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Hog wild about safety

120th Airlift Wing Master Sgt. Winston Wilbur demonstrates the correct use of personal protective equipment as he rides his motorcycle home from work May 21, 2015, at Great Falls, Mont. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

120th Airlift Wing Master Sgt. Winston Wilbur demonstrates the correct use of personal protective equipment as he rides his motorcycle home from work May 21, 2015, at Great Falls, Mont. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Memorial Day marked the beginning of the Air Force critical days of summer and Airmen are beginning to tune up their motorcycles in anticipation of the great riding season to come.

As motorcyclists prepare their two-wheeled machines to travel the highways or trails they can also be brushing up on motorcycle safety issues.

Master Sgt. Winston Wilbur, a base analyst and volunteer motorcycle safety representative with the 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana Air National Guard, reminds motorcyclists to follow the posted speed limits and watch for changing weather and road conditions while riding their bikes.

"Speed is the number one factor in motorcycle fatalities, specifically in the Air Force," Wilbur said. "In the last five years there were 79 fatalities Air Force wide involving motorcycles and 42 of those were speed related with riders going at least 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. Part of the thrill of having a motorcycle is speed--but it's what kills us also."

Wilbur said Airmen wanting to ride a motorcycle on base will need to test for a motorcycle endorsement issued by the Montana Department of Motor Vehicles, attend a safety briefing provided by their commander and complete a two-day basic rider course approved by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

"The basic course is five hours of classroom time where you learn about the motorcycles and how to ride safely," Wilbur said. "You learn what to look for and how to be aware of your surroundings. Then, you have another ten hours out on the course actually practicing those skills on their motorcycle, not yours."

The course is taught locally by instructors assigned to Montana State University-Northern. The certified and experienced motorcycle riders guide beginning riders as they learn about how to turn or safely negotiate traffic.

There is a limited amount of funding available to assist Airmen with the cost of the course. These funds are provided by the wing on a first-come, first-serve basis, so it's important to apply early.

For safety, the motorcycle rider will need to wear a Department of Transportation approved motorcycle helmet. In addition, they'll need to wear a form of impact-resistant eye protection, protective footwear, clothing that covers the entire body, gloves, and a reflective vest or jacket that ensures motorists and pedestrians can see them during the day or night is highly recommended.  
Wilbur has been riding motorcycles for nearly nine years and has completed the basic and advanced rider courses offered for motorcyclists.

He suggests riders get in the habit of inspecting their bike prior to every ride using the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's inspection system based on the acronym TCLOCS.

TCLOCS reminds riders to remember to inspect their tires and wheels, the motorcycle controls such as brake and clutch handles, headlight and taillight, the oil and other fluids, the physical bike chassis and the motorcycle stand.

"As a rider you want everything on your bike in tip-top shape," Wilbur said. "It's a personal thing and it's wisdom."

Wilbur wants to remind the 72 registered motorcyclists who are members of the 120th AW and any potential new riders that the motorcycle safety course has recently been made a five-year requirement. Riders need to check to make sure their certification is still current to continue to ride onto the base. 

120th AW leadership encourages Airmen to apply risk management to their off-duty hours as well as they do during their on-duty hours. By keeping safety in the forefront beginning or advanced motorcycle riders will find it easier to stay vertical this summer.
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