How Not to Pass the MRC:RSS-Follow Up

This is a follow up to How Not to Pass the MRC:RSS

I went to the doctor yesterday to get my personal inspection. After a couple of consultations and several x-rays, I learned that I have a hairline fracture in the radial head, the end of the radius bone of the forearm where it connects at the elbow. I am surprised I was able to ride at all after it happened. I must have been running on adrenaline for the next several hours. It makes me even less surprised that I did not do as well as I would have liked on the evaluation. It was slightly painful.

Does this change anything? No. It doesn’t, at least not much. It increases the hardness of that school of hard knocks. I am now even more aware than before of the need to not lock the front brakes. But, I still want to learn to ride. I know I still need the practice. No matter how long you have been riding, there is always something more to learn. In my case, the learning just got delayed a little more. According to the doctor, I should wear a sling for a couple of weeks and resume normal use. Within a month, it should be fully healed. Bummer. My next class was in less than two weeks. Looks like I will miss it. I have another class already registered for June and maybe I can do a walk-in before then. I have not yet begun to ride. But, I will soon.

How Not to Pass the MRC:RSS

Or, Missing the Certificate

In case you haven’t guessed from the title, I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Motorcycle Rider Course : Riding and Street Skills, and did not pass. Actually, I am not too surprised at the outcome. There are many things to learn and much has to go right to succeed. Sometimes things happen just right. Other times? Well, have you ever heard of Murphy?

The classroom portion went really well. Though not used to getting up at 6:00am and then having a fourty minute commute, I was able to maintain concentration through all of the modules, MSF speak for sections. Both video and course workbook were absorbed in due course. This part progressed quite smoothly. The result? I only missed one question on the written exam, though I have no idea which question that might have been.

The skills portion, however, went entirely different. Problems of one kind or another surfaced, quite reqularly, too. Blame, though, is a shared thing, and it can be all too easily distributed. In this case, I had quite a bit to go around.
Before I discuss the problems, let me set a little background. The course is designed to learn things in “building blocks.” Each new skill builds upon those previously learned. This makes sense. You don’t learn to run before first crawling and walking. Motorcycling is the same. Simple skills are learned that are then combined into more complex actions and at greater speeds.

Throughout all of the other problems, one that I could control kept recurring, more so than the others at any rate. For the better part of my life I have had a habit. This particular habit does not carry well into the world of motorcycles. The habit? Watching were I am going to put my feet. Yes, something as simple as looking down. What happens when you do this on a motorcycle? If you look down, you go down. I didn’t go down. Well, not because of this anyway. But, it does tend to make things unstable. This bit me a couple of times during the skills evaluation, along with some other things.

I’m getting ahead of myself here. So, I’ll backtrack to the first day of practice and start from there. Actually, it started rather well. Starting with the engine off, we straddle walked our motorcycles from one side of the course to the other and did the same thing coming back. Next, we were assigned to a partner and took turns pushing the other across the course and back, still with the engine off. Between each of the exercises, or at least most of them, there were twentyone in all, we would get off the bikes and meet with the instructors for a brief description of what came next. Once we got to the motorized exercieses, an instructor would demonstrate the exercise and the route we were to take through the course. It is rather difficult to do something if you don’t know what it is you are supposed to be doing. I had no problem understanding the instructions and … I’m getting ahead of myself again.

The motorcycle I first started on was a Nighthawk 250 of an unknown vintage. It was a functional motorcycle and did me well for a while. After one of the exercises, though, it decided it had had enough. After the motorized exercises, we rode back to a staging area. This is where we would park the motorcycles, dismount and go listen to the instructions for the next exercise or go take a break. The procedure for ending some of the earlier exercises went something like this. The riders would circle the permiter of the course, heading for the designated area to regroup, as it was called. Each rider is assigned a place to park as they come in. We hit the engine cut-off as soon as we are at our designated place and, when instructed, dismounted. All is going well.

