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 Wendy Moon Archive
 2006 Blog posts
 01-04-Dangerous Omissions, Pt. III
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Female Junior Member
26 Posts

St. Louis, MO


VFR 750F
Peer Review: Blocked

Posted - 02/02/2011 :  6:19 PM                       Like

(Posted 01/04/06)

In terms of braking/stopping in general: The first BRC (BRC1) taught using the rear brake first, then the front brake. I, for one, say it's good that it was gone from the MRC on.

The first two versions BRC1 and the MRC, though, clearly explained why combination braking was important in terms of the weight shift and traction during braking. The last two have an illustration to depict stopping distance.

Steve Garrets uses the expression "nice to know vs. need to know" and perhaps that applies here. Maybe students don't "need to know" this. In that case, since they are taught to use both brakes all the time, why do they need to know that 70% of the stopping power is in the front brake? That's made it into every iteration. Remember, that front brake stopping power is also illustrated, so, in effect, it's in there twice. That's fine, but this repetition illustrates the inconsistency in the curriculumsome nice to know things are included and others aren't.

The problem is when need to knows are omitted, and I'm sure this is something that they DO need to know:

The first two iterations included the specific direction to turn the throttle off and be careful not turn the throttle while applying the front brake. The last two iterations do not.

Yet any rider knows the correct braking procedure must specifically include rolling off the throttle. Why isn't this in the BRC2?

Is it because it seems to be a no-brainer? Something so obvious and fundamental it doesn't need to be said? Yet not pointing a gun at oneself also seems to be a no-brainer yet it's always said when a novice handles a gun.

Is it enough that it gets taught on the range? But it's not in the range cards either. However, the BRC2 range cards simply have this for front brake familiarization: "Squeeze and release/Practice roll-off/brake squeeze."

Nor are students taught in the handbook or specifically on the range to be careful not to roll on the throttle as they apply the front brake.

Are both these critical actions something that students are just supposed to figure out on their own?

I'd suggest not since these omission can have dire consequences. Run-offs on the range are not uncommon. In fact, throttle errors are implicated in all four non-medical condition deaths in rider training as well as numerous injury accidents. Three of those rider training deaths happened using BRC2 curriculum, which isn't to say that there's a direct connectionbut it isn't to say there wasn't either.

So two very basic, very critical steps have been omitted from both the handbook and the rangenor are either/both elicited through the study question for that section. The instructor must make up these errors on their ownwhich is great, if they do but where is the guarantee that it happens in every class? Moreover, why should they have to?

Speaking of nice to know and need to know, the RSS and BRC2 include wrist down, knuckles up in the section on riding posture (as does the MRC) and the BRC2 includes it Exercise 2 and in Exercise 5 as part of the demo. However, the BRC2 never explains *why* it's important.

Otoh, the MRC includes the very important information in the braking section to keep the wrist position down and knuckles up in order not to inadvertently turn the throttle on. This is commonly citedby rider instructorsas the number one reason students run-off the range. Yet this in not included in the RSS or BRC2 handbooks in the section on braking.

The decision to teach it only as riding position without explanation, though, makes it seem like a "nice to know" and even optional technique. After all, it's very uncomfortable to ride wrist downif they don't understand why it's important *in terms of braking*, it's something they may choose not to do.

Third omission in general braking/stopping: the BRC2 does not tell the student in either the handbook or range cards before they brake to a stop to make sure the front wheel is square. They are already braking in Exercise 2, but not told to keep the front wheel squared until Exercise 3.

The BRC1 and MRC did in the initial explanation on stopping/braking. The RSS and BRC2 *only* addresses this in the section on stopping in a curve much later in the book and, if it's discussed, it's talked about in what would be the second classroom section.

The reason for increased drops in the early exercises then, may be as simple as failing to correct these omissions in the curriculumor making the assumption these are things students can figure out on their own.

Already, then, the BRC2 isn't just dumbed down, these omissions create a situation with a needlessly high hazard/risk potential.

All versions include pulling in the clutch lever and also the necessity to downshift. The BRC1 and MRC, however, say downshift *as needed*. The RSS and BRC say to first gear.

Whether a student should or shouldn't be in first gear at a stop is one issue that doesn't belong here. However, the handbook conflates braking with stopping and while we brake to stop, not all braking results in a stop. Therefore to unilaterally tell students to downshift to first, to have them not only repeatedly practice it but to include it as a measure of evaluation trains them to a potentially lethal habit.

Obviously, not all braking means slowing to the point where the engine revolutions will match first gear. IF the engine revolutions don't match the gear, the rear wheel will likely lock up, the bike will jolt and the front wheel/handlebars may twist. This creates a dangerous situation for the novice who may panicnor would they necessarily know what to do in that situation.

Is downshifting "as needed" just a nice to know? Not in my opinion. I think it's a need to know. I realize mmv in this casestill, since it could cause a crash after the class when the student is riding at higher speeds, I think it should be changed. And that not to change "down to first" is negligent. Either that or keep down to first but include the caveat that the rider has to make sure the bike is going slow enough to ease out the clutch if they do not brake to a stop.

Remembering my earliest days on a bike, I assure you it's not obvious for a novice or something that they can easily figure out on their own. I had to break myself of the habit the RSS ingrained in mea habit the BRC2 riders are likely to graduate with as well.

Neither the RSS or BRC handbooks tell the student that a smooth halt should occur *before* a foot or feet are on the ground. While coming to a complete stop and putting ones' foot on the ground happen nearly simultaneously, there is a critical difference that could result in a drop.

This also is not taught on the range: BRC2 Exercise 3 merely says, "Put left foot down first at stops." It's unclear whether that foot can be down before the bike *is* stopped. Putting even one foot down before the bike is stopped, however, can cause a low-speed crash if the foot slides on sand or catches on something like a rock or uneven pavement.

By omitting this step from the procedure in the handbook and an explanation why it could be dangerous to do otherwise, the BRC2 denies the student safety information the curriculum used to includeand creates the potential for an injury drop.

And while it's normally good practice to put the left first down first, it works because the range is flat. If it becomes automatic from repeated practice in the class, it can and does result in a drop if the ground under the left foot slopes away and the bike is heavy. It is, imo, a safer procedure to teach students to scan the ground before coming to a stop and deciding which foot it is safer to put down first.

BRC1 included specific, detailed information in the first explanation on combination braking what happened if the brakes were grabbed. The BRC2 merely says the application of brakes should be "coordinated and smooth."

Is that information in the BRC1 simply nice to know? Yet by not including it when braking is initially explained, M$F does not reveal the known risks. Nor is this information included on the range cards when braking is first experienced. Yet even at low speeds, grabbing the front brake can result in an injury crash/drop.

The first three iterations included the information in the initial description of applying the brakes too hard could cause a skid. The BRC includes this information under the section on skidsseparated from the information on correct braking procedure by 15 pages, and one classroom session. The earliest iterations connected the dots by putting this key information on both grabbing the brake and applying both or either brake too hard in proximity to the section on stopping and braking.

The BRC2 language to describe how the brakes should be applied is "coordinated and smooth" is vaguewhat does that mean? The vagueness conceals more than it reveals.

The first two iterations stressed that the student needed to learnand practiceenough so that they could use the brakes without looking down. The RSS and BRC2 don't.

Although even though the M$F continues in the BRC2 to say that braking is one of the most critical skills the rider must have, only two questions address it in the Study Questions: #65: "How much of a motorcycle's stopping power is available from the front brake?" and #66: "Why should both brakes be used simultaneously?" Neither of them address what correct stopping/braking procedure is. There is no way of ascertaining, then, that the students understand the procedure correctly in the classroom.

Nor does the knowledge test at the end address this. The only question they are asked is what is the best way to brake and all M$F decides they must prove they know about this critical very basic skill braking is to use both brakes simultaneously.

So what exactly isn't included in the correct answer? Rolling off the throttle, pulling in the clutch, squaring the front wheel, looking up, using the brakes in a "smooth and coordinated" fashion, sitting straight, or not putting the feet down before stopping. Iow, they don't have to show they know 90% of the correct braking sequence.

Bottom line: BRC2 doesn't include critical procedures or explanations in terms of basic braking/stopping in the handbook and addresses some things inadequately or - too late on the range.

What is left out is critical in terms of operation and specifically can lead to injury drops/crashes both on the range and the road.

More ominously, all of these things were taught in earlier iterations of the curriculum.

This is one of the most basic, most critical skills a rider can learn. Can any curriculum that fails to address known risks be considered safe let alone a national standard?

Isn't it just plain negligent not only to omit vital steps in a basic critical skill but then to refuse to correct the errors and omissions when they are pointed out?

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