NORFOLK (NNS) -- A new course designed for sport bike motorcycle riders in the Navy and Marine Corps kicked off at Naval Station Norfolk June 4 and at other fleet concentration areas. Every sport bike rider in the Navy and Marine Corps will be required to take the course.
There has been a rise in the number of sport bike riders in the fleet, and the reason seems simple. They are sleek and colorful and built for speed. For Sailors and Marines, many of whom are naturally attracted to an adrenaline rush, this is a huge selling point. However, these same features make riding sport bikes much different than handling cruisers or touring bikes. Mishap statistics show it's important to take these differences into account.
The Naval Safety Center (NSC) partnered with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to create the Military Sport Bike Rider Course (MSRC) specifically for sport bike riders.
"Sport bikes come with engines that are 600, 800, 900cc or even higher, said Dale Wisnieski, a motorcycle safety specialist at NSC. He also explained that these bikes have engines tuned for racing, are made of advanced lightweight material, and are highly maneuverable.
While they may be more maneuverable, they do ride differently than cruisers or other types of motorcycles. That's why this new training is so crucial.
"This course will teach cornering, braking and swerving, and other things necessary to get the most out of your sport bike," Wisnieski said. "Also, it gives insight on rider behaviors and perceptions."
The course includes classroom time as well as practical experience out on the range. The aggressive approach is due to the fact that so many Sailors and Marines are buying these machines without much riding experience.
"It's common for someone who has never been on a motorcycle of any type to fall for peer pressure or advertising pitches and buy a very expensive, very powerful bike," Wisnieski said. "If you buy one, sign up for this course immediately."
Statistics show that the increased number of sport bikes on the road has had an affect on mishap rates. The rise in sport bike popularity corresponds to a rise in motorcycle fatalities. In 2007, a majority of fatalities involved sport bikes, and of the 31 fatalities that have occurred in the Navy and Marine Corps in 2008, at least 28 involved sport bikes. This new course is designed to reverse this disturbing trend by giving riders valuable experience.
Don Borkoski, also a motorcycle safety specialist at NSC, said the course will help riders respect the capabilities of their high-performance machines.
"The typical racetrack bike is 600cc. The average Sailor is buying one that's 1000cc or above. These bikes are great and can be a lot of fun, as long as you maintain awareness of the consequences of that kind of speed," he said.
Ultimately, speed comes from a rider's throttle hand. The responsibility lies with the rider, not the machine. NSC's motorcycle specialists emphasize that they do not want to discourage Sailors and Marines from riding these types of bikes as long as they are trained.
"This isn't your grandfather's motorcycle safety course," Wisnieski said. "This is exciting. The fleet asked for it because sport bikes are the bikes that they're buying and riding. We listened and designed the training specifically for them and their needs. We really believe this is going to go a long way toward improving the success rates for sport bike riders, keeping them on the road and out of the hospitals or morgues."
For more news from Naval Safety Center, visit www.navy.mil/local/nsc/.