Motorcycle course sharpens riding skills
April 12, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (April 12, 2012) -- Sgt. 1st Class Mike Alves has been riding motorcycles, from dirt bikes to sports bikes, for 25 years.
On Friday, he was weaving his brown Harley Davidson Sportster in and around cones spread throughout the Fort Meade motorcycle training range across from McGlachin Parade Field.
Alves was one of six experienced motorcyclists who spent the day sharpening their riding skills while renewing their Army-required training to drive a motorcycle.
Throughout the year, Fort Meade's Installation Safety Office offers three different motorcycle training courses for Soldiers looking to hit the streets on two wheels.
"The Army requires we do this, but I'll take a Friday off and go ride around," said Alves, of the Baltimore Military Entrance Processing Command. "[It] works for me."
Aaron Rowell, an ISO Safety and Occupational Health specialist, said there has been an increased focus on motorcycle safety DoD-wide.
Army Regulation 385-10 mandates that Soldiers are certified riders through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. This includes taking a Basic Rider Course and Experienced Rider Course, or Military Sport Bike Course. Sport bike riders and those new to motorcycles must take the Basic Rider Course. In some cases, veteran riders can go straight to the experienced course.
Within one year of completing the Basic Rider Course, riders must take one of the advanced courses. Army regulation also states that riders complete the secondary classes every three years.
The free Fort Meade classes are offered to active-duty Soldiers, Reservists and National Guardsmen.
Alves, who has taken the Experienced Rider Course four times, said the classes are advantageous for riders of all levels since motorcyclists can always develop new skills.
"I'm still picking things up," he said. "It's beneficial to everybody."
The courses focus on similar safety messages and strategies including lane position, rider radar, stopping distances, common situations and traffic management. But each course looks at different aspects of riding and vary in maneuvers used during range sessions. The courses aim to cover all aspects of riding.
The Basic Rider Course for beginners is a two-day class that includes classroom time to teach the fundamentals of riding and helps riders develop strategies to lower and manage their risk.
Course instructor Bob Hansen of CapeFox Government Services said the basic class benefits even veteran motorcyclists who have been riding for years.
"Just because they ride a lot and for a long time doesn't mean they're good riders," Hansen said. "Even experienced riders can learn a lot in the basic class."
After completing the Basic Rider Course, motorcyclists advance to either the Experienced Rider Course or the Military Sport Bike Course, depending on the style of motorcycle they ride. Advanced classes are taught in just one day.
The Military Sport Bike Course includes about two hours of classroom instruction, which is devoted to personal risk assessment, Hansen said. Following class time, riders use the range to work on maneuvers suited for sport bikes such as increased lean angles.
Unlike the basic and sport bike courses, the Experienced Rider Course doesn't include classroom time. Instead, the class provides a safety discussion between riding drills.
"We work on the more finer aspects of handling the motorcycle at higher speeds and tighter maneuvers," Hansen said.
On the range, riders from all courses participate in various drills such as weaving between cones, making tight turns or driving through narrow lines to hone their skills.
"The maneuvers that they're being instructed on are a lot more encompassing than they might normally deal with when riding," Rowell said.
Alves said the drills show riders their limits and assures them that they can quickly respond to certain situations that may occur while riding. After weaving between cones, Alves said he had to use a similar technique to avoid deer on the road earlier in the day.
"When you're on the road it's a lot of straights, a lot of turns; you don't have to go around poles like this," he said. "It really makes you remember things like clutch control. It really keeps your skills up in case you come into that situation."
The drills, Hansen said, may not be maneuvers that riders will use regularly on the roads, but they incorporate many techniques that can be used in a variety of situations.
"We can't duplicate real-world riding experiences here," he said. "But we can duplicate the maneuvers that would train you to use your controls and motorcycle so you could make those real-world maneuvers."
For more information or to enroll, visit the Installation Safety Office webpage at www.ftmeade.army.mil/safety.
Visit http://go.usa.gov/mE2 for more photos from the motorcycle safety training.