Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And so it goes...

Another riding season is underway.  And so it goes.  We had our first group ride of the season about a week ago and it was a complete disaster.  Fourteen of us, astride thirteen bikes, set off for points west, with the goal of getting a belly full of Hungarian Mushroom soup.  The lead bike planned and took a most circuitous route, losing half of the group along the way.  One would think it's easy to tell the difference between 13 bikes and 7 bikes but, there we were, caught at a light and doing the right thing for the folks BEHIND us, while the rest of the group roared off, clueless.

The first rule of Fight Club is we don't talk about Fight Club.  The first rule of group riding is to keep an eye on the rider behind you.  If he or she ain't there, pull the fuck over.  If everyone understood that then even the leader would eventually get a clue.  And this is why I eschew (Bless you!) group riding.

The best group size is small, no more than five bikes (an even BETTER number is 2-3 bikes).  A bigger group gets spread out over too large an area and can't keep all the riders in sight, or as a cohesive unit.  Big groups make bad decisions, at lights, changing lanes, etc.  Small groups are tight and tidy.  I like it tight.  Much mo' bettah.

Big groups overwhelm gas stations, parking lots, restaurants or almost anywhere you go.  Arrive in a small group and you'll have less stress everywhere you go.  One car-sized parking spot is a good place to park three bikes.  When fifteen bikes arrive almost anywhere together, chaos ensues.  People make poor choices and you end up irritating motorists as you leave bikes hanging out in the road, awaiting their turn to pull in or find a spot.  It's the same thing at a busy gas station.  People panic and jockey for an open pump and that's when we run into a risk of a collision or an "Artie Johnson" (slow speed dismount).

I have a couple of friends that I can rely on and, are my first choice to call when I want to ride.  Failing that, the missus has her own scooter and, when I can pry her from her other activities and interests, is always willing to join me.  I fall back on group rides more as a way to connect with the people I haven't seen in a while or when I just don't want to make the effort to plan a ride.  It's easy to just get carried along, letting others make the decisions.

Click on the title link above if you want to get some tips about group riding.  At little preparation will go a long way to making sure that EVERYONE has a safe and enjoyable ride.  Ride safe, check your bike before you go past Turn One (the end of your driveway) and keep your eye open for the cell phone idiots in cars. 

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket