Maui Nei

The note stuck to the computer monitor had grown dingy with age. It says “mcycle safety 984-3231 to register.” It’s a reference to one of the EdVenture UH Maui College classes offered through the Office of Continuing Education and Training.

Punching out the telephone number resulted in talking to Laurie. She said the first class available was June 6. Fine. Sign me up. She did, collecting the $200 class fee via 16 numbers on a plastic card. Make that 19 numbers if you count the card expiration date.

There were legitimate reasons to take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course. Never mind more than 50 years of motorcycle riding and even more years of reading motorcycle magazines. Never mind that MSF Advanced Rider Course passed in the 1990s. Dangerous habits can get ingrained and there’s that little matter of an expired license.

Two nights of classwork devoted to getting your head on straight would be followed by two mornings of hands-on, ride the sucker with a couple of coaches pointing out the error of your ways. It is much saner than buying a motorcycle and going for your first ride through downtown Chicago.

My first Hawaii motorcycle license was acquired in the days when the Police Department did the testing. It involved taking a written test and then being shepherded through a “skills” test by Sgt. Apo. We met under the monkeypod tree outside the old police station on High Street. On his Harley three-wheeler, Apo led the way to the test site in the jail parking lot.

Sooner than expected, Apo said, “Eh, you can ride.” That was in 1973.

Last week, instructor Robin Webster faced eight students, seven men and one woman. Robin can often be seen riding around remote areas of Maui on her high-performance Ducati. Tight roads and traffic are just welcomed challenges. She’s done the same all over the Mainland and in Europe.

The MSF Rider Handbook and accompanying videos are designed to keep riders out of hospital emergency rooms and morgues. At one point, Robin invited the more experienced riders to talk about their crashes and what caused them. It’s less painful to learn from another’s lack of skill or simple stupidity.

Some salient facts: Helmet use reduces the risk of brain injury by 67 percent. Riders must always be aware of what’s going on around them. They need to see and be seen. Almost 50 percent of all riders killed had been drinking. Two-thirds of them “had only a couple of drinks in their system, not enough to be legally intoxicated but more than enough to impair their mental and physical skills.”

The fun – sometimes sweaty – part of the course came on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Instructor Cory Williams rolled up on his custom cafe Yamaha and began pulling eight 250cc motorcycles out of a storage container. The bikes showed signs of abuse. A new bunch of bikes are ready to be shipped to Maui as soon as the dealer gets paid by the state Department of Transportation.

“These will all be sent to the crusher,” Cory said. “It’s a shame.” Perfectly good old bikes but the state wants to avoid problems down the line due to our sue-me, sue-you society.

Instructor Emory Lee pulled up and began setting out little orange cones marking the “range.” Helmets are handed out to those who don’t have one. The other old-timer in the class grouses about wearing the lid and gloves with fingers.

One step at a time, Cory and Emory coach the riders through exercises covering control, braking, clutch work and balance. Everyone gets a second or third or fourth chance to succeed. It’s all upbeat, friendly and encouraging with Cory describing the moves to be made and Emory demonstrating them.

“You’ll be better tomorrow after you’ve had a chance to think about stuff and are more familiar with the bike,” Cory says.

Sunday morning brings Robin back. Cory shifts over to being the demonstrator. One of the riders is a natural athlete and shows it. Others are shaky in this or that exercise and get needed coaching and encouragement. One rider has major problems and decides to retake the course another time.

Sunday ends with the skills test required for a license. Pass the DMV written test, hand over the MSF Basic Rider Course skills waiver and you can tuck a license into your wallet.

Whew! Money and time well spent.

* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and writer for The Maui News. His email address