By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
FORT CARSON, Colo. — More than two dozen riders maneuvered through multiple obstacles under the watchful eye of Fort Carson motorcycle mentors Oct. 9, 2020.
Mentors were looking for specific actions as they evaluated the riders during the more than two-hour long event at a training area near Gate 4. The 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson End-of-Season Motorcycle Training Event mentored riders about important safety topics and provided one-on-one tips and advice for those who participated.
“Most of the riders here have been riding for more than five years,” said Chris Horton, a Fort Carson Motorcycle Mentor Program consultant and the program’s former lead mentor. “This is not a required course for riders on post, but it is an opportunity for them to build skills, get more comfortable and develop a bond with their motorcycle.”
Mentors took riders through their paces during activities that featured braking, swerving and obstacle avoidance, as a means for replicating scenarios they could potentially see on roads — on and off post.
“We’ve had 45 motorcycle mishaps in fiscal 2020,” said Mike Sabatini, deputy safety director, 4th Inf. Div. “That includes six fatalities. The thing is not all of them were bad. We had 14 cases where the Soldier rider lost control due to sand, mud, gravel or situational awareness on the road, maybe making a left turn into a drive way or coming around to Gate 1 and sliding on some sand and laying the bike down. We also had nine mishaps that involved motorists either cutting in front of a Soldier rider or rear ending them. Those weren’t negligence or tomfoolery on the part of the rider … they just happened.”
Henderson said most motorcycle incidents occur at low speed and are the result of riders not having confidence. So they don’t respond by braking or swerving in a way that helps them avoid obstacles.
According to Henderson, the event mentors were evaluating riders on their balance and posture, while Horton added that mentors were also helping riders develop familiarity with their machines.
“A lot of motorcycle riding is done by feel,” Horton said. “A motorcycle will go straight by itself. It does not need a whole lot of help to do that. But it needs our help to be able to turn. When we start manipulating with our hands on the controls — the clutch, the throttle and the handle bar turn — we can affect how the bike responds to what we want it to do. The better we are at developing that bond with the motorcycle, the more precisely we can control it at low speeds.”
Though the event culminated the 4th Inf. Div.’s mentorship training for the 2020 riding season, the rider mentorship doesn’t end there.
“We have these Fort Carson level mentorship events a few times a year, but these types of events are going on at lower levels regularly,” Sabatini said. “Right now, we have 627 registered motorcycle riders in our mentorship program. We’re tracking them and our company, battalion- and brigade-level motorcycle mentors are both holding training events regularly and sitting down to talk one-on-one with riders about mishap prevention. The mentors want to help mitigate risk.”