On a steel horse they ride

By Kim Hilsenbeck

When Kyle Police Department motorcycle patrol officers David Saenz, Dago Pates and Mario Garcia ride in the police rodeo in Buda the last weekend in May, they aren’t just doing it for pride. It’s practice.

The Capital of Texas Police Motorcycle Chute Out, hosted by Travis County Sheriff’s Department, will take place at Cabela’s parking lot. Partnering law enforcement agencies from across Central Texas, including Kyle, Buda, San Marcos and Austin police departments, as well as the Hays County Sheriff’s Office, will compete in the three-day event.

Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett said the rodeo offers motorcycle patrol officers the opportunity to showcase their current skills, while learning new ones.

“It’s about training, skill building and improving their safety,” Barnett said. “It also builds camaraderie among motorcycle officers.”

The Chute Out is a Texas Police Motorcycle Rodeo Association (TPMRA) event and counts toward the finals to be held in November.

“They do these competitions around the state throughout the year,” he said. “This is the first for Central Texas and we’re proud to be part of it.”

Participating officers pay a fee to enter the competition, unless they sell raffle tickets to cover the entry costs, which Barnett said his officers are doing. Proceeds raised during the event will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and the Center for Child Protection.

The obstacle courses are technical and accidents can — and do — happen at events such as this one. Generally, Barnett said, they are not serious.

“But even the best of the best will have their bikes fall over,” he said.

Those spills are a reminder that the job is dangerous and additional training in handling the bike is a good thing.

“Their livelihood depends on their ability to ride the motorcycle safely,” Barnett said. “The courses are very challenging which forces them to keep their skills up.”

Motorcycle officers are being used at more police departments around the state, both because of the warm climate, Barnett said, but also because agencies have realized that police motorcycle units can more effectively work busy areas, such as Interstate 35.

“They can also work intersection enforcement easier,” he said.

The motorcycle competition includes events such as Two-Man Chase/Eliminator, the Leonard Reed Memorial Ride, a Slow Race, a Speed Course and the Partner Ride.

The event also features a vendor show, food, a skydiving demonstration, a raffle and door prizes. Organizers say they have a special treat on Saturday: stunt rider Ryan “OG” Smith will perform a series of stunts.  “OG” performs on a 2006 Kawasaki zx636 and has been riding since 2000. 

The public is welcome to attend the competition from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. May 30 and from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.  May 31. Admission is free and the event is family-friendly. Sunscreen and chairs are recommended.

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