I am new to riding. I didn't finally realize a lifelong dream of owning/riding a bike. I didn't grow up in a family of bikers. I didn't see a motorcycle on the road and think 'I want to do that!' It was just a musing one day. An idea that I put on my "List of Things to Do Before I Die" list. (yes, really.) One of those thoughts that crop up while doing taxes or grading papers or some other tedious task you mentally escape with the bizarre: "What would happen if I was being chased by some evil minion, crazed lunatic, rapist, or Avon lady, and my only escape was on a motorcycle?" I would seem less 'she's-one-fry-short-of-a-Happy-Meal' if I said I was looking for something more economically sound given the rising price of gas, but, really, I needed to be able to escape some knife-wielding stalker in a dark alley when I had left my Glock in my other pants.
Whether you have sane or not-so-sane reasons (clearly I'm not one to judge), I highly recommend the Motorcycle Safety Foundations Basic Rider's Course. In Maryland, and many other states, once you pass their course you can go directly to the MVA to get your endorsement. No learner's permit or waiting period. No need to be followed around because you have to have a licensed rider near you at all times. You're done! And, instead of trying to figure things out the hard way, you get a well thought out and very supportive program to get you on your way to responsible riding. Some states now require you to take a course before being allowed to get your endorsement.
The class I took was in Florida, but Maryland wouldn't accept my certificate for another state so I ended up doing both MSF and MVA (#@%^!), but the classes are basically the same everywhere. 5 or 6 hours of classroom work which reviews the materials you were given for homework and then 2 half days on a bike trying not to fall over. (Ok, if you fall over it's really ok unless it's during testing, um, or if you hurt yourself - that would be bad.) I kinda wished I'd fallen while I was on one of their bikes, just to get over the fear of it, but, hey! I managed to keep the rubber side down. Maryland apparently supplements the MSF materials with their own info...
ANYWAY, while it lacks actual riding on the road, it was a great class. Absolutely amazing teachers, a pretty well thought out progression of skills, and a lot of basic stuff that you don't have to learn through the School of Hard Knocks. You don't need to own a bike or a helmet, they will supply those. You need shoes that cover your ankles, long sleeve shirt and long pants and you're good to go!
There are other places to learn to ride, too, but this is the only one I have first hand knowledge of. Search online for other options, but if you're curious, pick one and definitely give it a shot!
All this reminiscing about the MSF course because Jenny is taking her class this weekend. I'm so excited for her and I have no doubt that she'll do fabulously. Break a leg, Jenny!