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Bike show informs, entertains, dazzles

Zachary Jeppesen of Elbow Lake let his 1-year-old son, Aiden, test out the SMARTrainer simulator at Saturday's bike show.1 / 2
A colorful array of motorcycles was on display at the bike show and they had one thing in common: They all gleamed.2 / 2

Gleaming chrome, dazzling paint jobs, nifty prizes - and overriding it all, a message of safety and personal responsibility.

All that and more could be found at the Freedom First Riders' fourth annual bike show and fundraiser at the Runestone Community Center in Alexandria on Saturday.

More than 1,000 motorcycle riders showed up to look at the hot new bikes and latest products.

About 70 of them also registered their motorcycles in the show, competing for trophies and bragging rights. Classes included stock, vintage, metric, custom, rad/rat, trike and best of show.

Organizers are still determining how much money the event raised but were pleased with the turnout, which was up a couple hundred from last year.

Half of the money will stay with the local chapter for operating expenses and for donations to worthy causes and the other half goes to the state American Bikers for Awareness, Training and Education (ABATE) to help lobbying efforts at the state capital to fight for bikers' rights, freedoms and safety issues.

The money is also used to help put on motorcycle training programs for kids or adults.

A few motorcycle riders at Saturday's show tested their driving skills on a "SMARTrainer" - a simulator that combines a personal computer, safety-training program and video monitor, plus a handlebar, seat, footrests and the standard controls found on a real motorcycle.

Riders experienced and responded to a variety of on-screen scenarios as they traveled along virtual streets and highways.

Many exhibits emphasized safety - like Motorcycle Dial-A-Ride, Inc., which provides free transportation for drug or alcohol impaired riders, their passenger and their motorcycle from a public place to their home or local accommodation.

If someone is impaired on summer weekends or holidays and they don't want to leave their motorcycle, they can call the toll-free number, 1-888-DIAL-RID(E) (1-888-342-5743), beginning on the last weekend of April and continuing through the last weekend of October. The person answering the phone will locate the closest volunteer who will arrive with a van, truck or trailer to provide transportation.

Motorcycle Dial-A-Ride volunteers said that's a much better option than risking injury or possible death. Also, the average driving while intoxicated incident has a $23,000 lifetime impact, according to the latest insurance company reports.

Information in the organization's brochure made the point hit home: "Remember: Throttles and bottles don't mix."

Bike show goers could also pick up information about the latest motorcycle laws and regulations. All motorcycle riders, for example, must:

• Have a motorcycle instruction permit or a motorcycle endorsement.

• Register their motorcycle and display valid license plates.

• Carry liability insurance and proof of insurance when riding.

• Wear eye protection - face shield, goggles or glasses. (Windshields do not meet legal requirements.)

• Riders younger than age 18 must complete an approved motorcycle rider training course and wear a Department of Transportation-approved helmet.

Penalties for riding without the proper motorcycle endorsement or instruction permit include up to 90 days in jail, a $700 fine and having the motorcycle towed and impounded.

Those attending Saturday's show could also find out about Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center training courses available throughout the state.

A Motorcycle Experienced Rider Course, for example, will be offered at the Alexandria Technical and Community College on July 9 and August 27 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will cover mental strategy, traction, risk management, braking, cornering and swerving techniques. (The MMSC recommends that you have at least one year or 1,000 miles of riding experience before enrolling in this course.)

For more information about this course or others, call (320) 762-4510 or visit the website, www.motorcyclesafety.state.mn.us.

Freedom First Riders was founded more than four years ago and currently has more than 200 members. The group holds monthly meetings and sponsors one bike show fundraiser each year.

To learn more about the local chapter, visit the website www.freedomfirstridersabatemn.org.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
(320) 763-1236
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