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The Group Ride

Are You Ready?

Motorcycles are no doubt a means of social contact. Think about it.

Typically people buy a car as a means to get from point A to point B and the social aspect follows to a degree ... a bit later on when you pack one or more passengers inside and take a little cruise. The rules of the road are the same, with an emphasis on paying attention to what's going on around you while others in the car converse and involve you in the conversation.

That's the car. If you can't do that - well, give up now!

The bike is an entirely different story that requires a few more skills to participate in a group ride.

Getting a motorcycle is the conduit to joining in on a group ride. But before you do that, consider the fact that group riding requires additional skills and a level of confidence you'll need to possess in advance of joining in with others.

Am I qualified to go for a group ride?

Before you surround yourself with a group of other riders, it's important to be confident with your own riding skills. We recommend a rider spend at least 3,000 miles within a three month period riding alone or with a mentor, before getting into the game of group riding. Read that last sentence again.

To fTo figure out if you're a fit for a group ride, consider the following questions:

  1. How does the bike feel, how's your balance?

    Your car has four wheels, the motorcycle only has two. Everywhere you go you'll need to balance the bike. You don't want to burden members of a group with picking your bike up do you? The answer is - they don't want you to do that.

    Are you comfortable coming to a stop and putting your feet down, then lifting them back on the pegs as you ride off?

    How does the bike feel? Are you comfortable with the position of the brakes, throttle, clutch and other controls you'll be using during a ride - like blinkers, horn, high beam switch. Hopefully you won't need to run your hazard lights, but since so many bikes have them now we just had to ask � where are they on your bike?

    How good are your U-turns? Honestly, even the best ride leaders blow it. And that will require a U-turn. Some of the best rides might involve a few of these each day. How's your balance and ability to U-turn your bike?
  2. How are your performance skills?

    When you make a corner at the suggested speed limit, does your heart skip a beat? Do other riders and motorists pass you when you think you're riding at the legal speed limit? Did a semi recently pass you? Do you normally ride below the legal speed limit?
    Use your first 3,000 miles to perfect your cornering skills, your braking skills, your throttle to brake to throttle transitions, and most importantly learning where to look as you enter and exit corners as well as hone your overall scanning techniques.

    Remember scanning techniques? They told you about that in your rider training class, but to be honest, it's only after you spend several thousand miles riding your motorcycle with a focus on this before you dial in on the beauty of scanning and head placement. Many a wise instructor has said,' look where you want to go, not where you're going.' If that's not computing, get to a point where it does.
     
  3. How adept are you at avoiding a sudden obstacle like a pot hole, a dog that runs out in front of you or a sudden change in traction?

    After all, riding amongst a pack of other riders is like riding within a pack of sled dogs. While you're all on the same wavelength, you're probably not all equally matched with reactions. A pothole can occur, a deer can enter into the group, a change of pavement to gravel can occur and before you know it everyone is reacting at their own skill level. If you're slower and less experienced than the rider behind you, you'll become a hindrance to others around you. Just because you're out riding with riders more skilled than yourself doesn't make you anymore skilled.

    You can practice your avoidance technique and braking technique alone or with your mentor well before you get into group riding. One technique is to play with simple road marks such as HOV diamonds, cracks or other imperfections in the road and swerve to miss them at a close distance.

Overall, what will make you more skilled in all these aspects is spending time on your own first, or with your mentor, before you partake in the group ride.

Selecting a Mentor

So you think you would be more comfortable starting out with a mentor riding with you?

Qualifications for a mentor:

  1. Has your mentor been through a basic riding skills course? Some folks think they know how to ride, but without a basic course, they most likely do not and do not understand the proper techniques used in basic rider training. Don't get the back-forty training please.
  2. Does your mentor spend time annually upgrading their own skills? If not, they may be a bit rusty on the basic stuff.
  3. Is your mentor a patient soul? We hope so.

TM/Spring 11


You'd like to comment? Email sreditor@soundrider.com .


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