No performance award. No stern warning or lecture. No blue lights in my mirrors. Oh, and the motor officer was retired. But the anxiety, that was real. I’m here with three other motorcyclists in Wilkesboro, North Carolina at Cross Roads Harley Davidson to participate in the MotoMark 1 Maximum Control Level 2 training course. My lead instructor is a retired North Carolina Motor Officer, and along with two of his assistants, are going to hone our skills as we attempt to bridge the gap between “civilian” motorcycle training and that which motor officers must complete to fight crime on two wheels. Nervous? You bet I am!
Beautiful day. The ST is loaded and ready for the 160 mile back roads journey to my lodging for the weekend; High Country Motorcycle Campground in Ferguson, North Carolina. The trip out was typical Friday traffic pattern; end of work week, construction, truck traffic, etc. Not bad, but high alert riding nevertheless. But once I reach Lenoir, North Carolina, I turn onto a sweet motorcycling road; NC 268 through the Yadkin Valley. Great road surface, twisty, tight two-lane with beautiful scenery as you ride through the valley. Could be a touchy combination if you are not on your game!
Once in Wilkesboro, it’s a straight 12 mile shot up to Ferguson, then a left turn onto the most twisted, narrow, off-camber rural road for 6 miles to the campground entrance. I’d forgotten how technical this road is, having not been here for over two years. Fantastic!
The campground has seen better days
Obligatory bike camp photos
This is Belle, the camp mascot and greeter. Isn’t she beautiful?
In the two years since I have been here, the campground has gone into disrepair. It’s a shame, really. It has such great potential. I met two other motorcyclists there, and we had a nice evening talking about motorbikes and traveling.
Anxiety day. Here we go. Up early with a quick bite to eat. Class starts at 8 AM and I am a half hours ride away. I’m excited and nervous. Just how you want to feel when attempting slow speed maneuvers that you’ve never done before on a 740 lb motorbike. Keeps you focused and alert.
The beaST kicks over and the V4 comes to life. Wonder if I woke my neighbors. Oh well. WAKE UP! FOCUS! That twisty, tight, off camber rural road I came into camp on last night is now the first thing I will have to negotiate this AM. Haven’t even had coffee yet. We can do this. The ST’s rubber hits tarmac and we’re off to Cross Roads Harley Davidson in Wilkesboro.
CrossRoads Harley Davidson
Cross Roads Harley is a really nice “boutique” HD dealership. Everything Harley can be bought here. Your bike can be serviced while you sink into a plush sofa watching a big screen TV and drinking provided free coffee. Very plush and inviting. This is only the second HD dealer I have been in, the other in my hometown, and it is set up similarly. Are all Harley dealerships like this?
Our class training “range” is in the huge parking lot in front of the dealership.
The case of the confusing cones
After a meet and greet and a couple of cups of coffee, everyone is ready to play. We actually had one on one instruction via helmet radio. Our two main instructors were both on Victory 8 Balls, and they could move those long wheelbase, low clearance bikes through the course in their sleep. Our third instructor was on a Suzuki V-Strom DL1000. Us three “civilians” showed up on a Honda Gold Wing, Triumph Tiger, and my Honda ST1300. Quite a lineup of motorbikes to be messing around on Harley sacred ground, don’t you think?
Motomark1 training uses in- helmet radios to give instructions on the range. They also video each motorcyclist so you can see where you made mistakes and how you improved during the day. Seeing yourself on video is eye-opening and really enhances the learning process as you go back out onto the range to practice.
The drills start out easy enough to get everyone loose and limber and comfortable with cone practice. Then things get interesting. The drills are progressively set up so the cones are placed tighter and tighter through the day, and the most difficult drills are done in the morning when everyone is fresh. The cone tightness never approaches that used in motor officer training, but they are more difficult than MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) training courses. I found the drills challenging (which was the point), and at times, frustrating. I did improve, and one thing I achieved in this course which I always feared attempting, was to lock out the ST’s handlebars in super tight turns. Wow! Didn’t do it every time, but now I know I can. The instruction was phenomenal.
After lunch (which MotoMark1 provided) and watching some cool videos, we went back out on the range to find this:
Motorbikes everywhere! Apparently, a charity run was being held at CrossRoads which MotoMark1 didn’t know about. Our range was cordoned off, but people kept walking through like we weren’t there. Well, it is their turf. Our instructors got it cleared and we resumed our training…now with an audience. It’s amazing how much better you perform when others are watching.
Eating lunch and watching videos in the conference room
The afternoon sessions were a bit easier by design, as by now all three of us were showing signs of wear. At 4:00 PM, our lead instructor had us do a “follow me” drill in which we mount our bikes as a motor officer does (from the right side), and we followed him through the course, one drill after another, in single file. What fun! We even had an audience! After about 10 minutes, we were “ordered” via radio to proceed to the staging area (close to our audience), come to a stop in line with our front wheels lined up, then, in unison “sidestands down, engines off, DISMOUNT!” (also to the right). It was awesome! Again, when folks are watching (especially other motorcyclists), your performance goes up a notch or two. Our audience looked at us in awe!
We all hung out awhile, drinking water and shooting the breeze about everything motorbikes while the instructors cleaned up the cones from the parking lot. What a great day and super experience. No matter how great a bike handler you think you are, taking a course like this quickly humbles you. I was humbled. Back to the campground for dinner and a well deserved good nights sleep.
I am only 10 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, my favorite motorcycling road. So on this beautiful Sunday morning, I pack up the beaST, bid farewell to High Country Motorcycle Campground, and slowly make my way along that twisty rural road. Once out onto the four lanes of NC 421, I wick it up and boot scoot to the BRP for a quick fix. I could take it home, but I wanted to get back faster than the BRP would allow. I ride up onto the Parkway and enjoy 20 beautiful early morning miles.
Scenes from the Blue Ridge Parkway
My route home re-traced my route to get here, as it is the most expedient while staying on the backroads. I had a wonderful time meeting other motorcyclists, and taking a training course that challenged me to become a better motorcyclist. Now the challenge is to try to slip out of my gear before being accosted by the beagles. Fat chance!