Maj. Jim Markham has a need for speed, and he knows just what to do about it. During the week he puts on his uniform and works as an assistant doctrine editor for the Capabilities, Development and Integration division here. But sometimes he dons racing leathers and takes his 2002 Honda Superhawk out to one of three local tracks to get a fix.
Markham has been riding motorcycles since 2001. His first bike was a 1976 Kawasaki KZ 750. He has owned six different bikes, ridden more than 60,000 miles on the street and completed the Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses.
What does he get out of racing? “I’m a lot more functional. Going to the track is adrenaline therapy,” says Markham. By this self-professed math geek’s calculations, track day and race fees are much cheaper than speeding tickets.
In 2004, Markham had what he calls a “tank slapper.” He required extensive knee surgery. “You need to build up your experience before your luck runs out,” Markham says of the accident. He also realized that pavement hurts, and sweat washes off, but road rash does not.
Three years ago, Markham started going to trackdays, and last year he became a licensed motorcycle racer after attending race school. Like most Soldiers, he is constantly challenging himself and is now working on becoming a MSF certified rider coach as soon as his busy schedule permits it. He is also one of the top eight candidates in Kawasaki’s “Zero to Hero” challenge. He hopes to become one of the final four and win an opportunity to race with motorcycle racing superstar Ricky Gadson.
Markham finds that racing has actually raised his skill level. Technique is needed to achieve the best times on the track. He also learned that professional motorcycle racers start with smaller bikes and go up in size as the rider’s skill level increases. The right-sized bike for the rider’s skill level equals a safe ride.
Now Markham wants to support an environment that promotes safe riding. This motorcycle racing major has helped put together a Trackday April 15 at Inde Motorsports Ranch in Willcox. Soldiers from Fort Huachuca and Airmen from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base will save $20 and pay $145 for full day or $90 for half day registration. The cost includes rental leathers if riders need them. A sport bike is not required, and instructional staff and control riders will be at the trackday to provide coaching. Servicemembers need to bring their motorcycle license and MSF card.
Markham would like to see all units on Fort Huachuca have a robust motorcycle mentorship program. He has a vision of a post-wide ride with all level of chains of command involved. He’s hoping to foster a culture of acceptance for motorcycle riders on the installation. Markham envisions an environment where Soldiers and leaders come together and stayed engaged to promote a culture of fun and safe riding.
Novice riders should seek out the experienced riders as mentors, learn as much as they can about riding online and take all levels of the MSF courses, not just the beginner one to learn about riding.
According to Army Composite Risk Management for Riders statistics for Arizona, 50 percent of fatal accidents involve alcohol, and in two-thirds of those accidents the rider was under the .08 percent BAC legal limit. Markham says drinking and riding is a huge risk, and riders shouldn’t mix the two under any circumstances.
Army statistics also indicate that the leading cause of single-vehicle crashes is “failure to negotiate curve/maintain control.” This is typically caused by a rider using a corner entry speed for which the skill level need to successfully complete the turn exceeds the skill level of the rider.
Markham says more training is the key to reducing risk. The average subject of an accident has five years of riding experience, but less than one year on their current bike. He notes that the free MSF Intermediate Rider’s Course offered on Fort Huachuca is one day of training that directly addresses this experience gap by reinforcing Basic Course skills on the rider’s current motorcycle. Not only does practice make perfect, or in this case safe, increased familiarity with the capabilities of one’s motorcycles ups the safety factor.