Motorcycle Safety Week <br> Instructor shares enthusiasm, concerns

  • Published
  • By Susan Griggs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
When he straps on his helmet, he looks forward to the sights, sounds and smells of the road. He relishes the camaraderie. He loves the performance, handling and look of his mode of transportation.

Master Sgt. Gordon Comerford's love affair with motorcycles began 21 years ago when he started riding motocross bikes. Over the years, he's owned about 10 different motorcycles of various makes and styles.

"I ride motorcycles because it is fantastic method of transportation," the 81st Surgical Operations Squadron first sergeant said. "I try to ride every day that I can. I ride to work most days all year. The only days I plan not to ride are the ones with 100 percent chance of rain."

Sergeant Comerford, who came to Keesler 4½ years ago, said that one of the most important reasons he rides is the people he meets.

"There is a brotherhood of sorts when you ride a motorcycle," he commented. "You can meet complete strangers in an unfamiliar place and immediately become friends just because you ride. It is a commonality that few of us share that creates the bond."

Sergeant Comerford started teaching motorcycle safety classes in 2009 because "I saw too many of my fellow riders taking unnecessary risks and riding beyond their capabilities. I wanted to be able to teach both young and old riders the proper way to operate a motorcycle. The only way to do that was to become more knowledgeable myself."

The 16-year Air Force member even bought a sport bike so he could be more in touch with the younger riders.

"If I can teach one technique to one rider that enables them to avoid an accident, I have made a difference in that rider's life," he stressed.

Sergeant Comerford is the project officer for this year's Motorcycle Safety Week.

"I started thinking about a motorcycle safety event after teaching the first basic rider course ofthe season," Sergeant Comerford explained. "I started brainstorming with fellow riders and the safety day turned into a safety week."

He admits he's experienced some mishaps as a motocross rider, "and I can say that every time was due to overriding the conditions and taking a little too much risk."

He's also had several close calls on the road resulting from inattentive drivers entering his lane while in plain view of the driver.

"The biggest mistake I see motorcyclists making is riding beyond their abilities or the road conditions," Sergeant Comerford pointed out.

"Most modern motorcycles can outperform their riders. This leads to riders pushing themselves in an effort to keep up with the machine. The highway is not the place to test your ability or your motorcycle's. Most riders are simply not skilled enough to react properly when they find themselves in a sticky situation. It takes years of practice and training to be able to ride the motorcycle at its limits.

"Highway conditions and traffic are too unpredictable to test one's limits, not to mention illegal," he continued. "If a rider wants to see what he or she and the motorcycle are capable of, find a racetrack where the road conditions and traffic are always the same."

Sergeant Comerford said the biggest danger from automobiles is simply not being seen by them.

"That doesn't mean the answer is wearing a flashing red light on our helmets," he remarked. "Being seen is often making yourself noticeable by proper lane positioning, controlling your speed and leaving a safety margin between the motorcycle and automobiles."

Training and practice are the keys to being a good rider. Luckily, the training is free.

"Take advantage of every opportunity to improve your riding skills," he recommended. "I've had many seasoned riders tell me 'thank you' at the end of a training session for teaching them a skill they had forgotten or for showing them how to make a maneuver that they haven't been able to do for 25 years. Each and every rider should look for those opportunities daily."