Program teaches lifesaving motorcycle skills

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Bernard Willis
  • 178th FIghter Wing Safety
Even though I've been riding for almost all of my life, I just recently realized how much I didn't know about motorcycles. This past summer, I was lucky enough to meet some professional motorcycle riders and find out that there is an art to making a motorcycle perform at its limit.

The popularity of motorcycles as a sport and hobby continues to increase. However, many new riders lack skills and experience and will become unfortunate casualties of crashes on their new found toys. Too many fatalities occur each year from these very circumstances.

All branches of the military have specific motorcycle safety programs and continually try to emphasize basic safety and mentoring programs. The National Guard decided several years ago to use professional motorcycle racers to help educate military servicemembers.

The American Motorcycle Association professional road racing series (AMA Pro Superbike) has a new up-and-coming team that is getting a lot of new interest from servicemembers. Michael Jordan Motorsports (yeah that MJ) is taking on the task of fielding a National Guard sponsored race bike, emblazoned with the red, white and blue and numbered 54 for all of the states and territories where guardsmen serve. A rider associated with the team, Jason Pridmore, offered his time to take servicemembers for passenger rides (referred to as "two-up") on a 1000cc superbike.

This past summer I attended the AMA Pro race in Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Road America) where the Michael Jordan Motorsport team was also competing. I was asked if I would like to go for a ride around the track with profession racer Jason Pridmore. The two-up bike had a rear seat, foot pegs and a uniquely fashioned fuel tank with handles on the back so passengers can reach around the rider to hold on. The team fully equipped me with safety gear and Jason gives a short briefing. He then took the bike out for a warm up lap, and then we were off to the races...

Jason talked to us afterward and invited us to come out to his riding school, Skills and Techniques for Advanced Riding Motorcycle School,(STAR) on a National Guard Day. National Guard Day is a free track day experience funded by the National Guard for military members to come out and learn more about their bikes, improve their riding skill, and ultimately their safety. There are eight National Guard Days scheduled at various locations throughout the country.

After talking to Jason, I found out how connected he is to the National Guard. He has seen the accident reports about young servicemembers who just returned from a combat tour only to be fatally injured in a motorcycle accident. He sees this program as a way for him to give back to the men and women who have done so much for our country.

The Pridmore team has sponsors who provide everything needed to complete their course. They even have motorcycles to use, if you need one. We were on the track by 9:30 a.m. and cycled on and off in 20 minute sessions until 4 p.m. with a lunch break of course. Each track experience was preceded by a class session taught by Pridmore and his crew of outstanding instructors. All the members of the Pridmore team volunteer their time to do this course, and share Jason's heartfelt sentiment that if they can help keep one servicemember from an accident by teaching advanced riding techniques, then it's all worth it.

The STAR course was one of the best instructional experiences that I have had. Jason has passed along his ability to break down the mechanics of the art of riding the motorcycle to its limit. He makes it very easy to understand and practical for the person who only plans to commute to work on their motorcycle. The focus of the school is to improve your ability to control the motorcycle in any situation.

A couple examples of the skills taught were braking as hard as the bike will allow in order to stop for an obstruction, and turning the bike as tightly as it can be turned to avoid a collision. All very useful skills that may save your life.

I walked away with sore legs, tired arms, a head full of new techniques and a rekindled love for street riding. National Guard Day at Blackhawk Farms June 26. Please check the website for more information.

STAR training meets the requirements for AR 385-10, chapter 11, Motorcycle Safety Advanced as well as Sustainment Training requirements for the next three years which is a training requirement for the Army and Army National Guard.