Birdstrike on a Harley

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Sigmon
  • 62nd Maintenance Group
When the sun finally broke through last weekend, legions of motorcyclists took to the road. The temperature wasn't what anyone would call balmy, so most of them were wearing leathers and decent lids, but this being the Pacific Northwest, I noticed several Darwin Award candidates riding in shorts and novelty helmets. "Novelty" by the way, is the legal disclaimer that lets unscrupulous manufacturers get around Department of Transportation certification.

The Department of Defense mandates very specific protective gear for its riders, both on and off base. Your helmet has to be DOT-approved, and as a young Non Commissioned Officer, I learned why. In a moment of weakness, my over-indulgent spouse broke down and bought me a Harley Davison motorcycle, contingent on the wear of a full face helmet. She also suggested I stick to Mildenhall's country lanes for a while, figuring I'd be safer on farm roads.

That turned out to be a great plan, right up to the point at 60 miles an hour that I took a glancing blow to the face from a dove. Thankfully, the visor was down on the helmet I was wearing. That small bird nearly knocked me off the bike, and my neck hurt for two weeks. On a narrow road bordered with rock walls, it easily could have been a fatal mishap.

Part of being an adult means coming to terms with the risk you're willing to accept in your life. You have to understand that what would be a minor accident in an airbag-equipped automobile can maim or kill you on a bike, even on the shortest joy-ride, and I don't use joy-ride lightly. Riding has always meant freedom to me, but turning 50 and caring for aging parents has given me a new perspective on mortality. I'm done. My family loves me, and the Air Force is counting on me to come to work tomorrow.

If you ride with experienced bikers, you'll hear the term ATGATT. It's an acronym for "All the gear, all the time". Leather or Kevlar, boots, gloves, a reflective vest and a quality helmet that gets replaced if you drop it on the concrete. Period.

Ride safe.