Rally gears up to keep riders safe

  • Published
  • By Capt. Penny Carroll
  • 127th Wing
The base's 127th Wing Safety Office, in concert with the Detroit Arsenal's Safety Office hosted the first Motorcycle Mentorship Poker Run July 30 from the joint-service installation with a focus on rider mentorship. Twenty-six bikes and about 40 riders/passengers participated.

The Poker Run kicked off at 11 a.m., after a registration breakfast at the Patriot Pub on the base. At 10 a.m., riders had to perform T-CLOCS (Tires and wheels, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis, and Stand) inspections on their bikes. T-CLOCS was developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to assist riders in completing a comprehensive pre-ride inspection of their bikes' critical systems.

Pre-registration was required for the event, to ensure riders were DoD employees, family members, or friends of DoD members who could be sponsored onto the base. The pre-registration also provided riders information about proper personal protective equipment, or PPE, required to be worn when riding on base.

"Helmets are the only PPE required by the state of Michigan," relayed Mr. John Maas, the 127th Wing's safety and occupational health manager. "To ride on our military installation, riders must be wearing sturdy shoes, long pants, long sleeves, gloves, and eye protection, as well as a helmet."  He also said that reflective or brightly colored clothing was extremely encouraged to aid others on the road in seeing motorcyclists.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation lists PPE as one of the most crucial to motorcycle safety.  "Motorcyclists must place greater reliance on their helmet, eye protection and clothing to increase riding comfort and to reduce the severity of injury should they become involved in a motorcycle mishap."

The U.S. Army Garrison-Detroit at the Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Mich., has hosted numerous motorcycle events over the past decade, most notably their annual Freedom Rides. Last year, the Detroit Arsenal held two bike events, one being an obstacle training course and the other a road rally.

Denise Blakely, chief of the Detroit Arsenal's Safety Office said, "At last year's rally we had a lot of 127th Wing participation," referring to the host Air National Guard unit at Selfridge. "We hoped by moving the event to Selfridge we would be able to encourage all branches of the service to participate."   In fact, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines all would be riding.

Registration required riders to also reveal how long they had been riding, so that event organizers could create road rally teams with a variety of experience levels in order to allow motorcycle mentorship.

Acting U.S. Army Garrison-Detroit Manager, Mr. Alan Parks, has been riding motorcycles since 1985. He was riding in the poker run with a less experienced rider. Motorcycle rider mentorship was a large goal of the rally and pairs up an inexperienced rider with more experienced ones, which provides opportunity to teach tips and techniques to the new riders.

Parks said, "Today I'll be working with a participant who's only been riding for a year. He doesn't usually ride with people (groups) or on the highways, so today he'll ride with me and we'll work on skills such as riding staggered, in tandem, and on signaling."

Bikers use hand signals in order to communicate with one another. The signals are similar to the ones used in military squad movement, such as a rider pointing his left hand and index finger up to communicate that he's taking the lead and other riders should form a single file. Other signals are used to point out hazards on the road, slowing and stopping, and even a signal for needing gas.

SSgt. Steven Bilof, a security forces policeman with the 127th Security Forces Squadron, was also participating. He's been riding for three years, and prefers riding in big groups. "There's a safer feel to riding in groups," he said. "The biggest problems I've had with riding is other cars. They're just oblivious to us - I've almost been hit 4 times."

Bilof said he had ridden in the Garrison's Freedom Rides in the past, and today he was looking forward to riding with good friends, and supporting a good cause-motorcycle safety and mentorship.

Mr. Parks reiterated, "It's absolutely critical that our riders are thinking about safety and have the skills to continue to be safe out there in traffic."