Motorcyclists get ready to ride

YOUNGSTOWN AIR RESERVE STATION, Ohio --

The morning began with a roar. The drivers revved the engines of their motorcycles as they steered their bikes into position, chrome shimmering in the sunlight. All of the riders had done this before. All of them veteran motorcyclists. They came to this vacant parking lot not for the thrill of the ride or because they were participating in some great motorcycle rally.

No.

At 9 a.m., July 14, 2017, eight military members and civilian motorcyclists started their engines and donned their helmets at YARS to learn about and practice motorcycle safety.

The Air Force motorcycle safety course is a mandatory requirement for all military and civilian personnel who wish to ride a motorcycle onto base as described in Air Force Instruction 91-207. The course ensures that participants are provided with the right information and training to become advanced riders. It begins with the participants performing a pre-ride inspection of their motorcycle, moves to five hours of riding exercises and concludes with both a written and skill-based test.

When the riding exercises begin, participants watch an instructor led demonstration. Then, riders practice as a group.

“Interaction with other people is a large part of the course,” said Master Sgt. Vince Bartlomain, a flight engineer with 910th Operations Group and the wing motorcycle safety representative here. “You need to know how to drive around other people and interact.”

Bartlomain has been riding for more than three decades and has been an instructor for Motorcycle Ohio for 11 of those years.

“The first time people go through an exercise, it’s chaos,” said Bartlomain. “Everybody is going different speeds and trying to figure out the exercise: taking a turn too tight or too wide, putting their feet down, hitting cones. But after two or three times through, they get it. They all sync up. It kind of looks like a motorcycle ballet.”

When participants complete one circuit of an exercise, they can expect a critique from instructors as to how they are doing and what techniques to utilize so they can improve.

“It’s more of a student-based learning,” said Bartlomain. “We have them continue the exercises until they get it. Only then do we stop and move on.”
When an exercise comes to an end, the riders huddle together and discuss what they struggled with, how they overcame it and ultimately what they have learned. Not just with the instructors, but with each other as well.

“I’ve been riding on and off for about 30 years now,” said Chief Master Sgt. Robert Potts, the command chief of the 910th Airlift Wing here. “It’s been a while since I owned a motorcycle, and even though it’s required I wanted a refresher.”

According to Motorcycle Ohio, research shows that 92 percent of motorcyclists involved in crashes were either self-taught or trained by family or friends and had less than five months experience on their motorcycles. Those riders, who were untrained or undertrained, did not understand how to effectively use their brakes and were unable to remain in control of their motorcycles.

Thus the need for the motorcycle safety course.

Whether someone is new to riding or a life-long veteran the 910th AW motorcycle safety course ensures that its military members and employees are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to be safe when on the road.