Motorcycle officers wind their way through extreme challenge | NevadaAppeal.com
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Motorcycle officers wind their way through extreme challenge

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Carson City Sheriff's Department Sgt. Mike Cullen competes in the Extreme Motor Officer Training Challenge on Saturday at Mills Park.
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Riding a police motorcycle through a course that includes a teeter-totter, curb jumping, more cones and barricades than you find on Interstate 80, really helps an officer’s skills.

It’s a lot of fun, too.

The Carson City Sheriff’s Office Extreme Motor Officer Challenge was held Saturday in Mills Park, and the atmosphere was competitive but friendly as about 15 Western law-enforcement agencies competed in a technical and more traditional course.

The course is timed, but speed is not the only important aspect, said Sgt. Mike Cullen of the Carson City Sheriff’s Department. The officers have to get through it quickly, without hitting cones or falling.

The course, set up at the western entrance to Mills Park, has more twists and turns than Geiger Grade or Mount Rose. Several officers lost their balance and landed their bikes on their sides during the sharper turns.

Roseville, Calif., officer Bryan Hayes said the technical section was the hardest, but added the course did have real-world applications, comparing it to the way motorcycle officers have to cut through traffic, go on sidewalks or dirt roads to chase down suspects.

For the technical section, with traffic barriers, cones and yellow caution tape, organizers laid out a course only a snake could love. The trail is marked with green and pink chalk arrows, and leads the motorcycle officer through hairpin turns, over the teeter-totter a foot high, onto sidewalks and over bumps, with the officer having to stay between the cones to avoid losing points.

Cullen has won the annual motorcycle officer competition several times, but faced some stiff competition from Bill Balzer of Portland, Ore., Police Department.

Balzer whipped through the course in 102.7 seconds to take the lead by early afternoon.

The nine-year motorcycle veteran said the secret is smooth transitions from one section to another. “Keep your head, concentrate on making it between the cones and watch your breathing,” he said. “I almost forgot to breathe.”

Balzer’s first run was 106 seconds, making him a tough guy to beat, even for Cullen, who did 120.7 on his first run.

“I missed this gate over here,” he said. “I was a lot slower, but I’ll get them next time.”

Rock music blared from the announcer’s loudspeaker between runs, the Carson City Explorers ran a hot dog stand and friends and family members sat in lawn chairs with ice chests nearby, leading to a festival-type atmosphere.

Officers from Rancho Cordova, Calif., even got on their bikes and lined them up, and over the speakers sang “Happy Birthday” to a fellow officer.

It wasn’t all fun and games though. Cullen said the competition was a part of some important training for motorcycle officers.

“The number one thing this training has done for us is our accident rate has gone down,” he said. “We went from five or six accidents a year to less than one. It increases riding skills and knowledge of bikes and equipment.”

Networking is also an advantage found in these get-togethers. Cullen said the officers trade tips on where to get grants and sponsors for better equipment and training.

“It’s an awesome thing for motor officers, and it gets bigger every year,” he said.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-7351.