Monday, June 8, 2015

Group Riding Is Risky Business! (Part 2)

Cagers are a looming threat to riders.  I don’t think they are a threat on purpose—at least not most of them.  The threat mainly stems from cagers talking on the phone, texting, reading and/or just not paying attention to their surroundings.  In Part 1 of Risky Business we covered a few of the most prominent cager antics that can ruin our day.  In Part 2 we will discuss the threat we can create by our own actions as riders.

Nothing good happens after a rider says, “Hey, watch this!”  More often than not the rider who initiates a self-destructive act is a new rider who has not yet come face to face with death because of a bone-head maneuver.  We’ve all been there and done that and, if you are reading this, you probably survived the episode and learned the valuable lesson of, “Don’t ever do that again.”

A group ride includes riders from every walk of life.  Some are experienced riders and some are not.  Some ride touring bikes while others ride a crotch rocket.  Some riders know the rider next to them and have ridden together a number of times while others you met just a couple of minutes before you started the ride.  Nothing wrong with any of these variables—until you add personality and attitude that is not conducive to the intent of the Hoka Hey Memorial Ride.

Every personality, every attitude must bow to the group dynamic.  If you like riding 10 MPH over the speed limit, but the group is sticking to the speed limit then you must set your preference aside and stick to the speed limit.  If you and your friends like riding side by side, but the group leader wants staggered riding then you must set your preference aside and ride staggered.

The list of things to NOT do while riding in a group is lengthy and any infraction can and most probably will result in an accident or incident—at the very least it may cause some bad feelings and/or an exchange of harsh words.  There is no reason to pass the rider ahead of you; it’s a group and everyone will get to the destination at the same time regardless of where you are in the group.  Do not pass a rider on the right, do not weave in and out of riders to get toward the front of the group.  When you come to a curve expect the rider in front of you to veer into your side of the lane; depending on the direction of the curve.  Expect it and act accordingly—meaning, give them room.  Don’t get angry at them because chances are you are doing the same thing.

Be diligently mindful of your surroundings.  If you focus on the couple of bikes in your immediate area you will miss a problem with a bike four or five lengths forward of you that WILL affect every rider behind them.  Follow the two second rule based on the rider directly in front of you.  Always have yourself in a position that offers an escape route.

We have all been in organized group rides where a Road Captain will stop in the middle of an intersection and stop cross traffic to allow riders to roll through the red light—this is known as “breaking the law” and might well result in multiple traffic citations.  The only person who has the authority to stop traffic is a police officer—a police office on duty and in uniform.  Do not stop cross traffic to allow fellow riders to roll through an intersection.  This adds great risk to all riders.  The cager who does not see the rider just before hitting them will also no see the rider in the intersection directing traffic.

I could spout off hundreds of examples of what not to do in a group ride, but won’t.  Suffice it to say all need to focus just a bit more and subdue a tendency to initiate an action that might add risk.  The worst thing that could happen would be a preventable accident that tainted the Memorial Ride.

If you see an obstacle on the road ensure you signal the rider behind you; a quick signal will give notice that something is amiss and needs immediate attention.

Weather plays a major role in any ride.  A nice warm summer day makes for a better ride than a summer day plagued with thunderstorms.  Same road, same riders, same bikes… but the addition of rain, high heat and/or high winds will change the dynamic in a drastic way.  A rider with a decent set of tires may be good on dry pavement, but once the pavement gets wet the decent tire now becomes one that might be lacking.  Tires are often the most ignored part of the bike, but in fact is the only thing between you and the harsh reality of road rash.

Be sure you hydrate as you ride and during stops.  Take care of your bike, take care of your body and, most importantly, take care of the riding attitude.

Ride safe, be vigilant, stay focused and ride not only for your own safety, but for the safety of every rider in the group.

Hoka Hey!