Given consumers rising concerns about gas prices, Rachel Oxrieder figures her year-old North Spokane business is in a good position to capitalize on their shift toward more fuel-efficient vehiclesspecifically, those with two wheels.
Oxrieder owns Spokane MotorSchool, which offers training for motorcyclists of various skill and experience levels. The school is subsidized in part by a contract from the Washington state Department of Licensing and uses the widely adopted national Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) curriculum.
Although the practical reasons for riding a motorcycle might be a more alluring factor now than in the past, Oxrieder says shes driven more by passion.
I just love motorcycling. Its just a different way to move through the world, she says. Through her school, she says, The whole goal is to increase the awareness of everyone and to put safe, responsible motorcyclists on the road, and to reduce fatalities.
Oxrieder calls it a huge responsibility to set the example, set the standard for new and novice riders to follow, but decided some years ago that, I wanted to help others become better.
Her school provides classroom instruction in a leased 750-square-foot office space at 10220 N. Nevada and hands-on training and testing on a leased northern portion of the big parking lot that adjoins the former Newport Cinema building.
The school offers beginner, novice, and intermediate rider classes, ranging in price from $75 to $199, as well as private lessons for $100 an hour. It also offers sidecar- and trike-motorcycle training classes through an arrangement with the Seattle-based Evergreen Safety Council, introduced a well-attended scooter class last month, and plans to launch a police-style training class for civilians next year.
It offers some of its novice classes in a women-only format, taught by female instructors, and Oxrieder says, Those are wildly popular. Ive never seen anyone cheering each other on during testing before.
Oxrieder is the sole proprietor of the business, but says she uses 25 state- and MSF-certified contract instructors, including her husband, Garth, which is up from five when she opened the school. Each class has two instructors and a maximum of 12 students.
Oxrieder estimates that more than 1,200 students will receive training at the school this year and says she expects that number to rise to more than 1,400 in 2009. Despite startup expenses that included acquiring a number of training motorcycles, she says, the school already is profitable and has grown more rapidly than she expected.
I think the gas prices have a lot to do with that, she says. She says also, though, that the increased number of motorcyclists on the road appears to stir more interest among people who havent ridden before.
Washington state law requires all motorcycle riders to obtain an endorsement, and provides two ways to obtain one. One way is to pass a motorcycle knowledge test at a state Department of Licensing office, which allows the applicant to get an instruction permit, then pass a motorcycle riding test administered by DOL employees. The other way is to complete and pass an approved rider course at a motorcycle training school and take the completion card to a DOL office within 180 days to have the knowledge and riding test waived.
Spokane MotorSchool is one of just two businesses here that are approved to offer those courses, and both receive state subsidy money to do so. The other is Westside Motorsports, at 4201 S. Grove Road, on the West Plains.
Oxrieder says she began making plans to open her business here after learning that the DOL planned to let a second contract in the Spokane area for motorcycle endorsement training. The state decided to do so, she says, after a task force study showed alarming statistics involving the number of untrained riders on the road and a rising fatality rate.
She applied for the two-year contract in the spring of last year, found out a few weeks later that shed won it, then opened the school on July 1. She says shell seek to renew the contract next summer, when its due to expire, and if all goes well, she hopes to begin searching for a piece of land where she can construct her own fenced training facility, including an office and classroom building, two training ranges, and possibly a dirt bike track.
Oxrieder, a Seattle native, has been a state-certified instructor for five years and has been riding for 22 years.
She started riding when she was 15 by taking an MSF course in Hawaii, where she was living and attending high school at the time, she says. My stepdad asked me to take it with him. He wanted to get a motorcycle and asked me if I wanted to take it together, she says.
That was all it took, she says, to get her hooked. She owned a used, beat-up old Honda 400 initially, then bought a Honda CBR 600 sport bike after moving back to the U.S. a few years later and working initially in the Seattle area as a cosmetologist. She took an intermediate training course through the Evergreen Safety Council, in Seattle, then went to a private school there, called the Northwest Motorcycle School, for more advanced, police-style training.
I wanted more learning. I wanted the next level. I wanted to become a better motorcyclist, Oxrieder says, adding, I guess I just like to challenge myself and learn new things.
The 30-hour course she took through the Northwest Motorcycle School was an incredible experience, incredibly challenging, she says. It increased my riding ability 80 percent from what it was. I learned how to do things that I didnt think the motorcycle was even capable of doing.
Based on her performance in that class, she was recruited by a private motorcade company to become a professional motorcycle escort officer, working parades, funerals, and other such events, and did that for four years on a part-time, then a full-time, basis. Oxrieder also worked during that time as a riding instructor for three companies on the West Side, in each case following the personal mentor who had been her instructor at the Evergreen Safety Council.
She moved to Spokane two years ago to be with Garth after meeting him in 2005 when he traveled to Seattle to attend a fundraiser for a motorcycling friend whom she also knew. The two quickly struck up a relationship, and they married in June of last year.
Garth works for the state here, adjudicating unemployment claims, and also owns a business named the Paul Bunyan Tree Service that specializes in hazardous tree-removal jobs. Hes just like a monkey (the way he climbs around in the trees). Its amazing, she says.
Oxrieder worked briefly in bookkeeping and construction-company management after moving here, and spent a few months as a motorcycle instructor at Westside Motorsports, before deciding to strike out on her own.
The stresses of operating a small business havent dulled her enthusiasm for two-wheeling. To the contrary, she says, Its wonderfully challenging.
Contact Kim Crompton at (509) 344-1263 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Subscribe today to our free E-Newsletters!SUBSCRIBE