Leaving a MotoMark on the World
Updated: Mar 23
With practically a lifetime of motorcycle training under his belt, Charity Ride Motor Marshal Mark Brown uses his knowledge to spread motorcycle safety across the country.
As a young kid growing up in North Carolina, Mark Brown always knew he wanted to be a highway patrolman. So after he served four years in the United States Marine Corps, Mark did just that and officially joined the North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP) in 1987. “I joined the Marines to ultimately help me prepare for a career with the NCSHP,” said Mark. “I knew they liked getting Marines on their force because they believe the Marines to be the toughest military branch and one that would best prepare recruits for the highway patrol.”
A few years into his career, Mark had the opportunity join the NCSHP’s motorcycle unit in 1994. Considering he’d grown up riding dirt bikes and motorcycles, including in the Marines, this was an opportunity that he jumped at. “The motor unit actually began in 1929, but they did away with it for a long time, so I was a part of the dedicated dozen who resurrected it in 1994,” said Mark. His time in the motor unit opened many doors for Mark to experience some really cool opportunities and events, such as leading the Olympic torch in Atlanta and joining the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America.
Mark has been on nearly 20 Kyle Petty Charity Rides, where he acts as a motor marshal for the Ride’s full motor brigade of 125 motorcycles. “My role is to help folks who need to get from point A to point B with as little drama as possible on motorcycles,” said Mark. “Whether we’re going through crowded cities, through canyons on twisty roads or through ginormous storms, my goal is to help anyone who needs it – from pumping gas and holding intersections, to pulling over on the side of the road to assist with any maintenance needs. Whatever needs to be done, that’s what I help with.”
While his main role is focused on keeping the riders safe and together on the road, Mark also enjoys getting to the know riders and fostering the friendships he’s made over the years. “It’s like a family. We may not see each other for a year, but we can pick up right where we left off like no time has passed at all,” said Mark. “It’s people from all different walks of life and from different parts of the country. Whether you’re a professional athlete, a prestigious businessperson or just a regular ol’ guy like me, everyone just treats you so nice on the Ride and it keeps me coming back year-after-year.”
In the day or two before the Ride begins each year, Mark and the other motor marshals lead a Safety First program for all first-time participants of the Ride. “The Safety First program gives all the new riders an idea of what a day on the Ride is like,” said Mark. The motor marshals discuss the different motorcycle types, protective gear, rules of the road, maneuvering techniques, daily bike preparation and more, as they go over what to expect each day on the Ride. “We also evaluate the riders’ capabilities to determine if anyone needs a little help or guidance on technique and skills for a cross-country, group motorcycle ride,” said Mark.
Mark is especially skilled at teaching motorcycle safety and training riders on proper technique. From his own personal training in the Marines and on the NCSHP Motor Unit, Mark has gained extensive experience in mastering safe motorcycle riding. So much so, that Mark began MotoMark1 – a professional level motorcycle training company. “MotoMark1 started as a result of people seeing how we rode on the Kyle Petty Charity Ride – motor officer-style riding,” said Mark. “People started asking me questions about techniques and I offered to show them. So one day, I invited some people out and put some traffic cones out and got started teaching them different skills. It went really well, and long story short, I decided to market the concept and begin MotoMark1.”
Mark has visited more than 30 countries for motorcycle trainings of some kind, taking bits and pieces from all over the world and putting it together in North Carolina. Now 20 years into the business, MotoMark1 has expanded to offer two-wheel, three-wheel and four-wheel safe-driving courses. “The business has evolved so much from where we first began. We now have all kinds of different aspects of training,” said Mark. “We have on- and off-road training, adventure vehicle training, police motor officer courses and more. We are now a full-blown, one-stop-shop driving school.”
He also applies his MotoMark1 teaching skills on the Ride in a segment called the “MotoMark Minute.” Each morning, before the Ride embarks to its next destination, Mark takes time to address what’s to be expected on the road that day, remind riders of certain safety practices and make sure riders are prepared for any weather that’s in the forecast. “Anything that happened the previous day that needs to be corrected or if there is bad weather predicted or some twisty roads coming up in the route, then I use that MotoMark Minute to create awareness for safety – a little tip here and there – to remind them of the skills and techniques that need to be practiced on the road,” said Mark.
Mark does have one main tip that he always shares during his trainings, and that is to never go 100 percent while riding. “When you’re riding, it’s an out-of-control environment with wild animals, traffic, changing roads, etc. Riders need to dial it back and leave a little bit in reserve,” said Mark. “Instead of giving 100 percent, dial it back to 70 or 80 percent so that if a mishap ever occurs, you’re not on the ragged edge and pushing the edge of the envelope – that’s not the time to do it.”
And for all motorcyclists, beginner level or seasoned riders, Mark encourages everyone to seek professional safety training. “You don’t know what you don’t know, even for riders who’ve ridden for decades,” said Mark. “If you get a new bike, go take a refresher course. If you’re used to riding a Sportster, but you change to an Ultra – you need to learn how to properly ride it, because they are two very different bikes. Grab as much knowledge and skill as you possibly can, because knowledge is something no one can ever take from you.”
Q+A with Mark Brown:
1. What is your earliest memory riding a motorcycle?
“My dad brought home a little Sears and Robuck mini bike in a box. Some people called it a basket case. We had to put it together and you pulled the rope and it ran like a motorcycle.”
2. What has been your favorite route on the Ride?
“I love riding in the mountains. So any route where we’ve ridden through a mountain range, those always stick out as favorites.”
3. What do you look forward to the most on the Ride each year?
“Just reconnecting with everyone. The motorcycle is our common bond that brings us all together, but we get together and talk about everything – life, family, business and more. Two people that always stick out to me and who have influenced me so much are George and DeDe Cable. I really look up to George as a successful businessman, and I aspire to be like him with my own business. The only reason I’m successful today is because of people like George who’ve supported me along the way. He gave me the best advice one time and it sticks with me every day: Take your hobby, turn it into a passion and make it an enjoyable income, and you’ll never work a day in your life. And he was right. I love what I do. Whether its handlebars or a steering wheel, I’m happy driving.”
4. What does it mean to you to be able to ride for the kids at Victory Junction?
“I don’t know if I have the words to express how I feel about that. Just to know that I’m a part of something that’s helping kids that may only get one chance at Camp or otherwise would not be able to go, is probably one of the biggest honors of my life. I’ve escorted multiple presidents of the United States, dignitaries from other countries, the Olympic torch around the world and more, but being able to see the smile on a Victory Junction camper’s face is the biggest honor and privilege. No doubt.”
5. If you could describe the Ride in one word, what would it be?