After receiving the instruction for the next exercise, we each return to our motorcycles and prepare to begin the exercise. To begin the exercise, we are to start our motorcycles, wait for the neutral gear check, and then move out one by one as instructed. Well, I couldn’t do that. The Nighthawk had had enough. The transmission would not go into neutral, no matter how hard I tried. It would go into second, but not into neutral, even when the instructor tried. So, the range aid, a person assisting the instructor for the skills practice, took over with me while the instructor went back to the other riders who were out practicing without her. A quick check by the range aid revealed that a swap was in order. So, I straddle walk the motorcycle over to the large storage container the motorcycles are delivered to the course in and the range aid begins preparing another motorcycle. It was cold and needs a bit of warm up time with the choke before I depart. Eventually, I am able to rejoin the exercise in progress, though after missing most of it. Remember what I said about building blocks.

The next motorcycle I am assigned is a CB125, which is a bit smaller and more cramped than the Nighthawk had been. It also seemed a bit tempermental. It could be that I just wasn’t used to it, or to motorcycles in general, but the throttle seemed to me to be a bit off. Maybe it was just cold. Maybe I just did not control it delicately enough. In any case, I would let out the clutch and it would try to die on me. Rolling on the throttle a little didn’t seem to help, though letting out the clutch would send the rpm skyrocketing. The range aid mentioned something about needing to be very ginger with the throttle. In the meantime, I was fighting the throttle and the choke, but not for very long.

A couple of exercise passed without much of a change. I was learning some new things; still having some problems looking where I shouldn’t, though starting to get the hang of it. I was starting to look where I was supposed to, fighting the habit, and winning on occassion. We received instructions for the next exercise and were sent back to the motorcycles. The instructions came. “Mount up.” “Start your engines.” But, mine wouldn’t start. A check by the instructor confirmed I was doing the FINE-C (Fuel, Ignition, Neutral, Engine cut-off and Choke/Clutch) procedure properly. Either the battery or the electric start had died. It was time for a swap. The motorcycle was walked back to the storage containers, a task that was not rapidly accomplished due to starting from the far corner of the practice range. Once there, warm up of the replacement began. With my new mount prepared, I was ready to reenter the fray, again missing most of the practice. Do you see a pattern here?

The new motorcycle was again a CB125 and sported a similar temperment. Remember the problem with throttle control? It was back and as bad as before. Throughout all of this, I had been able to listen to the instruction, but unable to execute sufficiently on what I had heard. This motorcycle was the same. No, it wasn’t swapped out again. Not yet anyway. The exercise we were beginning was the figure eight. Each rider was supposed to time the gaps and use their throttle to control crossing the path of the other traffic. If you cannot control the throttle, that gets downright scary. I did make one gap, though, but pulled off course to get the throttle checked. This is not getting any easier. I am also missing much practice.

The first day had many changes, many missed or mostly missed practice sessions. A dead gearbox, two dead starters or batteries and recurring throttle problems hindered progress, combined with the direction of looking problem, of course. All together, I missed most of three exercise on the first day of practice. Would it have helped to have had the practice? I know it wouldn’t have hurt. That came the second day.

Maybe it was a missed building block. Maybe I didn’t use fine enough control. Well, it was definitely that. On the second day, I again got a CB125, though, after a bit of familiarization between us, me and my new mount got along just fine. Or, we did until I did something I shouldn’t have done. It happened during a braking exercise, the emergency stop exercise to be precise. Just before this we had practiced locking the rear wheel and riding out the skid. I had it down pat. Well, mostly anyway. This was a bit different. Instead of using just the rear brake, we were supposed to use both front and rear brakes to stop in the shortest distance possible. I did three tries at this, the second going pretty well. I thought it went well. The instructor thought I could do just a little better and told me to be a little more aggressive next time. I was more agressive, too aggressive in fact. There is a fine line between not enough and too much. I crossed it. The front brake locked. The handlebars were not perfectly square. The motorcycle stopped quickly. I didn’t. As the motorcycle went horizontal, I took a nice little tumble over the top. It didn’t land on me and I didn’t land on it.

