KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
The Air Force requires its members with motorcycle endorsements, or those looking to gain an endorsement, to undergo rider training to ensure their safety per AFI 91-207. I already had gone through the same basic rider training the Air Force uses through my home state, so I didn’t think I was going to learn anything from doing the same training again.
I was beyond wrong.
When I first took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s basic rider course through the New Hampshire Department of Motor Vehicles, it was the middle of July. Blazing humidity, sun beating down on the 12 of us as we learned the basics of the motorcycle. The DMV had a special parking lot set aside for the course. It’s marked with several lines that don’t mean anything to anyone not in the course. All of us rode our 250 cubic centimeters size bikes, and passed the course.
The experience I had riding the same course on Kirtland Air Force Base was vastly different. The weather and bike I was using made all the difference. When I first took the BRC, I rode a small Suzuki TU250X. This time around, I had my BMW R60/7, a 600CC bike. The speed and acceleration difference between the two is very noticeable. On the third day of the course, it was pouring rain which turned to snow. It made the course very slick and visibility low. But the nine of us still passed the course.
The basic rider course is a 3 day course, one day of classroom instruction, and two days of practical application. The course is taught by volunteer “Rider Coaches” from the base. One of those coaches, Staff Sgt. Kristian Jaggers, taught me during the course. Jaggers is a C-130 hydraulic systems instructor with Detachment 16, 373rd Training Squadron, and volunteers as a rider coach.
“I was getting ready to sell a car and someone offered me a motorcycle for trade so I said ‘why not?’”, Jaggers said. “When I took the MSF course, a lot of the things that I didn’t understand about the motorcycle became a lot clearer. What got me the most was the pressing of the handlebars. It didn’t make any sense to me at first but the course really helped me out with it.”
Jaggers was referring to the handlebar movement at high speeds. Similar to a bicycle, you gently press on the side of the handlebars in the direction you want to go.
“The course still is teaching me the gross skills,” Jaggers said. “Coaching the course now is helping me with my riding every time I’m on the range, just like how my instructing in the detachment helped me as a maintainer.”
According to the motorcycle safety foundations website, between 1997 and 2009, motorcycle fatalities increased from 5 to 13 percent of all traffic fatalities. Steve Dobbs, Occupational Safety and Health specialist with the 377th Air Base Wing, the MSF courses have greatly benefitted the Air Force.
“I think the course taken the novices and given them a structured way to learn how to ride instead of trying to learn on the fly,” Dobbs said. “It’s much better than trying to learn from their friends where they may tell them ‘Here’s the clutch, here’s the gas. Go.’”
According to the 377th ABW safety office, the military and civilian populations on Kirtland average 4-6 reportable accidents per year, which has remained steady through the last four years. However, the state of New Mexico has seen a decrease in the last four years.
To sign up for a Rider Course, go to https://sites.google.com/site/kafbriders/. The courses are free but are on a first come first serve basis. For more information about motorcycle training requirements, refer to AFI 91-207, Air Force Traffic Safety Program. For specific questions about the courses on base, contact Dobbs at 505-846-7701.