Motorcycle Trainer at Fort KnoxStaff photo by Maureen Rose
SPC. MATTHEW TONKINSON, WITH THE U.S. ARMY ARMOR CENTER, rode the motorcycle trainer at Hill Hall.
By Maureen Rose – Turret Associate Editor – firstname.lastname@example.org
They’re sleek, fast, and downright sexy.
They’re also deadly, killing 51 Soldiers in 2008.
The culprits are motorcycles.
Particularly sport bikes, often called “crotch rockets.” In 2008, 51 Soldiers died in motorcycle accidents, with 37 of that number on sport bikes.
The Army has responded by making safety training for bikers mandatory, and the culture of safety is slowly making progress. In 2009, Soldier deaths on motorcycles decreased to 32, with 20 of them attributed to sport bikes.
Fort Knox complies with and even goes beyond the Army’s standard. Classes offered include the Basic Rider Course, the Experienced Rider Course, and the Military Sport Bike Course, as well as a refresher course for Soldiers who have been deployed and need to brush up on their skills.
The instructors, Lane Craven and Reginald Atkins, are experienced riders and former Soldiers. Atkins races motorcycles and Craven owned his own business, running a safe driver school in Louisville before joining the Knox team 10 years ago. Craven is also a certified sport bike trainer.
“There are only four sport bike trainers in the country,” Atkins said, “and we are privileged to have Lane to help us.”
While other branches of the armed services often have active duty military personnel teaching the courses, the Knox instructors believe that’s a disadvantage. Craven explained that with so many duties and deployments, professional standards are difficult to maintain with an active duty staff. He and Atkins concentrate on training and helping Soldiers.
Motorcycles are popular with Soldiers for various reasons. Atkins said he thinks it’s often because bikes can supply the adrenaline rush that redeployed Soldiers may be craving.
“We often say that these high performance bikes are being ridden by low performance riders,” Atkins added.
Some bikers may choose motorcycles, thinking it’s cheaper to operate than an automobile. However, that low-budget option isn’t as clear-cut as it once was. Atkins explained that the gas mileage is good on a motorcycle, but the price tag for a quality used bike may start at $4,000, while a good touring or cruise bike can go up to $35,000. Then there’s the additional expense of personal protective equipment, which can cost another $1,000. The maintenance can become expensive as well, especially if you haven’t learned to do any yourself.
Craven and Atkins strive to help there, as well. In the winter months, when biking isn’t so popular, they focus on teaching maintenance. It’s not required, but they believe it provides a service.
“We have the luxury of the craft shop here where two motorcycle lifts were installed specifically to help Soldier-riders,” Atkins said.
Soldiers who learn to change the oil in their bikes can save a lot of money, because an oil change done at a dealership can cost as much as $175, Atkins explained. If they’re not sure how to do it, or have a question, just call te experts at Hill Hall.
“We’ll be happy to come to the craft shop and help you,” Atkins said. “We’re all about helping Soldiers.”
When the refresher course is taught for redeploying Soldiers, sometimes the safety instructors can help Soldiers detect maintenance issues.
One Soldier brought his hastily-assembled bike to the refresher class. Craven immediately noted a problem and gave the Soldier a no-go for the course.
“He didn’t have any brake pads on his rear wheels,” Craven explained. “I’m sure he wasn’t aware of it, but of course that would be a big problem.”
If Soldiers don’t meet the standards, they won’t be passed along just to satisfy a regulation.
“We ensure they meet the standard,” Atkins said. “If they don’t, we do extra training, bring them
back for an extra day, even do some one-on-one training if that’s what’s needed.”
In addition to helping Soldiers with direction interaction, the safety instructors are available to assist leadership to identify problems with Soldier-bikers and teach them what to look for. For example, Soldiers occasionally modify their bikes for more speed at the expense of safety. Craven and Atkins can show commanders—even if they aren’t bike riders—how to spot those hazardous bike conditions.
Fort Knox’s Motorcycle Safety Day will be held May 4, with featured speakers and training scheduled to assist Soldiers, retirees, DA civilians, and family members become safer riders. Mike Fitzgerald, one of many motorcycle experts who volunteer their time to come to Fort Knox, will discuss adjusting suspension. Because most motorcycles are manufactured in Japan, the suspension systems are set for Japanese riders who are shorter and lighter than most U.S. riders. That difference affects how the bike handles, Atkins explained.
For more information, call the Installation Safety Office at 624-4306 or contact the instructors at 624-3141.
“We will have the best motorcycle safety day in the Army,” Atkins predicted