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Focus on Fundamentals

Focus on Fundamentals

SGT. ISIYAH HAWKINS
366th Military Police Company
U.S. Army Reserve
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Being a new motorcycle owner (or scooter owner, in my case) is exciting. For some unexplainable reason, I’ve always felt more comfortable on two wheels than four — even after considering the inherent dangers that come with riding motorcycles. When I decided to purchase my scooter, I knew from the onset that I wanted to pursue proper training. If there is one thing I’ve learned during my short time in the Army, it’s that training is the best way to learn the correct (and oftentimes the safest) way to do something.

After some online research, I learned that many Soldiers found the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Basic RiderCourse (BRC) to be very helpful for both new and experienced riders. Signing up for the course was a breeze. As a Reservist, my regional safety office has a program that pays for Soldiers to take the BRC as well as other vehicle orientation courses. All I had to do was find a training provider who was affiliated with the MSF and fill out some paperwork.

I took my course at a local Harley-Davidson Riding Academy, and it was a lot of fun. The class had a mix of riders with varying skill levels. There were people like me, who had never ridden a motorcycle, riders who had already purchased a motorcycle and even an older gentleman who just wanted to refresh his skills.

At first, I struggled with riding a motorcycle, primarily because I’d never operated a manual vehicle of any type. (I'm 22, so give me a break!) But throughout the training, I improved and successfully passed the course. The BRC taught me the fundamentals of riding a motorcycle — including basic operations and low-speed maneuvers. With proficiency in those two areas, it’s easy to develop your skills as a rider. Learning to ride on that motorcycle also gave me a greater appreciation for my scooter's automatic transmission.

I felt the effects of the course immediately when I began riding my scooter. I was confident in turns, during swerves and with emergency braking. Overall, I had a greater understanding of how to keep myself safe on the road. A few days prior to going TDY to Fort Novosel, Alabama, for the Ground Safety Officer Course, the fundamentals I learned in the BRC proved critical in keeping me safe when I experienced my first near miss.

I was riding to visit a friend who had flown into town to visit for a few days. As I traveled down the road, I diverted my attention to a fellow rider in the opposite lane. This caused me to lose focus and not see the van in front of me had stopped due to traffic. Luckily, I noticed I was about to pancake myself and my new scooter on the rear of this busted-up van. I quickly used my brakes progressively (not slamming on them) and swerved lightly to dodge the van and slow myself. Thankfully, the only thing I was left with was a racing heart.

I credit my near miss to the foundation set in the BRC. Despite my eyes being off the road, I’d maintained a proper following distance, meaning I left a good amount of space between the van and myself. (The MSF recommends a following distance of about four seconds, but more can't hurt.) In addition, when I realized I was in danger, I had the instinct to brake properly. Had I slammed on the brakes, I could’ve risked being sent flying over my handlebars. Instead, I gradually applied more pressure to my brakes, allowing me to stop cleanly.

Even though I made a big mistake by taking my eyes off the road, my MSF training gave me the tools to keep me and my new scooter safe. Outside of the Army’s regulatory requirements for motorcycle training, I highly recommend any new rider take the MSF BRC. You never know when that training might protect you from a serious injury. It might just save your life.

 

  • 26 May 2024
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 271
  • Comments: 0
Categories: Off-DutyPMV-2
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