I ride with a motorcycle riding club. We have several dozen people who serve as Road Captains, and I am among that cadre. I had a ride planned for this past Saturday, but canceled it on the day before the ride when the forecast for rain was 70%. Of course, the morning of the ride, the rain forecast had reduced to 20%, but you can’t un-cancel a canceled ride. I was disappointed to let my fellow club members down, but these things happen. (I often over-think weather forecasts!)
So since I caught up on household chores and grocery visits with my LOLITS on Saturday, I had Sunday open for a ride. The weather was sunny, warm, and had a tad lower humidity. I donned my new summer-weight ballistic nylon jacket, breeches, favorite Chippewa Firefighter Boots and met the guys for a ride. However…
…several things were stacked against me for this ride. This included:
1. The air temperature by the time of ride departure was already 90F (32C). The dew point (actual measurement of water in the air) was 63F (17C), which is uncomfortably sticky.
2. I had not eaten or drunk anything since breakfast at 0730. It was now 1200, and I was bordering on dehydration.
3. I was wearing a jacket. No matter how well-ventilated, nonetheless, it is an additional layer retaining heat. I could tell that I was sweating a lot, exacerbating the dehydration.
4. I was riding with a group of experienced riders all of whom have skills that enable them to ride fast through twisty roads without fear. The Road Captain is known to ride fast at sustained speeds 10-15mph (16-24kph) above the posted speed limit.
5. Reviewing the ride route, I knew most of the roads were narrow, hilly, and twisty. Those kind of roads can be fun to ride on if you are taking your time, but not when riding “hot” — trying to keep up with the Road Captain whose riding skills give him greater capability to ride fast and ride “hot”.
I vocalized my concern about the speed of the ride, and was assured that “we’re just going for ice cream for about 37 miles. It will be fun!”
Against my better judgment, I queued up and joined the ride. And it was what I was fearing — a ride too hot.
The roads went along pleasant farmland, pastures, and corn fields. However, instead of cruising along and enjoying the scenery, I found myself “white-knuckling” the grips of my Harley and tensing my muscles as I was controlling my bike with constant up- and down-shifting to control speed. Thankfully, the RC knew to put us in single file on those narrow roads, but he continued to ride well over the posted speed limit.
I admit, my riding skills after not riding for about eight weeks are sloppy. Due to a past injury, I cannot take short right turns well. I way oversteer. As we were going through twisty and curvy roads, I was exemplifying “Group Riding Rule #1: Ride Your Own Ride.” That is, it did not matter to me that the riders ahead were pulling away. I was going to take whatever time I needed and space on the road to ride safely. Even if I was causing the riders behind me to have to slow down and delay the overall ride.
However, by the time we got through the back-country narrow twisty roads to a main highway, the group got split up by a traffic light and a car. I had executed a left turn onto the main road just as the light turned red, stopping the riders behind me. I could see the group ahead of me disappearing from view.
I pulled safely to the side of the road doing what is called “breadcrumbing” — that is, the last guy in the line after a turn waits for the others behind him to catch up so they can see where the ride is headed.
As I was waiting for my fellow riders to catch up, I took assessment of how I was feeling. My ears were ringing loudly — my blood pressure was through the roof. I was sore as hell from muscle tenseness. I got a bottle of water from my Tourpak — doesn’t matter that it was months old and hot — water was water. I gulped it down but still was thirsty. Man, had the heat dehydrated me.
When the guys caught up, I signaled the sweep Road Captain to come see me. That’s when I told him that the ride was too fast for me, above my comfortable skill set, and I was not having any fun at all. In fact, I was quite miserable. About the worst group ride I have been on in quite a while. I told him that I was leaving the ride and going home.
Fortunately, the main road we had pulled out on was the same main road off of which I live, but 20 miles south. But I could ride that road home without a problem because it is fairly straight and in good shape.
The sweep RC offered to ride with me, but I assured him that I would be okay. I wanted to leave the ride because I was not having any fun and was not feeling well. The main reason that I wanted to leave the ride is that it was too hot in two ways: 1) physically with temperature & humidity and 2) too fast.
Ultimately, every time you ride, you must take a personal assessment of where you are in the riding space — in your mind and on the road. You must, at all times, “ride your own ride.”
If you’re not having fun, it is not “unmanly” and “uncool” to bail. In fact, it is safer. Had I continued, the dehydration caused from the heat and my insistence on wearing a safety jacket despite the heat of the day could have — could have — caused something worse to happen.
After the RC went ahead, I turned around and began the ride home. I saw a small convenience store, pulled in, and got two bottles of fresh, cool water. I drank them, relaxed, and was much better riding home.
Lesson learned: if you insist on ATGATT (all the gear, all the time), you may just have to opt out of riding when the weather is severely hot.
Life is short: ride your own ride.