My Bike is an Extension of My Core

Photo:Motorcycle riders from various units prepare to depart on their safety ride May 23, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The ride is part of a joint 101 Days of Summer Safety Expo conducted to educate both young and experienced riders on the importance of motorcycle safety. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Fredrick J. Coleman/Released)

Motorcycle riders from various units prepare to depart on their safety ride May 23, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The ride is part of a joint 101 Days of Summer Safety Expo conducted to educate both young and experienced riders on the importance of motorcycle safety. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Fredrick J. Coleman/Released)

Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Johnson

As a child all my Christmas wish lists started the same way for what seemed like an eternity. Something with two wheels and a motor was all I ever dreamed of.

Then one day it happened, sitting in my driveway was the best looking dirt bike I’d ever laid my eyes on. In a frantic childlike manner I leaped full speed into becoming a rider. Even though I spent years thinking about that very moment, boy was I unprepared for the reality of riding. After logging enough hours to permanently leave an impression on that seat, countless scars, broken bones and run-ins with Mother Earth, I finally learned the importance of safety and was able to get my motor driven cycle license at 14 (thanks to the sweet laws in Alabama).I have been on the road ever since.

I’m still sporting all the scars and remain hopelessly addicted to life on two wheels.

Today, my motorcycle is far more than just a means of transportation, it’s my sanctuary. I struggle to find the words adequate enough to articulate the peaceful solitude found cruising down a winding country road. That bike is a part of me, an extension of my core.

Over the years, I’ve helped many new riders acclimate to life on two wheels. I’ve worked with all types of new riders, even the daring crotch rocket kind. Each time I meet a new rider I begin by sharing the same philosophy, “The second you stop fearing your bike is the moment it’s time to sell it.” The facts are clear and the statistics are everywhere. Motorcycles are dangerous. Even to the most experienced riders, hazards are simply unavoidable.

If you choose to follow me and my fellow riders down that two-wheel path you need to do your part to minimize those risks. There is no substitute for experience, so seek the advice of those who’ve logged a mile or two. There are safety courses available to accelerate your learning curve. Even though I’ve been riding motorcycles years longer than cars or trucks, I learned and polished riding skills during my Basic Rider Safety Course and still use those lessons today.

Photo: Riders participate in the Third Annual Military Motorcycle Safety Ride and Bike Show in Norfolk, Va. on May 3, 2013. The 135-mile motorcycle ride hosted by Naval Station Norfolk provided an opportunity to ride with co-workers while promoting the safe operation of motorcycles. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Molly Greendeer/Released)

Riders participate in the Third Annual Military Motorcycle Safety Ride and Bike Show in Norfolk, Va. on May 3, 2013. The 135-mile motorcycle ride hosted by Naval Station Norfolk provided an opportunity to ride with co-workers while promoting the safe operation of motorcycles. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Molly Greendeer/Released)

In the meantime, let me share my three favorite pieces of motorcycle wisdom to keep you safe right now:

1.)Stick to roads you know.
2.)Stay away from congested areas.
3.)Wear protective gear.

I realize some of these rules are easier to follow than others; it’s hard to become familiar with roads when you PCS to a new location every couple of years and it’s Newton’s Law of Military Installations that traffic to and from base gets congested. Wearing protective gear, however, is completely within your control.

Style is a huge unnecessary obstacle for many riders to overcome. Gearing up with all the Personal Protective Equipment required by the Department of Defense can really seem like more of a hassle than a benefit. I mean, what if I’m just going down the street? Do I really need all of it?

Having been stationed at the beach I’ve seen it all. Shirtless, board short sporting, flip-flop wearing riders are prime examples of riders endangering themselves (right up there with the ones who pop wheelies on the interstate in traffic).

Thankfully, the DoD has gotten – service members like to ride. They’ve incorporated policies for motorcycle riders into their “DoD Traffic Safety Program” to help keep us safe and have embraced motorcycle safety awareness with open arms. Regardless of what type of machine tickles your fancy, protective gear is always necessary.

If you’re headed to work or to meet up with the crew, go ahead and take the time to don all that PPE. The fact that the DoD only covers those who are properly geared shouldn’t be your only motivation. You’re already on a motorcycle so everyone else on the road is jealous regardless of your full face helmet, sleeves and gloves (unless it’s raining of course).

The weather is getting prime and the rumble of bikes will quickly become more frequent. Do your part to keep yourself and other motorists safe on the road and please, PLEASE watch for motorcycles when you’re not riding one yourself.

Editors note: The DoD Traffic Safety Program was updated on January 23, 2013 Click here for the updated version.

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