By Amy Becar
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Summer in Colorado brings hot sunshine, flip-flops, and barbecues with friends. As the weather heats up in Colorado, motorcycle riders emerge from winter hibernation and pull out their bikes. It is not uncommon to see half a dozen or so motorcycles zipping down Falcon Parkway on Schriever during the summer season.
However, while the temperatures rise into the nineties, Schriever motorcycle riders cannot follow the crowd and strip off their outer layers; one of the main stipulations to riding a motorcycle on Schriever is that one follows the dress code.
“Motorcycle riders must wear a Department of Transportation approved helmet, goggles, wrap around glasses, or a full-face shield, long pants, long sleeved outer upper garment…brightly colored during the day, reflective at night, sturdy over the ankle closed toed footwear, and full fingered gloves,” said Tech Sgt. Sarah Law, NCO in charge of Ground Safety here.
Though it all might seem a little stifling, the get-up is important because it makes riders more visible to automobiles and provides a barrier between skin and asphalt should they get into an accident.
“I’ve had accidents,” said Chief Master Sgt. Randy LaCombe, 50th Space Wing Command Chief, and also a 30 year veteran motorcycle rider. “Wearing my personal protection equipment saved my life — and my wife’s life.”
Not only does personal protection equipment keep riders safe from the asphalt, but also the dangerous and fickle Colorado summer storms.
“During the summer, a motorcycle rider needs to be aware of lightning, high winds, heavy rain, and hail,” said Sergeant Law. “The key to planning any activity is thorough risk management, and for a motorcycle rider, that means taking weather conditions into account.”
Assessing current and future weather conditions is important for any motorcycle rider, whether on or off base. However, getting onto the base with one’s bike is another matter.
All motorcycle riders who wish to ride their bike on base must take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course and then receive a motorcycle endorsement on their license. Schriever does not provide a class for riders to take; however, the Wing Safety Office does have a list of available classes in the Colorado Springs area.
“Was training helpful? Absolutely,” said Chief LaCombe. “I definitely suggest riders take a refresher course every three years or so.”
Once a rider has his or her license endorsed and has taken the safety class, they are set to go. Some individuals’ major commands require that they take a refresher course or an Experienced Rider Course every three years. However, unless one’s MAJCOM specifically states it, taking a refresher course is not mandatory.
“It is also recommended that riders who are stationed overseas for extended periods of time take a refresher course upon their return to a state-side base,” said Sergeant Law. “Especially if they have gone that entire overseas assignment without riding their motorcycle.”
Taking the training course is not only a good refresher, but it also teaches riders small details and tips from safety to driving techniques to wearing proper gear.
“Training has made me more aware of how not to get myself killed,” said Paula Fraass, sexual assault response coordinator for Schriever, who has been riding dirt bikes since she was little and picked up motorcycling in 2006. “I’m very cautious now about loose gravel, especially because we have so much of it after our snowy winters.”
As well as taking a training course to learn how to be a good driver, motorcycle riders should also be wise in choosing an appropriately sized and powered bike. The ability to control one’s bike is important, especially when riding a powerful and speedy motorcycle that can be tempting to rev.
“I have a Yamaha R-6. It has 600 CC, which is enough power for someone my size,” said Ms. Fraass. “A lot of people go for the big bike — guys especially. You should really start out small and get comfortable and gain control before you go for a bigger bike.”
It may be that the smaller the vehicle, the bigger the fall. While cautious driving is important for automobile drivers, it is even more crucial for motorcycle riders, who rarely ever win out against a car.
“Motorcycle safety is so important because it is a relatively risky activity compared to driving in a 4-wheeled, full-bodied vehicle,” said Sergeant Law. “In a car, all occupants have extra protection should they get into an accident…for instance, seatbelts, air bags, and several hundred pounds of steel surrounding them. A motorcycle does not offer the same type of protection.”
Though driving a motorcycle can be very dangerous, riders can protect themselves from unnecessary risks if they prepare both their body and mind.
“There are three things I would tell all riders,” said Chief LaCombe. “Don’t ride if you are having an emotional day, always keep your head on a swivel, and never drink and ride.”