First Ride – Bad Ride

My brother and his wife slept peacefully yesterday morning until after 11am. Even though we didn’t get to bed until 4:30am, I slept fitfully at best and decided to get up at 7am because I couldn’t sleep since my system is so conditioned to rising fully awake at 4am anyway. I read the paper, talked to my partner, and did some quiet housecleaning.

When J and his wife awoke, I had prepared a great brunch of home-made waffles, fruit, sausage, orange juice and coffee. We enjoyed catching up a bit. Then sister M came over and took J’s wife to visit some of our family while J and I went to go pick up his Harley rental.

The bike rental process went fine. Then J and I took off to pre-ride a group ride that I’m scheduled to lead next week. A pre-ride is riding the actual planned route to look for potential hazards, note the turns, and become aware of any possible problems or situations in advance of leading a whole group of riders there. A pre-ride builds confidence in that “I’ve been there before” and I can then concentrate more on the group when I’m leading it than on making certain I catch each turn.

This was J’s first ride on a Harley since he rode with me last August. He was a little rusty, but picked up his riding skills rather quickly after a few turns in a parking lot, plus some practice on stopping quickly.

Off we went… the first 65 miles were great. J loved the scenery and I enjoyed riding with my brother again.

We approached a turn onto a busy highway, which would soon be followed by a quick left onto another back road.

Unfortunately, the road we were on had a very steep incline as it approached the highway, then a stop sign. One literally was pointed to the heavens and then had to stop. Then accelerate quickly to join the flow of traffic on the highway.

No way… no friggin’ way. I lost my nerve, and almost lost my balance. J did, too. We couldn’t get the bikes going without potentially stalling or dropping them. Here we are, at the top of this hill, holding these darned heavy Harleys with our lug-soled booted feet, the bike’s brakes, and our balance. Gosh, one would think that after the same experience last year, I would remember and not do that to myself.

We realized that: a) we couldn’t go forward; b) we couldn’t turn around; and c) no way in hell I could lead a group through this torture. What we finally did was slowly walk our bikes backward in the curb lane until we got to the bottom of the hill and were able to turn around. Tuck our tales between our legs and go back home.

We got home safely and unscathed, if not feeling a bit sheepish. But that is what a pre-ride is for: to learn what potential problems there may be and avoid them. I will plot another route and J and I will go ride that some time this coming week, to make sure there won’t be any more problems like that hill again.

Life is short: know your limitations.