News: Riders course offers tips on motorcycle safety
Story by Lance Cpl. Kenneth Trotter
IWAKUNI, Japan - Summer approaches fast, sitting just beyond the horizon of the spring season. Images of skimpy shorts, muscle T-shirts and children exploring the depths of the local community pool back home may spring to mind.
Another image one might conjure up as the summer months come into view is riding a motorcycle.
The freedom of the two-wheeled experience may bring to mind summers cruising through a country road as the wind rushes past.
The image of weaving through and around traffic in the concrete jungles of the world may be more common to others.
Whatever one’s scene, one thing all riders must take into consideration during the coming summer months is motorcycle safety.
Motorcycle safety is paramount to owning and riding a motorcycle here on station.
Before Marines can purchase a motorcycle, they must attend the Basic Rider’s Course at station safety.
Roland Kallead, Kape Fox Professional Services traffic safety instructor, teaches the Basic Riders Course and Experienced Rider's Course here on station.
“The Basic Riders Course teaches the very basics of riding, even for those who are experienced riders,” said Kallead. “I’ve had people who have been riding for years say they learned something they never knew about riding.”
There are two types of motorcycles commonly known as cruisers and sports bikes, sometimes referred to as “crotch rockets.”
These two machines have small differences between them, but those minute differences are more significant in terms of handling and maneuverability.
The differences between the two motorcycles have resulted in the need for two separate classes. The Basic Riders Course and advanced course focus on teaching students the basics of motorcycle handling.
The course was put on temporary hiatus due to Operation Tomodachi but has since restarted. The times are not set as of yet by station safety but only that it is scheduled to be taken on Saturdays twice a month.
The criteria for signing up for the Basic Riders Course are minimal. Even if Marines and sailors have no prior riding experience, they should try the course.
“I don’t want someone who’s completely new to riding to go and buy a [Suzuki] Hayabusa and then wreck and realize riding isn’t for them,” said Kallead. “New riders should take the course just so they can get the basics down. If they don’t feel comfortable with it they can just walk away before they waste a lot of money.”
The Experienced Riders Course focuses more on hazard avoidance and quick stops. The point of the advanced course is to minimize
the chances of “laying down,” or wrecking a motorcycle.
Students do not have to provide their own equipment for the course, which includes safety gear or personal vehicle.
All students are required to show up with proper identification, a valid driver’s license and a Status of Forces Agreement license.
The Basic Riders Course is taken over a three-day period.
The first day is spent in the classroom learning the basics of riding.
The next two days are spent conducting practical application on the station flight line.
Students must have a SNELL approved safety helmet, a long-sleeved shirt or sweater and full-length trousers to cover the arms and legs and shoes to cover the rider’s entire feet.
“That’s one reason why there is no set schedule with the course,” said Kallead. “The flight line is only allowed on an “as needed” basis when it’s not being used in an official capacity.”
As stated in the beginning, summer is the time of year when motorcyclists are out in full force, taking in the chance to enjoy the riding weather that is available for a few short months.
“There definitely was an increase in the number of riders signing up for the course compared between November, when I first arrived here, to now,” said Kallead. “When I first got here, there were only three to five people signing up per class. Now, there’s a waiting list of nearly 50 people signed up for the coming months.”
The Basic Riders Course involves teaching students the fundamentals of riding before they even place a leg over a motorcycle. An introduction into the various motorcycles and preparing to ride are highly advocated for beginners.
Any Marines or sailors wanting to ride a motorcycle, regardless of previous riding experience, must take the riders course in order to be officially sanctioned to ride on base or out in greater Japan.
The thrill of riding free, the whipping wind against your face, the exhilaration of being free has a subtle allure.
Motorcycles, for some, offer that freedom. But in that freedom, riders must remember to be cautious and take every precaution to nsure they have a safe and happy riding xperience in Japan.