There’s an African proverb I read recently that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Spring has finally arrived in full force here in southeastern Pennsylvania and that means more and more riders are hitting the road for group rides, which, of course, is one of the best things about the sport. It doesn’t get much better than a day in the sun riding with a group. I’m looking forward to taking some rides in Maggie Valley at the RoadRUNNER Touring Weekend this summer.
A few years back I started a meet-up group for motorcyclists in my area and over a period of two years we grew to a membership of over 150 riders from all walks of life. Running the group was a labor of love for a long time. I tried to arrange activities, something to see or do, whether a good meal, a hike, balloon festival, or a memorial to visit. I started to become concerned, however, when I saw some members show up to ride who, in my mind, were improperly dressed and, in a few extreme cases, were on bikes that made me question whether I should step in and prevent them from riding.
Not that I felt like imposing my values on others, these were extreme cases; bald tires and open toed sandals for example. In addition, we had an incident in which two riders collided, one later admitted to having a phobia about riding in the left side of the lane. We’ve all had a first group ride, so I tried to be understanding and mentor when I could, but ultimately it was my group and I was responsible, in large measure, for the safety of the people who trusted me to know what I was doing.
We’re all responsible for ourselves of course; but in a group we also bear a certain responsibility for the group as a whole, at least inasmuch as making sure our rides are safe, properly maintained, and that we don’t overextend ourselves. I myself failed to latch a saddlebag on one occasion while leading a ride. The result was only the loss of a camera case but that could easily have startled Stan and Walter who were trailing me on the highway; which could have resulted in a crash. Lesson learned. My failure to do a proper and simple check might have had catastrophic consequences.
I used to tell people on group rides not to push their limits (which only they know), to ride in control, and not to worry if they lost ground in a curve; you can always catch up in the straight sections. We all know that fluttery feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you’re carrying too much speed. It’s a useful feeling; it lets you know your limits.
Running the group was a balancing act of listening to the concerns of experienced veteran riders and mentoring and helping riders new to group riding. It was a challenge. I think I did fairly well and have many, many fond memories of smiles and slaps on the back for great rides, and Cori’s constant reminders about what a great thing it is to bring people together and how proud I should be.
I fall in love with motorcycling every time I ride, especially when I ride with a group and get to share the feeling with them. Jon Krakauer wrote in Into the Wild, “happiness is only real when shared.” I hope to see you in Maggie Valley in July so we can share the joy of riding with new friends.