alex

131 months ago

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Why you should never try and keep up

Just last week, I was out on a ride and I was approached by someone who wanted to "ride back" with me - let's call them RiderX. My natural instinct is to say no in these situations, but for some reason I said sure, tag along.

Bad Idea. It was the end of a long day and we were on unfamiliar roads. Oh, and did I mention the light was failing and it was rural? It's not a situation I like to find myself alone in, but two up with a tag-along? It had all the hallmarks of being a problem (and it was) but more on that later.

Riding Alone is where it's at

Ordinarily, I prefer to ride alone. There's something about having the road to yourself I like. I'm not held back by those slower than me and don't feel the need to keep up with those who are faster.

I like it to the extent that when I meet other riders out there, I will try to get away from them if I don't know them. I'll either pull away or let them pass, and have even been known to strategically take a gas break to regain that separation.

That's not to say I don't ride with groups. I've done plenty of it and it's a different kind of fun. What you sacrifice in pace, you gain in the ability to share the experience. I don't ride as far or fast in groups, but I tend to have more memories of it and that pint at the end of the day tastes sweeter with a few good road stories.

If you DO have to ride in groups...

When I do ride in groups, I tend to have a little "talk" first. Normally, this talk comprises four key points:

  • Please do not ride too close to me
  • Ride staggered to give us more room
  • Do not try to keep up with me and I will not try to keep up with you
  • If you come to a main intersection, wait. I'll do the same.

It takes maybe thirty seconds and to most of you seasoned riders I'm sure this is self evident. It's all about the safety. All it takes is an animal (or child) to run out or a cager to cross the line. If we're too close, or pushing beyond our comfort level, there's simply nowhere we can go. Not only does it increase your chance of crashing, but you might take me with you.

Red Flags abound

Now, RiderX approached me off their bike and this should have a been a flag. You can tell a lot about the rider by their gear and what they ride. In this case, I could see a decent jacket and pants, which is a good sign. We agree to meet back at my bike and head out together.

When RiderX pulled up on a scooter, it should have been another flag. Sure, there's a full face helmet on the head, which is good, but a scooter? These are backroads we're headed down. We have the talk anyway.

Even if your scooter rides like this, it's not a good idea to try and keep up

Even if your scooter rides like this, it's not a good idea to try and keep up

It's all good until we get to the part about "don't try to keep up". A simple line, which the seasoned rider would understand, but RiderX proudly proclaims his scooter can do 140km/h.

At this point I should be seeing nothing but an ocean of red flags. Instead, I point out that I've been riding far longer and that my bike is way more powerful. I'm saying this to reinforce my experience. RiderX probably hears it as a challenge. We set off anyway.

When good rides go bad

Part of the reason RiderX wanted to tag along is that we'd come in via the Lakeshore Drive, which is a nice, quiet road and somewhat twisty. It's much better than the main road out of Port Dover. It should have been a fun little interlude before hitting the main highways back into the city and a chance to avoid most of the traffic.

The first corner should have been enough for me to stop and black-flag RiderX, sending him off on his own. It's a tight 90 degree left. The barriers along the side make sighting all the more important. I went slow, but took a tight line through without problem. Looking in my rear view as I straighten up, RiderX is almost on the grass. I stay slow, not so he can keep up but because it reminds me that I am tired.

After about five miles, there's a turn and so I stop, eyes on the mirror. It shouldn't take RiderX more than a minute to show up behind me. When there's still no sign of them, it's U-Turn time.

The pickup

As I ride back along the road, I half expect him to shoot past me but it's a hope left hanging. About a mile back, there's a bunch of people by the side of the road. This is it: What happens when you try to keep up.

RiderX is surround by a group of people at the local bible camp. He's dazed and there's grass all up his scooter with pieces of the windshield on the ground.

After making sure he's OK, I'm asking questions. It turns out he came around a corner, hit gravel and decided to head for the grass. He's obviously never off-roaded before and doesn't realize scooter wheels are ill-suited to the slippy, dewy dusken grass. Off he went, banging his head on the way down. While I've only heard this second hand, I'm sure that eyes and a deft application of throttle would have prevented it - Rookie error.

Checking his scooter, everything looks OK. There's no fork damage I can see, and aside from the windshield, just a cracked side panel. The bike will be fine, which is more than can be said for RiderX. He's not in mortal danger, but he might have a light concussion and he says his neck is stiff. Happily, one of the by-standers is a nurse and is able to provide better care than we can. He'll ride again, but not today.

The CAA are called while I remove what remains of the windshield. It's going to be a three hour wait, but not for us. It's already dusk and we need to get back before it's too dark, especially on these back-country roads. Selfish? Maybe, but also self-preservation. We're not both getting a tow home and I don't want one.

Aftermath

We get back to town just fine. Riding is slower after dark but that's OK. Safety is all that matters.

A follow up call late at night reveals RiderX is on his way back, but no lasting damage. He may need to visit with his doctor tomorrow, but the only real damage is to the pocketbook and ego.

I initially felt some level of guilt. Should we have taken that road? Should I have ridden slower? Should I have said "no, you can't follow me?".

All those things are possible, but I don't think it would have changed matters. Anyone could have followed me and, at the end of the day, I did nothing to endanger anyone. I'd just agreed to allow RiderX to follow me. I've not said that I will teach him anything, or show him what to do. There's no implied promise except "I'll not leave you behind".

I've already vowed that the next time I am out in a group, the talk is going to be more explicit. It's going to contain a new point: If you follow me and I don't think you can keep up, I am going to stop. I am going to tell you and then I will ride with you to the nearest town. After that, you are on your own.

