Birds of a Feather Ride Together

Mar 21, 2012 View Comments by

Taking a group ride is a lot like the traditional family vacation: a time for bonding, fun, discovery and togetherness – right up until you want to kill each other over who left the top off the pickle jar, and why your shorts smell like dill!

I have ridden in every type of group, from “migrations” of 100’s (as in two Harley-Davidson homecoming rides), to groups of four on cross-country tours. Both have some things in common: human ego and great expectations. As long as you’re not the responsible party, the huge migrations are by far the easier of the two. Reason being: there are no expectations of somebody making the decisions. It’s just “point & go”, here we are now, this is where we want to be by 5:00 pm. That’s it, done deal.

Like the family vacation, the group ride needs a leader who knows what’s going on and who makes the important decisions. When is everyone’s bladder full to bursting? Who is running out of gas? (best if timed with that bladder thing) Should we stop to eat here or the place with the fallen arches? Or my all time favorite – is the GPS right or is the paper map correct? On a trip to Minnesota not too long ago, the GPS directed us first to the center of a Technical College parking lot, and then with the exact coordinates punched in, it dumped us off in some poor guy’s front yard. His azaleas will never be the same. After this I pulled out a paper map and went directly to our destination: Aerostich’s factory location. I now use the GPS with a paper map on my tank. Remember you’re the “Leader Of The Pack” – you don’t make mistakes.

In a proper group ride, the leader has to know everything about his “followers,” as in: are there any medical issues, does someone have to eat on schedule (diabetes), does someone have poor night vision (nyctalopia), are they new to this bike (fearacyclean); never been on the expressway (nogofastus); or can’t lean through a turn to save their life (fallovris). You also have to know their stamina. How many miles are too many, and when is it time to call it a day?

You (Mr. Leader) are also responsible for the weather. If it’s great, it’s expected. If it rains cats and rats, it’s your fault. We have been in everything from torrential downpours to tornados and washouts, and it’s always my fault! My learned solution is to “delegate authority.” Make each member of your lost tribe of wanderers responsible for an aspect of the sojourn. Al is in charge of finding the accommodations; Joanne picks out the food and fuel stops; John is in charge of selecting the photo opportunities; Norb’s the sweeper (last in line who picks up the fallen parts and escorts the lost); the person with the GPS mount (and tank map) is by default the leader & pacesetter. Within this gypsy band is the flexibility to adjust on the run.  Should a great bakery or awesome ice cream stand be spotted, we have to be able to stop and smell the…hot fudge.

With a lot of luck and a bunch of planning, a group ride can be as much fun as a hot, humid family vacation at Disney World. Maybe more, with less screaming.

Tags: Categories: Wayne's World

About the author

A Wisconsin farm boy, I learned how to ride a cow, before a horse and way before a motorcycle. I first started riding on my 16th birthday and I took my first real ride at my party: I pulled a wheelie and dug a trench in the lawn, which sent the bike in one direction and me in another. I was irrevocably hooked!