Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
It seems I'm continually either running headfirst into large frying pans or riding with my butt on fire. With a personality like mine, being in some sort of trouble is pretty routine. True to form I stepped into it again recently. This time the person holding the torch to my rear was The Director of our motorcycle safety program. And you thought I was Teacher's Pet all this time, didn't you?
I'm going to share the story but the point of the post is to solicit feedback from you all. This has to do with group riding. What happened with us was symptomatic of what often happens with many group rides. As leaders in motorcycle safety we feel a responsibility to do right by all riders. Group riding isn't something we really address in our classes. We think perhaps it might be time we start. In particular, the question is how to balance the aspect of "riding your own ride" versus the social aspect of riding together as a group.
Briefly, the background is this.
We have a group of about 11 instructors who make up what we currently call the Leadership Council. The objective is to work for the good of the instructor body. We meet once a month. Members are spread across the state so some attend by means of a telephone conference call. Those of us in the Willamette Valley try to ride to a community college in Salem where we use a meeting room. This story is about the ride home after a meeting.
There are five of us. Three instructors and two staff members. One staff member is the Training Manager and the other is The Director. Between us there are three Honda ST1300's, a BMW 1150GS, and Elvira.
It's time to depart and I take off first. We haven't really stated that this will be a group ride. On the other hand, we're all headed South so it's probably presumed.
The night is clear and brisk at 9:30 PM. We've decided to take the freeway home. The freeway onramp from Portland Road is a very large decreasing radius curve. Let's just say I reveled in the experience, closely followed by the other riders. As The Director put it, "The four of you ahead of me on the ramp down to I-5 was a thing of beauty". His next comments wouldn't be so complimentary.
In the interests of saving space in this post, the rest of the story condenses to this.
I set a pace that was brisk but prudent. It ended up being three of us in our own faster group. The Director was riding sweep. The fourth rider in line was a man who has years of experience. He just isn't comfortable riding very quickly at night due to vision problems. So he gradually dropped back, smart enough to ride his own ride. The Director dropped back to stay with this guy. Our group ride ended up being two separate groups instead of one.
The three of us in the lead received an e-mail the next day. The Director was not pleased. Especially with me, having been the leader. This isn't about our particular ride. Like I wrote in the beginning, what we experienced is symptomatic of other group rides.
More and more people are getting into riding for the social aspect. When they ride together, it's because they want to ride together. That means being with the larger group. They don't want to ride alone.
Several problems arise. We've seen cases where riders in a group get so focused on the other bikes they miss hazards. Case in point the big crash involving the Brothers Speed in our neck of the woods. Wanting to be a part of the group, less experienced or less skilled riders tend to ride over their heads and get into trouble.
Our admonition has always been to "ride your own ride". The down side to that is slower riders who try to do this often get left behind. Faster riders tend to not want to always be riding slowly on group rides. There are many different comfort levels and skill levels among a group of any size. Balancing these differences with the social aspect of a group ride often conflict.
There have been those who say newer riders should be at the front. I think this puts unfair pressure on these riders. Sometimes just the riding alone can be enough for the newer riders to deal with. Let alone finding the way and feeling the pressure of holding other riders up.
If the slower riders are at the back they often get left behind. If they are in the middle, the group tends to get really spread out. Then there are those who allow too much following distance. When the group slows down these ones allow more distance. So the group thinks they are losing these riders so they slow down more. Then those who allow too much following distance back off more. You can see where this is going.
When I was a Road Captain ( not HOG ) I would set up an itinerary. It listed the route as well as where the planned stops were located. Riders would often split into smaller groups knowing that the larger group would reconnect at certain times. This allowed riders of like skills and interests to ride together while still maintaining social contact. Nobody felt pressure from feeling like they would be left behind if they didn't keep up.
I also know that many groups want to stay together as one big bunch of riders. In this case, it seems the leader should set a pace that accomodates the whole group. Everyone in the group should be responsible for the following rider and slow as needed to ensure contact is kept. It should be accepted by all on the ride that the pace will be one that is comfortable for the newer riders. Which can often mean it will be slower than some riders might normally ride at. If the goal is to have a social group then this aspect should take precedence.
Granted, that might not always work out. So here are my questions.
Road conditions change. Dry roads get wet. Straight roads turn into curvy ones. How does the group know how fast is fast enough for the slowest rider at any given time?
How do we help newer or riders with lower comfort levels be comfortable enough to be honest about the matter? Pride or risk of embarrassment can cause riders to ride over their heads.
How do we hold riders accountable for riding their own rides even on a group ride? Or educate them on what this means?
