The Straightliners advise on motorcycling

***image1***Editor’s Note: Natalie Eslinger, editor of Air Scoop, conducted this interview about a motorcycle club with Airman 1st Class Scott Causey, 86th Operations Support Squadron.

When did you start your club (what do you call yourselves)?

We call ourselves The Straightliners. There was no “magic” day that I decided to start a club, it was just initially a small group of people that I work with that were interested in getting started in motorcycling but just needed a little direction. The first bike for any new rider is always an adventure. Whether it’s figuring out what bike to ride, how the licensing process works, or what kinds of protective clothing they’ll need – new riders always have plenty of questions.  

How many (and who) started the club?

I started the group, mainly because I think I didn’t want to see the younger guys that I work with have to go through the pain and suffering that I did by learning through the school of hard knocks.

What is the goal or purpose of the club?

Continued learning. For riders of all ages and experience levels to realize that anyone at anytime can make a poor decision that can change their life forever. A complacent rider is a dangerous one. Anyone can improve if they are willing to put in the time and effort to make themselves as competent at controlling the bike in as many kinds of weather conditions as possible.

Do you have meetings? How often? What do you do at the meetings?

Our meetings are always for one purpose –to go riding – of course. Nothing will improve your skills like seat time. Remember this when you are coming back from a long layoff from riding or it has been a long winter in your duty location.

What are some of the things you teach each other?

How to see the road properly. If you don’t know what that means you need to have someone show you. For example, do you slow down when there is a car waiting to enter the roadway as you approach it on your bike? If you don’t treat every potential threat like it will become a reality, then eventually it will happen to you. Apart from that, how to steer the bike to avoid an obstacle that’s suddenly in your intended path of travel and emergency braking are some of the most important things.

The other most common single bike accident involves a rider running wide because he or she enters a corner going too fast and believes that they can’t possibly lean the bike over anymore. This is very rarely the case and we try to instill in riders how to beat back the panic they feel and to be confident enough to smoothly lean the bike over to make the corner as opposed to what most new riders do in this case: which is to stand the bike up and run off the road. A very painful lesson most of the time.

How do newcomers hear about your group?

Word of mouth travels quickly especially when you treat people with respect and there is fun to be had. Always remember that you must earn a person’s respect before they will truly be interested in hearing any mentorship ideas you might have for improving their riding skills.

How often do you ride together? Where do you go?

We usually ride at least once a week in the short riding season that we have available to us here in Germany. The destination is usually decided once everyone shows up and a consensus is reached. When deciding your route be sure to take into consideration the level of experience the riding group has on any given day. (Editor’s note: The level of experience changes because different group members attend for each ride.)

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about your club?

Don’t limit your riding group to just people that you already know or only Air Force members. I highly recommend to you to get out into your local communities and find “experts in the field.”

Most people who are in the motorcycle industry for a career are also enthusiasts themselves. Share with them your passion for motorcycles and most of them are more than willing to become your new riding buddy.

I have over 15 years of riding experience, during which I’ve logged over 200,000 street miles. By being open minded and getting out in the community in this way, I’ve never had any trouble meeting people that have more expertise in one area of the sport or another than I do.

Sharing information and constantly learning from others’ mistakes are two of the best ways I know of to avoid painful reminders of how to ride properly.

Another important point to remember is that just because you may have completed the beginning and advanced Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses, this does not make you an expert rider.

Motorcycle riders tend to have the personality type that is okay with the notion of risk-taking; otherwise they wouldn’t be riding in the first place.
The street is not the place to learn how to ride a motorcycle at high speeds.

If you find yourself riding at these elevated speeds on a routine basis, I urge you to try a training school at your local race track. These schools don’t have anything to do with racing and shouldn’t be treated as such. What it is, is a safe environment for riders to safely learn how to corner and brake harder than what would be safe on the street.

The instructors at these schools can improve your skills more in one day than you have on your own in the last 10 years; provided you are willing to put your pride aside and realize that, yes, there are better riders out there than yourself.

#Whatever training you receive, always remember to check your ego and your bike before the ride, and ride at a speed that is safe for conditions.