Rider training is a pretty non-controversial subject in the riding community. Like the resistance to seat belts in cars, resistance to the pressures to complete a beginner rider training course is far less than emphatic in most instances. The consensus in the motorcycle community is that rider training is a good thing, even if the degree of passion about the effectiveness of the exercise varies.
An overwhelming majority of new riders in Ontario in the past 25 years have completed a Ministry of Transportation approved Rider Training Course at the conclusion of which they were tested for their motorcycle licence (M2 since 1994 since graduated licensing came into being to be precise, and full M prior to that). The high number of riders who choose to take the rider training course is all the more remarkable given that Ontario does not mandate that riders complete a course to get their motorcycle licence.
Given the effectiveness of rider training in introducing fundamental riding skills and safe practices, it becomes tempting to suggest that rider training should be made mandatory. However, there are some very good reasons to maintain the status quo, reasons beyond the inevitable pushback that happens when you try to force anyone to do anything.
Curiously, the actuaries of at least one major motorcycle insurance company have apparently concluded that rider training has no verifiable effect on their loss ratio, so they don't offer a discount for successful completion of the M1 exit course. Since most new riders in Ontario take a rider training course to get their M2 licence, it would be difficult to determine anything conclusive from the statistics. However, insurance discounts are often initiated to encourage certain behaviours or actions, and the skills and defensive knowledge gained from taking a rider training course have certainly helped to prevent accidents based on anecdotal evidence alone. And that has to mean lower losses and greater profitability for motorcycle insurers.
The rider training course providers that are in place today are very efficient, effective private enterprises that deliver a high quality experience which adheres to the mandates of government testing requirements. Anyone dealing with Ontario rider training organizations can attest that all personnel from instructors and administrators to management are in this business because they have a passion for motorcycle riding. They are very enthusiastic about rider safety and about the proper operation of motorcycles. You hear it in their voices and see it in their body language; they absolutely love everything about riding motorcycles.
The rider training course costs money. However, the course is scheduled over the weekend (there are also courses during the week at some schools, which is even better for some people). It's rare that you would have to take time off work or use up a vacation day to go the MTO to do the road test, which would take up a good half day in most circumstances. You also use one of the school's beginner-friendly bikes, fun and highly manageable when it comes to navigating around tightly placed pylons and such manoeuvres. And if you drop it or scratch it, you won't have been the first person to do so. Or the last.
And what if, for some reason, you just aren't made for riding? At least you find that out now, before you muddle through the licensing road test at the MTO amid self-doubt and zero professional feedback and end up in a very unfortunate situation out on a busy street. The rider trainers will tell you, from an objective, professional position, how well you are doing. They will teach you to the best of their abilities, and since everyone learns at different speeds they will know from experience whether you are ready by the time they conduct the road tests on Sunday afternoon.
MTO personnel conducting the test do not give you practice time, so if you fail it's going to cost you another half day and another fee. You also have to use your own bike or one that you borrow from a friend, which might not be the pylon-friendly small cc bike that you would get at a rider training course.
Rider training course instructors go through intensive, ongoing training. Their certification must be renewed annually. They are picked for their skill, their knowledge, and their ability to instruct (which seems fairly obvious). Rider training courses are privately operated, so they need to be productive since theirs is a competitive industry. So they teach more than just the test; they want their graduates to have skills that make them enjoy riding to the full extent of their abilities. New riders learn techniques to handle motorcycles that make riding infinitely more fun. And the rider course providers must adhere strictly to the guidelines of the MTO in testing, so they are very thorough in this respect as well.
You meet other people at the rider training course who love motorcycles and motorcycle riding, either as beginners or as experienced instructors. They have tips about everything from where to buy things and what you need to places that are great for riding. You might end up forming friendships or at least constructive relationships. You get experience in a safe, controlled environment; you don't learn on a road with unforgiving traffic, or in a parking lot with either no assistance or the well-meant help of a friend who, although a ‘good rider', may have unresolved bad riding habits or simply lack knowledge of certain situations that you should be prepared for, or skills that would be of immense, possibly critical, assistance in certain situations.
What do you think? Should rider training be made mandatory, or is the system already working well? Should rider training discounts be something that insurance companies are required to offer? Should these discounts be even more than they already are as a percentage of insurance premium? Go to the Riders Cafe Forum and have your say.