Jan 7, 2012

The Pace or the Ride

Sev Pearman, my Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly editor and long-time friend and co-conspirator, sent me an article written by Motorcyclists' Nick Ienatsch called "The Pace." In the article, Ienatsch extolls the virtues of a particular sort of group ride. After several people on Sev's email list responded, I felt compelled to put my $0.02 worth of bullshit into the mix.

"Responsible? A bit. Educational? Probably. Fun? Most certainly not.

"Nothing about any sort of group street riding sounds rational to me. The opportunities for misjudging the surrounding riders, for getting overwhelmed with input data, or for becoming so bored that I drive off into a ditch to keep from falling asleep and to provide myself with a little entertainment are all reasons why I always "get lost" in group rides. Make one wrong turn, and you own the road again and don't have to worry about who fell down up front or who's about to run up your tailpipe on a boring straight section or where you're going to sit when 70 bikers decide to descend on a hapless coffee shop or greasy spoon. There is an aspect of 'togetherness' that many people link to motorcycling that is, as my hero Eric Cartman would say, 'Lame, dude. Totally lame.'"

Yep, I felt pretty good about that opinionated opinion. I'm still about half-doped up with my morning dose of 15mg of morphine sulfate and 5-325mg of oxycodone-acetamineophen (Percoset), so I could be wrong.

Sev whipped right back with, "I'm gonna disagree w/ you on this one, Thomas. There are times when I LOVE riding w/ 1-5 other riders of similar skill and mindset. Parade rides of pirate-costumed riders on clown bikes? No Thanks But a spirited ride among a small group  of riders can be invigorating."

Which, finally, brings us to the point of today's Geezer rant. As you know, I can't tolerate disagreement; unless I get a beer out of the deal. When it comes to off-road riding, I'm sort of in agreement with Sev, although my group size would probably be smaller (1-3, with 1 being exponentially better than 3). I found, on my trip around Superior last fall, that I'd rather be in a cage if I'm trying to hang with someone (preferably with them doing the driving) than do the group ride thing. Economically, ecologically, practically, and socially, it makes more sense.

The conversation and, probably, the drugs brought up some old memories that had been almost entirely in the old age fuzz. Must be the morphine or Alzeheimers.

In Colorado, there were a group of three guys I hung out with for almost everything. We worked together, explored Colorado's cities and mountains and ghost towns, fixed cars, did off-road remote controlled car racing, hot-wired the company's intranet so we could play networked Doom and Hell on Earth (Doom II) all weekend, and generally hung out a lot. When I first moved to CO, I was the only active motorcyclist in the group, so we naturally did a lot of stuff in our cages and the "driver" of the event picked everyone up and sort of set the tone for whatever we were going to do. The two vehicles of group excursion choice were often my hippie Toyota van, which had no back seats, but was "decorated" in two large beanbags (for camping), an icebox, and a great surround system and a 1960 Pontiac Catalina convertible with an even better surround system. We covered a lot of ground in those two vehicles, including trips to New Mexico and Wyoming, an excursion to visit my family in L.A., fishing on Colorado's Arkansas River, road trips up Mount Evans and Pike's Peak, and at least one lap around Colorado's state RC off-road electric championship series.

A couple of years later, everyone decided they needed to become motorcyclists. We started to try to do the same things we'd done in cages by bike. It was a miserable experiment. Our skill levels were all over the place. Every trip ended up with one of the rookies in a ditch or dragging his ass back home with parts dangling from their poorly maintained bikes. In the end, I took to planning the route and heading for the end point at my own rate, expecting to spend an afternoon in that spot while the other guys straggled in hours later. On a Denver to Pike's Peak trip, I rode the whole mountain, twice, performed a thorough maintenance on my bike, had a long conversation with one of the Peak's railroad engineers, and had lunch before the other three guys straggled into the parking lot. Around that point, I decided group rides weren't going to be my deal and I have avoided them since. I will always miss the road trips we took, but none of the motorcycle adventures.


Paul Compton said...

I mostly agree with your take on group riding and only rarely participate. I've led the odd rideout, but I'll only do that if I know the people behind can keep up. I tend to approach junctions scanning the trafic and having decided whether I'm going to proceed or not before I get there. I'll make a last minute check of course, but too many people approach a junction, stop, look, hesitate.....and they've dropped way behind. Often they can't or won't catch up and I'll have to pull over, which I find very anoying. If it's a group like that I prefer to play tail end Charlie and chivvy along the stragglers. I did really enjoy one group ride last year. It was after the Morini Rider's Club trackday and nearly all of the more than a dozen bikes were Morinis that had been on track. The person leading set the perfect Morini pace. Not raw speed, but carrying speed through corners, of which there were a lot. Even a howling wind and a bit of rain didn't spoil the fun, although getting to the prize winning Fish & Chip shop was a welcome break.

T.W. Day said...


I've sadly aware that this is a "different strokes" issue. I got hammered on the original email conversation for being "closed minded" about group rides. I will admit to mental incapacity and suffer the consequences. I wish I were more social, that my father had been a robber baron and left me with some kind of inheritance, that I was tall enough to be a CEO and smart enough to use that characteristic to be a better basketball player, and that I were half as smart as my kids. I am none of those things and I really dislike riding behind another motorcycle, let alone surrounded by 'em.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a lot of experience with group rides, but I have to agree with daGeezer on this one. Some people just can't enjoy being by themselves, and a lot of the enjoyment of the ride is being with the buddies I guess. I can understand this, but it isn't me. I enjoy my own company and prefer to do things at my own pace. Plus, I think it is about 100% safer to not have to watch out for someone in front of or behind you. For some reason a lot of bikers like to ride way too close--even if you just meet them on the road.

T.W. Day said...

One of the other discussions we've had here is that a good number of people have little real life experience and way too much virtual "experience" that leads them to believe that life has a reset button when things go wrong. They follow too closely, pay little attention to road surfaces and other traffic, and imagine that minimal skills are sufficient in emergency situations. That kind of person gravitates to group rides and I am magnetically repelled by that character.

Like my wife says, "This is not a video game. This is your life. Ride to stay alive." I find the best way to stay shiny side up to put big distances between myself and the video game generation.

Paul B said...

I mostly agree with the Geezer. I have had maybe a couple of group rides that were OK, but mostly it adds complication that I don't need. If you want companionship, strike up a conversation with someone when you are done riding for the day. Doesn't have to be a motorcyclist.

I have the same experience deer hunting. Both activities look as if they ought to be fun with others, but somehow it doesn't work out like that. Maybe it's just me.

Sorry to read about your hip problems. I'm almost there myself.

T.W. Day said...

I totally agree on your advice to find conversation with strangers after the ride. I never need a companion along if I'm going to stop in a town. Someone always wants to talk about commuting on a motorcycle, so it's easier to get into a conversation than it is to find solitude in any town I've ever stopped in.