According to one of the spectators, the other riders waiting their turn, I acted like I did it on purpose. The motorcycle hit the pavement. I hit the ground, rolled a couple of times and was back on my feet before I stopped moving. I guess it would have looked good from a distance. I could have skipped the close up view. Thanks to my Aerostitch, I wasn’t really injured either, though my arm and elbow were a bit sore. At the next break, I went to my truck and took an Ibuprofen to ease the ache that remained. At lunch, I took another. For the most part, the remaining exercises went ok. This one would haunt me later.

An evaluation test scores you on how well you perform various skills tests, skills similar to those that were practiced that morning and the day before. The looking problem resurfaced a couple of times. The slow portion had a foot down on the cone weave and again on one of the sharp turns. With the quick stop, I wasn’t so quick. Remembering the morning tumble, I stopped. I stopped straight, with the left foot down. I didn’t stop quick enough. There were some problems on a couple of other areas also. There was nothing really major, but the points are cumulative. I accumulated enough that I didn’t pass.

The weekend is over and it is back to work again. I learned a lot. I had some practice time, but not enough. Not having missed so much practice would have helped. That what I missed was built on later without my having the proper foundation did not help my situation. Not having an aching arm and elbow might have helped as much or more. Though it happened in the morning and I am writing this at night, the elbow still aches. I should get it looked at.

Why Arai?

Instead of … ?

With a simple stroke of the pen and a click of the Send button, Arai Helmet can shake their customer base. The recent legal action is, unfortunately, not unique in the world of business, especially given our litigious society. Several other companies have committed similar errors of judgement. Some of them learn. Some do not. One comment I heard referred to an action by Harley Davidson. Someone who was giving away motorcycles, Harley Davidson motorcycles, but were using bar and shield without permission. Another mentioned an action by BMW against dealers and clubs using the BMW roundel without explicit permission. I don’t know if these really happened or what the facts surrounding the issues may have been. However, I also don’t doubt the possibility that they might have.

There are a couple of main reasons why I wrote about this action and not others. The first is about timing. The second is about the internet. Each reason has relatives to lend support.

As for timing, I am new to the world of motorcyles and did not know first hand of the other actions. Maybe I would have been equally incensed if I had been around when the news of them was first heard. But, maybe not. I was around for this one. As mentioned in the previous article, Arai Gone Awry?, there was also a book involved, The Cluetrain Manifesto. More precisely, it was the idea of communication the book discussed. I had just finished reading it, within the hour in fact. And, this action seemed so counter productive that the clash between the two could not be ignored, at least by me anyway.

That leads us to the second main reason for my response, the internet. Global communication between individuals is possible like never before. Email, mailing lists and newsgroups allow for so many people to communicate so easily and to so many others at once, that the foundation of traditional marketing is being shaken. Marketing used to be a top down exercise in authority with company PR feeding everything to the consumer. Now, consumers themselves are affecting the intended results, adding their own slants and viewpoints to the corporate message. An action by a company is no longer hidden, visible only to the few directly affected. The click of the Send button that can start an action can now also start a reaction.

The internet, the vast web that it is, is made up of links from one site to another, one page to another. In fact, that is how you came to be reading this article now. Yet, running against the grain, this action by Arai Helmet claims linking to be unacceptable and even illegal. A link that takes you to the site in question is a good thing, a credit to the internet web it helps to create. Some companies, like Amazon.com for example, have specific programs where they encourage you to be a part of their organization, to link to areas within their site from yours. As with most things, there are some real infringements. Some of these may come with deep linking, which may bypass some required validation controls. More commonly, there may be the use of content generated by another site, but appearing on an unrelated page. An example of this may be the use of stock market information or map generation without the appropriate credit or permission being given. In the example given in the prior article, this does not seem to be the case here.

Legal action to protect a trademark is something I believe should be done. Without appropriate effort, the trademark may lose its value, becoming another phrase commonly used by many. It might even end up as a dictionary entry. However, it is all too easy to become overzealous in that protection. “Just in case we can win” is an insufficient reason to try.

The internet is a new territory. It does not fit exactly into the mold of the prior era. While the differences may not be readily apparant to all, they do exist. Many companies need to change their approach to the new markets, learn how their consumers are now communicating. Those that can respond may find that it is not so bad after all. It might even give them an edge.

