Sunday, August 09, 2009

Watching Precision Riders make their Harleys dance

On Sunday, August 9th, I was at Top Gun Motorsports watching an amazing display of skill and training put on by Marc Ward and Pam Redfern of the Civilian Top Gun Precision Riders Team.

Previously, I'd witnessed last year's Blue Knight competition where motorcycle police officers from all over the surrounding area compete to see who is best at slow speed maneuvers while negotiating tight obstacle courses. LINK. I remember thinking at the time, that those police officers were incredibly skilled with their big Harleys and BMW patrol motorcycles.

Well, on Sunday I witnessed the same level of skill put on by two "civilians". Both Marc and Pam are graduates of T3RG Motorcycle School's Top Gun Rider Training course. Heck, Pam had just recently graduated this June and she was out there wowing the Harley Davidson bikers who'd gathered for the demonstration.

While Marc has over 40 years of riding experience, he told me that it was not till he tried to complete the practice courses two years ago for the first annual Civilian Top Gun Competition that he realized he needed more formal training.

That training under his belt, he competed the first year and came within 1/10th of a second from winning first prize! He has placed in the top three positions in the last two Civilian Top Gun Competitions.

Pam has been riding since only 2005, and yet demonstrated the same wonderful slow speed maneuvering skills as Marc. Both riders were on Harley Davidson Road Kings by the way, which differ from police motorcycles mostly in that they lack the full fairings and of course some of the police equipment. They're large motorcycles, quite heavy and yet both Pam and Marc made them dance.

Don Gunn, a veteran of 16 years of training Police Motorcycle Officers, a former motorcycle officer, runs the Top Gun Rider Training course for T3RG Motorcycle Schools. The classes are small I am told which allows personal coaching and attention by Don to ensure students get what they need to learn precision riding.

Here's Pam at the start of the demo, addressing the bar crowd at Top Gun Motorsports. They were a bit loud and somewhat inattentive as bar crowds tend to be. That would soon change....

The demonstration starts out with Marc going through the cone obstacle course, acting as your typical untrained rider, duck-walking his motorcycle, rough shifting of gears, lots of stopping and backing up in order to get around some obstacle, unable to make a u-turn without putting his feet down. You get the idea. The looks, smiles and head nodding I saw in the audience said they'd seen such antics themselves from actual riding buddies.

Next, Marc got serious and did the same course several times, at speed and making his big Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle seemingly dance around the cones!



As you can see in the above pictures, both Marc and Pam aren't afraid to really lean their motorcycles over, with full steering lock, carving out tight turns in a really smooth manner. The once rowdy audience watching from the bar had turned quite silent as they watched the impressive performances.

Next came a short talk by Pam about precision riding and riders who ride two-up. To back up her words, she then got on the back of Marc's motorcycle and they both proceeded to smoothly and quickly do a few runs through the course. This to show two things, demonstrate the proper attitude by the pillion rider and that precision riding is quite possible even when riding two-up.

Two-Up and heeled over

Each time Marc or Pam finished a demonstration run, the applause was quite strong. The owner of Top Gun Motorsports, Todd, remarked to T3RG's Colleen Boyle that the applause the Precision Riders were getting was louder than what the music bands he usually booked for his customers got!

Next, both Pam and Marc played a game of "Follow the Leader". Both of them rode the cone obstacle course several times, Pam closely followed by Marc. So, not only is each rider having to execute their own slow speed maneuvering around cones but also stay within five to seven feet of each other! Not much margin for error but not only did they do it well, they made it look so easy.

Follow the Leader

The talks by both Marc and Pam emphasized that the skills they were demonstrating were not something only achievable through extensive police training but were skills teachable to anyone that is an experienced rider. I could see some thoughtful looks come over several of the watching crowd. I know I'd like to gain such skills and I am sure some of the patrons were having the same thoughts I was having.

Now, T3RG is not saying you'll be able to give a trained and seasoned police motor officer a run for his money after their precision course but with practice I'd say you'd at least impress said officer with your own skills. Not to mention, the looks on your riding buddy's face when you execute that tight 24ft radius U-turn in front of him like it was nothing!

To finish off the demonstration, Pam "challenged" Marc to execute the course but while riding "side saddle". I missed how that got selected, probably something along the lines of "can you do it while riding like a girl", like back in the day when women rode horses side saddle.

Well, let me tell you, Marc not only did the course several times without error but he also did it while standing up with both legs over on the right side of the motorcycle! Pretty impressive stuff and the audience loved it!

Marc doing the "side saddle" challenge

Side saddle and standing

Several of the biker patrons came by T3RG's table to talk to Colleen and to pick up information materials for not only the Top Gun Rider Training course but the other course offered by T3RG. I am thinking this demonstration put on by the Precision Riders might inspire some folks to get that advanced training to not only make them better at slow speed parking lot maneuvers but help keep them safer out on the road.

Informally, Marc and Pam have shown their precision riding skills within their own H.O.G (Harley Owners Group) chapter: Colorado Chapter Thornton. They've inspired several of their fellow riders to take the T3RG training and in the last competition, they placed 7 of the top 10 spots in the Cruiser/Bagger class competition! You really can't argue with results like that.

The course layout used by T3RG is the same as the Blue Knight Top Gun competition uses. If I didn't make it clear, neither Marc nor Pam are motorcycle police officers or undergone that extensive training. Marc is in guitar sales and Pam is in accounts payable for a nationwide restaurant chain, they just had the willingness and motivation to take the training and practice for many, many hours to hone their skill. Being trained by the same expert trainer that teaches the actual police officers is a bonus. In fact, such skills are taught to most T3RG instructors and they even have a motorcycle drill team!

I also found out that the Blue Knight competition and the civilian top gun competitions regularly exchange judges to help out at each event. This says a lot about what the police officers think of the training undergone by T3RG instructors and the high regard they have for Don Gunn, the senior trainer.

Here's T3RG Motorcycle Schools website: LINK Go on over there and see if they offer training that interests you! Training, continuing training, is a good thing. Folks who don't take training on a regular basis, can get complacent and forget stuff. Don't be one of those. I recently underwent the Experienced Rider Course after racking up over 60,000 miles since the Basic Rider Course and I was surprised at how much I'd forgotten or grown complacent about.

Now, to get myself motivated to attend the Top Gun Rider Training.....


mq01 said...

wow, charlie6 thank you. it must have been beauty in motion. im in awe, and am very interested. i'll be checking this out. great post and pics.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

I will be really surpriserd if you aren't doing the same stuff in a year. I couldn't put this episode down... I found it utterly fascinating.

Fondest regards,

Charlie6 said...

mq01, glad you liked it.

jack, if I can ride half as well as the precision riders, I'll be the envy of all the local beemer riders.