Many motorcyclists say there is nothing like the feeling of flying down the highway on two wheels with a sunset stretched out ahead.
But before hitting the open road, Airmen and civilians, and many throughout the Air Force, must complete an approved motorcycle safety course and pass a comprehensive practical exam.
“So many people ride on a regular basis, it’s important to ensure they’re properly trained and are aware of the inherent risks of riding a motorcycle,” said Doug Harmon, 30th Space Wing motorcycle safety manager, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Vandenberg, Calif.
“We can’t prevent every tragedy, but at least we can make sure our people have the tools they need to make it home safely at the end of the day.”
Filling that need at Vandenberg is a local motorcycle training site offering a basic rider course to both experienced riders and novices. Central Coast Motorcycle Training offers its basic rider course to experienced riders and novices alike.
“I’ve sat on my boyfriend’s motorcycle and shifted the gears in the driveway,” said Staff Sgt. Tracey Gowins of the 576th Flight Test Squadron. “Riding with him is what really made me want to learn and get my license, too.”
Seasoned bikers provide in-depth instruction in the classroom and on the range to give beginners an introduction to the skills they need to master before hitting the streets. More experienced riders get the chance to correct some of the bad habits they have picked up over the years.
Tech. Sgt. Scott Alguire, of the 30th Logistics Readiness Squadron, has been teaching the course for about a year and said everyone who goes through it has something to learn.
“I took the basic rider course as part of the instructor course, and learned I’d already picked up some bad habits in just a couple of years,” Sergeant Alguire said.
Just as operational risk management plays a key role in military operations, risk management is a top priority in motorcycle riding.
“On a motorcycle, you’re just hanging out there,” Sergeant Alguire said. “There’s no cage around you to protect you like there is in a car.”
During his classroom instruction Sergeant Alguire stressed the importance of being seen by car and truck drivers who are not always attentive to those on motorcycles. Good motorcycle riders are those who constantly assess the risks around them and actively work to lower them, he said.
On the range, instructors Angel Hoyos and Rick Miles guided students through a variety of basic riding events. The scenarios are designed to teach students how to avoid dangerous situations and how to safely get out of those situations that can’t be avoided.
The course is open to riders of every level and is free to military and civil servants who sign up through the safety office. It takes place in four parts on consecutive Wednesdays and Sundays in Santa Maria.
After completing the course and taking a practical exam, participants earn a certificate exempting them from taking the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ motorcycle license road test. It also allows them to register and ride their motorcycle on base.
“Riding a motorcycle is a risky sport,” Sergeant Alguire said. “But the fun that comes along with it is awesome.”
Similar courses are available at other Air Force bases.
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