Marine motorcycle riders train with professional racers Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 July 2012
Story and photo by Melissa Buckley
GUIDON staff
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Fort Leonard Wood’s Marines had the unique opportunity to ride side-by-side with some of the most renowned professional motorcycle racers in the world Saturday and Sunday.

Jason Pridmore’s Skills and Techniques for Advanced Riding Motorcycle School was on post to help the Marines become more proficient and more confident riders.
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Marine motorcyclists ride alongside professional racers during Skills and Techniques for Advanced Riding motorcycle course at Fort Leonard Wood on Saturday.

“I teach real life situations at speeds that can be related to the street. I teach them how to gain control and see how to control their motorcycles,” said Jason Pridmore, STAR Motorcycle School owner. “It’s about feeling what your body is doing. We scale it back and cut the speed and start from there. Through repetition and good technique, you’ll be a more solid rider.”

Semper Ride helped bring the STAR Motorcycle School to Fort Leonard Wood. Semper Ride was created in response to the increasing number of motorcycle fatalities and accidents by Marines.

“Semper Ride is a motorcycle campaign about riding the right way. We started with a movie with the sports top riders, giving insight on how they made it to the top level in the sport. It’s about making good decisions when they are riding. It really resonated with Marines, especially young Marines. Instead of making motorcycling a negative thing, the Marine Corps is trying to be supportive and make it something fun and safe,” said Jeff Tilton, Semper Ride project manager.
Marines who ride have to take a motorcycle refresher course every three years. Tilton described the STAR Motorcycle School as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“They are learning side-by-side with professionals. Jason Pridmore is a world-renowned rider, it’s not everyday you get to ride with somebody of his caliber,” Tilton said.

While on post, the STAR Motorcycle School worked with 53 students riding both sport bikes and cruisers. They learned about concentration, relaxation and breathing, smoothness, visual skills and awareness, discipline, body position, cornering lines, steering techniques, shifting techniques, braking techniques, reference points, managing and optimizing traction, overcoming panic, suspension and chassis setup.

Even experienced motorcyclists were able to learn something from this class.  

Marine Staff Sgt. Shawn Vernon, Marine Corps Detachment, Motor Transport Instruction Company, has been riding motorcycles for more than 20 years.

“I learned how to handle my downshift coming up to a turn so it’s smoother and not jerky. In real life riding, you never know what the next turn of some of these back roads is going to bring. Practicing on a track like this has given me a little bit of an edge,” Vernon said. “My confidence has already gone up a little bit. I like going to classes whenever possible; you can never learn too much.”

Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Holmes, Marine Corps Detachment, Engineer Equipment Instruction Company agreed. He’s been riding for about 15 years.

“Everything that I thought I knew — I really didn’t. I could write down all of the fundamentals that I have learned, but today I got to actually apply them and figure out what they all mean,” Holmes said.

After the classroom portion of the school, Marines took turns practicing on Fort Leonard Wood’s Evasive Driving Course track. The STAR Motorcycle School’s instructors were riding along side the Marines, watching them closely and pulling them over to share advice.

Holmes said getting pulled over was a good experience.

“He told me to relax my hands, which I had never thought about. I have always relaxed my elbows. The hands made a huge difference,” Holmes said.

Pridmore said Fort Leonard Wood was the ideal location to host his school.

“The facility that you have here on Fort Leonard Wood is rare. It’s a perfect spot to ride and train,” Pridmore said. “What I want to do is create riders that don’t want to go fast on the street anymore. They can’t obtain the same levels on the street they can on this track.”  

On the controlled Evasive Driving Course track there are no vehicles, no curbs and no guardrails for the riders to contend with.

“Learning on the street is a dangerous task. You can only make one mistake and it could potentially be your last mistake. Here they can work on their technique and form while building confidence by repetition,” Tilton said.

Pridmore hopes his school will help change the way motorcycling is viewed.

“The big thing is the military was getting hit hard with a rash of injuries and deaths. Troops came back from deployment with money, spent it on the wrong bikes for themselves, and sadly, became statistics. The age demographic of the troops coming back was pretty young and they felt a little invincible when they came home,” Pridmore said. “It’s very rare that as a civilian we get to give back to these people. We can say ‘thank you,’ but for me and my instructors, this is a way to bring troops something they love and make it better for them.”

Pridmore believes anybody can ride a motorcycle, but most riders don’t understand the fundamentals of riding. That’s something he and his instructors are trying to change for troops by bringing them their years of professional knowledge.

    “We give people the opportunity to go back to the basics. We have a ton of experience, but we’ve made mistakes, too,” Pridmore said.

The Marines that took this class were honored to be able to study with the instructors and grateful for the opportunity.

“I could never afford this on my own. It’s valuable to me because I don’t get the chance to learn safely like this on the roads. This gives me the chance to see how good I am, and see how my bike works. I wish we could do this more often,” Holmes said.

Vernon agreed. He said he couldn’t afford this kind of course on his own either.

“Spending time on our bikes in a training setting like this is priceless. It’s pretty awesome for me. This is a dream for us,” Vernon said.

According to Tilton the Semper Ride program has seen a 48 percent reduction in fatalities in the last three years.

“The Marine Corps is providing opportunities for world-class training. It’s great here at Fort Leonard Wood because the command really supported this. The Marine Corps spends a lot of money for this training and the one thing that we have to ensure is that all the seats are filled. The Marine here on post did a great job of organizing this,” Tilton said. “If a civilian were to take the two-day STAR Motorcycle School, it would cost them $600.”  

Pridmore said he was honored to be a part of the training Fort Leonard Wood’s Marines were getting.

“I have been with the Army National Guard for three years and the Marine Corps for two years, and every person that has come through our school can be accounted for and that means a lot to me,” Pridmore said.

For more information on the Semper Ride program visit www.semperride.com.


Last Updated ( Wednesday, 08 August 2012 )