Stayin’ Safe takes rider education beyond the parking lot, creating the ultimate on-road education program for nearly all types of riders. Founded by former Rider Magazine columnist and MSF instructor Larry Grodsky in 1993, the Stayin’ Safe program grew from Grodsky’s frustration with the limitations of the parking lot in the traditional MSF course.
Beyond The Lot
“Larry’s intent was to pick up where the parking lot programs left off,” explains Stayin’ Safe chief instructor Eric Trow. “The MSF programs is an excellent way to get somebody introduced to motorcycling, but just due to the limitations of riding on a parking lot … all anyone is really prepared to do is to ride well in the parking lot,” says Trow. “It wasn’t answering that question, ‘Alright now what,’ so Larry began working more with riders who were coming off of the parking lot and working with them on the street and providing coaching.”
Larry’s one-on-one coaching eventually developed into the Stayin’ Safe training tours, which combine some of the best riding in the country with real-time coaching, skills development, an overnight stay and the camaraderie of riding in a group.
Trow, also a former MSF instructor, found himself wondering why he was spending all of his weekends standing in a parking lot watching other people ride motorcycles. “The idea of ‘Wow, I could be riding and training other riders,’ was really appealing, and then as I got more involved in the program, I just have absolutely embraced the value of real-time coaching and dealing with real-world situations and providing input to riders in the moment. It is just an amazing thing,” says Trow.
Sadly, in April of 2006, Grodsky passed on, creating a watershed moment for the program. “There were about four of us who had been working with Larry in different regions, and we all knew each other but had never met.” The team got together in person for the first time at Grodsky’s funeral and found themselves wondering if they should carry on. “We reached out to the folks who had been taking the program, and they said by all means keep it going, so that’s what we did,” says Trow, who took his current leadership role with the program in 2008.
More Than Just Safety Instruction
“Safety is a huge part of what we do, but if I say to people right off the bat, ‘I’m going to spend the next hour talking about safety: boy, won’t that be fun?’” says Trow. “No, safety to me is the product of the program. I never set out to be a particularly safe rider — I wanted to be a better rider and yes, I was interested in safety. But quite frankly, for years I thought that safety meant they’re just going to make me go slow. We make training fun, and the students tell us they have more fun riding their motorcycle now than they ever did and, ‘Oh, by the way, I feel much, much safer.’”
Stayin’ Safe now educates approximately 200 students a year in programs held in nine states across the country. Programs vary from four-hour mini tours at rallies to two-day overnight touring adventures, and the students come from all walks of life and varying experience levels. Trow does emphasize that the program isn’t for brand new riders. “We tend to work with riders who have at least one full season of on-street riding, and we like to encourage them to have at least 5,000 miles under their belt.”
The student teacher ratio never surpasses 4:1, so Trow and his fellow instructors can give incredibly personalized instruction. “We have our core curriculum,” says Trow. “But we really make sure that there’s enough flexibility to work with riders on their specific needs.”
This mix of fun and safety works. Trow relates that one of the biggest surprises he’s found with the program is the high number or repeat customers he sees from year to year. “They come back because it’s a great time, but they also come back and say, ‘I want work on using the throttle coming out of a corner,’ or, ‘I want to work on whatever,’ and for them it winds up being a building block.”
Riders Gear Up
The tours are open to bikes of any kind, and Trow has seen riders change their perspective on their machines and add more bikes to their stable as a result of the program. “Riders are exposed to other bikes, and what we find is, there are riders that their true desires and their true character starts to come out,” says Trow. “They may have a bike that they absolutely love for certain parts of their riding, but now they may discover they love the mountains — the tours really are showing people that there are plenty of good reasons to have more than one motorcycle in your garage.”
Private Dealer Tours
Wouldn’t it be wonderful for your customers to come back from an adventure ready to add another bike to their garage? While you can easily share the Stayin’ Safe contact information with your customers, why not create a personalized tour for your dealership to not only encourage safe riding, but to build brand loyalty for your dealership? Trow says that the Stayin’ Safe private tour options can be completely customized for the dealer, from a short two-hour session to a weekend event. “Dealers can help customers find even more enjoyment from the bikes that they just purchased or perhaps that they owned,” says Trow. “This is just another one of those tools to be able to show how you’re offering more value to your customers and building those stronger relationships. Because I’ll tell you what, its nice to be in that category where you can build a customer for life if you do it right.”