Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Group Riding Is Risky Business! (Part 1)

The 2015 Hoka hey Motorcycle Challenge Memorial Ride is fast approaching.  We will ride as a group from Lebanon, KS to Hot Springs, SD on July 31st.  The quantity of riders has yet to be determined but the number is growing.  There are very few things that are more impressive than a long string of riders on the highway—and few things more risky.
Take a group of riders who have never ridden together before, add into the mix a wide range of riding styles and skill levels and you come up with a recipe for trouble.  All it takes is one rider to make a mistake or lose focus for an instant and the outcome can be disastrous.  That alone should give us reason to be concerned, but let’s add another variable—the cager.
Cagers do not ride, they do not understand the dynamic of riding nor do they care.  Below are a list of things that WILL happen during the Memorial Ride.
1 – A cager will drive up behind us and feel a need to pass the group—perfectly legal.  But a cager will not be able to pass the entire group in a single try which means they WILL cut into the group a number times depending on the number of bikes.  So, knowing they will pass and knowing they cannot pass the entire group we must be vigilant.  If you see a car passing on your left then assume they will cut into the right lane at some point and chances are they will opt to reside for a time in the patch of road you currently occupy.  Give them room, slowly back off on your speed and give them the room they need—not just space between you and the car, but enough room so the car can back off the hindquarters of the rider in front of them.  Take your eyes off of them for one second and they will put you in the ditch – or worse.
2 – A car following too close, in my mind, is attempted murder.  Were we to live in a state of anarchy we could remove this threat with just a few rounds of ammunition, but we do not live in a state of anarchy.  If there is a car tailgating then tap the brake just enough to engage the brake lights, but not enough to reduce your speed.  A conscientious cager will take the hint and back off a bit, but if they are too stupid to take the hint then move to the left or right of the lane to provide an escape route if needed.  Likewise, do not tailgate a cager—they will see that as an opportunity to slam on their brakes and watch you fly over and past their windshield; then calmly stand by and watch you die.
3 – Most head on collisions between a rider and a cager happens when the cager turns left in front of an oncoming rider.  Be very vigilant when riding through a town or when coming up on a county road intersection and there is head-on traffic.  They will see you, but your presence will not register in their little pea brain.  The last words you will hear while gasping for your last breath will be, “but officer, I didn’t see them!”  Something to be said for a state of anarchy.
Part two of “Risky Business” will discuss what we as riders can do to reduce the risk we pose to each other in a group ride.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

1001, 1002, 1003

The time it took for you to read the title of this blog, roughly 3 seconds, is all the time needed to lose your life.  A couple of years ago I was in Rapid City, SD headed to Hot Springs to visit with Jim & Beth of Hoka Hey fame and was setting at an intersection waiting for the light to turn green.  A rider passed through the intersection and he looked toward me and nodded his head as to say, “Hey, how’s it going?”  That was all the time needed for the car in front of him to stop and he rode into the back of the car.

Distracted Riding = Damage and Injury
His injuries were minimal, but the bike needed to go to the shop for repair.  While waiting on the police to show up we talked and I learned he was a rider with years of experience and this was his first mishap.  The split second it took for him to look at me was all the time it took for the convergence of unfortunate circumstances to meld together and result in an accident.

Riding is risky business and we, as riders, are responsible for reducing that risk as best we can.  Most assuredly during those years of riding he had, as we all have, allowed his attention to be diverted for a second or two while acknowledging someone while riding or take a few extra seconds to look at the scenic view to the left or right.  But, in previous instances other variables did not enter into the mix, like the car stopping unexpectedly or a deer dashing out to get to the other side of the highway.

We rely on our riding skill and experience to stay between the ditches and to keep the shiny side up while we ride.  These are important for sure, but I think attitude and focused attention are more important.  Call me rude if you like, but I will never wave at an oncoming rider while I’m in city traffic.  I assume every car within 100 feet of me is ready to implement a well-developed plan to run me down and then take a selfie over my lifeless body.  We have all had close calls with cagers and the only reason we lived through it was because we were 100% focused on the task at hand and evaded the assault.  What happens when that “close call” presents itself during that short span of seconds when we are momentarily distracted by some inconsequential thing?

Stay focused, stay alert and always ride as if everyone is out to get you.  It’s a strong bet they are indeed looking for an opportunity for the perfect selfie and your lifeless body would make a fine backdrop.  Don’t give them the opportunity.