Soldiers, cycles, speed and safety
The Tragic Truth
We’re losing more troops to motorcycle accidents than we are to combat. In 2008, 73% of deceased military personnel were lost to motorcycle, ATV, boating or drowning accidents. Another 25% could be attributed to automobile accidents. These are sobering statistics but they make perfect sense. Our men and women of the Armed Forces are highly trained and adrenaline fuelled. They come home from service with combat pay to spend and a need for excitement. They’ve fought hard, so now it’s time to play hard!
To freshly decommissioned fighting men and women looking for action, what could be more exciting than a motorcycle? Unfortunately, our troops have not been trained for this mission. Worse, their guard is down. The “Friendlies” that they share the road with can be just as lethal as the foes they faced in conflict.
In America, you can buy the most powerful motorcycles available with nothing more than a down payment and a signature. You’re not even required to have a motorcycle license to take possession of your new toy. When an untrained rider heads out into traffic on a 175 mph capable weapon, the odds of a tragedy are incredibly high. Did you know that the average life expectancy of a new 1000cc sportbike is less than 2000 miles before it’s totaled? No wonder they’re so expensive to insure.
Troops, you need to avoid this trap. Motorcycles are not the enemy; a lack of training is. In service, you’ve been schooled in the use of advanced weapons systems. Consider a modern sportbike with the same reverence you’d show an FA-18 Hornet, Abrams Battle Tank or nuclear submarine. Would the military allow you to sit at the controls of these machines without years of training? In civilian life, if sportbike ownership is your goal, mastering the skills necessary to pilot one is your responsibility. With all the brain dead, cell phone talking and texting, drunk, inattentive and just plain stupid people driving cars and trucks out there, learning how to ride while in traffic is like taking Basic Training in a hot combat zone. Besides, how much fun is it to do the speed limit on a ten-second motorcycle?
The place to improve your riding skills while also getting the chance to really twist the throttle of your cycle is at a motorcycle trackday. Consider trackdays to be your Basic Training for sportbike ownership. The good news is that this will be a lot more fun than Boot Camp! You’ll have rules to follow and skills to learn but don’t think that any of this will be boring. Students are locked and loaded from the first moment, because the racetrack is not about going slow! You’ll be promoted as your experience grows. Friendly, enthusiastic instructors, most of whom are also accomplished motorcycle racers, will take the place of barking Drill Sergeants. Your training grounds will be the plentiful and magnificent racetracks of America. When you’re ready, you’ll be free to exercise your weapon without speed limits. This WILL be the grand adventure you’ve been dreaming about while you served your country. We here at TrackdayMag.com want to take this opportunity to thank you for your sacrifices and to welcome you to the sport that we love.
Sgt. Phil Bresnahan and TrackdayMag.com Senior Editor, K3 Chris Onwiler, have been friends since their freshman year in high school. In the late 1990’s, they did a lot of sport touring together aboard a pair of Kawasaki ZX11s. The racing bug caught them and they both earned their CCS competition licenses. Then their paths split. Phil was not interested in joining the peacetime military but had always claimed that he’d enlist if our country went to war. When the Desert Storm conflict broke out, Phil made good on his word and joined the army on March 13, 1991, with an MOS of 62B. (Heavy Construction Equipment Technician) When his hitch was up in 1996, Bresnahan joined the Army National Guard. He served as a staff sergeant 62B in operation Iraqi Freedom II (Feb 04 to Feb 05) where his duties were as a technical inspector in maintenance company and NCOIC of convoy escort gun-trucks protecting the supply trucks. (Yes, he’s fired his weapon in combat…) Sgt. Phil is currently serving as a Sergeant First Class Combat Engineer, working as a mentor and trainer to the Afghan National Police and National Army. Bresnahan’s deployment will be up in March of 2010 and he plans to retire in March of 2011. Now, Sgt. Phil plans to make up for lost time! He’s commissioned us to build a racetrack weapon for the job and is itching to use it as soon as he returns stateside. Bresnahan has always been a Kawasaki fan, having ridden and raced nothing else. When we asked him what kind of machine he wanted, his only requirement was, “It has to be a Kaw!”
Sgt. Phil’s new toy will need to be a machine with plenty of potential, yet one that will be at least somewhat user friendly as he reactivates the riding skills he’s put on hold for so long. For this reason, we decided to find a 600 for him. Bresnahan intends to invest a nice chunk of his combat pay into this project, and our goal is to stretch those dollars and build the best machine possible for his money. Since we’ll be buying top shelf parts, the best way for us to economize is to find an inexpensive platform to start from. What we’ve been looking for is a wrecked motorcycle that we could pick up cheap.
“Operation Racetrack Freedom” will be a 2008 Kawasaki ZX6R. We acquired the machine from JOS Motorsports. This company sells motorcycle performance parts and gear online, as well as specializing in the creation of built-to-order racetrack and street bikes. When JOS owner, John Udell, heard about our project, he stepped up and offered a great price on this cycle as a starting point. The bike has had a checkered past. It was already wrecked when JOS acquired it. They restored the machine to mint street trim, made a deal to sell it and were hauling the bike to its new owner when a strap broke and allowed the Kawasaki to fall off of their trailer at highway speed! It’s a talented motorcycle that can crash itself… Because Udell and JOS wanted to be involved in Sgt. Phil’s comeback project, they offered this Kaw to us for the ridiculously friendly price of $1800. Honestly, they could have parted the machine out on EBay and recovered more of their loss but like us, they wanted to give something back to a returning soldier.
We’ve already begun rounding up the parts we need to rebuild this battered Kawasaki into the racetrack weapon of Sgt. Bresnahan’s dreams. Hopefully, other soldiers will follow this ongoing series of articles and discover how they too can build a track weapon, learn how to pilot the machine to its maximum potential, ride hard in a trackday environment and perhaps even graduate to the combat environment of motorcycle roadracing if they so choose. Even in his hobby, this Sergeant is acting as a mentor to the troops. With due respect to his rank, we think Bresnahan is “First Class” in more ways than one. TrackdayMag.com is proud to be involved in his return to the sport.