By Tim Leeds
Bob's Cycle World of Havre was one of only 14 motorcycle dealers nationwide to receive the 1999 Outstanding dealer award from the national Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
The award recognizes support of motorcycle rider safety training by providing loan motorcycles to training programs and other actively encouraging riders to practice safe riding habits.
Bob's Cycle World, owned and operated by Bob and Jeanette Williams, has been providing several Suzuki motorcycles to be used by students in the Montana Motorcycle Rider Safety Program since the program came to Montana State University-Northern in 1999.
Roger Swearengen, who directs the state-wide program from the university campus, said they have a huge investment in the program. He said Suzuki doesn't give the bikes to the program; they come directly out of the inventory of Bob's Cycle World.
Swearengen said the students always say the best part of the class is when they actually visit Bob's Cycle World. He said it gives them a chance to break the stereotype of bikers, to see that motorcyclists are just real people with real jobs.
"They find out these people are OK," he said.
Bob Williams said they have always encouraged safety with the sale and maintenance of motorcycles. He said they make sure the rider is using the properly rated tires, wearing the right clothes, wearing a helmet and more.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation also noted the dealers' longtime involvement in training high school drivers' education teachers in motorcycle safety, and their distributing promotional flyers and displaying rider safety information in their store.
Swearengen said they try to use the bikes loaned by Bob's Cycle World locally, mainly in Havre, Cut Bank and Great Falls. The statewide operation has nine actual sites.
He said motorcycle safety has been booming around the nation recently. A good indication is new bike sales, he said, which have been up 20 percent a year for the last few years.
Swearengen said there are 60 percent more students in the program this year than last, beating the previous best in 1997. They train about 540 students statewide, he said.
Swearengen said the main reason for the increase is baby boomers coming back to the sport. The average age, he said is 40 to 54.
He said there are also more female riders than ever before. Traditionally, he said, only about nine percent of riders are female. That has grown to about 13 or 14 percent in the past three years, he said. Swearengen said about 34 percent of the students in the safety program are female.