Beautiful Day to Ride
Yesterday I took a very long ride on the motorcycle. We hadn’t really planned taking that long of a trip, but Mr. Murphy came a knocking and the rest follows.
The plan was to gather at a local Starbucks, mount up, and head for places far away. That usually means the nearest twisty road, but in this case, it was a little further away.
We picked this weekend because the weather was to be perfect, and it didn’t disappoint. While it started in the high 30’s, it soon warmed to a comfortable enough temperature that multiple layers were not necessary.
I arrived at the Starbucks, dismounted, and started to remove my helmet. My left custom ear plug was no longer in my ear. I paid 50 bucks to get custom molded plugs that fit all the way into my ear, because the little foam ones are so hard to insert. I knew it hadn’t fallen out while riding because there’s no room. I pulled the helmet further up over my head, and boing, the rubber earplug went sailing to the left as it was pinched between the helmet and my head. It hit the ground and bounced under the very center of a BMW 740 parked next to me. Crap….
I peered under the car to see if I could reach it, but with all the gear I was wearing I could barely put my arms over my head, let alone stretch the three feet necessary to retrieve it. I also wondered what the owner might think to see a guy dressed in black leather crawling under his nice BMW.
When my buddy showed up we solved that problem with a stick and then we confronted the next. A young man in a leather jacket approached me and asked if I was leading the ride today. Why as a matter of fact, yes. Well as it turns out he had contacted my buddy to see if he could come along. OK, as long as my buddy says so, it must be OK, right? Wrong..
After a few minutes of conversation I figured out that he was a newbie rider, and just got a bike one month back. That was going to be a problem on this ride. We were going on a fairly technical route, and since we are very good riders, we were going at a swift pace. This kid wasn’t going to be able to keep up.
I told him that we would be going faster than he would want to ride. He smiled. I told him that he needed to ride his own pace. He nodded. I told him not to put extra pressure on himself to keep up or he’d likely crash. He said he wouldn’t. I told him we’d make sure and wait at intersections for him so that he wouldn’t get lost. He said that wouldn’t be necessary. OK, then, let’s go.
We set off through city streets and he seemed to be fine. He kept up as we traversed the traffic, and stopped at the lights. We finally reached the small country road leading out of town and wicked it up a notch. To no one’s surprise, as I checked in my mirror, his headlight was becoming a spot in the distance. Good, ride your own pace. Be safe. Soon I couldn’t see his headlight except in long straightaways.
It had only been five minutes, but he was at least half a mile back. There were sections in the road that hadn’t yet been hit by sunlight, so the road still had a light covering of morning dew. I decided to slow down a little because first the front, then the rear, slid ever slightly on the pavement, throwing me towards the oncoming lane. As an experience rider this didn’t bother me, except to get the adrenaline pumping a little faster.
We reached the first turn and slowed to a stop. For about fifteen seconds I kept the motor running, expecting to see him round the turn. But he didn’t. Soon the fifteen seconds turned into thirty. My buddy and I stopped our engines, shucked off our helmets and listened. Nothing. The realization crept in like a dark shadow. He must be down.
We remounted, and turned back. I hadn’t gone more than three corners when there he was standing by the side of the road both arms held high, waving at me. The good news was that he looked unhurt. A sickening feeling hit me in the gut, as I went a little further, and saw the bike laying on its side, on the downhill slope of an embankment.
We quickly stopped, asked if he was hurt, and were relieved to find, he didn’t have a scratch. The bike wasn’t as lucky, but the damage was purely cosmetic, and minor. It turns out that the only thing that had suffered any real damage, was his pride.
We struggled to get the bike back on the road, but it was too heavy, and the soil too loose. A few minutes later a couple more riders stopped to help. After some tugging, grunting, swearing, and pulling, we got the bike back on the road and it started just fine. He begged to go on the rest of the ride, but we gave him the phone number of an advanced riding school and sent him on his way.
When you see the enthusiasm in a new rider’s face it’s hard to turn them away, but we probably should have. Next time we will.