If at first you don't succeed... what then?

Embarrassing to admit, I recently took the MSF course and failed the skills test; it wasn't even a close score. Two days' riding experience just wasn't enough time for me to have the ability. Until then, I'd had no contact with the motorcycle world. None of my friends ride, no one I really know has a bike I could borrow... now I don't know what I'm going to do. I enjoyed it, but I'm certainly not a natural. And now I'm several hundred bucks down and still an unlicensed newbie without a bike.

I'm wondering what experience you ladies have with failing at the road test.

Did you fail it on your first attempt? Have to try it three times? Or did you have any friends who didn't pass but then rode later, or who just decided not to pursue it after failing?

Comments for If at first you don't succeed... what then?

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Mar 16, 2011
I failed the first time too!
by: Anonymous

You just need to practice exactly the skills that are on the test. Good news is now you know exactly what they will test you on and how it works. So if you really want to take it again and pass (they should let you do just the 2nd day of riding and the evaluation, for a modest fee), I recommend doing what I did - getting a smaller bike and practicing each skill in a parking lot until you feel confident with each one. I took the test the first time in May '10 and got a 24 I think - too many points. But I practiced on the weekends and then went back in October and took it again and got an 8, which was the best score in the class! As you can see from the responses to this post, a lot of people don't pass the first time, but you can definitely do it if you get some practice. Good luck!

Sep 18, 2010
Some Suggestions
by: Noelle

I passed last Oct '09...and didn't get my license until Aug 2010! Fortunately, I have had years of experience with a foot clutch (motorcycle when I was MUCH younger...and recently, ATV's)

When I rented the Fat Boy, I was just in shock that they just let someone ride off the lot on a $20,000 bike...just because they 'passed' that test and have it on a piece of plastic. I got a migraine the next day because I was sooooo tense driving home. I could barely pry my fingers off the handgrips. I didn't even want to ride it. And, the HD dealership is on a very busy, very fast 4 lane highway.

Some suggestions. Practice the clutching/shifting on an ATV. You're not going to dump it! Pretend like you're on a road. Downshifting, checking mirrors, applying both brakes evenly, and pretend like you put your blinker on : ) Maybe ask your dealership if they get an ATV trade-in, could you rent it?

Or, buy a POS motorcycle to practice on. Heck, once you get good...license the POS and go to the DMV and get your license! Save yourself the class fees and time.

I HATED the figure 8 in the box. For some reason, it has become known as the "dick in the box" : ) LOVED the quick stop. We all have skills that are more honed than other ones. Gotta work on the problem areas.

Aug 22, 2010
by: Olivia

I can totally relate to what you are saying. I had to make sure it was you who wrote this experience and not me. Because the same exact thing has happened to me. I was embarrassed and humiliated and everything in between. I felt so bad for the longest time and I still do. I wish I had someone to take the class with or someone I could practice with. I'm sure if I knew the basics like a lot of people in the class already did it would not have been too bad, but I didn't. I am not giving up I am determined to do this even if it kills me, I'm not giving up just yet and I know I never will. I'm certain our paths will cross out there on the road riding our bikes someday. Olivia, owyne@yahoo.com

Aug 19, 2010
You are not the first or the last to fail :)
by: Davine

I had to put my experience on here. I passed my MSF course on the first but barely! I had real trouble with the U-turn figure 8 box. I was frustrated to the point of tears that as an intelligent, competent, confident woman I couldn't do a damn U-turn. I was so bad at it that during the practice of the U-turns they gave me my own box (which is really funny to me now). When the time came to take my test I had to keep telling myself that it didn't matter if I went outside the lines of the box I just couldn't drop the bike. I was way out of the lines. But my classmates were wonderful, they all applauded me when I finished the U-turn and it felt great. I also dropped the bike 3 times while practicing the U-turn, so you can see why it was such a big deal.

A week later a friend of mine took the same course and failed. She was so angry with herself but we talked about it and she spent the next week going over and over her mistakes and passed it the following week. They didn't charge her for the second weekend and let her take the whole course over. I hope the place you took your course through will allow you to or has allowed you to do so.

Get back on the iron horse and keep going till you get that M on your license!!!

