Chances are, if you’re an avid motorcyclist and a parent, riding is an experience and a way of life that you’d like to hand down to your children. Chances are also pretty good that you’ve seen some scary things on the road that you’d like to teach your kids to avoid. A teen motorcyclist, in particular, may need some extra skills.
While you may have learned how to ride simply by doing it, there are much better ways to prepare your teen motorcyclist for the road. Teens are a different breed of human (am I right?!) and they tend to see the world differently than adults do. That’s why you should seriously consider some professional motorcycle training for your teen rider.
I recently chatted with Dave Tolbert, owner and motorcycle trainer at the Motorcycle Training Academy in Colorado Springs. He had some good advice – and also some surprising statistics – to share about teen riders.
Teen motorcyclist Q&A
Q. How often do you train teenage motorcyclists?
We train about 2,500 riders a year and I would say 5% are teens. That’s a significant number, if you think about it. Most of the teens have parents who ride and want their teenagers to ride.
My wife and I have a son and, when he turned 16, we put him through a series of motorcycle courses. When he got his license, she took him on a road trip to Niagara Falls and back!
Q. Is that your typical teenage rider? The child of a rider? Or are there other reasons that teens want to ride?
We do get a lot of military teenagers, older teens who are on their own. They have a paycheck and money to spend. Often, they buy a bike because they want to fit in with their peers who ride, but they tend to get sport bikes that go fast; they want to do things that are dangerous. We really want to train those teens.
Q. What is the Colorado law for teenage motorcyclists?
They only have to take a written test before they get a permit. With a permit, they can ride a motorcycle within sight of a licensed motorcyclist over the age of 21. They have to hold the permit for one year and then they must take a riding test to get their full license. But, if they’ve taken a riding course like what we offer, the state will waive the written and riding tests.
Also, most insurance companies give a discount to riders who have taken a training course.
Q. What are some of the unique challenges you face when training teenagers to ride motorcycles?
Well, one thing is just how to operate the bike. Most kids have never used a clutch before. We have to train them how to use the clutch and throttle. But most kids pick that up pretty quickly. It’s their mentality that we have to train more than anything else. Young guys tend to think they “know everything.” We have to be creative in the ways that we deliver our training to them. We find ways to make the information relevant for them.
Q. Such as?
Most teenagers don’t want to wear gear, including helmets, boots, long pants, long sleeves, gloves and eye protection. So, we actually show videos of people with road rash and other injuries that could have been prevented just by wearing the proper gear.
We also do exercises with teens, such as reconstructing accidents. This helps them to consider how many factors they can and can’t control on the road. We do vision and periphery tests so that they can make adjustments for any vision issues they face. We even have them wear “drunk goggles” and “marijuana goggles” and make them walk around. The goggles don’t replicate the high but they disorient you enough to show you why riding while high would be a very bad idea.
Q. What’s your training philosophy?
We are moving away from the old training philosophy that focused solely on training skills. Now, we try to teach riders how to develop good judgment. Statistics show that riders may have good skills but they still make bad choices. If we can get riders to make good decisions, then their skills don’t have to be at an expert level for them to stay safe.
For example, if our exercises show a rider that his reaction times aren’t very quick, then he’ll know that he needs to change his riding behavior to accommodate that limited ability.
Q. What should parents worry about or stress with their teenage motorcyclist?
Make sure they get training. Don’t let them ride at all without proper training. Then, watch who they ride with. Peer pressure is very influential in teens’ lives and you don’t want your teen riding with people who might make bad choices.
Also, don’t let your kid get a bike that is too powerful. If your kid has a bike that can do 200 miles per hour, it’s an accident waiting to happen.