Imagine a training tool so realistic that you can test your street-riding savvy—or, if you’re new to motorcycling or scooters, your readiness to ride—without ever having to leave the comfort of your local Honda dealership.
Enter Honda’s SMART Riding Trainer (SMART being the acronym for Safe Motorcyclist Awareness and Recognition Trainer), a computerized traffic simulator that allows beginning riders the opportunity to operate a motorcycle in real-life situations without the inherent real-world risks and consequences.
What exactly is it?
The SMART Riding Trainer is essentially a computer fitted into a tubular frame featuring actual Honda motorcycle controls—handlebar-mounted throttle, clutch and front brake, and pedals for shifting gears and the rear brake—as well as a saddle and footpegs.
A rider can then dial up proprietary, state-of-the-art software, with which they can learn and practice basic motorcycle control operations such as clutch, brake, throttle, and gearshift coordination in a computer simulation environment. Intermediate and more experienced riders can also benefit from using the SMART Riding Trainer via programs that let them operate in more risky traffic situations, which then give them the opportunity to evaluate and address various safety scenarios in a controlled environment.
Al Hydeman of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has traveled to several destinations with the Honda SMART Riding Trainer, including on board the aircraft carrier USS George Washington as a guest of the U.S. Naval Safety Center, and he “preaches” the mantra that it’s far better to be overwhelmed at the controls of a video monitor than on real roads, in real life.
“A lot of people say ‘I hope I don’t crash’ when they use SMART,” relates Hydeman. “I say ‘I hope you do,’ because that’s how you learn, and here, the only thing that really crashes is the ego.”
The Trainer’s software simulates 17 different scenarios, comprising two beginner courses (Clutch Operation and City Riding) and 15 hazard prediction courses testing the rider’s accident avoidance and prediction skills.
From there, each of these scenarios can be run in three different “condition” modes—Day, Night or Fog—as well as city riding, touring, manual transmission or automatic (scooter) modes.
In all, the SMART Riding Trainer offers 164 different operating scenarios, giving the rider numerous chances to make and correct mistakes in simulation as opposed to out in the real world.
Better still, after completing any riding scenario, Trainer-generated feedback is provided and can be printed in the form of a Completion Certificate, which scores the rider at each hazard of the selected course and can be reviewed with the supervising Honda dealer rep or coach.
Where to catch a SMART Trainer ride
The Honda SMART Riding Trainer has been available at most Honda Powerhouse Honda dealers
, benefitting both prospective customers and HRCA members. Check it out if you have a chance—it’s an excellent tool for evaluating new-rider readiness as well as existing skills and hazard prediction abilities for more experienced riders.