First of all, I find it unusual that someone could even survive 20 years of consistent riding if they had not learned some skills. Still being basically a new rider after 20 years is highly unlikely IMO.
However, that does not make it impossible. I am an auto mechanic, and have been for 32 years, since age 18. But even before that, I was learning about mechanical things. I successfully rebuilt my first 2 stroke dirt bike engine at age 8. I am seeing a lot of new mechanics out there, who just went through some type of vocational training school, and most of them have know idea what they are doing. There is a huge difference in "going through the motions" which is what most schools teach these days, and actually understanding what you are doing and why. Some of these people do fairly well until they run into a problem that they were not taught in school, then they have no idea what to do.
The advent of electronics in cars has seriously intensified this problem. I grew up building and rebuilding engines, transmissions, etc. and learned how they actually work. I eventually reached the point where I was deviating from stock specs, and built a number of racing engines, one of which I am racing right now, with pretty decent results.
Most of todays new mechanics, or "technicians" as they are now called (that is now my job title as well, and I am none to happy about it) are mainly into the "electronic diagnostics" end of things. Very few of them could rebuild an engine or transmission. If they can't hook it up to computerized diagnostic equipment, then they are totally lost.
Even I admit I don't understand the electronic stuff, other than it fails a lot. It takes more electronic stuff to find the problem, then you simply replace the defective part, only an electronics engineer would understand exactly how that part works.
I have to constantly go back to school to keep up on the latest stuff, but they only teach you how to "go through the motions"
I needed to have the 2 speed automatic transmission in my '64 Ford rebuilt, and called every transmission shop in town. None of them could do it. Because I didn't have the proper equipment at home, like a hydraulic lift, and because I have fairly severe arthritis, I really didn't want to do it myself, but realized I didn't have a choice. I ordered the parts, and tore into the thing. I couldn't believe how simple it was. I didn't even have a manual for it, but had gotten some information from internet forums. Going slow and taking my time, checking and rechecking everything, I had it done in a few hours. The only hard part was getting it out and putting it back.
Anyway, back to riding, I think the same thing applies.You can't learn to ride from a book. You have to learn WHY things are the way they are, then translate that knowledge into usable skills, which you need to continue to hone throughout your riding life. There is no such thing as a perfect rider, we are all students, but some of us are better students than others. The fact is, that while most people could learn the basics of riding a motorcycle around in a parking lot, very few should ever be riding on the street. Riding a motorcycle on the street (and not getting killed) requires knowledge and skills far beyond "going through the motions".
Having worked for my city for 32 years, I HAVE been through some police motorcycle officer training (seniority has it's privileges). And while I did learn a few things, I didn't run into any surprises. Everything made perfect sense.
Lastly, it is nice to see someone acknowledge the importance and value of the Hurt Report. I have a paper copy of that report, which I obtained shortly after it was published, and have read it many times. I figure I owe the late Professor Harry Hurt my life more than once. Jerry.
I am a motorcyclist, NOT a biker.
1997 Vulcan 750, purchased about a week ago
2006 Sportster 1200 Low
2013 Royal Enfield Bullet 500, converted to carb
2001 Yamaha XT225, heavily modified
2004 Honda Rebel 250
1979 Vespa P200E
2002 Vulcan 750 parts bike
1994 Yamaha XT225 parts bike