I wrote this offline a month or so back, and just remembered to post it...
After riding 1100+ miles on my Vectrix, I attended an MSF BRC (Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course). I thought I might pick up some safety tips, but I mostly took it because in California, I don't have to take the Driving test if I pass the BRC. After practicing on the DMV course on the weekends, I thought the driving test was well-neigh impossible; one of the instructors confirmed this, mentioning that the CA Motorcycle diving test was designed in the 1950's by someone who had never even ridden a motorcycle...
I passed the written last March to get my permit, but some other folks in the class hadn't even done that, or ridden a moto before. I was a little intimidated, because the Vectrix does not have gears to change, the rear brake is on the handlebars not the right foot, and it doesn't have a fuel shutoff valve. All of those things turned out to be simple issues, I adapted to the gears and brake quickly, and the fuel shutoff just had to be pointed out.
It is a 2-day class, culminating in a written test. I prepared by doing a google-search of the MSF site for PDF's, and dug up a hidden copy of the course manual. I read this thoroughly in the few days before the class, and got some good safety tips from it. It had all of the questions used on the test in the back, the subset of them in bold are apparently for the 1-day scooter class.
The lecture consisted of a presentation, a video, and then dividing the questions in the book between the 4 tables. Each table would state the answers to their set of questions, and everyone else would write down the answers, so the manual was more of a reference than something we read through. I was especially glad I read the manual up front (one read through was enough) because I finished the test first, a good 5-10 minutes before anyone else, and got 100%. The correct answers on the multiple-choice test are pretty obvious.
The riding course was GREAT. All of the instructors were FUNNY, and supportive, not a Tude in the bunch. Each instructor had (6) students. The bikes supplied were @250cc's; a ninja, a few honda cruisers, an enduro, and I had a Yamaha Yz dirt bike. Condition wasn't great, they all had drop scars, but they were good enough for the course's needs. The even had one that fit Cherry, a young lady I would say is @4'11"
The BRC has a great approach to building skills from absolutely no experience whatsoever, starting with duck-walking the bike, learning the clutch engagement by rocking the bike back and forth with the clutch, etc, and each exercise built on the last. The most common issues were "lift your head" to look downrange, not the front wheel, and "Knees in" to grip the tank. It helped to watch others - I saw one guy enter a turn cleanly, then stick out his knee, which made the bike bobble madly.
A light bulb went on for me, because I was doing the same thing. I could turn to the left fine, but felt wobbly on right turns. Because I felt wobbly, I'd throw out my right knee as preparation for putting my right foot down, which would throw off the balance and make me wobbly indeed. On ebikes, I am usually standing on the pedals in the corners. The Vectix's scooter-style seating does not allow one to stand at all, and I just got used to letting my knees flap outward, not realizing the profound effect that was having on my balance in turns.
Further, I learned that one should be steering the bike with your knees gripping the tank, and how powerful that type of control is. The Vectrix offers nothing to grip with your knees, but I later found out that since its seat cups my posterior firmly, I can get a similar level of control from my A$$. My next e-Moto (Brammo Empulse?) will have something to grip with my knees.
Then there is the whole push-the-handlebars-to-start-a-turn thing. A bunch of folks told me about it, I thought I was doing it, but not effectively. As I understand it now, the push simply breaks the bike out of its gyroscope and initiates the lean, which you then regulate with your knees (or a$$ cheeks in the case of scooter seating) to suit the turn. I didn't fully lock onto this until half way through the second day. Once I got it, I spent weeks riding slaloms on the street getting the feel. Before this course, I was slowing down enough on turns that I could steer with the handlebars. Thank goodness I didn't drive any curvy roads in the 10 months I had been riding, I would have ended up overshooting the turns. So gripping with the knees, and learning to push, were key to my getting better control, or even base competency. For this reason alone, I would recommend that others take this course before starting to ride.
Another key learning was that if you skid the back tire on the street, and it comes out-of-line, and you release the brake while rolling, the bike will line up on the new angle of travel, and will knock you down high-side. I had no idea, and I skidded the bike this week (kid on a bike rounded a corner and was head-on in the center of my lane). I didn't realize the skid until I let off the brake (almost stopped) and felt the bike bobble a good bit, fortunately my feet were down. The key is if you skid, don't let up until you are stopped.
Cherry dropped her bike on the first day, which the instructors are OK about (except for the final skills test) but she didn't come back. I was dreading the "box test" of the skills test, where you do 2 u-turns within a 20'x40' space. In the 25 or so times I practiced it, every time I put a foot down, or crossed over multiple lines, I just didn't have it down. I was hoping I wouldn't get so many penalties that I would fail... but when the final test came up, I flat-out nailed it. In fact, the only penalty I got was for holding the throttle steady in a turn instead of increasing it.
Although it is fun, it is a long grueling session. Bring lots of water and snacks. I was so exhausted after the first day I pretty much showered and fell into bed. Same for the second day, but I was bouyed up by passing the course to earn my M1 license. I got the certificate a week later, took it to DMV, and I'm waiting for the permanant license to arrive in the mail. I still haven't ridden at night, or on a freeway, or carried a passenger, the three things I couldn't do with my permit, but I am really glad I took the course, because now I approach basic competence. It occurs to me that the current period is probably when I am the most dangerous - now I think I can ride, but my skills need more time to develop.
I had been riding in a simple canvas jacket, but I bought myself a Tourmaster Transition II jacket with elbow, shoulder, and back armour. I took out the liner, and it is still adequate for the coldest SoCal weather. It has an incredible venting system with (10) zippered/Velcro'd locations, so I expect it will still be comfortable in Summer Socal weather. My favorite feature is the key pocket on the left wrist - I store my Vectrix key in there, and a house key on the provided bungi. 100 other well thought out details like this make me very happy with my purchase. I even wear it on ebikes now, so I have the armor and venting I need.
I considered buying it in Wine color to match my bike, but I bought it in silver/black hoping that the "zebra stripe=danger" effect will make me more noticable on the road and hence safer. The silver matches my gray/white helmet nicely. My workmates said I look like tron with it on, but my wife first said I look like a power ranger, so I now refer to myself as the "Middle-Aged Morphing Power Ranger" when so attired: