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Mike Johnson

AMHERST HEAD – The silver motorcycle sits in the driveway.  It waits for a spring that’s yet to appear. But soon.

The Yamaha is Mike Johnson’s, president of the Amherst chapter of the Defenders Motorcycle Club, called Chapter 11.

“Let’s have a nice safe riding summer,” said Johnson.

The local Defenders have about 40 members, united in their love of motorcycling and the company of likeminded enthusiasts. Another connection binds them, though: at least half their members – plus one, according to the club’s constitution – are current or former enlisted or civilian members of the armed forces or police.

The local chapter received its charter from Halifax in 2005. Johnson, a retired RCMP officer, was one of the original members. He’s on his second year and second term as president.

Just because Chapter 11’s members have law and order backgrounds, though, doesn’t mean they’re looking to pick a fight with bikers possessing an outlaw bent. Johnson said motorcyclists have some common ground. One issue that unites them is getting the word out to car and truck drivers: smaller, two-wheeled vehicles are coming out of hibernation with the warmer weather

“Take a second look,” he said.

Not that riders should leave their own safety in the hands of other drivers. Preparation can make a difference.

“It’s education,” said Johnson.

Have a trip plan, make sure you’re dressed right and your bike is ready, and be sure you’re in the right mental condition for a ride. Skills and confidence are the tools you use to get out of danger, according to Johnson.

The Defenders run a spring practice day so rusty riders can tweak their skills. It’s open to everyone – Defenders and other riders – and Johnson said they try to have fun with it.

That open policy extends to joining the club, with some caveats. Fifty-one per cent of the club’s membership has to qualify as regular members (members with the required military or policing background). But the general public can qualify for ‘ordinary’ membership. Typically, someone who goes on rides with the club might get a sponsorship offer from a member. A vote would be held by club members and, if accepted, the civilian would become a Defender.

Local chapters choose to support a number of charities, but the national charity of the motorcycle club is Champs, the War Amps kids’ charity. Chapter 11 has donated $1,000 each of the last two years.

Most Defenders are getting their bikes out this time of year, getting ready to ride, said Johnson.

Nova Scotia has “more to sea, S-E-A,” said the president.

Johnson thinks Nova Scotia’s roads are more motorcycle friendly than most. They don’t go straight forever, he said.

“The Cape Breton Highlands are (incredible) to motorcycle through,” said Johnson.

Twitter: @ADNsparling

Organizations: Yamaha, Defenders Motorcycle Club, RCMP

Geographic location: Amherst, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Highlands

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