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Frank Santiago, a rider coach for base safety, flies around a corner of Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, practicing what he has learned from classes during a Jason Pridmore’s Star School class sponsored by the Combat Center’s Base Safety May 13, 2011.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

West coast riders gathered for day of training and fun

23 May 2011 | Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

Marines and sailors from across southern California traveled deep into the heart of the Mojave Desert to improve their riding skills at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, Desert Center, Calif., for a class given by the Jason Pridmore’s Star School, sponsored by the Combat Center’s Base Safety May 13, 2011.

“Today we are in the mind set of getting them off the street and on the track,” said Frank Santiago, a rider coach for base safety. “When you get them on the track they don’t have the desire to go fast on the street anymore.”

This is the most advanced course the Combat Center offered for Marines and sailors.

The courses begin with the basic rider’s course, which is a requirement for all military personnel to legally ride a motorcycle, Santiago explained. Then, riders go onto the experienced rider course for the next level. After the experienced course, there are two courses, options, one each for sport and cruiser bikes.

When riders from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and the Combat Center took the first class of the day, their experience riding the bikes on tracks varied widely.

“A lot of these guys have never been to a track before so it is something new for them,” Santiago said. “Some of these guys are veterans and know the exhilaration of being on the track and would rather test themselves out here than anywhere else. This is a good place to test your skills and really become a better rider.”

The track itself helps the riders practice skills and learn their limits with its design.

“It’s not a very fast track, but it is a technical track. What I mean by that is a lot of bank, decreasing radius corners and blind corners,” Santiago said. “You are really going to get your skills pushed a little more and more each time. It is an outstanding track for the riders who are trying to develop what they know.”

While the riders hit the track to practice their new skills, the instructors joined them and helped any rider they thought was having difficulties.

“I try to find students who I think are having trouble, either not knowing where to be on the track or with body positions or sometimes, someone who just doesn’t feel comfortable with what he is doing,” said Thomas Montano, a general instructor with Jason Pridmore’s Star School. “Basically [we] try to find people and help them.”

The day progressed with few hiccups and one minor accident. Fortunately, the rider wasn’t injured and wasn’t too angry with himself for laying down his bike.

“Accidents are always going to happen because you can’t always tell what your tire is going to do,” said Staff Sgt. Shawn Williams, an instructor with the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School. “The fortunate thing for me is that I am not on a gurney right now. If it is that bad of an accident, [it’s] a really bad day, but someone laying their bike down, that’s not bad.”

All of the classes and practice culminate to an understanding of how far riders can push their bikes, whether on a track or on the road.

“If you are aware of your surroundings then you can find your limits and know your limits, you will be better off.,” Montano said. “As long as you are comfortable with the bike, you can get away with pushing the limit because you can tell what it is doing and hear what it is telling you. On the street, especially, there are a lot of factors that you can’t perceive. You want to make sure that you are riding [the bike] and it’s not riding you.”

For more information on military motorcycle courses or upcoming classes call the Combat Center’s Motor Vehicle Safety office at 830-6154. For more information on Jason Pridmore’s Star School visit http://starmotor For more information on the Chuckwalla valley raceway visit http://www. or call 227-3100.

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