(IANAL, “I am not a lawyer.” Any positions taken in this article are based on opinion and do not stem from a legal background or familiarity with the applicable laws. If you have specific legal questions, please consult with your attorney.)

(All trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.)

Arai Gone Awry?

Or, How to Generate Bad PR

It’s ironic, really. I had just finished reading The Cluetrain Manifesto and wanted to check my email before going to bed. About halfway through, I came across a thread which struck a chord with me and, apparantly, with a great many others as well.

What was this chord that got struck? It seems that Arai Helmet, using the law firm of Beattie Padavano ESQS of Saddle River, NJ, has found some very disturbing information on the web sites of a great many people. So disturbing in fact that a “cease and desist” letter was sent to those responsible. To quote a portion of that letter,

The law firm of Beattie Padovano, LLC represents Arai Helmet (Americas), Ltd. (“Arai”).

Our client recently learned that you are using the registered trademark ARAI on the Internet without authorization and/or are making reference to Arai on the Internet without authorization.

Absent its consent, Arai will not allow anyone on the Internet:

(1) to use the ARAI trademark or trade name in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution or advertising of any goods or services not authorized by Arai;

(2) to use the ARAI trademark or trade name in any website text (visible or hidden), metatag, title, Universal Resource Locator (“URL”), e-mail address or domain name;

(3) to link to or frame or inline images from a website authorized by Arai, or copy from such a website any metatags, visible or hidden text, pictures, photographs or videos; and/or

(4) to otherwise unfairly compete with Arai by use of any unauthorized information, reference or communication, either explicit or implicit, regarding Arai, its trademark and/or its products.

Arai demands that you immediately cease and desist from any such use.  Arai will make periodic spot checks to assure complete compliance with this demand.

If you do not comply, please be assured that Arai will take all appropriate action permitted under the United States Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051 et. seq., including seeking injunctive relief, disgorgement of profits from you, costs, attorneys’ fees, treble damages and other relief as permitted by statute.

Our office’s mailing address is 50 Chestnut Ridge Road, P.O. Box 244, Montvale, New Jersey 07645.  We can be reached by telephone at (201) 573-1810 or by fax at (201) 573-9736.

Very truly yours,

BEATTIE PADOVANO, LLC

BY:  John R. Holsinger, Esq.

JRH:mvm

What horrendous thing had been done to cause such legal retailiation?  One recipient stated,

“All the link says is ‘Arai’, and when you click it, you go to the Arai website directly.  There are no comments about Arai, good or bad, or recommendations of any kind.  It merely points at their own website!”

On the face, this does not seem so bad. While the classic caveat, IANAL, “I am not a lawyer,” applies to me, I have always considered a person’s web site to be a symbol of personal expression, their place to say what they want when they want, a right held sacred in the United States. From their responses, quite a few others also feel that way.

“I do not think that I would consider buying or recommend Ar** in the future either. There are plenty of other manufacturers with great helmets out there.”

“Ar** is now on my ‘don’t buy’ list.”

“Get Rid of Your Arai, NOW”

Why the strong response? Someone, Arai Helmet, or perhaps the law firm representing them, does not understand what the internet is all about, that the “Web” is built of links between nodes, or web sites. Often, a company will go out of their way to get links to their web site, even submitting to search engines and paying for banner ads. A link is a way for a person to say “I like this” or “I think this is informative.” Yet, here is a company that does not understand this and runs counter to the norm. There is something else they do not understand.

Why did I find this so ironic? The book I had just finished reading, The Cluetrain Manifesto, discusses a phenomenon that is happening now that has not happened for a very long time, a phenomenon so powerful that it is changing the face of business. This phenomenon is conversation. The internet is enabling conversation among large numbers of people. The tone is similar in nature to that which happened in ancient markets, where people went to talk as much as to trade. This conversation will not be silenced. It will proceed with or without the participation of business, and whether for or against the interest of the business being discussed. Participation is the order of the day, by both business and consumers. The markets are changing. Business had better listen.
The last helmet I bought was an Arai. I am not yet sure if the next one will be.
(All trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.)

Next: Why Arai?