Monday, June 13, 2011

I’ll Ride a BMW for Free, but you ‘Gotta Pay Me to Ride a Harley

I finally passed motor officer school and now have a 2009 Harley Davidson Police Road King assigned to me. I came into motor school with much anticipation and much trepidation as well. You may or may not know that last year I broke my left ankle in motor school on the first day of the second week and wasn’t able to complete the class. Ten weeks later, I was finally healed up and able to ride my own bike at least. But most of the summer was gone and I would have to wait another year to ride while on duty.
This year there was only one other student in the school with me, an Aberdeen Police Officer. The school consists of cone courses, off-road driving, formation street riding, traffic stop procedures and firearms training using the cycle as cover. With only two students, we were riding constantly. I was determined not to be complacent, and I was not going to put my foot down during the tight cone courses. This is what bit me last year. If the bike was going down, I was going to ride it until it bucked me off. One of the instructors joked, calling me “White man who gets bucked from iron horse.” “Twelve moons ago iron horse bit white man.” One time I was bucked off, I landed on my feet right in front of my instructors. “Ta Da!” I said, and then “I meant to do that.”
The cone course, called the 360, or otherwise called the keyhole, was my downfall last year. It is an 18 ft wide circle with one gate to go in and to come out. This year I did it on the third try. It still isn’t my best exercise, and I could still use a lot of practice at it. It is more of a mental thing than a physical thing. But I was able to pass the course successfully. A lot of the other cone exercises are very similar in theory and practice to what I teach in Basic Riders Course for the MSF except they are at a higher speed. In the MSF courses your highest speed is 20 MPH. The cone courses are set up at the fairgrounds parking lot.
The off-road riding is extremely challenging and a lot of fun. You play follow the leader at slow speeds maneuvering through tight spaces. The key is looking where you want to go, wheel placement, clutch and throttle control, and counterweight steering. A lot of it is done in the fairgrounds by going around and through the barns. Other areas are city parks, parking ramps, and the federal courthouse plaza downtown.
Traffic stops with a motorcycle definitely have a lot more multitasking as compared to a patrol car. Your vulnerabilities are also much more evident. That was even more known after taking the bikes to the firearms range and using them as cover when you are shooting. Having been on duty on the Road King for two weeks now, I am very fond of it and I’m averaging about 100 miles in my 10 hour shift. The HD Road King is a very good and comfortable police work platform, especially for city police work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to run right out and trade off my R1150R. Black Betty is all pleasure and sport, and I would only give her up for another BMW. Hence, I’ll ride a BMW for free, but you gotta pay me to ride a Harley.

Submitted by Chad Gillen

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