Aug 01, 2010
I failed too...
by: Robin C

I had a difficult time in my MSF class, just seemed like there were too many people and too few instructors. I was frustrated, felt rushed, and was very unsure of myself when we arrived at test time. I ended up screwing up the emergency stop and failed. My foot came off the rear brake and I grabbed the front ones and the bike flipped over and landed on me. Fortunately, I was not hurt badly, a couple bruises and scrapes, and had a good friend encourage me to keep going. I found someone I was comfortable with through the Sec of State tester, and he gave me a couple of hours of one-on-one instruction that taught me more than the 2 days in the class. I then was allowed unlimited practice time, and he went and cheered me on while I passed my test the following week. This is my first riding season, and I just returned from a 3000 mile trip. The right instructor for you is out there, keep trying til you find them! It's really worth it when you are out riding your own!

Jul 28, 2010
Don't Give Up
by: Carolyn


I took MTC (Motorcycle Training Course) last month (June 11-13). I rode over 20 years ago, so I took the course to freshen my skills. Well, It wasn't as easy as I thought. I had problems with clutch and throttle. I stalled the bike many times. I dropped it 3 X on the first day of training, 2 more times on the second day. I even hit the curb and climbed the small hill of grass in the parking lot. My instructors didn't bother to test me on the last day, because they knew I wouldn't pass. I knew already but I was devastated anyway.

1 of the instructors told me I could come back 1 week later on Sunday and gave me 1 hr free lesson, then test me 2 weeks later. But I know 1 hr free lesson doesn't mean anything if I didn't have a bike, so my hubby got me a used Yamaha V star 250, I practiced for 4 days 1/2 to 1 hr each day.

1 week later, I rode my bike, and my instructor asked me to ride between pylons. Guess what, he also tested me that day and I passed. I improved so much I passed.

I ride my bike almost everyday now. What a joy! This will not happen if I give up easily.

Don't let your failure discourage you. Since you want to ride that bad, keep trying!! By the way, from 15 people taking the course that day, I was the only one that failed.

Jul 26, 2010
by: Anonymous

I did not pass the first time and still trying to get up the nerve to retake it. In some ways it is harder for me now because now I know what to expect and know how hard it is going to be. I bought a 250cc and practice on it when I can. I know you probably feel as I did; like you are the only one that has ever failed the first time.

But, we are not alone! I had trouble with the quick stop. But, now I know I had on the wrong type boots for riding. Next time I won't have that issue. I'm waiting for the weather to cool before I go back. 118 heat index in a parking lot for 2 days does not sound like something I want to attempt. Stressful enough without the heat. I did have a blast even tho I did not pass and it was stressful. The most exhausting, fun thing I have ever done. Don't give up and I won't either.

Jul 26, 2010
...try, try again : )
by: Rene L

I was also new to riding on the front of the bike when I took the MSF course (at the young age of 53). Took me 3 tries, but I got better and better each time and more and more comfortable. By the 3rd try, I was even starting to have a little fun : ). The second time we ended up riding in the rain and I got through both days on the bike (on my first try, 1 hour into the 2nd day on the bike I was politely asked to leave the class because they thought I needed to re-take the 1st day,!) but did not pass the skills test. 3rd time was a charm. That was 1 1/2 years ago and I am now on my 2nd bike. Started out with a Suzuki 650 and this year moved up to a 850. Don't give up. If I could do it anyone can!

Good luck and let us know when you pass the test! We are all cheering for you.

Jul 26, 2010
Pass or Fail
by: Sandra

I did pass my first attempt...by my fingernails...

I had purchased my bike before the class; I had unceremoniously dumped my bike the first time I tried to ride it; I am fortunate enough to have a brother who could stand in a parking lot with me for 2 hours while coaching me on the most basic fundamentals of riding several weeks before my MSF class; and still I squeaked by with just a point or two between me and "failure"...

If riding appeals to you, then by all means, keep at it! I'm currently reading "Proficient Motorcycling" by David Hough, and although one cannot learn the physical aspects of how to ride from reading, it has helped me immensely in learning the physics of why I should trust my bike, why a bit more speed is better than riding the brake, and reinforces the myriad of checks we must constantly make while in control of our rides.

