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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was talking about riding with a friend last night and somehow we got onto the topic of which of those two options might be better for newer riders. I know the MSF is standard and should always be first, but then the question becomes, what next? To frame our discussion in a reasonable way without being too pedantic, we broke the concept of new riders down in to degrees of untrained novice.

Level 1 – A complete n00b fresh out of the MSF with no real road experience. Still working on being smooth on shifting, downshifting, braking and all of the other basics. Has maybe only a few hundred miles under his or her belt…definitely under 1000 miles. This is his or her first season.

Level 2 – A rider in deep into their first season, or in their second or perhaps early third with 2000 – 8000 miles or so under the belt. Has the basics down enough to be proficient and relatively safe on the street, but hasn’t pushed any real limits. Technique is not perfect, has more sloppy shifts and such than he or she probably should, but never really gets in over his or her head. Without mastery of the more advanced skills (doing things fast and under pressure, like emergency stopping and such), level of safety in unpredictable conditions is far from optimal.

Level 3 – Long-time rider, more than 2 or 3 seasons but has never had any good formal training, doesn’t practice emergency drills (braking, swerving), just gets on and rides. Is moderately safe and can manipulate the bike smoothly due to the level of personal experience, but couldn’t ride the bike to anything near its capabilities in handling or stopping, making his or her skill level subject to concern in emergency situations or if he or she ever decides they do want to push the limits a little.

The question is what type of experience would benefit the rider at each level the most for their first experience? Is one better than the other? Is either even appropriate? If both should be done, then in what order, when and why? Some of us have done neither, some only one of the two and those of us that have done both did one or the other first, which will alter how each experience affected us and our abilities, so I’m interested in opinions no matter what your experiences have been.

Pros for Track Days (other than that they’re freaking fun!)
1. A good track day org has novice groups and offers some level of instruction.
2. Control riders/coaches should be able to focus on what each rider needs to work on rather than having every rider sit through a 30 minute drill on shifting if they can shift the gears proficiently.
3. Gives real, tangible experience on how the bike feels and handles at speed and what decision-making in real-time is like. Can forces one to learn how to scan and plan ahead for things that can’t yet be seen or haven’t yet occurred.
4. Track days tend to have a moderating effect on one’s acceptable level of risk for riding on the street. Most track day participants report that after experiencing track days, they rider slower and safer on public roads than they did prior.
5. Often cheaper than the good riding clinics.
6. May get the rider into the habit of wearing full protective gear since it’s required on the track…sometimes translates into better gear selection or use for street riding.

Cons for Track Days
1. Much greater potential for injury, serious injury and damage to the bike.
2. Much greater potential that a rider will be tempted to outride his or her limits in order to be the fastest in the novice group or move up to the next group quickly, may not learn as much or put themselves and others in more danger than they otherwise would.
3. No instruction on street-specific skills or slow-speed operation of the motorcycle.
4. Cost skyrockets in the event of a crash with injury or damage to the bike.
5. Can be intimidating for novices, things happen at fast speeds and there’s a lot to take in.
6. May need to get familiar with track-specific bike prep, which can be good or bad depending on if they will or intend to do more track days in the future.

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Pros for riding clinics
1. About as safe as one can get on motorcycle. Mostly low speed drills, low potential for serious injury or damage to the bike.
2. Works on mastering a lot of the fundamentals that may be assumed in track day riding (emergency stopping as an example).
3. Instruction is generally very specific to street riding and safety.
4. Things happen slowly enough for most students to be able to really absorb the material.
5. Not nearly as intimidating as a track day.
6. Very little temptation to compete or push things to a level that puts the rider or others in increased danger.

Cons for riding clinics
1. Can be more expensive than a track day.
2. New skills may inspire opposite effect of how track days moderate street riding; confidence may inspire one to push their limits a little more on the street. This can have varying consequences. The rider would be better skilled to handle the new limit, but that new limit increases the potential for danger. Those who complete riding clinics don’t seem to report riding slower on the street afterwards, only riding more skillfully.
3. Gear requirements not as strict as track days in some cases, may not reinforce proper gear (this may or may not be an issue depending on your stance on gear and street riding).
4. Riders will need to go through drills for skills they already do well and may become bored or pay less attention and miss something that could have helped their riding (a good coach will, in theory, notice and correct for this).
5. Parking lot drills may not reach speeds required to really hone one’s decision-making skills the way riding a track at speed can. Will have better skills and abilities, but still may not really be able to put it all together in a real at-speed situation. A good clinic, in theory, can greatly reduce or otherwise mitigate this.
6. Can be a lot less fun than a track day.

Feel free to also add or address additional pros or cons for each as well.
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