Start the motorcycle season with safety

By Helmut Schartel
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Safety Office

Athletes cannot hit maximum performance levels from the season before without continuous training, and this is true for motorcycle riders too. 

During the long winter break, motorcycle riders lose their reflexes and feeling for the motorcycle. Riders with a lot of experience may see it differently, but it is true. To react quickly and correctly, riders must be retrained again after the break.
Riders who did not ride for a long period of time must first ride carefully until their driving skills return. A good way to get ready for the season is to practice braking and swerving on an empty parking lot. 

It is also a good idea to check with your unit to see if there is a Motorcycle Mentorship Program or to attend a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. A schedule for MSF courses can be found at

The rider and his motorcycle are a system, and both parts must match to be safe on the road. That means you must choose the right motorcycle for your needs. It also must be in good technical condition.

Since motorcycles are not used during the winter, it is necessary to conduct a thorough technical check before the first ride. The most important parts to be checked are the tires, brakes (including brake fluid), lights and chain. To make sure you have checked all safety relevant parts use the owner’s manual or the MSF T-CLOCS checklist. If you are not sure that you can complete the check, let a dealer do it for you. The MSF T-CLOCS checklist can be found at

In addition, it is important to always wear your Personal Protective Equipment. Only appropriate PPE can prevent serious injuries in case of an accident. Army regulation AR 385-10, requires that personnel follow host nation requirements when riding outside the United States.

If the host nation has no standard, helmets must, at a minimum, meet the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standard.

That means all motorcycle drivers must properly fasten helmets under the chin. It also means eye protection must be designed to meet or exceed ANSI Z87.1, reference (z) for impact and shatter resistance, include goggles, wrap around glasses or a full-face shield (properly attached to a helmet).

A windshield or fairing does not constitute eye protection. Foot protection includes sturdy over-the-ankle footwear that affords protection for the feet and ankles (durable leather or ballistic-type cloth athletic shoes that cover the ankles may be worn). Protective clothing includes long-sleeved shirt or jacket, long trousers, and full-fingered gloves or mittens made from leather or other abrasion-resistant material.

Safety experts also strongly encourage that motorcycle jackets and pants constructed of abrasion-resistant materials such as leather, Kevlar, or Cordura and containing impact-absorbing padding. Riders are also encouraged to select protective equipment that incorporates fluorescent colors and retro-reflective material.

The risk to be involved in an accident at the beginning of the new motorcycle riding season is high due to several reasons. First, riding skills are not as good as they were before the long winter break. Secondly, road conditions can be bad after the winter due to frost damage (pot holes). Thirdly, other road users are not used to looking out for motorcycles; pedestrians and drivers may overlook motorcycles.
Do it right, ride safely.