OFF THE GRID - Countdown to top five lessons from the track

  • Published
  • By Sgt. David Grant and Petty Officer 2nd Class Drew Williams
  • 58th Airlift Squadron at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. and USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs
Famed stuntman and motocross racer Mike "Mouse" McCoy said he has at one point or another broken every bone in his body.

He acknowledged that riding motorcycles -- whether dirt bikes or street bikes -- can be a dangerous business and emphasized the mental preparedness needed to ride and remain safe.

"Motorcycles are my love," McCoy told a group of Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomee Richard July 20. "I tell everyone to keep their egos in check when riding. Be in a race-ready state of mind because you want to ride forever."

With an increasing number of military members involved in motorcycle mishaps, McCoy stressed the importance of personal protective equipment and developing proper riding skills.

Many of the same lessons learned on the motorcycle racing track can be applied to the street. Here's a countdown of some of those tips.

5 - Feel the fear but do the task anyway.

In a race, releasing the clutch with a dozen of your closest friends all fighting for the same few inches of track releases the butterflies from the nest in your stomach. Separated by inches, rubbing elbows at high speeds with obstacles and hairpin turns to contend with, means fear cannot take over. When fear consumes you, mistakes are made. You need to control the fear and focus on what you need to do next.

On the street, many times fear will grip you as well. Severe weather, congested traffic and aggressive motorists can all make you panic. It's OK to feel the fear, but you have to control it and focus on the task at hand.

4 - To finish first, first you must finish.

An oldie, but always a goodie. Too many times we try to win the race in the first turn, only to lose control and take out ourselves -- and maybe another racer or two. Take your time, find your hole, then go for it! But if there isn't a hole, relax, follow and watch for mistakes.

On the street, you also have to show patience as you work your way through traffic. You'll never win an award or see the podium for your effort, but you will come home; you will see another day. And that's more important than any $20 trophy.

3 - Keep it real; don't exceed your skill.

On the track you have to ride within your ability level. You never want to push yourself past the point where you feel comfortable on the bike. Attempting an obstacle you're not ready for or at a speed you can't handle can lead to disaster.

On the street, riding too fast, taking corners too tightly or not developing driving skills can make your final destination an early trip to the cemetery.

2 - You live and die by what you wear.

Once you're on the track, there are a lot of things you can do to minimize your risk. Perhaps the easiest of those is simply to wear the right protective gear, like helmets, boots, leather pants and jacket, etc.

On the street, the right personal protective gear is just as important -- maybe more so when you consider that the street doesn't have a couple of safety marshals at every turn, two ambulances 10 seconds away and a helicopter flight within minutes.

1 - There's always more to learn.

The really fast racers are on the track more, in the books more and in the gym more than the moderate to slow racers. This is because to win, they have to find that edge over the competition. Through race schools that improve knowledge and skills, a competitor can truly become a master of the art in which motorcycle racing lies.

The street doesn't offer a very forgiving atmosphere for learning to operate a motorcycle proficiently, let alone in a safe manner. Finding basic courses which offer timely, knowledgeable feedback develops the initial muscle memory skills, and more advanced courses get those skills into the next level of finesse and efficiency. You can check out the Motorcycle Safety Foundation for recommended courses or talk to your base safety office. These courses will lead to a safer ride on your machine.