Getting Road Ready
Directorate of Analysis and Prevention
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama
As we shake off the winter chill and welcome more favorable weather, now is a good time to take a look at yourself and your motorcycle before the riding season begins. First, listen to your MOM. We’re not talking about that sweet lady that cooks Sunday dinner and tells you to pack a sweater in 90-degree weather. Instead, we’re referring to your motorcycle owner’s manual. If you put your bike into hibernation the way your MOM told you, just follow the instructions to get it back on the road. You’ll have your work cut out for you, though, if you just parked it in the corner of your garage or shed.
For those of you that followed the MOM, your prep time will be relatively short. Pull off the cover, fill up the gas tank, change the oil and check the tires for correct pressures and signs of dry rot. Remove any plugs you installed to keep the critters out of your exhaust, carburetor and air filter intake and then connect the battery following the MOM’s procedures. If you didn’t put your battery on a trickle charger, you might have problems getting the bike fired up. But between your MOM and T-CLOCS (see info box below), your pre-ride inspection should cover everything.
Although your bike might be road ready now, you must check your personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure it still fits and is in serviceable condition. Those extra pounds you put on over the holidays might mean a trip to the bike shop to buy a new jacket or associated PPE. This is also the time to make sure your bike is licensed and insured properly. Some of you might have deregistered your motorcycle during the winter to place it on your homeowner’s insurance. If so, you’ll have to go through the registration and insurance processes again. Do it early so you can get on the road as soon as the weather breaks.
Next, you need to get yourself ready for the road. Your first trip shouldn’t be from Fort Riley to Daytona for bike week. Ease back into shape and knock off the rust by practicing your riding skills. You might need a refresher course if it’s been longer than a few months since your last ride, so contact your local safety office to schedule an advanced rider’s course.
Once on the road, remember that lane position is critical. Always position yourself in the lane of travel so you can be seen at the greatest distance possible. You’ll also need to be more diligent with your scanning technique and pay particular attention to the road surface so you can spot any cracks or potholes that developed over the winter. Those of you stationed in colder climates know what I’m talking about — the pothole that bottoms out your suspension, rattles your eyeteeth and leaves you wondering if you bent your rims.
If your unit or installation has a Motorcycle Mentorship Program, call them up and join the group. The MMP is a great way to meet people that share the same passion for riding, and you also can enjoy group rides and activities. If your installation doesn’t have an MMP, contact your safety office to check on starting one.
Local MMPs increase the general public’s awareness of motorcyclists by putting groups of Army riders — whether they’re active duty, retired or DOD civilians — together on the road. It’s important to remember some folks still think motorcyclists are over-the-edge people that don’t abide by the norms of society. We all know this isn’t true and applies to only a very small percentage of the riding population, but be aware that someone is always watching. Your conduct can help elevate riding to a respectable and acceptable form of recreation, so save the wheelies for a sanctioned event.
Whether you’re a hardcore or fair-weather rider, your machine, mind and body must be firing on all cylinders to ensure a safe and enjoyable riding season. Warm weather will come and go, so enjoy it while it’s here. Live to ride and ride safe!
While May is designated as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, there’s no reason why we should limit our commitment to safety to just one month a year. The greatest rise in motorcycle purchases and use occurs between March and April. About 8.5 million motorcycles are registered in the United States, and roughly 33,000 of those are owned by Soldiers. Today’s riders are Soldiers of all ranks and genders as well as your friends, relatives and neighbors. Remember, motorcyclists and motorists share the responsibility of watching for and giving each other room to maneuver.
T-CLOCS was developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to assist riders in completing a comprehensive pre-ride motorcycle inspection. To print your own copy of the T-CLOCS inspection checklist, visit https://safety.army.mil/Portals/0/Documents/OFF-DUTY/PMV-2/PAMPHLETSCHECKLISTS/Standard/T-CLOCSInspectionChecklist_2008.pdf. For additional information, visit https://safety.army.mil/OFF-DUTY/PMV-2-Motorcycles/Pamphlets-Checklists.