Safe Riding

Maple Woods MSF RiderCourses - Kansas City, Missouri

Written by  April 30, 2007

According to Michelle Sprague, Community Education Coordinator, Metropolitan Community College – Maple Woods, has been providing Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) classes for more than 15 years, and was the first permanent MSF training site in the state of Missouri. They currently have 20 RiderCoaches who teach on a regular basis. Michelle told me they train approximately 375 students each year, and over the past three years, the male/female student ratio is 37% female and 63% male with a success rate of approximately 98%. The maximum class size for their Basic RiderCourse (BRC) and Experienced RiderCourse (ERC) is 12 students. To maintain a 1 to 6 ratio, each class has a minimum of two RiderCoaches.

Maple Woods uses a variety of motorcycles for their Basic RiderCourse (BRC). All of their bikes are 250cc or smaller, which include Honda Rebels, Suzuki GZ250s, Kawasaki Eliminators and Yamaha TW200s. They also have a few dual-purpose bikes, which gives their students a variety of motorcycles from which to choose.

On Saturday, April 21 and Saturday, April 28 I had the opportunity to observe two Basic RiderCourses that were conducted by four different RiderCoaches. During my initial visit, Debi Stolz and Elaine Miller trained six men and four women. Debbie and Elaine made the training class fun and gave each student one-on-one feedback throughout the entire riding portion of their training. Although there were 10 students in this particular class, the way Debbie and Elaine interacted with their students, it almost seemed like semi-private riding lessons.

On my second visit, RiderCoaches Chris Cimino, Ann Hosfelt and Range Aid Scott Kruckenberg had 12 students, which consisted of nine men and three women. They also did a great job providing continuous feedback to their students and made the class a lot of fun, which was obvious from the huge smiles on the faces of their students as they successfully completed each portion of the course.

While I was there, I also had the opportunity to gather additional information from Michelle and RiderCoaches Elaine and Chris about themselves and their training program.

CC: What do you feel makes Maple Woods different from other rider training facilities?
Chris: Maple Woods provides a professional setting for classroom and range instruction. The school administration was the first to support MSF classes in Kansas City and they continue to provide the students and coaches with the best experience for learning through a variety of motorcycles, single class format, established re-testing policies, new range surfaces and training materials.
Elaine: I also like the fact that Maple Woods doesn’t run the program like a business focused on the profit line. They care about providing everything necessary for the safety of the students and the needs of the RiderCoaches.

CC: How long have you been MSF RiderCoaches?
Chris: I’ve been a RiderCoach for 7 years.
Elaine: I’ve been a RiderCoach for 11 years.

CC: Why did you decide to become MSF RiderCoaches?
Chris: I started riding dirt bikes as a kid and I've always enjoyed taking classes to improve my skills. After 30 years, I thought I could give something back to the sport. There's a great sense of satisfaction when a new rider 'gets it' and you realize you helped.
Elaine: In the early days of the MSF program, I attended a class that, from the instructor-quality standpoint, left a lot to be desired. I later decided to try my hand at coaching, while keeping those things in mind.

CC: Where did you receive your training to become MSF RiderCoaches?
Chris: Missouri Motorcycle Safety Program (MMSP) in Warrensburg, Missouri.
Elaine: I received my training at MMSP in Warrensburg as well.

CC: What is the most challenging part of the BRC for you as RiderCoaches?
Chris: I’d say mine is fighting the urge to overload students. There's so much to learn about riding, and I have to remind myself that the BRC is a basic rider course. The student is just learning where controls are, how to start, etc.
Elaine: Probably the physical requirements - two full days of walking, standing, and setting cones.

CC: What part of the BRC do students seem to find the most challenging?
Chris: Clutch and throttle control can be challenging, but not because students don't understand the concept. But, because the skills require fine muscle control that just takes repetition and practice to develop, and that can be frustrating.
Elaine: I think the U-turn box is the most challenging.

CC: Do you have any tips for someone thinking about taking the BRC?
Chris: Be realistic about why you want to ride. Motorcycling has increased risks over other activities and requires absolute focus to manage. If you plan on riding once or twice a year on perfect weather days, try boating because you're less likely to get hurt. But, if you approach riding a motorcycle like a pilot does flying, it can be incredibly rewarding.
Elaine: If you are thinking about it, do it. It is worth your time and money.

CC: What part of the ERC do students seem to find the most challenging?
Chris: Turning their heads and looking through the turns. The MSF reports that most single vehicle (m/c) crashes are caused by improper cornering; going wide in the turn. Most ERC riders that haven't taken the BRC are challenged by looking farther through the turn, but, once they 'get it' they always comment how much better their bike handles.

CC: What has been your most enjoyable training experience to date?
Chris: In every class, BRC or ERC, there is a moment when the student 'gets it,' the light bulb clicks on and they learn a new skill. It's a rush for me to share in that accomplishment with them.
Elaine: In my 11 years there have been too many to select only one event.

CC: What was your least enjoyable training experience to date?
Chris: Cold, rainy, windy days on the range go right through me no matter what I'm wearing. Of course, I've noticed the students thrive in uncomfortable environments because it requires more focus to develop the skill.
Elaine: I’d say working with a student who fails, but still thinks they deserve a completion card.

CC: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about Maple Woods or rider safety/training in general?
Chris: I've been impressed with the new leadership and direction at MSF since their new curriculum was introduced in 2002. It is very learner oriented, with less emphasis on how expert the coach is and more emphasis on how to improve the student’s experience as that's what really matters. MMSP and Maple Woods have embraced the new concepts and support the state coaches in every way. Rider training does not mean lower enjoyment, it means lower risk. I encourage riders to constantly evaluate their skills and challenge themselves to improve, which lowers the risk and raises the smile factor.
Elaine: After every class, I ask if everyone felt their time and money was well spent. I’ve never had anyone say no. I have had students tell me the class they took saved them from a crash and that’s the most rewarding part of this job.

For additional information or to register for a class, call Michelle Sprague at (816) 437-3011, e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit their web site at http://mcckc.edu/mwcycle/. Classes fill up fast, so sign up for a class today!

Interview & photos by Mike Schweder