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Motorcycle safety: Training key to saving lives this riding season

A couple of warmer days in recent weeks has brought out the earlier-bird motorcycle riders. After a long winter, warmer weather is on its way to stay and so is the motorcycle traffic. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports there are more than 409,000 licensed motorcyle operators in the state and nearly 236,000 registered motorcycles. Motorists are reminded to watch carefully for motorcycles in traffic, and always look twice before turning or changing lanes.

WILLMAR - Shortly before 10 p.m. on March 11, Anand Baskaran, 30, of East Northport, N.Y., died after hitting a pothole and losing control of his motorcycle near Theodore Wirth Parkway on Interstate 394 outside Minneapolis.

The State Patrol reported at that time that Baskaran and a fellow rider who fled the scene were travelling at a rate of speed up to 120 mph. It’s not known if they were racing.

Witnesses said Baskaran had been wearing a helmet, although those first on the scene did not observe one. A helmet was later recovered at the scene.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Baskaran’s death was the second-earliest motorcycle fatality since the state began tracking data and the first of a motorcyclist in Minnesota this year. It also highlights an alarming increase in motorcycle fatalities in the state.

In 2013, 60 motorcyclists were killed on Minnesota’s roads, a 7 percent hike over 2012 and the first increase in fatalities in five years.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports rider deaths accounted for 16 percent of all fatalities on state roads last year.

In an effort to combat this upward trend, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Motorcycle Safety Center is urging riders of all skill levels to participate in beginner and refresher training courses.

“It’s up to riders and drivers to reduce these tragedies,” Bill Shaffer of the Motorcycle Safety Center said, in a recent news release. “Riders must shoulder the responsibility for protecting themselves and the first step is to take a rider training course.”

The Motorcycle Safety Center is planning five courses this spring and summer for riders of all skill levels. The following courses will be conducted at the Ridgewater College campus in Willmar by instructors certified by the Minnesota Safety Foundation.

Basic rider course

This 14½-hour course teaches basic motorcycle operation skills. The course includes classroom time and on-cycle instruction.

Participants can complete the course over two-day and three-day periods. Cost is $160.

The two-day course is held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 31-June 1, June 14-15, July 19-20, July 26-27, Aug. 16-17, Aug. 18-19, Sept. 20-21 and Sept. 27-28.

The three-day course is held from 6-10:30 p.m. April 25 and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1:30-6:30 p.m. April 26-27; and from 6-10:30 p.m. May 9 and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1:30-6:30 p.m. May 10-11.

Basic rider course 2

Riders will be taught extensive handling techniques. Cost is $55. Classes are held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 1:30-6:30 p.m. May 24.

Moped rider course

This program is conducted as part of the classroom session of the basic rider course. Cost is $35. Classes are held from 6-10:30 p.m. April 25 and May 9; and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 14, July 19, Aug. 18 and Sept. 27.

Civilian police

motorcycle course

Participants will practice the same techniques used to train police motorcycle officers. Riders must have a minimum of three years of experience on a motorcycle or have logged 12,000-plus miles. Cost is $75. Classes are held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 12 and Aug. 23.

Civilian police

motorcycle course 2

This course is open to graduates of the civilian police motorcycle course and offers advanced drills. Cost is $50. Classes are held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 13 and Aug. 24.

Basic class information

Riders may use their own motorcycles for the courses as long as they are street legal, licensed and pass a basic equipment inspection. Motorcycles must have an engine capacity of between 51 and 500 cubic centimeters. Proof of insurance is required.

Participants must also furnish their own protective riding gear: a helmet approved by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, eye protection, clothing with long sleeves, full-fingered gloves and over-the-ankle footwear. Shorts are not allowed.

To register for a course, visit Courses will remain open until the first day of the class or as space permits. The classes can fill up quickly, so the college encourages those planning to participate to register early. Full payment is required upon registration.

For more information, call 320-222-6067.

Preparing for the classes

Ridgewater College offers in-depth information about the courses and how to prepare for them at Some frequently asked questions include:

Where do I go to take the motorcycle permit test?

The test can be taken at the nearest state exam station. Willmar’s is located at 1601 E. Highway 12 near the Subway restaurant and in the Appletree Square strip mall. Written tests are administered from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. Road tests are administered between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 320-231-1735.

How long is a motorcycle permit valid?

A permit is valid for one year.

What do I need to study for the motorcycle permit test?

The permit test is based on the Minnesota Motorcycle/Motorized Bicycle Manual. An electronic copy can be downloaded at

Are there any prerequisites for the courses?

Participants must be proficient in the basic skills of clutch control, straight-line riding, turning, shifting and stopping.

What is the difference between a motorcycle and a moped?

Riding a motorcycle requires an endorsement or permit. A moped can be ridden on a city street by a licensed driver, or anyone 15 years of age or older with a moped permit. A scooter is either a moped or motorcycle, depending on its size. A moped is defined as having an engine with 50 cubic centimeters or less, 2 horsepower or less, or is capable of doing no more than 30 mph. If the bike does not meet all of these standards, it is considered a motorcycle.

How old do I need to be to attend the moped training course?

Participants must be 14 years of age to attend the training. However, the state moped exam cannot be taken until the operator turns 15 years of age.

What do I do if I need to miss any part of the course?

Participation is mandatory and no point of the class may be missed.

Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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