The More You Know
MAJ. DANIEL R. OSTROWSKI
101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
Fort Campbell, Kentucky
As a kid, I used to read my dad’s motorcycle magazines, looking at the pictures over and over. I remember spending time in my parents’ garage, admiring his motorcycle and sneaking every opportunity to grab a hold of the handlebars and climb onto the seat. I would picture myself cruising down the road on that two-wheeled machine, “straightenin’ the curves” and “flattenin’ the hills” like the Dukes of Hazzard used to do. When I got a little closer to driving age, my dad made a deal with me. If I passed the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic RiderCourse, I could ride his bike. I couldn’t wait.
Dad had been a motorcycle rider for years, but when life got in the way, he wasn’t able to have a bike. When he finally got back in the saddle, he signed up for the Basic RiderCourse to familiarize himself again. It was in that class where he truly learned how to maneuver the bike — from simple starts and stops to looking through the turns, countersteering at higher speeds and properly turning at slow speeds. He learned how to ride a bike safely, and it was the confidence that he developed in that course that encouraged him to make that deal with me. He believed that if I could pass the Basic RiderCourse and earn my motorcycle operator’s license, then he could trust me with his bike. More importantly, he knew I would then have the skills to operate the motorcycle safely on the road.
I was so proud of myself when I passed the course and got my license. It felt great to ride that bike to high school and see my classmates’ heads turn when I pulled up on two wheels. In the 25 years since, I’ve had several bikes, but I never took another instruction course. I just never rode my bikes on post. However, upon return from a deployment and my subsequent assignment to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, I decided I wanted to ride more often. That meant I’d have to ride on post; and to do that, I’d have to take the Basic RiderCourse again.
Upon arrival to Fort Rucker and prior to getting too busy at work, I signed up for the course to get myself legal. It would be no exaggeration to say that I had twice as many miles as the rest of the students in my class combined. There were some true beginners in there! However, it also would be no exaggeration to say that I learned something during every block of instruction we covered during those two days of training.
The instructors were excellent. They understood everyone’s individual skill level and tailored their instruction to each rider. They were able to get the most out of us on each skill, resulting in great improvements from everyone by the time we completed the final skills test. I also left the class a better rider. The fact that I was already a so-called “experienced rider” and had taken the training previously had no bearing on what I took away from the course. I learned a lot.
At the end of the course, I spent some time with the instructors talking about riding and different techniques for cornering, braking, accelerating out of turns, etc. I couldn’t wait to take the next class — the Advanced RiderCourse — and signed up for it as soon as I could. That course had a similar format, but it was even better because I was able to ride my own bike. Today, I’m more than just a better rider; I’m a better rider on my own bike.
I cannot emphasize enough how good these courses are for riders. While they may be mandatory for us who serve, I do not hesitate to recommend them to everyone I meet who wants to ride a motorcycle. No matter your experience level, these courses will make you a better rider. I look forward to taking more classes in the future. The way I look at it, the more I learn, the safer I’ll be. The same will be true for you.