tire skid and stops. We practiced this from 20 mph, then 30, then 40 mph, seeing the evidence of stopping distance in our skid marks. My Yamaha is not equipped with ABS or Traction Control like most other class participants, but I found I could stop in every bit the same distance they did after numerous runs and wasn’t intimidated by my screeching tires as I came to a straight, controlled stop. Wow, and whew!
By the end of the day, Ken and Patty awarded each of us an official ProRider certificate of successful completion, which my insurance company has promised to honor with some discounts. Nice.
In all, this class pushed me beyond what I thought my limits were. I saw how much more riding control I am capable of, and how much more my bike is capable of as well. My confidence in my riding skills certainly has notched up a level.
*Oh, a cool feature of Ken’s class- you can return to keep practicing the skills with subsequent classes, free of charge, for up to one year (subject to space availability in the class).
I highly recommend Ken’s ProRider Atlanta motorcycle course. Every rider should seek to improve their street skills. In my experience, there simply is no better instructor than a seasoned motorcycle officer. And Ken is the best of the best.
*photos by Phil Gauthier
For more info on ProRider Atlanta, click here- www.prorideratlanta.com
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