Some folks may be born to ride, but Florida law requires them to put in more than a dozen hours of training before hopping on that hog.
Future riders - and current ones looking to brush up on their skills - can take a course here in New Tampa.
Florida Professional Motorcycle Training hosts motorcycle endorsement classes on weekends at Wharton High School. The owner and operator of FPMT, Steve Olthoff, purchased the company on April 1 from a friend and previous owner, but said it has stayed a family business since it opened in 2008.
“We really haven’t missed a beat. We still operate as a team with the same staff and everything. The previous owner, Mark, still works with me in the company as a coach, “ Olthoff said.
The 15-hour motorcycle class is mandatory for anyone seeking a motorcycle license endorsement on their driver's license (or a motorcycle only license) and is the main reason the basic-level class is so popular.
Participants spend 10 hours practicing in the parking lot, and five hours in the classroom learning road laws and safety tips. “They significantly improve their chances of not getting involved in an accident,” said Olthoff, whose company is one of several who offer the state-required classes.
Classes are also offered by the school on Thursday nights at Motorsports of Tampa on North Florida Avenue.
In addition to the basic rider course, there is an experienced rider course, a kickstart program and a rider coach prep program. The programs vary in price from $125 for the experienced rider course and $200 and up for the basic rider course, kickstart program and rider coach program. The tuition includes a workbook, helmet and gloves.
Olthoff said the kickstart program is a three-hour introductory course for new riders who aren’t quite sure if riding is the thing for them. “It’s a shorter course with more individualized training,” he said.
The rider coach program is for anyone who is interested in becoming a Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles - or Motorcycle Safety Foundation-approved coach.
The six-hour experienced rider course can be enrolled in after first taking the basic course, and consists of learning more advanced motorcycle maneuvers, Olthoff said.
The most important thing about the basic rider course, Olthoff said, is getting riders practicing safety and becoming more aware on the road.
“The endorsement is just a byproduct of the safety taught in the course,” he said.
Instructors, some of whom are police motorcycle trainers, all have many years of experience riding motorcycles and are certified by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and the Florida DHSMV.
Olthoff said his classes attract a wide range of people, some daughters and fathers, other family and friends taking the class together.
The 10 hours of work completed in the Wharton parking lot is made up of 18 exercises to demonstrate different scenarios like shifting and stopping, quick stops, cornering and other useful techniques.
A few tips to remember: wear appropriate footwear and clothing, have an approved driver’s license, and be of driving age. Without these, taking the course is not allowed.
Patch visited a recent weekend class. David, a teenager who has taken the basic riding course but did not want his last name used, said it was a fun course and that he would consider taking the experienced course later on.
“I am really excited to have my endorsement because I have been riding motocross since I was 11,” he said.
-Information about motorcycle courses offered by the Florida Professional Motorcycle Training school: FPMT Website.
-Information about Florida's motorcycle license rules: DHSMV Website.