MADISON, Wis. — As the motorcyclists mounted their bikes and rode in a slow circle around a parking lot, Jason Herheim barked out commands, instructions and encouragements like a drill sergeant.
“This is what you got a motorcycle for, right? To drive around parking lots?” he joked over the sound of multiple engines.
The riders, all members of the military, were not beginners — this was an advanced riders course, sponsored by the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing and facilitated by Madison Area Technical College.
According to the U.S. Army, as many as 15 percent of privately owned vehicle accidents in the Army involve motorcycles. The U.S. military requires motorcycle riders to be licensed, complete basic and advanced courses that meet Motorcycle Safety Foundation standards, and wear appropriate safety gear even in states where such gear is not mandatory.
The day’s itinerary focused on safety — threshold braking, evasive maneuvers, body position and decreasing radius turns were among the driving techniques discussed, demonstrated and practiced on a warm and sunny day.
“Release and reapply — this is a big deal,” Herheim explained as riders prepared to practice a series of quick stops on a closed course. “Let’s just not lock up our front tires — that would be so much better.
“We’ll give you feedback on what you’re doing,” he continued. “Your first stop does not need to be your best stop.”
The military bikers practiced a variety of courses, such as navigating a slalom of orange cones to hone leaning and looking skills, and making a quick evasive maneuver from a dead stop to simulate getting out of harm’s way during a sudden traffic stop on the highway.
Herheim said the July 31 class was the last of three for the year.
“It’s similar to what we discuss in basic riders class, but now we’re refining the skills,” he said.
Staff Sgt. Lyndon Guir, a supply noncommissioned officer with the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Company A, 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment in Madison, has been riding a motorcycle for 30 years.
“It’s a good review, because there are things you forget,” he said. “You’re not really looking or an accident, but it can happen and this prepares you in case it happens.”
The course, offered free to military members, has been well received according to Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Egstad, 115th Fighter Wing safety officer.
“Feedback has been strongly positive,” he said, “with members enjoying the course and instructors.”
Herheim summed up the safety course’s overarching purpose.
“We want to make sure that, at the end of the day, everybody goes home sunny-side up,” he said.