Today I’d like to share with you a course that is very dear to my heart, and to be honest… Is probably responsible for keeping it beating up to this point. Commonly referred to as the ART course, Advanced Rider Skills Training is a weekend of progressive skill riding that is offered to experienced riders on Vancouver Island throughout the spring, summer, and fall each year. Lucky enough to hear of a last minute opening, I jumped at the opportunity to learn a few tuning up tricks; little did I know my expectations were sorely misconceived. Tuning up? More like full-engine rebuild!
ART founders and operators, Paul Luhowy and Ryan Austin are both certified police motorcycle instructors, Collision Analysis Officers, and self-proclaimed motorcycle fanatics (aren’t we all!). I met them for the first time outside a coffee shop-converted-seminar-room where we were to have our first evening of classroom instruction. I instantaneously liked their outgoing personalities and personable natures. They were clearly passionate about their desire to prevent serious accidents they see so often in their line of work; but mixed with easy-going attitude and great sense of humor, they managed to keep the classroom atmosphere entertaining, engaging and down-right fascinating.
The first night of the course took place in the evening, and was an introduction to what could be expected in the following two days. Ryan and Paul drew continuously from their own experience as riders and forensics officers; thus providing unique perspective and insight into what causes accidents, and different advanced skills the rider could learn to avoid injury or death. They brought up complex diagrams of the skill routines we would be preforming, and our eyebrows rose with personal doubt. I have to admit I was particularly nervous… especially when I saw the illustration of the 5 bikers riding with handle bars locked inside an itty bitty little circle… OMG.
The next morning I arose with excitement in my heat and butterflies in my gut, and I don’t think I was the only one. In my particular course we are all riding big bikes, my 800CC being one of the smallest among three others the same size. It was easy to doubt Paul’s firm Affirmation that every bike would be able to complete the entire course by the time they were done with us. I soon learned I had nothing to fear. It amazed me how quickly Ryan and Paul had the class preforming tricky manoeuvres with such confidence you wouldn’t be able to recognize us as the same riders that had entered the parking lot only an hour or two before!
The class was fast paced and dynamic, in only the first few hours we covered many skills that solidly built upon one another. From perfecting our use of the clutch engagement zone, to tight slaloms and locked turns, Ryan and Paul used the next technique in the schedule to perfect the last without us even noticing. Games and challenges had the class egging each other on, and by lunch we were all firm friends, by dusk (empty parking lot or no), we didn’t want to leave.
Day two was challenging in its own right. Today was the day we would attempt to push our newly learned skills to the extreme. We would start the morning with combining the previous days skills into a challenging obstacle course; the afternoon take on a review of threshold breaking, and end the day with the daunting ‘Break and Escape’ maneuver.
As the morning of the second day progressed, I could feel my anxiety start to build…. I couldn’t remember the last time I had practiced an emergency break and I had the only motorcycle without ABS on the course. By the time we were lined up at the end of the runway, my hands were shaking so badly I wasn’t sure I could control the throttle (did I mention only a month before I had locked up both wheels on an oil slick and had to lay her down?)! Ryan sensed my apprehension, “just take it nice and slow” he coached. I did… not even making it up to speed or to the break here line before costing to a stop! Our instructors did a mock victory dance, and encouraged me to give it another go. I tried pulling out the go-to excuse others had half joked throughout the day… ‘ahhh, must be the bike… think my rotors need replacing…’ to which Ryan promptly answered by jumping on my ride and preforming the emergency break with perfect form. Groan…
I’m happy to say that using a variety of coaching techniques Paul and Ryan helped me to overcome my fears and eventually master my most personally challenging part of ART course; the combination of full emergency break and 90 degree turn known as ‘break and escape’. It’s a technique I first hand know the usefulness of, and to date, so do many of my fellow classmates.
Everyone had challenges during the course, those that had been riding for thirty plus years, and those who had been riding for three. I can personally guarantee no rider left feeling as though they hadn’t made huge leaps and bounds in many different aspects of their riding ability. But more importantly, we left with the knowledge to apply our skills every day we ride – On-road, off-road and in those unexpected moments.
I didn’t want to give away too much of what could be expected in the Advanced Rider Training Course, because frankly it’s one of those things you have to experience for yourself. So I encourage you, visit the ART website and give Ryan and Paul a call. Your insurance, bike and body will thank you for it!
For more information about Advanced Rider Training check out Ryan and Paul’s Website,
Does South Africa have a similar type of course?