Viewpoint: T 'is the season... to ride!
By Christopher Smith, 460th Space Wing Safety
/ Published March 10, 2011
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Now that we have gotten past the worst day of the year, setting our clocks ahead and losing an hour of sleep, we can start to look forward to some warmer and sunnier days; if you're a motorcycle rider that means it's riding season. So...are you ready? Do you know what the requirements are to ride...legally? Do you have all the required personnel protective equipment (PPE)? Are you up to date on training? Is your bike checked out and ready to ride?
Let's start with training and protective equipment. If you are a military member, an approved Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) training course is mandatory if you want to ride on or off base. The good news is you don't have to pay for it. If you are stationed at Buckley AFB just contact the base safety office (847-SAFE) and we can get you started. The bad news is that if you don't contact us before you get the training we may not be able to reimburse you. If you're a Department of Defense civilian employee and want to ride on base or ride while on duty you are also required to have the training. If you work for another branch of the military there may be additional requirements for you to ride, check your safety guidance for further information. No matter where you work MSF training is a good idea.
In most MSF courses they will assist you with obtaining your state motorcycle license at the end of the course, as long as you pass. The state requirements for riding a motorcycle vary depending on the state but in Colorado only riders and passengers under 18 are required to wear a helmet. Keep in mind that is the state law, if you are military, or for anyone riding on a military installation, you must wear a helmet at all times. Helmets must be Department of Transportation approved and there is a list of other required personal protective equipment that must be worn by military members when operating or riding on a motorcycle; gloves, eye protection, foot protection, protective clothing and brightly colored clothing are also required. For a complete list of requirements please see Air Force Instruction 91-207 and Department of Defense Instruction 6055.4.
You've been trained and have all the protective equipment; you're licensed; now you're ready to ride right? Almost but not quite; before you hit the road you need to make sure your bike is road ready. You can either take your bike to a mechanic and have them check it out or if you're mechanically inclined you can do it yourself. A common inspection that riders perform is the T-CLOCS inspection:
T - Tires and wheels
C - Controls
L - Lights
O - Oil
C - Chassis
S - Stands
You can find a MSF checklist for performing this inspection at the following website http://www.msf-usa.org/downloads/T-CLOCSInspectionChecklist.pdf
Once you're trained, dressed for safety and your bike is checked out and ready to go it's time to hit the road. When riding in Colorado, especially in early Spring, road conditions can present a challenge. The roads are riddled with pot holes and gravel left over from the winter so beware when you ride. In addition to the road conditions the state has an abundance of wildlife that have a tendency to cross the road at the worst possible time. All of these things can present quite a challenge to the motorcycle rider but sometimes the biggest hazard of all is the other vehicle operators on the road. Many 4-wheel vehicle operators sometimes have trouble seeing motorcycles so be sure to ride defensively at all times.
Once you have some experience riding you may start to feel that need for speed. That's ok, going fast can be fun as long as you don't hit anything while you're doing it so make sure you do it in the right environment. There are several tracks in Colorado where you can take your street bike and run laps as long as you get the proper training and wear the proper gear. The advantages of riding fast on a track are that you don't have obstacles to hit or other drivers to avoid, and it's legal of course. No matter where you ride or how you ride make sure you ride to live.