But by hook or by crook, find a bike 250cc or LESS, to do some parking lot practice on...even if you never ride it again after licensing. Building your skills and confidence on a bike that is smaller is a very good decision.

My only regret for you is the cost of your classes...it varies from state to state, but we paid $20 to MSF through the state university system, all of which is refunded if we choose after the class. But most of us will just donate to the cause because it's near and dear to our hearts. Much easier to retry for $20 than a couple hundred...

Hoping you find success in riding!

Jul 26, 2010
Food for Thought
by: Anonymous

I feel for you. Tomorrow is a new day, though. Think about the skills test. What parts did you have the most trouble with? Were you stalling? Did you have trouble with the figure eight/U-turns? Did emergency stopping give you trouble? Or maybe it was the swerving? In my skills test, we started with zero points and got points for everything we did wrong. Twenty points passed, but 21 failed. In the 135° curve, I did the slow and look part correctly, but they slapped me with 10 points because I was timid on my press and roll, even though I negotiated the curve in second gear without getting outside the lines/cones. I thought the grading was harsh, but at least now I know I need to practice in that area. I also got hit with three points for going slightly outside the box on the U-turn. Be proud of what you did correctly. You were brave to attempt it at all, not having had any prior experience with motorcycles. If you can somehow find a small/used bike to practice on and someone to give you pointers, then you can practice at your own pace on the specific items that gave you the most trouble. Hang in there!

Jul 26, 2010
by: Anonymous

I took the course in April of this year and while I did pass, I didn't score wonderfully... I went with a group of 5 friends and scored the lowest of any of them which was kind of depressing... Being a new rider is intimidating to say the least and in those courses they throw a lot at you in a short amount of time.. They certainly don't give you enough time on any skill to master it but that is what time and practice are for.. I have to agree that the best option would be to find a small used bike that you are comfortable with and practicing at your own pace would be the best option.. I bought a bike in June and it took me two weeks of practicing in the parking lot to get brave enough to go out in traffic.. finding and interacting with local riders is definitely a good idea as well.. most are more than willing to discuss riding and to give tips. Just don't get discouraged and give up.. you will get there ;-)

Jul 26, 2010
by: Anonymous

I passed the MSF, but it was really intense for me. I had to suck it up and really reach deep to hang in there. There was one girl that got scared the first day of riding. She cried and went home, and I did not blame her one bit. My class was like Marine boot camp. It is not for everyone. However, if you are serious about learning to ride, don't give up. The fact that you stayed with the class indicates that you have what it takes. I would do an Internet search for motorcycle clubs in your area or go to a local dealer and ask if they know any groups that would accept a beginner. People who ride motorcycles tend to want to share the experience and ability with others, so you should be able to find somebody to help. I would suggest practicing on a bike before attempting the MSF class again. If you are sure you want to ride, maybe you could try to buy your first bike, even if it is a small one or a used one? Then, seek out a group that rides via the Internet or at the local dealers, so they can give you pointers. If you can't afford to buy a bike now, one of the groups might have one they'd let you ride occasionally to get some practice. When you are ready, you can attempt the class again. Try to take it in good weather and at a time when you are feeling great. I found that trying to get in decent physical condition before the class helped me too, because it was tiring. Nothing major, just drink plenty of water, eat right, take the stairs, and try to get at least 30 minutes of cardio 4 times a week, even if it is just walking fast. I found that to pass the MSF, I had to stop analyzing things so much, and just blindly follow what the instructors were telling me to do. I rode like crap the first two days, but on the third day, I managed to pull it together, and you can too. I had my bike before the class, so I was able to ride around in the back yard and get used to things before the class. If you can do that too, I am sure you will pass next time. The way I learn best is to go away and have time to process and absorb all the information. Then, in a few days, I can apply it much better. Unfortunately, the MSF class doesn't give you that opportunity, and that is what makes it so hard. I found the fast pace and large amount of information overwhelming, but I am living proof that it can be done. You will do it too. Be gentle with yourself, and give yourself permission to take it slow. There is no shame in failing a MSF test. Lots of people do not pass it the first time around. It is just a gateway, and when the time is right, you will sail right through it. Keep us posted on your progress. Best wishes!

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