Motorcycle safety: My four rules to riding

Safety commentary by Tech. Sgt. Raul Sauceda
86th Airlift Wing Safety

Recently, some friends of mine and I were sitting around at a motorcycle rest stop in Johanniskreuz after an afternoon of riding our bikes. The majority of us being experienced riders and all of us being Motorcycle Safety Foundation Rider Coaches, we eventually began to talk about safety, new riders and mishaps. 

What could we do, if anything, to help prevent mishaps and protect our riders?  In the end the suggestions were varied, but we finally came up with a list of four things we want to tell each rider every time they get ready to ride.   

The number one thing we all agreed on was “ATGATT” or “all the gear all the time.” What does this mean? It means wearing every bit of protective gear possible, i.e. full face helmet, motorcycle gloves, riding boots, leather or textile riding jacket and pants with protective padding.

I think it’s safe to say that there isn’t a military member that would go to the battle zone without their weapon and body armor. 

Why take your chances on the road without wearing all the gear you can? Wearing the proper gear can make the difference between spending days in the hospital having your road rash tended to by medical personnel or simply picking your bike up dusting yourself off and learning from your mistakes. The second thing we discussed was to get all the training you can. The 86th Airlift Wing offers the MSF Basic Riders course and Basic Riders Course 2 free of charge. Why not take advantage of the opportunity and hone your skill set before you ride on the streets? 

The closed-course nature of class allows you to learn and perfect those basic fundamental skills that you will need to safely operate a motorcycle. Stopping in a curve, negotiating curves, evasive maneuvering and learning to stop quickly are skills that could save your life or prevent injury.  All of these skills, and more, are taught in the MSF courses.

The third most important thing we all agreed on was to always ride aware.  Riding a motorcycle is nothing like driving a car. Even something as simple as coming to a stop requires the rider to interact with surroundings. Questions like — is the road level, is there oil on the pavement, did I shift to a lower gear,  is the car behind me stopping and do I have an out in case they don’t stop — are all questions that need to be asked and answered within seconds. 

There is no time to zone out, become complacent, or let your guard down. A rider should always drive defensively and always ride like the other vehicles on the road don’t see you.

Lastly we came to the most personal recommendation of all, which is to tell each rider to ride responsibly and ride not just for themselves but everyone.
Prior to enlisting in the military, I worked as a police officer for a city on the outskirts of Houston.

In the ten years as a patrol officer, traffic investigator and patrol sergeant, I saw hundreds of accidents, some ranging from minor fender benders to multiple vehicle fatalities. No words can express how hard it is to notify a family member that their loved one has passed away.

What makes these tragedies worse is that some of them could have been avoided. The decisions you make and actions you take while riding a motorcycle not only affect you but all of those around you. Think of your family at home, your loved ones in the states, your friends and your co-workers.

Think of them next time you consider riding impaired or decide to ride faster than the conditions or your skills warrant. In the end, we all know that riding a motorcycle is inherently dangerous and we accept that as part of the experience.  Just remember that you are irreplaceable and your family and your Air Force need you around. Ride safe and ride smart.