With escalating fuel prices, US soldiers stationed in Europe are being forced to purchasing and riding motorcycles. Fuel prices in the USA are high, but nothing compared to gasoline in Europe.
Since US soldiers stationed in Europe have the possibility of buying motorcycles at discounted prices (typically a Harley-Davidson will sell for US$2500 less than what you’d pay for it normally in the States), many are now flocking to these Powered Two Wheelers.
In 2006, 3,184 motorcycles were registered by the Armed Forces in Europe, today 3,125 were registered, but there are now 15,000 less US soldiers in Europe, so per capita, far more new registrations.
The biggest problem the officials face is safety. US soldiers receive a 2 day training in the US for their motorcycles and then return to Europe to ride their new bike. In comparison, a German motorcycle rider requires 39 hours of instruction, including riding their bike on freeways, rural roads and at night time. In France, 40 hours are required, half on special platforms, half on the public roads.
According to one salesman at the Grafenwöhr exchange, the sales of Harley-Davidsons are up 200% over the last few months.
But more untrained motorcycles riders, means more accidents. 25 soldiers died on their motorcycles in Europe so far this year, compared to 13 the whole of last year. The military command are now worried. Senior officers are looking at imposing stricter controls and training. For example, they want to start a mandatory training course in spring for all, since motorcycles usually are stored during winters in Germany.
US Marines who buy a motorcycle (even privately) must register them with their commander according to a new regulation. If not, they face punishments. This way, the officers can see if all soldiers are obeying their rules that states that everyone must follow a basic training, have insurance and wear protective clothing. The Marines is currently the only unit in the US Military that requires mandatory registration of their motorcycles.
So on one hand, soldiers are being introducing to the pleasures of motorcycling, but on the other hand, many are facing deadly or crippling accidents.