Motorcyclists can minimize risk with simple steps


Riding a motorbike can be fun, but there is also a risk associated with it. The risk, however, can be minimized.

“Motorcyclists are easily overlooked,” said Helmut Schartel, safety specialist with U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden. “They not only have to watch out for themselves, but also to pay attention to others. They have to permanently observe, evaluate and react.”

Service members and civilians have to take part in a theoretical briefing and a test at the Drivers’ Testing and Training Station in order to be allowed to ride a motorbike in Europe, Schartel said.


Photo courtesy of Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club-Germany. Riders should thoroughly check their motorcycle before a tour. A check should encompass making sure that the brakes function properly, tires are in good condition and have the adequate pressure, and checking the fluid levels.

Service members have to also do the Basic Rider Course to receive a Motorcycle Safety Foundation card. Within twelve months after the BRC, they have to do the Experienced Rider Course, which is valid for five years, he said.

Once the formal side is completed, personal protective equipment is key: According to Army regulation, a helmet with a face shield, gloves, over-the-ankle boots, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt are required, he said

Reflective gear is very important, too, Schartel said. Service members are required to wear it on and off post. Civilians, family members and U.S. contractors have to wear it on post.

In Germany, drivers are required to turn the lights on while riding a motorbike — during the day and during the night, he said.

“Constant practice is important,” Schartel said. “Especially after a long winter break.” For service members, the MSF training is a good opportunity to get re-accustomed to riding a motorbike. It is mandatory every five years, however, they can participate in it more often for free, he said.

Another safety practice is to thoroughly check the motorbike before a tour. A check should encompass making sure that the brakes function properly, tires are in good condition and have the adequate pressure, and checking the fluid levels, Schartel said.

“Helmets are not good forever,” he said. Every three to four years a motorcyclist should invest in a new one. The padding gets thinner over time, and then it might not fit as well as before. If that happens, the protective effect of the helmet becomes limited.

“Don’t overestimate your abilities,” Schartel said, “it is better to apply a more defensive riding style to make sure you arrive safely.”