Keep calm and ride on

Staff Sgt. Ryan Schmettgoecke, 509th Munitions Squadron live delivery crew chief, participates in the Grant’s Gauntlet challenge during the annual Motorcycle Awareness and Safety Day at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., April 15, 2013. Riders should follow the TCLOCKS, (tires and wheels, controls, lights, oil, chassis and kickstand) pre-ride inspection before all rides. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Staff Sgt. Ryan Schmettgoecke, 509th Munitions Squadron live delivery crew chief, participates in the Grant’s Gauntlet challenge during the annual Motorcycle Awareness and Safety Day at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., April 15, 2013. Riders should follow the TCLOCKS, (tires and wheels, controls, lights, oil, chassis and kickstand) pre-ride inspection before all rides. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Members of the Lee’s Summit Police Department navigate “Grant’s Gauntlet” during the annual Motorcycle Awareness and Safety Day at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., April 15, 2013. Grant’s Gauntlet is a timed riding course that tests stopping and turning skills of riders.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Members of the Lee’s Summit Police Department navigate “Grant’s Gauntlet” during the annual Motorcycle Awareness and Safety Day at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., April 15, 2013. Grant’s Gauntlet is a timed riding course that tests stopping and turning skills of riders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Members of the Lee’s Summit Police Department navigate “Grant’s Gauntlet” during the annual Motorcycle Awareness and Safety Day at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., April 15, 2013. Grant’s Gauntlet is a timed riding course that tests stopping and turning skills of riders.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Members of the Lee’s Summit Police Department navigate “Grant’s Gauntlet” during the annual Motorcycle Awareness and Safety Day at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., April 15, 2013. Grant’s Gauntlet is a timed riding course that tests stopping and turning skills of riders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Members of Team Whiteman participate in the annual Motorcycle Awareness and Safety Day at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., April 15, 2013. The event was held in the commissary parking lot to raise awareness for safe motorcycle riding practices. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Members of Team Whiteman participate in the annual Motorcycle Awareness and Safety Day at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., April 15, 2013. The event was held in the commissary parking lot to raise awareness for safe motorcycle riding practices. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Riding a motorcycle can be fun and exhilarating, but it can also be dangerous. On Monday, April 15, Whiteman Air Force Base held its annual Motorcycle Awareness and Safety Day in the commissary parking lot to raise awareness and educate Airmen and base civilians on how to always make it the former.

"The event was a great way to bring together members of the base who have similar interest in riding motorcycles," said Tech. Sgt. Steven Bobbitt, Detachment 6, 372nd Training Sqaudron security manager. "It also helps us get the word out about being safe while riding."

The need for awareness is undeniable. During fiscal year 2012, the Air Force lost 18 Airmen due to motorcycle accidents. So far in FY 2013, we have already lost seven fellow Airmen.

"Riding can be such a thrill that some forget the basic safety tips," Bobbitt said. "This event allowed us to bring those safety tips back to the front of people's minds when they ride."

Riders should prepare themselves even more than normal before first beginning to ride again every year.

"The first thing a rider should do is to give his or her motorcycle a thorough cleaning," Bobbitt said. "This allows the rider to get up close and personal with the machine and look at the little things that get overlooked."

TCLOCKS, which stands for "tires and wheels, controls, lights, oil, chassis and kickstand," is a pre-ride inspection that all riders should complete before heading out on their bikes.

"It is also important for riders to make sure they are prepared mentally and physically," Bobbitt said. "They should ask themselves if they are prepared to ride and accept the risks that come along with riding."

All riders should also look over all of their gear to ensure serviceability, size and fit.

They should also always know the road conditions before they head out.

"Beware of salt, sand, dirt and oil," Bobbitt said. "It is important to be aware of these things, especially when going around turns."

Part of safely operating a motorcycle is staying mindful of the surrounding traffic, said Bobbitt.

"Keep an eye out for other drivers, because they are not used to looking out for motorcyclists," he said. "Something else to be aware of is wildlife. Here in Missouri, deer are rampant, so it is important to be on the lookout at all times for any animals."

Maintaining a solid buffer for adequate reaction time is key to motorcycle safety, as well.

"A safe following distance helps ensure that you won't rear-end a car that stops suddenly," Bobbitt said.
"It also helps you see road hazards after the car in front of you has passed over [them]. A minimum 2-second following distance should be used for most riding conditions."

Many riders enjoy group riding, as well. When going on a group ride, riders should prepare by having an initial get-together first.

"Prior to a group ride, the riders should meet to discuss the details of the ride, including the where, how and what ifs," Bobbitt said. "Mapping out the ride to show potential hazards beforehand can allow for riders to be aware of traffic concerns or construction zones."

All riders should carry a cell phone and list of other riders' numbers. More experienced riders should also carry a first-aid kit and a small tool kit in case of emergencies.

Remember, though, that these tips are only good if Airmen use them. Enjoy the ride as spring comes and melds into summer, but be sure to stay safe.