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PHOTO CAPTION:  Motorcyclists at Storck Barracks, U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach, line up on the tarmac after completing a motorcycle refresher course and before riding to Geiselwind, Germany, as a part of a group ride to promote motorcycle safety June 7.

June 12, 2013
By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (IMCOM)

ANSBACH, Germany (June 12, 2013) -- Against the din of a helicopter at a hangar at Storck Barracks, the collective growl of several motorcycles competed. At U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt and USAG Bamberg, the same sound announced similar groups of two-wheeled machines. These groups departed their installations; the roar of their engines rumbled through the German countryside to converge at a music hall in Geiselwind June 7.

The motorcycle safety rally, which was coordinated through the garrisons' safety offices, was an effort to promote motorcycle safety. Before the ride, riders were given a safety brief, made inspections of their machines to ensure they were safe to ride, and participated in a short riding course.

"We stress safety in everything we do," said Bill Carter, who performed as a sweep for the ride from Storck Barracks and has 33 years of motorcycling experience in Europe. "We're military. Driving, riding: safety is always stressed."

"Motorcycling is a pastime, a hobby to relax," said Lt. Col. David Markiewicz, the USAG Ansbach provost marshal. "No matter what you do, you have to keep safe in doing it."

Originally the ride was set for May 31, but, consistent with the goals of the safety office, they rescheduled for the following Friday when heavy rain imperiled the possibility of a safe ride.

"I'm kind of glad that they changed it," said Michael Thompson, one of the riders from USAG Ansbach. "I thought that -- as I was riding out I was looking at blue skies -- yeah, I'm actually glad they changed it."

During the course at Storck Barracks, the riders refreshed their knowledge of protective gear, hand signals, and group riding safety measures. They also went through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's T-CLOCS inspection checklist, which includes checking the safety of tires and wheels (T), controls (C), lights (L), oil (O), chassis (C), and stands (S).

The ride was also about motorcycle mentorship. The group ride allowed motorcyclists of various levels of experience to commingle as well as raised awareness of the garrisons' motorcycle safety programs.

"The senior riders -- the experienced riders -- are supposed to share their knowledge and experiences with the less experienced riders in the organization," said Markiewicz. "It's to promote safety, to promote enjoyment and to promote the program."

"Take care of the young troops," said Carter. "You've always got to take care of your Soldiers."

The ride also represents a proactive approach to motorcycle safety in the Franconia Military Community, which consists of USAG Ansbach, Bamberg and Schweinfurt.

At Geiselwind, the riders enjoyed a buffet meal. Lt. Col. Michelle L. Bienias, commander of USAG Bamberg, spoke on the importance of motorcycle safety, met with riders and presented gift cards, gift baskets and other prizes to the participants.

Participants in the ride had various motivations for joining. Some wanted to be out for the group experience. Others joined for the feel of the open road.

"It's a great chance to get away from work for a little bit, and it's a great chance to come out and ride with a group, which I don't get that opportunity very often," said Thompson. "Every chance I get to ride with a big, large group, I jump all over that."

Dorothy Thompson, Michael Thompson's wife, rode separately in a vehicle behind her husband's group.

"I love the way it sounds when there are multiple motorcycles together," she said. "You can't replace that feeling with all of them rumbling at the same time. It's a great feeling."

Javier Vega Garcia has ridden a motorcycle for 20 years, 16 years in Germany and five years in the Storck Barracks area. Despite his experience on a motorcycle, he had not yet made a group ride.

"I've heard about them before, but this is the first time I've had a chance to jump in and experience it," he said.

The riders expressed the safety concerns of the motorcycle as well.

"I pay attention to what I'm doing, pay attention to those around me, wear the correct gear," Garcia said. "Ensure the tires have the correct air pressure, ensure all the levers are working correctly, and make sure the motorcycle is overall in sound condition."

"The biggest thing is to know the limits of what you and your bike can do," said Michael Thompson. "With my bike, the way it was built, it doesn't lean so far as other bikes, so I have to keep my speed slower than many other bikes can do. Know your limits, know your bike's limits, and keep within those limits. Even though sometimes I want to goose the throttle a little bit more, I have to let off sometimes and say 'Hey, there's a point where too fast is too fast.'"

To learn about the Army Traffic Safety Training Program, visit www.imcom-europe.army.mil/webs/sites/staff_org/safety/atstp/index.html.

To learn more about each garrison's motorcycle safety programs, contact each garrison's safety office. To reach the USAG Ansbach Safety Office, call 09811-83-1670 or DSN 468-1670. To call the USAG Bamberg Safety Office, call 0951-300-1670 or DSN 469-1670. To call the USAG Schweinfurt Safety Office, call 09721-96-1670 or 354-1670 or visit Bldg. 206, Room 113, at Ledward Barracks.