Did you ever not enjoy riding?

There have been a number of motorcycle accidents this year within my circle of influence. Of course most notable is the tragic accident that occured on April 24th while I was riding sweep on the way to the outer banks of North Carolina. A friend was killed and two were injured with broken bones. I have been to the local hospital on three other occasions to visit friends who have gone down. The thought of a motorcycle accident happening to one of my friends while we are out riding is no longer a wild notion of what could happen but a reality that I expect to reoccur at any moment. It is a heavy burden on my mind and keeps me from enjoying the ride like I used to. At the moment I ride, but it is not a relaxing ride. I’m not writing this to bring anyone down… I’m writing this in hopes that some of you have experienced this feeling and can tell me how long it lasted. When will I return to a normal state of motorcycle bliss? Please do share your stories.

Do You Want To Be A Road Captain?

HOG RC Patch

Being a Road Captain takes time and dedication and the only reward is the appreciation of those that you take out on a ride and the self gratification that comes from sharing what you enjoy with others. That’s it, it’s that simple. Anyone who signs up for this position for the perceived prestige of the title should stay home. I will go so far as to say, anyone who takes an officer position within a riding organization merely for the ego trip should get the heck outa town. These are volunteer positions and the reward is that warm fuzzy feeling you get from helping others. A Road Captain patch should not become some sort of achievement badge that says you are a better rider then the next guy. It should also be understood that this should not become an authority issue. This perception of prestige, authority and achievement attracts the wrong applicants for the job. What you end up with is a bunch of dudes (and maybe some chicks) who show up for the Road Captain meetings but never do anything. If you have a huge group photo of your Road Captain crew and no rides on the calendar then you have to wonder “why did these people sign up for the position?” If they are not putting rides up and are burnt out, why do they still consider themselves an RC? The only answer I can come up with is the prestige, authority and achievement.

If you want to be a Road Captain then plan to learn as much about motorcycles, riding motorcycles and motorcycle safety as you can. Plan on staying up late studying maps and comparing different routes. Plan on getting up early to lead rides, particpate in other peoples rides, and riding sweep for your peers. Plan on putting yourself in harms way occasionally to protect the group. Plan on getting a ticket once in awhile for running a traffic light and getting caught on camera. Plan on spending alot of money on gas, tolls, maintenance, hotels, motels and endless trip expenses. Plan on getting dirty looks from your neighbors because you spend too much time riding to mow your lawn. Plan on pre-riding your local and out of state trips several times until they meet your high standards. Plan on listening to everyone gripe about going too fast, too slow, not stopping to go to the bathroom enough, stopping too often and about the weather when it isn’t cooperating. Plan on managing an accident scene, but hope you never have to. Plan on hearing “Thank you” once inawhile, but don’t expect it. Most of all, plan on feeling really good about yourself that you gave up your time to plan and execute a ride that others enjoyed. Not alot of people are cut out for this position, so if you are doing it well… hold your head up high!

You ask me “how do I know if I’m doing it well?”. If you are practicing all the safety precautions recommended by the MSF and your riders are having fun and the same riders keep coming back for your rides… then you’re doing a good job! If you realize you are not perfect and strive to always learn more and stay humble, then you are the right man (or women) for the job. If you constantly challenge yourself to do better and can balance being an authority figure with being accomodating then this is the right position for you. I hope it goes without saying that a Road Captain doesn’t have to be absolutely the best rider in the group but that he or she should definitely command a high skill level and ride smart. In fact I would put more weight on the “ride smart” part. It’s my oppinion that a smart rider is the best rider, not the one who can make the tightest u-turn. The best rider is the one who can read the road, the one who understands cause an effect, the one who can anticipate what will happen and use this knowledge to keep the group safe. 

If you are a Road Captain and you are thinking that maybe you shouldn’t be, then I hope this article helped you make a decision. If you are thinking about becoming a Road Captain, I hope this article enlightened you that this is not a road to glory but a truley gratifying experience. I tip my hat to all the good Road Captains out there; keep up the good work! Thank you for giving up your time so that others can enjoy the thrill of riding their motorcycles to places they otherwise would not have ventured out to. Remember what this is all about: Having Fun Safely!

Be honest with yourself and ask yourself: “Why do I want to be a Road Captain?” and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.

I am Yoda!

I am Yoda Yoda

Sorry I have not been posting very much lately, we have been riding more than writing this season. I have also been taken over by the force and have taken on the persona of the master jedi… Yoda!

May the Force be with you!

Learning to Ride Sweep

HOG RC Patch

There is no manual for Road Captains that I know of that tells you how to handle specific situations that come up during group riding. Unfortunately you sometimes have to just throw yourself into something and learn from your mistakes. Being a Road Captain is going to be one of those fascinating endeavers in life that you never master, one that you are always learning something new. I think that a good Road Captain is a good student… someone who can be trained and someone who learns from their mistakes.

