Motorcycle Marshal volunteers for bicycle events

By: On: October 5th, 20110 Comments »Updated: October 14, 2012

motorcycle marshals bmw moto guzzi kawasakiAre you an experienced motorcycle rider looking for something good to do on your motorcycle?  Consider volunteering as a motorcycle marshal for a charity bicycle event like I did.

Many bicycling events are held as charity fund raisers. These events often take place on public roads where motorcycle marshals can assist with the safety of the participants.  This presents a unique and very cool opportunity to use your motorcycle for a good cause, but it isn’t for everyone.

There are lots of ways a motorcycle marshal can help the bicycle riders during the event. A few of the main roles of the motorcycle marshal are to patrol the course during the event to locate bicyclists in need of help, to make traffic aware of the need to be cautious, and to be part of the crisis management team in case of emergencies.  Just because you ride a motorcycle doesn’t mean that you will get accepted as a marshal.  Don’t bother trying to be a marshal if you want to bar hop or don’t take motorcycle safety seriously.

MS bicycle event start at Florence SC 2011I recently participated as a motorcycle marshal for the second year in a row in the “Breakaway to the Beach” charity event in the Carolinas to help fight Multiple Sclerosis.  The cycling event covers two full days of riding through rural parts of North and South Carolina.  About 1500 bicyclists participate.  The event starts from three different locations depending on which route length the cyclists choose.  It is highly organized and thankfully attracts hundreds of very dedicated volunteers and cyclists for this excellent cause.

motorcycle marshal volunteers at MS breakaway to the beachMy rookie motorcycle marshal experience last year is what really got me hooked. These past 2 events have not only been personally rewarding, but also inspiring. Two days on a motorcycle can get tiring, but when you watch cyclists pedaling 100 miles for 2 days to help put an end to MS, it really inspires you. They keep going when it rains, or when it is really hot, and when they are obviously sore or tired.

motorcycle marshals at Coker College lunch rest stop 2011If you think you might want to volunteer as a motorcycle marshal at an event like this, you’ll need to find out what specific requirements the event has for motorcycle marshals since all seem to be a little different.  It is great if you are a ham radio person and have a ham radio on your motorcycle.  It also helps if you are a medic. I’m not either one of these, but am interested to learn more about the ham radio part of it.  A cell phone and a list of important numbers is mainly what you need.  The event organizers normally provide all the required contact info and special communication instructions, etc.

MS Breakaway to the beach rain at lunch stop at Coker College 2011For your motorcycle, you’ll need a few things such as hazard lights, a bright safety vest, and it is good to carry a bright flag with you in case you need to get off the motorcycle to assist at a dangerous situation along the course.  The flip-face helmets or open-face helmets work well because you’ll often need to talk to the cyclists or other volunteers.

Bring your rain gear and make sure that you and your motorcycle are ready to go the distance.  You’ll do at least twice the miles that the bicycles go since you’ll be patrolling back and forth between rest areas instead of riding at the same pace as them.

Don’t forget to bring a refillable water bottle so that you an get a drink if you need when checking in at the bicycle rests stops.  These stops are manned by volunteers about every 10 or 12 miles along the course. They have plenty of cold drinks and snacks for the cyclists, but they plan for riders to refill their own bottles so they don’t have cups.  I didn’t bring a water bottle last year and the weather was as hot as could be.  I brought mine this year and it was cool and rainy.

Victory motorcycle marshalThere are several things to be aware of when you are a motorcycle marshal.  First, you don’t want to get too close to the bicycles as they can make sudden moves and may not know you are near them.  A lot of the bicycle riders wear ipods and are riding in a personal mental zone.  It can take some effort to get their attention.  You definitely don’t want to startle them, so be aware of that when you pass by.  Be aware of your exhaust noise too.  Its a situation where just a little noise can be good, but not too much noise.  Some bicyclists may try to draft behind you without you being aware, so check for that as you pass them to make sure they don’t try it.

motorcycle marshals for MS Breakaway to the Beach 2011During the course of the event, lots of the cyclists seem really appreciative to have us out there on our motorcycles supporting them.  Some long and extremely rural stretches can be daunting when you are on a bicycle by yourself.  Some get isolated without a pack of other cyclists anywhere in sight.  That’s when just cruising by slowly and asking if they are doing ok can help.

I encourage responsible motorcyclists to volunteer to be a motorcycle marshal at cycling event or other charity event near them.  Check with your local bicycle shops or with local charities to see if they know of any upcoming events.  This is just one of many fun and personally rewarding ways to use your motorcycle in a positive way in your community.  A weekend on the motorcycle with friends helping others for a good cause –  I highly recommend it!

If all goes well during the upcoming year, I’ll be writing about my experience as a first-time participant in the 2012 MS Breakaway to the Beach (on bicycle).  Wish me luck because I don’t consider myself a bicyclist and have never tried to ride as far as this.  I’m sure my fellow motorcycle marshals will be looking out for me though, and hopefully I’ll be just another one of the many riders thanking them for what they do.

About John Clay

John Clay is the author of MotorcycleInfo.Org. He and his family reside in North Carolina in the United States. A graduate of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced Rider Course, he enjoys riding his Moto Guzzi in charity rides and serves as a volunteer motorcycle marshal for an annual bicycle charity event in the Carolinas.

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