Get ready to be inspired, because the same man who taught Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jim Carrey and Martin Lawrence (long before "Wild Hogs") to ride motorcycles is the same man who can teach you about being safe on a bike. And he is as close as the north end of the Valley College campus.
Michael "Red" Runyon is the guy with the Hollywood clientele and a down home approach rooted in his West Virginia upbringing.
"Proper preparation always prevents poor performance," he says without a hint of pessimism on his part.
Runyon, 53, is the owner of the Motorcycle Training Center of Canoga Park, but on weekends for the last 10 years, he has been holding classes-through an arrangement with Valley-in north parking lots B and D.
That’s where you’ll find him with his various bikes and equipment he provides.
The relationship with Valley is aimed at benefiting both parties.
"Here at Valley, we rent the facility to do this course," Runyon said. "Faculty members get a discount and students under 21 get to do it free."
Basic training is provided-straight line riding, shifting, stopping, turning, low speed maneuvering, emergency braking and swerving.
"When students come to us, they ride at a pace that’s comfortable for them," he says. "We don’t have a pass-fail, so they can keep coming back here until they get [the training] right."
In addition to teaching the "how-to" side of motorcycle riding, Runyon also has to undo some trepidation with some of his students.
"We get a lot of people who’ve tried to ride and have already crashed," he said. "Since they have already crashed, they come in with fear. It’s our job to try to convince them the only one they’re scared of is themselves. It can’t be the machine … you control the machine. What we teach them is to have confidence."
Runyon adds the two biggest words he uses to teach sometimes reluctant motorcycle students are, "I believe."
"Believe in yourself. Believe you’re in control," he says.
The advice is working for first-time rider Jesus Casas.
"What’s good about Red is that he’s lenient…but not too lenient," said the 25-year-old Casas. "He knows how to talk to people. He’s tough on some of us and easy on others depending on their personality. He’s an excellent instructor."
Safety is also on the mind of student Thomas Scott who says Runyon’s training is important.
"There’s a lot of riding," Scott says of the beginning motorcycle training course. "There is some book work, but I think you need more hands-on training especially if you’re going to be out in traffic."
Scott adds that with the price of gasoline going up, a motorcycle could be an economical way of getting around.
"[Motorcycles] are pretty affordable. I’m not one of those guys who want to get on the road and speed," he says. "I want to be able to get where I’m going in a timely fashion."
Runyon says students shouldn’t confuse his course with the state of California’s motorcycle certificate program. His is a private program.
And if you need more inspiration, Runyon leaves us with this:
"Learn from the past, watch the present, and create the future." Those are words to ride and live by.