I made an error in judgement while riding sweep on Wednesday that I wanted to document here for the benefit of those who share my interest in the art of Road Captainhood. Before I continue, I have to say a few things. First, I think that riding in group formation without CB radio communication is as sane as sending out a fighter squadron of Marine aviators without radio communication. Second, the sweep or tailgunner position is the most difficult position to execute properly. The sweep must anticipate what is going to happen before everyone else. He will sometimes have to put himself in harms way to protect the group. This is the position for your best RC.

Blue Angels

Having lead many rides as a lead Road Captain I can tell you that we rely on a good sweep Road Captain to block out cars when two lanes are going to merge into one. The bigger the group, the more critical this becomes. For example if a group of twenty motorcycles was speeding up a hill in the left lane and there is a slow lane for tractor trailers, the sweep will block off the slow lane so that some nut job in a sports car doesn’t try to pass the group and then run out of space before he passes the whole group. If a cager were to find himself side by side with a group of bikes with no place to go it would cause panic for both cager and cyclists; a potentially dangerous situation that we would like to avoid. Should this happen you can only hope that the group will adjust their speed and create an opening for the unexpected visitor. In most cases the lead RC can slow the group down and the “Slingshot” driver can get by as we wave him on to hurry up and pass us before we run out of lane. In other cases the lead RC can call single file and move over to create more space for the cage to manuever. All of these actions are more easily handled by a lead and sweep team that are in communication with each other via CB radio. Having riders in the group on CB only helps.

On Wednesday I found myself riding sweep for a talented group of eight motorcyclists. Only one of the motorcycles was CB equiped, so we were not in communication with each other. We had an awesome day of riding with one exception. On the way home from Pottsville, PA we had an agressive driver in a gold mini van come up on my tail. I created extra space between him and the group by slowing down a bit. We were traveling along a twisty piece of one lane road and the agressive driver was chomping at the bit to pass us. We came to a mountainous uphill that had a slow lane for slower moving vehicles and our lead RC read the situation correctly and took us up the slow lane on the right giving the mini van his much awaited chance to pass us. Unfortunately I read the situation wrong!

I wanted to do a good job and keep the cager from slingshotting up the passing lane with the potential to get caught in the middle of the pack; so I moved to the left lane to block the pass. I thought he would recognize that I was “closing the door” and hang behind us. WRONG! He was determined to pass us. He floored the death mobile to “ramming speed” and ran up on the last motorcycle in the group. I answered the challenge by dropping a gear and hitting the throttle hard as if to say “Oh no you don’t!”. We were side by side and as he came as close as he could to the last rider in the group he steered hard left as if to say “Oh yes I am, and here I come!”. I locked up the rear wheel, steered left and started to fishtail as the van successfully got past my stupid attempt to keep him from passing (which is probably illegal to begin with). I regained control of my motorcycle and my emotions as the van passed the group only after running out of lane and flipping off the lead RC.

I discussed the occurance with our Head Road Captain and Safety Officer and they both told me I made a mistake. I beat myself up about it and decided to learn from my mistake and stay on my journey to someday being a wise old master Road Captain someday in the far future.

Yoda

I share this story with you so that those who are Road Captains can also learn from my mistake. For those of you who are not Road Captains I hope this story enlightens you as to the amount of strategy and teamwork that is involved in getting a group of motorcyclists from point A to point B. Being an RC is more than being a glorified Tour Guide, and being a good sweeper is akin to being an Ace Pilot.

I wish that we could all compile all our lessons learned on the road and benefit from these experiences… and even then there would still be new situations to surprise us.

Most importantly I leave you with this warning: Watch out for nut jobs in death mobiles at ramming speed!

WILD HOGS – Movie Review

WILD HOGS

When I first watched WILD HOGS I thought it was a funny little movie and could relate to the dichotomy that exists between Old School bikers and modern day suburbanites who ride brand new Harley-Davidson motorcycles. I had the DVD but it collected a lot of dust until my friend Bullslap mentioned one night how much he loves that movie. Since then I have watched it dozens of times, memorized most of the lines and laugh beforehand in anticipation of certain scenes and punchlines.

Check out the WILD HOG website at this link and watch the trailer: http://video.movies.go.com/wildhogs/

I think this movie is a riot and after a few beers there is nothing better than a game of WILD HOG Trivia where you make up your own questions and try to stump your friends who also enjoy this movie. Get it, watch it and memorize it.

Question: According to Ray Liotta’s character what is the joke?

Answer: Suburban assholes who wear leather outfits and think they’re bikers.

Click here to check out the DVD at Amazon.com

July 2009 East Coast Biker Online

east Coast Biker Online July 2009

Check out the July 2009 issue of East Coast Biker Online! Diana’s article In The Groove is on page 22. Joker’s monthly New England Update is on page 58 and my monthly Product Review is on page 60. Click Here!