By Tech. Sgt. Joe Woolston
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
I ponder on how to define a safe rider. I strive to ride within my limits both physically and mentally, encourage the safest alternatives regarding personal protective gear and manage and accept 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 presence of motorcycles in our carport.
The motorcycle’s presence teased me for some time, so I turned it into an opportunity to go through the base’s motorcycle safety course. From there, I found a cheap bike that lasted the rest of my tour. A year later, I was able to take the course for experienced riders.
About five years later, I got a rare opportunity to become a rider coach for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. I’ve been a motorcycle mentor and unit representative for some time, but never a rider coach so I jumped at the chance. Becoming a rider coach is a usable skill set after I leave military service, and I like to help when I’m passionate about something.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributes half of single vehicle motorcycle accidents happen during cornering. So, I practiced riding all the round-abouts on base to helped me master it. It’s the last skill on the evaluation to become a rider coach, 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 instruction to teach novice riders how to be safe on the road. 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 as a rider coach I need to prepare my unit riders to respect and enjoy the road. On two wheels, there’s so more responsibility and accountability for our actions, and being constantly aware of the actions of drivers who may not be looking out for motorcyclists.
During the MSF rider coach class, I 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 101 Critical Days of Summer get into full swing, we will be out and about more often. 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 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.
PHOTO: Tech. Sgt. Joe Woolston rides his Honda CV-650 on the parade field of Holt Park May 27, 2014, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Woolston recently completed the Motorcycle Safety Foundation rider coach course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton/Released)