By Karl Weisel (USAG Wiesbaden)March 16, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany -- With longer days and warmer temperatures, some people's thoughts turn to the pleasure of cruising through the countryside on a motorcycle.
For those who haven't been on a bike for a while and those just considering joining their ranks, Wiesbaden's Safety Office offers the perfect refresher and introduction in the form of its motorcycle simulator, located on Wackernheim's McCully Barracks. The state-of-the-art simulator features built-in exercises; options for modifying weather, visibility, time of day and traffic; and various other training resources.
"It's for Soldiers, family members age 18 and over and civilians," said Helmut Schartel, with the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Safety Office.
"Europe has a whole different riding culture than the United States," said Manar Sadek-Shaw, the garrison's safety manager, explaining that the simulator provides a safe learning environment where individuals can make mistakes without ending up injured or worse. "Even if you have 10 years riding experience, when you get here, it's a whole different riding experience.
"Simulation has the unique ability to allow students to repeat tasks without the risk of negative consequences degrading the learning environment," Sadek-Shaw said, adding that through use of the simulator they are "exposed to a safe training environment that allows practicing of real-world speeds in a visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning space to develop critical motor skills and tasks.
"Our goal is not just to train the operators, but to educate them. We put them in dangerous situations in a controlled environment," she said. "The simulator puts them in the mindset to make instant decisions in emergency situations."
Simulator users have three different options, depending on their skills and experience.
Novice motorcyclists, or those still considering whether they even want to take the time to acquire the training and certification necessary to obtain a motorcycle license, should take the Basic Riding Skills course.
"The training is four hours long and a maximum of four students can attend," said Sadek-Shaw.
A three-hour-long Motorcycle Emergency Situations course provides riders with mental and hands-on practice in obstacle avoidance, safe cornering, traction management and environmental hazards. Up to six students can take the course at a time.
Experienced riders are invited to take the Advanced Riding Skills course which concentrates on developing "a higher level of defensive riding techniques," she said. "The training is eight hours long, and a maximum of two students can attend."
Before trying any of the various programs available, students are given the opportunity to acclimate themselves to the simulator which is modeled after a BMW R1150. The 10-minute orientation ride is conducted before every lesson.
"The simulator reduces learner anxiety. Learning is easier and less stressful than on the range," she said.
"We're the only garrison in Europe that has this riding simulator," Sadek-Shaw said.
Even the most experienced motorcyclists can benefit from the simulator training, said the safety advisers.
"We can say we have two large groups of motorcycle accidents," said Schartel, explaining that most can be split into either cases where the motorcyclist is at fault through driving while intoxicated, speeding or not being in the right frame of mind, or accidents involving other vehicles where in 75 percent of those situations the other driver is at fault. Most often these accidents occur at intersections.
Through use of the simulator training, motorcyclists can practice "Searching, Evaluating and Executing" responses to unexpected and potentially dangerous situations.
"The training is conducted by Motorcycle Safety Foundation rider coaches," said Sadek-Shaw, pointing out that with an MSF-certified rider coach on hand students get personalized training. "You get one-on-one coaching and mentoring training" where students also have the ability to go back and examine how they reacted, whether positively or negatively, using playback of recorded lessons.
"We're also looking for motorcycle riders to serve as mentors for their fellow motorcycle riders," the safety manager said. Interested individuals should have three years of continuous riding experience, at least three months riding experience in Germany and have had no moving violations within the past six months.
For more information about the motorcycle simulator or serving as a mentor call the garrison Safety Office at mil 337-6133/7415 or civ (0611) 705-6133/7415. People can also email the safety office at WiesbadenMMP@eur.army.mil to get involved in the Motorcycle Mentor Program.