Sometimes formal "training" doesn't seem to reach riders. Is there a more effective way to reach riders by means of their peers or leaders like HOG Road Captains?
I'd really appreciate your thoughts on this. Take as much space in the comments section as you feel you need. It's an area that's causing problems and fatalities for riders. It needs to be addressed.
Miles and smiles,
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
This post started with an e-mail from my friend Dean W. Here's what he said:
"Lesson: After applying SIPDE, let it go, man. Just let it go."
This was a preface to a news story from Canada. Here's the story quoted from the CBC News website:
Two people are dead after a motorcycle crash in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island.
Police say the crash happened at about 3:30 p.m. PT Saturday on the Nanaimo Parkway, between the Jinglepot Road and College Drive exits.
The 17-year-old driver of a pickup truck went to change lanes when he spotted a motorcycle in his blind spot.
The driver of the truck corrected, police say, but the 51-year-old motorcycle driver pulled up beside the pickup and glared at the teen inside.
During this exchange, police say, the motorcycle driver failed to negotiate a curve in the road and crashed.
The motorcycle driver and his 40-year-old female passenger were taken to hospital where they both later died.
Isn't that often how it goes? I'm deeply grieved by the fact that two people died in this incident. I can almost see myself in this situation. Trying to scorch the young man with my hot glare. Focusing my laser beam eyes so intently that I miss important stuff. Like the upcoming corner.
I'm a bit aggressive and borderline combative by nature. Thus I have to continuously remind myself of one of my mantras.
"The Anger Demon, once unleased, can often turn upon he whom freed it."
On the off chance that you're not aware of the term SIPDE here is the quick explanation. It's the process for gathering good information and making good decisions while riding.
Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute.
Notice that four of the five parts are mental skills. The objective is to use the 80% that's mental to make small adjustments ahead of time, thus staying out of critical trouble. Which goes along with our definition of an expert rider.
"An expert rider is one who uses expert mental skills to avoid using expert physical skills."
Successful riding is mostly mental. Which means attitude is almost everything.
Katie and I found ourselves in Washington State on Friday and Saturday last week. I've always wanted to stop at one of the big Cabela's stores. I've seen two. One on the Washington / Idaho border on I-90 and one at Lacey, Washington just off I-5. We stopped at the Lacey store on Saturday. What a place!
Thinking of this post I snapped some shots with the G11.
We share the road with some lumbering creatures who seem to be in no hurry whatsoever. They don't have to be large sized in actuality. They simply have this attitude that blocking the pathway is their right. These creatures are usually found in the fast lane going the same speed as those in the slow lane.
There are those who think they become invincible in their vehicles. These ones do things that they wouldn't do outside of a car. In other words, face to face with us they would shrink in horror. Somehow they've convinced themselves that they are shrink wrapped with impenetrable armor. I always have to fight the impulse to drag them out of their vehicles and smack them around a bit.
A lot of drivers just seem like dumb herd animals. You can see their eyes but it's a sure bet there's nobody inside there. Weirdly enough, this kind of driver is pretty effective at hitting motorcyclists. They disguise themselves as left-turning drivers. We should all know better but still seem to trust eye contact. Pity.
It's so easy to get pissed off at those who show such selfish stupidity. Stupid and Selfish are the two traits that get me the most riled. Yet, they are also the two that are least likely to be fixed. You know the saying. "You can't fix stupid."
Yet, I can't bring myself to say that there's nothing that can be done about it. Ninety percent of the drivers seem to fit into one or both of those categories. If I shrug my shoulders in a gesture of giving up, what does that say about the human race? So I keep on getting mad and frustrated. It has to stay inside, though. I'm more than capable of being like the lion below and letting it show. The lion's got a pretty fierce look going, for sure. Trouble is, all his attention is on the intended victim.
That's when we miss stuff, though. Nothing important. Just things like oncoming traffic, cars itching to pull out in front of us, and upcoming corners!
We certainly need to be assertive. On the other hand, we have to keep it in check when appropriate. I like to think of it as controlled aggression.
One choice we might make is to rear up like this bear. Intimidating and dangerous. Sometimes the danger is to us, though.
The best choice is to be like this seal. Thick skinned and letting stuff slide off like water on its hide.
The trick is to not actually look like a seal. Chill the attitude and keep the cool. After all, we still gotta look good!
Miles and smiles,
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Haven't posted much lately. Maybe you've noticed. Maybe you haven't. I've lurked a bit on other sites but that's been scarce, too. I'm feeling a little drained and borderline burnt out these days. Trying to keep too many candles lit at once can require more fuel than a person has. Then the wax all runs together. A bunch of pathetic small flames seems a poor way to light a room. Better to have just a few bright flames. A lesson I can never seem to internalize.
