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Is A Sea Change Coming to New-Rider Motorcycle Training?

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Movements in how California teaches would-be motorcyclists how to ride their bikes could signal a greater change nationwide, after Total Control Training ousted the long-time running MSF Basic RiderCourse for California’s Motorcyclist Safety Program (CSMP).

Total Control Training will take over the CSMP from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) starting January 1, 2015. The class is administered by the California Highway Patrol, and is a major gateway for new riders in the Golden State — roughly 65,000 new motorcyclists take the CSMP each year, at 120 sites.

Total Control Training is so far the only riding program that meets the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Model National Standards for Entry-Level Motorcycle Rider Training, and the group has won contracts to train new riders in the military.

If you’re a licensed motorcyclist in California (or most states for that matter), you likely earned your part of your motorcycle endorsement at an MSF class; and as of this recent new, all but three of the states in the USA use an MSF curriculum to train new motorcyclists.

Total Control Training’s takeover of the CSMP is a sea change for motorcycle training, as the Total Control Training curriculum differs in significant ways from the MSF’s format.

“Total Control’s Beginner Riding Clinic is a fusion of Idaho’s long-proven STAR program and what we’ve learned in 15 years of teaching our internationally acclaimed Intermediate and Advanced Riding Clinics,” said Lee Parks, President of Total Control Training, in the company’s press release.



“Our approach to adult education is very different from what other rider-training programs have used in the last decade, at a time when motorcycle fatalities have continued to rise.”

The two programs differ in that while the MSF curriculum is based on the idea that anyone can be taught how to ride a motorcycle, Total Control Training’s sets higher failure rights for students, and weeds out new riders who would likely not excel at riding on two wheels.

For CSMP sites in California, this news hasn’t been met with immediate enthusiasm, as the sites will have to retrain its coaches for the new standards, as well as update other business elements to work with Total Control’s back-end tools.

There also appears to be a gap in the transition between the two school formats, which could cause massive closures of the Californian training programs for several months after the switch occurs in the new year, as schools transfer from one format to the next.

On a larger scope, the changes in California’s curriculum could signal similar changes afoot in other states, which also use the MSF class format.

With the MSF curriculum slow to change, partially by design in order to thoroughly test new teaching ideas, a push to have NHTSA approved curriculum could see other states drop MSF for programs like Total Control’s.

To its credit, MSF is expected to re-bid for the CSMP contract when it expires again in 2017 — likely with a revamped curriculum to meet the new NHTSA standards and demands from the California Highway Patrol.

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.

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