Florida is a relative newcomer to the list of states that legally require the successful completion of a rider training course, regardless of age, before one can obtain a motorcycle license or endorsement. On July 1, 2008, Florida joined the ranks of Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and Texas, followed by Oregon in 2011.
Florida is also one of the 47 states that offer state-legislated motorcycle training programs to license-seekers. The Florida Rider Training Program (FRTP) uses curriculum developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), and partners with local “sponsors” throughout the state who provide the classrooms, certified instructors and riding ranges for the course. A typical Basic Rider Course (BRC) consists of two parts, the first comprising approximately five hours of classroom study, in which students cover traffic laws, get familiarized with the operational components of a motorcycle, and learn basic safety skills. The second half-usually considered the “fun part”-takes students through about 10 hours of hands-on instruction at an approved cycling range.
Harley-Davidson offers its own “Riders Edge” course at selected dealerships, which spans 25 hours and grants passing students an MSF Basic Rider Course Completion Card. Most training courses act as third-party testers as well. This means they grant riders who successfully complete all written and riding skills portions of the course a licensing waiver, so no extra testing is necessary at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to obtain a motorcycle endorsement. For people with busy schedules in the daytime and over the weekends, there are even courses that you can take in the middle of the night! As an incentive, some insurance companies offer discounts to people who can furnish proof of training. The overall goal is to make it as easy and appealing as possible for people to get trained in the safe operation of a motorcycle.
The BRC and a driver’s license are all that you need to become a licensed motorcyclist. Depending on where you train, you’ll receive the equivalent of about one or two days of education. Will that really get you ready for a lifetime of riding? While the MSF’s curriculum tries to be as comprehensive as possible, there’s a reason why the “B” in BRC stands for “basic.” There’s a lot more ground that can be covered.
The MSF recognizes the need for extended training to keep motorcyclists and their passengers safe, and has developed a whole suite of programs to teach motorcyclists new techniques and to hone skills they already possess. The Basic RiderCourse 2 courses reinforce basic skills on the back one’s own motorcycle, and they permit licensed students to practice carrying a passenger. The Street RiderCourses, designed for newly-licensed riders, transition students from the controlled environment of the range to real-life riding situations under the supervision of a coach. And for riders who haven’t been on the back of a bike for a while, there’s the Returning Rider Basic RiderCourse, a fast-track program for people who just need to knock off the rust.
The American Motorcyclists Association (AMA) as an institution opposes mandatory training as a prerequisite for licensing, but Bill Kresnak, an AMA staff member and motojournalist, has written on the benefits of continued training, citing the MSF’s Basic RiderCourse 2 (then termed the Experienced RiderCourse) in particular:
“The course can be a humbling experience,” Kresnak writes. “No matter how good you think you are, chances are good the course shows you where you are weak in your riding. Everyone wants to think he or she is a good rider, but we can all improve somewhere. And the Experienced RiderCourse helps you do that.”
Whether you are newly licensed or have been riding for decades, now is always a good time to refresh and build on your skills as a motorcyclist. Your abilities need to reach beyond starting, stopping, turning and motorbike controls in order to ride safely, and as the Motorcycle Safety Foundation states, “Skills are perishable and need renewal and lifelong commitment.” We at Wittmer | Linehan advocate for extended training that helps riders develop and maintain a comprehensive skillset.