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alex

109 months ago

@jessicadally - I generally do prefer a nice set of sticky rubber for the tarmac, but yes agree knobbies are not as pad as people say they are. Have a set on my KTM450 and while it's noisy, it corners fine when I am riding to the trails. If only the single cylinder was as composed on the highway...

jessicadally

109 months ago

@alex once you get used to the walking knobbies are great on the pavement (well many are) since they're sticky like snot. Of course you have to ignore the money being ground off in dollar bills by the mile.I really am glad I rode solo almost exclusively when I started (for years really). I wonder how many beginner crashes happen from this very thing...

Slyck255

109 months ago

@Alex

what was I thinking?  I'm still old school...

Give me credit for at least specifying "cell" number... lol

Cheers

alex

109 months ago

@Slyck255 - "don't lose their cell number"? Why not download the iOS app and just add them to your group ride? That way, they cannot hide

Slyck255

109 months ago

@alex

Actually I found the talk a relief - I was worried about keeping up.  I'd had a scary experience trying to do that shortly after getting my first motorcycle and never forgot it.  Knowing you were a very experienced rider I was pretty sure I'd be left behind if you decided to be.. let us say "generous" with the throttle... and it was a comfort to know you'd wait up at an intersection or whatever.

Before your talk, I did tell people to ride their own pace, giving my own experiences with riding with other people.  Your talk emphasized it.

It also emphasizes the fact that if you find someone you can stand to be around and with whom you can share a ride at a similar pace, in similar settings - say, a similar degree of road "twisty-ness" - don't lose that person's cell number!

And like @jessicadally I recently found a local rider who gets me to push myself a bit and break me out of my "fuddy-duddies" and raises the heart rate.  Keeping up with a Ninja 600 on a Ninja 500! lol!

Cheers!

alex

109 months ago

@Slyck255 Glad you weren't upset with me! And we should go do it again some time

@jessicadally - you get it: if you can keep up, by all means do (and double marks for doing so with knobbies). You sound like someone that understands where there limits are, and while you may be comfortable challenging them, you always respect them. I hope to meet you out on the blacktop some day

Slyck255

110 months ago

@alex

yes you gave me "the talk" and I think it worked out well...

I am familiar with that area and I know the camp of which you speak.  It's a route full of lots of cottages and the like so there is even more chance of unexpected pedestrians, cyclist and kids playing in the road that may suddenly appear.

"Safety first"  I totally agree!

Cheers!

(and I don't think it was harsh - you were suitably frustrated because this was something that didn't need to happen.  You were being biker-brotherhoodish (another now word!).  You can't fix stupid.  Glad RiderX will (hopefully) learn from the mistake.

jessicadally

110 months ago

It's a hard lesson to learn and a hard thing for most newbies to gauge. I've been told that by someone on a much newer bike who had just finished training at California Superbike School... He had street tires on, I had knobbies. I knew not to keep up if I couldn't but as it turned out he was riding just a bit harder than I might have on my own. Following behind him meant I could track his lines (from far enough back that I wasn't right behind him) and it meant I could ride an even better ride than I likely would have on my own.Fortunately I would have known if I couldn't have kept up and would have had no problem backing off.My guess is you can tell a lot by age and attitude... And you can likely read a lot from how folks follow...That said, I tend to just not ride with strangers!

Jordan

131 months ago

As always, Alex, sound advice.

kris416

131 months ago

thanks @Agent3012

Agent3012

131 months ago

Sorry for the bad link, the address for the article on The Pace is http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/flashback/122_0911_the_pace_nick_ienatsch/

Agent3012

131 months ago

@alex Harsh? Maybe. Needed? Likely. Motorcycle riding is an wonderful way to enjoy the day, but it still involves attaching yourself to a rolling balancing act to sling yourself down the road at 30+ mph and through various maneuvers that can and do reach out and seriously injure or even kill riders that don't approach the ride with respect.

Agent3012

131 months ago

@kris416 If you haven't, check out this classic article on "The Pace" by Nick Ienatsch: http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/flashback/122_0911_the_pace_nick_ienatsch/There's no shame in riding your own ride on your own terms.

alex

131 months ago

FWIW, I re-read this yesterday and it sounds harsher than I perhaps now feel. I personally do feel bad for RiderX and really hope it doesn't deter them. I would also ride with them again, if they wanted, but only after the "talk". I'm starting to realize the message here is not "don't ride with me if you're not safe" but "what are you personally doing to be a safer rider?". And that extends to me (and all of us), just as much as any new rider

alex

131 months ago

@Kris416 -there is definitely no shame in trying to follow but it sounds like you're a smart rider. It's just as @Agent3012 said.

kris416

131 months ago

Good advice for everybody, Alex. I'm a rookie rider this year and commute to work everyday. Since it's city traffic, not much of this happens but when I see another bike going the same way I'm always inclined to ride along for extra safety. However I'm on a 650 cruiser and they are on a racing bike, and generally are gone within minutes! My pride always hurts when I can't take corners like them, but in the end I think about my family and swallow my pride. I find scooters on the road to be nerve racking when they ride along with me as they are typically dead centre in the lane and most likely (sorry for generalizing) have never taken a safety course. I always try to stay away from them.

Agent3012

131 months ago

As they always say, "ride your own ride". That's advice that the scooter owner certainly didn't follow. Riding with others is an excellent way to help improve your skills, learn from others, as well as a way to share in the 2-wheeled experience. But that only works when a rider knows when they can safely push the envelope to grow their skills, and (this is important) when it's time to let others go ahead while you keep within the safe operating envelope of your vehicle. I say that as both a sport motorcycle and scooter owner.