Had a birthday last month. That and other circumstances conspired to give me pause for a while. Been on the road a lot. Plenty of time to think. Maybe too much. I've never really had a mid-life crisis. Lately I can understand the feelings associated with one. What have I accomplished? What's important these days? Do I have anything worthwhile left to say? Questions that spin through one's head like laundry in the spin cycle. For what it's worth, here's a few musings. Food for thought or not. The Warrior has temporarily turned into the Philosopher.
One has to plan for tomorrow and the days that follow. Goals and ambitions are important, certainly. We need that guiding beacon to set our course by. The trick is to remember to enjoy Today. Don't make the mistake of letting this one go by thinking there will be time later to enjoy. Plans can get changed for us.
I'm teaching Ryan to roar. Disney's movie "The Jungle Book" has been a favorite among our family. Sometimes Katie calls me Baloo the Bear. Not sure if it's a compliment or not! We call Ryan "Man Cub". Grandpa Baloo is teaching Man Cub to do a "big bear growl". Here he is in the middle of one.
Interesting how one day we can be in the middle of a full roar. Suddenly we find ourselves more like this.
One minute we can be at full throttle. The next minute we're wondering "what the heck just happened here?" Just that fast something happens that changes our life for days, weeks, or forever. Carpe diem.
Take time out
There are a lot of demands on our time. Most of them are important things that deserve our attention. So we keep going like some sort of demented Energizer Bunny. Do you ever feel like this, though?
I have, lately. I just don't want to hear any more. My batteries desperately need re-charging. That's one of the reasons I backed away from blogging for a bit. Something has to give somewhere. We all need a little more of this kind of thing.
I think we lose our effectiveness without sufficient time for self-restoration. It might seem selfish to insist on some time for ourselves. On the other hand, is it fair to others to give them our half-hearted attention? Our intentions are good but if sub-standard is all we can muster we're robbing them, so to speak. Think of down time as an investment in others, if it helps put things into perspective. Now I just have to convince myself of that.
Did you notice two helmets in the photo? That brings me to the next thought.
Pretty much everyone has friends. Even if they have to buy them! Seriously, though, as I talk with people I find a common theme emerge. People express how they value friendships. What's missing is letting their friends know that. It's really important to let others know how much we value their friendship. Nobody should be left wondering.
Katie and I have always been best friends. I've been truly blessed by her support over the last few weeks. Tomorrow is our 33rd anniversary. Let the record show that the defendent remembered!
Like the dogs, I tend to reach ever higher. I'm one of those people who always seem to need a carrot hanging just out of reach. Once I grab that one it's on to the next one. When there are no more carrots I get bored. Typical over achiever. I've actually mastered a lot of things and risen to a pretty high level in many. Then comes the question.
I could have cloned out the ESPN camera but didn't want to work that hard. The dog is headed ass first for the water. He'll have to swim over to the ramp and climb out. Soaking wet. Then somebody is going to take away his prize. Next time the decoy will be higher yet. During the time I watched I never saw a dog refuse to go for it. Despite the fact that stretching out on the dock and enjoying the afternoon sun might be more enjoyable. Maybe the conquest is its own reward.
Works that way for me. Ego plays a role. Big surprise, isn't it? Self development and realization play a role. After you work your ass off to achieve a new skill set guess what happens?
More is expected of you. I find the more skills I acquire the more I end up working because I can do more. More, more, more. Not always a word I want to hear.
We babysit Ryan during the week. Every morning at 6:30 my daughter drops him off. I'm usually still home so I get to see her every day. A hug from your daughter is a great way to start the day. Sometimes Ryan is still here when I get home. He waves his arms, all excited to see me. Then he usually wants me to hold him. That recognition is starting to mean a whole lot more to me than anything I've achieved secularly.
Accomplishments are great. Self improvement is important. I'm not saying we shouldn't strive for those kinds of things. Still, though, balance is needed. It can be hard to achieve.
Yes, it's pretty cool to be a Legend. It's even better being a hero to your kids!
Catch you later.
Miles and smiles,
Saturday, October 02, 2010
Snapped this photo at a weigh station just south of Fort Lewis in Washington State on Wednesday. Must be a single purpose portable toilet. Probably smells better, too, though I didn't check it out. I fear the regulations regarding greenhouse gases, carbon footprint, ozone layer, and so on have gone just a bit too far.
Miles and smiles,