Square Peg, Round Hole – When Your Riding Group Takes on A Stranger
On Sunday I hit the road with friends (the Mixed Nuts ) to check out Rice-O-Rama Vintage and Custom Japanese Motorcycle Show and Swap Meet in Massachusetts. The event, held in Oxford was a little over 200 miles from where we live here on Long Island.
Square Peg, Round Hole
As I’ve mentioned many times before, my riding friends are an eclectic bunch. They’re also quite friendly so it is not uncommon to see faces I’ve never met peppered in amongst the regulars if I turn up for a group ride. While there is much variation in ages, personality and even bike types there always seems to be a common thread of respect both for the other riders and for riding itself.
When someone doesn’t “fit” they stick out like a sore thumb. So was the case of a friend of a friend on Sunday’s ride.
The sun had not yet burned through and the roads were still wet from rain overnight. The air was misty and the temperature hung around the 60 degree mark. The new guy was wearing a sweatshirt and jeans. Oof. It was going to be a cold 200 miles up the slab to Oxford. Red flag.
After about an hour and a half on the road, we pulled off for a fill up. My friend Bill was kind enough to loan his rain jacket to the new guy to at least try to break some of the wind.
Waving the Big Red Flag
After spending an hour or two walking around the show, we were headed for the Mohawk Trail and then to route 112 and finally 8 to catch the ferry back to Long Island. The route is a nice mixture of good riding and still being able to make tracks back home.
About 5 miles away from Rice-O-Rama we had to hop onto the highway to pick up another route. As we pulled away, I got shuffled in behind the new guy. From there I watched him nearly merge into a car because he overcooked the entrance ramp turn. Red flag.
Then as we exited the highway, I somehow found myself behind him once again as he charged forward through the group. The exit ramp had 2 lanes, which he used both of liberally. He had once again overcooked the turn and it seemed like the guard rail had a tractor beam that was sucking him in. A classic case of target fixation. My heart thumped in my chest for him. I thought for sure he was going to bite it but he managed to make it through. Red flag.
Houston, We Have A Problem
We stopped at a gas station on route 2 and I voiced my concerns over his riding. The guy who brought him along was going to have a talk with him. It was then that I’d discovered that he wasn’t just not so great at turning his motorcycle,… he was a new rider.
He was given the ‘ride your own ride’ and the ‘don’t try to keep up’ and ‘get yourself some decent gear’ speeches. The response was mostly a lot of yeah, yeah, yeahs and I knows.
When we left the gas station, I made it a point to try and stay in front of him and out of his way. I did not trust him at all.
On our route home there was a section of the roadway that had construction on it. They’d set up temporary traffic lights to regulate what had become a single lane of traffic. While sitting and waiting for the light to change, I could see the approaching headlight of my new friend coming in hot behind me. He did stop but… it was a little too close for comfort. Red flag.
I felt unsafe in front of him and behind him.
Score – Luck: 1 Skill : 0
Our group makes it a point to wait at any route changes. With 8 motorcyclists on this ride of varying riding styles, we’d never want to leave anyone behind. It’s just how we work. So, as we pulled over to wait for two riders before turning and continuing on, the group again got shuffled.
Instead of letting the more spirited riders pull out first, our new friend pulled out toward the front of the group. And there I was following him again. Damn.
From behind him I watched him enter turns while hugging the center line. He was making mid turn corrections and braking through the turns. He was blowing corners and getting sucked towards the shoulder. It was ridiculous. I couldn’t take it. My heart was in my throat just waiting for disaster. He was going too fast and clearly had no idea what he was doing. I waited for a clean place to pass and then put some distance between us.
What a mess. It had to be luck that managed to get him through the roads without crashing or hurting anyone else.
Someone else in the group told me that they watched him blow a curve on the highway and hit the white painted lines that separate the traffic lanes from the entrance ramp lane. They also said he was riding too close to them as well.
Well, That Explains That
Last night (the day following the ride) I found out from another friend that this guy had 300 miles TOTAL riding experience before the day ride with us. 300! We did more miles on Sunday than he had done in his whole riding career.
This experience left me with many questions. Here are a few. I’d love your insight.
- Should the person who invited him along get a stiff talking to? He did not stay with him or coach him or keep him as a wing man or say You guys go ahead, I’m gonna hang back with my man.
- Should this new rider have even accepted the invitation to ride with this group?
- Should he have made his lack of experience abundantly clear to everyone?
- Is it really shame on us for not bothering to ask about his experience before we even left?