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Learn to stay calm under pressure while riding motorcycle

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tristin English
  • 375th Air Mobility wing Public Affairs
What do you do while riding a motorcycle with a passenger on the back when suddenly a grill falls from a vehicle and into your path?

Rule No. 1: Don't panic.

I was riding my motorcycle home after a long day of driving the River Road near Alton, Ill. The wind was blowing just slightly with gusts popping out of nowhere here and there,
and cars had backed up slightly due to a slower driver.

I was in the right lane and quickly caught up to the slow moving vehicles. My eyes moved to the next lane over, and I saw a truck with a large barbeque grill in the back of it. The grill stood on its legs, and I noticed nothing was connected to it to keep it from falling out of the truck bed. A gust of wind blew and grill started to shake a little in the truck bed. Some panic started to set in. I pointed at it hoping my passenger would see it and prepare in case anything happened.

The truck moved in front of the vehicle I was behind, but something deep in my gut knew something was about to happen. I saw the grill through the back window of the vehicle in front of me. Another gust of wind blew and the grill started shaking again. I tried to go around, but the vehicles in the left lane wouldn't let me over because they were too busy trying to speed past.

Finally there was an opening. But, before I could get over, the truck moved back into the left lane and the grill fell out of the truck onto the road. Sparks shot up from the metal grinding against the concrete. My passenger's hands tightened around me, and I knew she saw it fall.

My eyes darted back and forth from the vehicle in front of me to the grill as it slid around in the lane, not knowing where it would go. Then my eyes darted to my mirrors. The cars behind me started slowing down to get their distance from me. I slowed down, trying to keep my distance from the vehicle in front of me while keeping my eyes on the grill and everything else around me.

Once there was enough distance between the vehicle in front of me and my motorcycle, I decided to go for it. With my eyes on the grill, I sped up to go past it. Moving over as far in the lane as possible, I tried to go around the grill.

I made it successfully past the grill. My passenger's grip loosened from around my waist, and the rest of the ride home went without any other problems.

One of the worst things anyone can do on a motorcycle is panic when something goes wrong. If you don't keep a level head it could just make matters worse. I learned that during the motorcycle safety courses I've taken here and in other places. Without taking the courses I'm sure things would have gone differently. I wouldn't know to keep a cool and level head if something fell in front of me, or if a car cuts me off. I might have gone off the road or panicked and hit the grill. Without the safety courses, I'm sure I wouldn't be here today or even still riding. You can learn a lot from the instructors and other riders as well.

The Air Force mandates motorcycle riders to take the motorcycle safety course if they ride on base. Even for those who don't ride on base, I recommend this course. It will give you the tools that may one day save your life. Military members are required to take a motorcycle safety course to ride on or off base. Recent changes to the DODI 6055.4 require all military riders to complete an initial course and a follow-up course within one year, then once every five years.

Military riders are required to wear required motorcycle personal protective equipment, or PPE, all of the time, and civilian riders must wear the same gear while riding on base, which includes: Department of Transportation approved helmet, shatter resistant wrap around glasses or goggles, long sleeved outer upper garment, long pants, full fingered gloves and sturdy over the ankle footwear. Upper garments must be fluorescent during the day and reflective at night for Air Force military personnel on or off base and for civilian riders on base. Contact your motorcycle safety representative to sign up for the safety course.