Originally created 07/27/06

Freedom Ryderz pave way for safety on motorcycles



With a focus on safety, a new motorcycle club mounted up for a ride July 13.

"The Department of Defense mandated all installations will establish a motorcycle mentor," said Ray Jones, the founder of the Freedom Ryderz and an organizer of the 93rd Signal Brigade Freedom Ride.

Members of the club joined with other motorcycle enthusiasts including Brig. Gen. Ken Keen, the commander of the U.S. Army Southern Command at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, for an 88-mile ride through Wrens, Thomson and Columbia County. It was the club's inaugural ride.

The Motorcycle Mentor program pairs experienced riders with inexperienced ones.

"There have been a high number of fatalities" involving soldiers and motorcycles, said Mr. Jones, an Army veteran and Department of the Army civilian employee.

Young soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have a lot of money in their pockets, he said. Many buy motorcycles and operate them in an unsafe manner.

When riding on military installations, motorcyclists must follow stringent guidelines related to the kind of equipment they use, Mr. Jones said. They must have a reflective vest or belt; they must wear a Department of Transportation approved helmet with a face shield or goggles. Also, riders must wear long sleeves, full-fingered gloves and leather boots that cover the ankles.

Soldiers purchasing a motorcycle are required to complete a safety course.

New riders can join the Freedom Ryderz on a provisionary basis. After about six months, or when the new rider's mentor gives the approval, the rider can move into full member status in the club.

Mr. Jones said he plans for the club to have a minimum of two events each month.

"We hope this is one of many rides," he said.

Brig. Gen. Keen commended Fort Gordon for its initiative to quickly start the program. Peter Schoomaker, the secretary of the Army, had issued a memo in December about the need for the program.

"You are really paving the way to improve and increase safety awareness," he told the riders before the event.

For more information, call (706) 831-3087.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at czbrackett@hotmail.com.

CHARMAIN BRACKETT/SPECIAL

Members of the Freedom Ryderz motorcycle club at Fort Gordon made their inaugural ride July 13 with the 93rd Signal Brigade Freedom Ride. Riders left Freedom Park for an 88-mile ride to raise safety awareness.