One of the phrases that leaders of safe group motorcycle rides are taught to inform other riders is, “ride your own ride.” That means that if a rider feels uncomfortable with the speed, types of roads, riding style, frequency of turns/sweeps/curves — anything about the ride — the rider should …
…not try to keep up and ride beyond his skills.
There is a balance between riding skills and comfort zone, and when one gets accustomed to a certain skill set and does not either want to or have intention to refine his skills to the next level of riding, he doesn’t have to.
I have ridden motorcycles with many types of riders whose skills vary greatly.
Newbies ride very cautiously, as they should whilst developing a wide range of skills for visualizing the ride (SEE technique — search, evaluate, execute).
“Hot dogs” (or your own name for riders who ride way beyond their abilities) are awful riders. They rush, run, and rumble way past their skill set and are a danger to themselves and everyone around them. These guys are also usually the ones who modify their motorcycles for more speed, and often ride “crotch rockets” that are designed for speed, show, and not much else but danger.
Motorcops are a brand of their own. They train for skilled riding almost every day. Their ability to operate a heavyweight motorcycle safely, quickly, and in tight situations is incredible. I have been fortunate to ride with some motorcops from time to time, and am always, always, impressed.
Seasoned riders develop riding skills over time. They can naturally operate a motorcycle smoothly and well on roads for which the bikes were designed. Most riders with whom I ride fall into this category, and — like me — have been riding for decades.
What I am getting to on this post is my own self-evaluation of the ride that I went on this past Sunday. The ride was led by a seasoned rider, and all other riders on the ride were equally as seasoned. All of us have been riding for 20 years or more.
The ride began well… getting out of urban areas with traffic always requires caution, care, and slower speeds.
But once we got out onto less-congested and well-paved highway, with posted speed limits of 40mph on curves and 50mph on straightaways — the leader of this ride consistently pushed the speed to 10mph over the posted speed limit.
I was 8th in a line of 9. Once the leader takes off, others follow and as speed increases, the riders spread out. Two seconds behind the rider in front of you is 88 feet at 30mph, 118 feet at 40mph, 150 feet at 50mph, and 176 feet at 60mph. Usually a little more room between bikes is common, so these distances are a minimum between riders for safety.
One thing — seasoned riders really DO follow this “2 second rule” as they have been trained for many years. Seldom, if ever, will a rider close the safety gap of this distance unless there is an emergency or other urgent reason.
What all this meant for me is at at 40mph, at 8th position, I was no less than 2/10 of a mile behind the lead rider and could see him well. But at 50mph, the distance between me and the lead was 1/4 mile; at 60mph, the distance between me and the lead was almost 1/3 mile.
That doesn’t sound like that much, but at riding speed, it’s a lot.
And then the phenomenon of “motorcycle ride accordion whiplash” was occurring. That means that we’re together at a light or stop sign. When we take off and as speed increases, we spread out. With more distance between us and with ride speed increasing to well above the posted speed, those of us at the end of the line have to ride even faster to just keep up. There were times on this ride when I glanced at my speedometer that I noticed that I was going 65mph; even at one point, 70mph.
I hate that. I really do. There are reasons why there are posted speed limits. Not that I’m all prudish about obeying the law, but I repeat again — there ARE reasons why there are posted speed limits.
So for most of the ride TO our lunch destination, I was uncomfortable, gripping the grips so tightly that my hands and wrists were getting numb, and I was feeling muscle tension in my arms, shoulders, legs, and back.
This is not a way to “ride and have fun.”
I didn’t say anything at lunch, but I was thinking about how to address this before we remounted our bikes after lunch.
However, during lunch, two riders had two beers (each). So what, you say?
Well, for me, that was “it.” I know that alcohol affects people in various ways, even if someone drinks often and tolerates it well. But I also know that those affects loosen inhibitions more. So if these guys were already riding consistently faster than the posted speed limit, they would probably ride even faster on the after-lunch segment.
So that observation made my decision. After lunch, I decided to “ride my own ride,” get gas, and head back home at my own pace and within the posted speed limits. I could relax, look around, enjoy the scenery, put my boots up on the riding pegs, and actually have fun. Even if I were alone.
First half of the ride wasn’t fun for me. Last half — wasn’t fun riding 50 miles alone, but was more safe and enjoyable because I wasn’t stressed riding beyond my comfort zone or the posted speed limit.
This is what I remember most fondly about riding with my buddy “S” on our Crazy-Awesome Adventure in Utah. “S” always always oriented and adjusted our daily rides to my comfort level and skills. If I didn’t want to ride faster than 65mph in a 75mph zone, we didn’t. I will always remember that. “S” is about the best co-rider I have ever had. His thoughtfulness really made that adventure the best and “most awesome.”
Life is short: ride you own ride.