February 6, 2013

Easy, Rider: Staying Safe While Cruisin’ Yuma

Story by Lance Cpl. Uriel Avendano

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. – “I did everything by the seat of my pants. That’s why I got hurt so much.” – Evel Knievel

It’s getting to be that time of year when Marines and Sailors at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma roll out their old school choppers or new school crotch rockets across the face of the desert landscape.

But before service members hit the road, there are station mandated requirements and steps everyone must take to get wheels rollin’.

“Well, first and foremost, they have to get their permit through the Department of Motor Vehicles. Then they’d need to fill out an application, have their command sign off on it, and then schedule themselves in for the Basic Rider’s Course,” said Chaz L. Hudson Sr., an MCAS Yuma motorcycle instructor and native of Pittsburgh, Pa. “The BRC’s offered, typically, about once a month.”

Every MCAS Yuma service member on a motorcycle must, first and foremost, take the appropriate steps to complete the necessary courses.

As it stands, the free monthly or bi-monthly BRC has a maximum of 12 students. Each of two riding instructors are allotted to teach six students, with two typically assigned per each maxed out class. The three-day course, which includes five hours of class time and ten hours of riding time, is broken down for even the most novice riders to understand the fundamentals.

Topics include basic understanding of gears, controls, maintenance, and all safety and precaution standards. Riders are coached on what personal protective equipment to wear and how to wear it.

“First day is all in-class. Students go through three to four hours of class time and at the end of that class, they take a written test which they must pass” said Hudson. “For beginners who’ve never touched a bike before, it’s a very basic, introductory type course.”

The last two days of BRC are all hands-on training. Students cover exercises which familiarize them with the different components and parts of the motorcycle. Day two and three include lessons on breaking, emergency stops, shifting, turning corners, leaning techniques and overall maneuvering.

“On the third day and final day, they’re already halfway through the lessons and have a very good understanding and feel for the bike. We continue going over exercises, like how to down-shift and how to handle corners,” said Hudson. “We’ll do some practice, pre-test runs before actually taking the riding qualification portion.”

The BRC course requires a cumulative total of at least 10 hours of ride time for the students.

Before purchasing a motorcycle, new riders are advised to take into consideration what type of bike best suits them. The ergonomics factor – whether the dimensions of the motorcycle fit one’s natural size and ability. For the program, beginners are offered loaner motorcycles as an option.

After completing BRC, licensed riders are required to take level-2 training within 120 days. Level-2 training includes Advanced Rider’s Course and the Military Sport Bike Rider’s Course. The courses look to build on the aspects of riding covered in BRC. Refining riding style, personal risk assessment, braking proficiency, traction management, swerving and cornering are all parts of the two-day mandated supplementary training.

Additionally, once every three years from the date of certification, riders must take a level-2 refresher course to hone and maintain their riding skills.

“We also offer our half-day dirt bike rider course, which I would highly suggest to anyone riding on the street,” said Hudson. “Even the experienced riders on the street, individuals who have been riding on the street for a little bit longer – I would recommend to take the dirt bike rider course because that’s where you really learn a bike. The feel, the handling, the control.”

A lot of interest in recreational riding has gone up on the station. For MCAS Yuma’s Department of Safety, ensuring service members are clear on any misconceptions, requirements and regulations is a job taken with a high degree of importance.

“I would definitely not suggest a brand new rider starting off with a big bike,” said Hudson, who’s been riding for over 31 years. “80 mph on a 250 is 80 mph on a 750 or a 1000 – the difference is in how much faster the bigger bike is going to get there and how much more damage can it do to an inexperienced rider.”

Since fiscal year 2008, implementations of courses like the ARC and MSBRC on Marine installations have significantly decreased motorcycle fatalities Corps wide. Investing time and making riding resources available to all service members have helped mitigate potential tragedies.

“Advice for new riders? Practice, practice, practice,” said Hudson. “And never, ever, buy a used helmet.”

With seasonal riding comes a higher sense of responsibility to make sure safety standards, restrictions and orders are being followed. For additional information or inquiries on riding and course schedules, please contact Mr. Chaz Hudson at (928) 269-2965 or via e-mail: chaz.l.hudson.ctr@usmc.mil.

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