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How to go from "newbie" to "ride captain"

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --

A giant helmet on, swaying with the wind while a thick riding jacket gets in the way of controlling the bike. With some riding courses, you’re zipping around the roads with cool ease and comfort, the wind whipping past your face.

This Airman could be you after taking any of the three motorcycle riding courses available at the range behind the air traffic control tower off Kingfisher Road at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

There are three courses available, open to any style of motorcyclist. There is a Basic Riders Course updated, a Basic Rider Course 2 updated and an Advanced Riders Course.

No matter which class, taking a motorcycle safety course is mandatory for every Airman wanting to ride; each class is taught by an Air Force professionally trained coach for those who want to be safe and learn about their bikes.

“Our coaches were taught by an instructor who had been teaching for years and years and years, they flew in from Mountain Home Air Force Base,” Staff Sgt. Vincenzo Kopilow, 20th Component Maintenance Squadron test measurement and diagnostic equipment craftsman and Shaw riding coach. “We all got to take a week off of work and focus solely on safety requirements of the Air Force and how to teach people from scratch to ride.”

The BRCu is a two- to three-day course designed to teach those who have never ridden how to ride, starting riders off with safe habits and mental strategies, in lieu of sending Airmen out on their own.

“In the BRC updated we teach everything from using your clutch, moving forward and backward to turning,” said Kopilow. “Most Airmen who buy a bike already have experience with that although the course is designed to teach people to go from crawling to walking. It’s really cool to watch someone go from knowing nothing about a bike to zipping down the track.”

Day one of the class is a mix of formal classroom studying coupled with activities on the motorcycle. The second day sets the foundation for how to move the bike forward, turn, shift gears, and stop. Day three builds on day two and teaches more practical moves, such as limited space maneuvers without putting feet down, making corners at speed and stopping in corners for both emergency and non-emergency situations.
Learning how to determine proper speed for a corner, how to change lanes, simulate coping with traffic, swerving to avoid obstacles and stopping for an emergency are all requirements for coaches to teach students.

There is a written knowledge test in the classroom as well as one on the bike at the end of the range activities.

The BRC2u, is a one-day course for those who already have basic skills. Speeds are higher in this course, as it is intended to be a refresher course to practice and renew riding skills. This course is a mix of informal classroom discussions about riding safely sprinkled with riding exercises.

“This course is geared toward people who have to become familiar with our lingo again and who haven’t ridden in say five years,” said Kopilow. “It’s also good for those who have developed bad habits from riding with people who don’t pay as much attention to safety guidelines as the Air Force instructs.”

The importance of the refresher training is to reinforce those initial habits and thought processes that may have been missed in the first course, so it clicks the second time.

“You can bet if you’re riding according to the Air Force guidelines you’re set up for success with the way you ride, the way you dress and how safe you are,” said Kopilow. “The one thing we can’t control is how much of a risk a rider wants to take, how fast they ride, or how far, so we give people the habits they need and hope they use them.”

The ARC is a one-day course for the more advanced and is geared towards sports bike riders, teaching Airmen how to really manipulate their bike as well as enhance their skills. This is done by teaching them crash avoidance skills, improving braking and cornering.

“Over time you end up forgetting some of the fundamentals and fall into old habits, so taking some of the refresher courses bring back the fundamentals and basics people naturally lose over time,” said Master Sgt. Micheal Hill, Air Forces Central Command, ATC and airspace operations non-commissioned officer in charge. “It’s great to remain safe and keep your head on a swivel when taking a turn. I know a lot of people starting doing that after taking a course.”

BRC2u courses are scheduled for April 8, May 6, June 3, July 8, August 19, and September 27. From 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. BRCu and ARC dates are awaiting final dates.

Contact Adarryll Crawford, Wing Safety manager, at 803-895-1985 for more information or to sign up.

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