Rider, then Coach, always the Safety Advocate
By Tech Sgt. Joe Woolston, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 28, 2014
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- The critical days of summer are here. The warmer temperatures brings the strange phenomenon of motorized two-wheeled vehicles. When it's warm these "motor-cycles" if-you-will seem to be all over the place.
I ponder on how to define a safe rider. I strive to be a rider who rides within my limits both physically and mentally, encourages the safest alternative regarding personal protective gear, and manages and accepts the least amount of risk.
I became a motorcycle enthusiast about seven years ago. My neighbor in Okinawa, Japan, was always bike-sitting for different deployed Airmen, so there was a constant menacing presence in the carport.
That presence teased me for some time, so I turned it into an opportunity to; at least, go through the base's motorcycle safety course. From there I fell into a cheap bike that lasted the rest of my tour, an endorsement and a year later, I was able to take the course for experienced riders.
Fast-forward five years or so and a rare opportunity to become a rider coach for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation crossed my path. Warmer weather brings tons of fun, especially for motorcyclists in need of a relaxing cruise down the road.
I've been a motorcycle mentor and unit representative for some time, but a rider coach? I jumped at the chance. Rider Coach is a skill set usable after military service, and I like to help when I'm passionate about something. I'm definitely passionate about riding Idaho in the summer.
This native son of Idaho hasn't spent a summer here since becoming an Airman, 15 really cold winters ago. Last fall I got stationed at Mountain Home AFB and found Hank, my Honda CB-650. So, I haven't even had a full summer on two wheels yet.
Gearing up for the motorcycle rider coach course, I have been working on my technique. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributes half of single vehicle motorcycle accidents happen during cornering. So riding all the round-abouts on base has helped me master cornering. It's the last skill on the evaluation, and with all the other operational experience riding around, I was able to ace the final exam.
The Motorcycle Rider Coach Course was 10 days of class to teach novice riders how to be safe on the road. Even more for me, it was a journey into a new mindset. Safety, safety, safety. The first priority of the class speaks volumes for what I am now charged with.
The hot summer months have arrived and I need to prepare my unit riders to enjoy the road as our motorcycle safety representative, but as a rider coach I have to mentor all riders to respect the road. On two wheels there is so much more responsibility and accountability for our own actions, let alone the actions of drivers who may not be looking for motorcycle.
During the MSF Rider Coach class we learned "it's not what I know, but what the student knows." That being said, as a student I am really passionate about riding. As a coach, I am passionate about safe riding. Lastly, as a rider, if I'm committed, the world looks different from two wheels.
Safety is a huge issue not just for us motorcycle riders but for all motorists in general. As the critical days of summer get into swing, we will be out and about more often. I just have to remind myself all the things we are taught. A good riding season starts with a preseason brief. If you haven't had one this year, get one from your unit motorcycle safety representative. It's quick and easy, but gets you ready for the ride.
Remember to inspect your bike every time you go for a ride. The acronym is T-CLOCS. Check the tires and wheels, controls, lights, oil, chassis and stands. The pre-inspection will get you started. Don't forget proper protective equipment. Seek out a mentor to ride with and ride within your skill level.
The summer months give us many great opportunities to ride, but risk is still there and it's significant. I see the campaigns to look twice for motorcyclists, but as one... I know being visible is my responsibility. A world where every motorcyclist is seen every time would be great. Manage the risk, accept what risk is right for you and ride out. Remember safety, safety, safety.