With the wind in your face, and leaning into turns, a motorcycle offers a distinctly different experience than sitting in a sealed car, and that is a big appeal to many. Just two wheels, though, means motorcycles are inherently unstable, and lacking protective steel and airbags, the risks of riding are much higher. That is why the Army requires basic and advanced training for anyone to ride on post, according to Scott Bruning, from the Garrison Safety Office.

“Riding a bike is an intense experience, and requires your undivided attention to stay alive on the road.

There is no room for error or being distracted or impaired,” Bruning said.

Belvoir’s Army Traffic Safety Program is housed in a dedicated classroom and motorcycle range, next to Defense Acquisition University, where there is enough room to learn important maneuvers at traffic speeds. Because Belvoir houses all five branches, the Safety Office has permission from the National Capital Region to train all active-duty, Guard and Reserve members.

Basic Rider Course

This is where a new, Service member rider gets started, but there are some requirements:

• 16 hour course, over two duty days, intended for the beginner or novice motorcycle operator.

• Classroom time is 5 hours and hands-on training lasts 11 hours.

• Prerequisite: Long-sleeve shirt/jacket, long pants and over-the-ankle footwear.

• Motorcycles and PPE are provided for student training.

• Valid state POV driver’s license.

Also offered, for those who have been riding for a while, is an Experienced Rider Course for touring bikes; Military Sport Bike Rider Course; and a Motorcycle Refresher Training course, which is mandated for riders returning from deployments longer than 180 days.

Safety demands practice

Jim Walton, ATSP motorcycle instructor, said the basic course has been revised to improve riders’ skills.

“They changed philosophies, and based this class more on slow-riding than before. Before, it was mostly speed you were tested on. Riding slow is the hardest thing to do – staying slow and in control.”

Walton said he teaches the basics, but there is still a lot of practice riders need to become safe, skilled riders.

“My advice is to find a quiet neighborhood or large parking lot, and practice what you’ve learned here.

Some people never develop that confidence and skill, but it’s better to discover that now, than to buy a motorcycle and all the gear, and only then decide it’s not for you.”

John Nicklas, also with the Safety Office, stressed that beyond the requirement, the classes have great instructors and are a great way to develop a rider community and even find a riding mentor.

Instruction is ‘hands on’

Spc. Michael Whaley, with 352 nd Military Police Company, kept stalling his dirt bike, while Walton gently counseled him nearby.

“You’re letting the clutch out too fast; you’re thinking about it too much,” Walton told him.

“It is a little nerve-wracking, at first,” Whaley admitted later. He said he is looking forward to improving his skills and buying a bike. “It’s been great. The teacher’s been great, I’ve learned a lot today and it’s been a very helpful class for me.”

The class also had more experienced riders working on their skills.

Spc. Steven Finner, with Bravo Company, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, had no problems banking a sleek, red sport motorcycle through the course, and is already looking forward to his own muscle bike.

“It’s really light, since it’s a 250; so it’s really fun on the corners,” Finner said. “In Texas, I started with a 250, then I went to a 650, and I hope to get a 900. I like something that handles well and gets up to speed quick.”

Spinner, and all other riders on post, must pass an advanced rider class within a year of completing BRC.

For more information, go to home.army.mil/belvoir/ and search for Safety Office, then select the Motorcycle Training tab, or call the Garrison Safety Office at 703-806-3447.

Read the full story online at home.army.mil/belvoir.