Large rides, small rides, rides by yourself, long rides and/or short rides-PLAN YOUR RIDE!
With everything that we have to deal with when riding, the idea of planning the route is mostly overlooked. I have ridden with all types, whether independents, MC’s, or LEMC’S. MC’s & LEMC’s are great to ride with because of the detail of the routes they choose, which only makes the riding experience that much more enjoyable. But, I’ve also done rides where the leader could care less that a group is following him. I’ve seen too many groups that get together to ride and when it’s kick stand up, it is every man for himself. Ride behind that group so you can better see the chaos that ensues and how dangerous that really is.
When riding by yourself, you get away with a lot. Hell, getting lost and discovering rarely traveled roads and great selfie-spots is part of the adventure. Once riding with Anny to Savannah, a bridge was closed which I knew before I left that morning from Ocala, but, I guessed I would figure a way around that later. Once I got there, sure enough the bridge was closed and the construction crew was of no help for alternate routes. However, a property owner happened to be walking by and said “cut through my farm.” What an adventure that was riding through the mud on a cruiser. Somehow, I managed to avoid dropping the bike or dumping it into the creek I was bordering. Ever ride your motorcycle where the handlebars are constantly locking left and right yet, you are traveling in a straight line? Anny and I still laugh about it but in a large group, I’m sure that wouldn’t be so funny. We even decided to take the trip because I almost guessed correctly it would be two days before we ran into the storms. I write “almost” because 17 miles out from Savannah we ran into a heavy downpour. However, three days later, we left early morning to avoid additional storms. A few hours before we arrived in St. Augustine, the bed & breakfast next to us was struck by lightening and as a result, we had no power for WIFI for a few hours. But, we arrived in St. Augustine when the storms were long gone and left Savannah before the storms arrived. Had I not been studying religiously the weather map, the whole trip could have been a disaster. Last year we cancelled a trip to New Orleans because it seemed there were rain storms throughout the country. Finding a dry spot seemed virtually impossible. I’ve ridden in some nasty weather and I know bikers like to say “real bikers ride in the rain,” but riding 8 hours in the rain doesn’t do it for me; call me what you want.
Earlier this year, I led a group to Leesburg Bike Fest which included 17 bikes and 1 car. Everything was mapped out, including stops for food and fuel. ****Very important*** everyone needs to fuel up, there are no exceptions to that rule! It doesn’t matter if you fueled up 40 miles ago, fuel up again! Now, when riding alone or with Anny, wherever looks good is where we spend the night or eat, but in a group, you cannot be so daring and selfish. You also can’t be expected to know it all, so don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions. One of our members told us to have dinner at Señor Frogs and we had the time of our lives. Returning to Miami after our weekend getaway, an administrator and co-leader of the group wanted ribs instead of seafood. Everyone agreed. So I adjusted the route and lunch was at Sonny’s Real Pit BBQ in Clewiston instead of lunch in Vero Beach. That day, the feel like temperature was 104 so come to think of it, ribs was a better choice than seafood. All I did was take some time to plan another route even though I had made my plans weeks in advance.
In group rides, remember there are people behind you (the tail). Yes, you can jump in front of the car and all is well, but what about your fellow bikers? Now you leave them scrambling to catch up and not everyone knows how to get to the destination. Worse yet, they may speed up and start cutting off cars just to catch up to you. Switch lanes when everyone else can not just when you can. If they cannot for whatever reason, switch lanes and slow down until everyone else can get back in formation. When the group is a manageable size, my guy in the back knows when I make the signal to switch over first to control that lane so we can all follow. And definitely, count how many people are riding with you and make sure to ask if they are going all the way so when you get to the destination, you don’t freak out if someone is missing.
Now, planning a ride includes many variables. For example, what is the best route for your destination? The best route may not be the best route at that particular time or with a large group, so adjust accordingly. Kick stands up (KSU) may have to be adjusted an hour earlier or later. You don’t want to be in a good size group and have to deal with a ton of traffic. Years ago I rode with a group where lunch was scheduled near Key West. That weekend, the Key West Marathon was taking place. The bumper-to- bumper traffic was worse than in Miami during rush hour. Do your research!
When rides are very large, like one I did to promote motorcycle safety & awareness, I did the same route with others the day before to confirm there were no lane closures, constructions zones, etc… That day, 178 bikes, 8 cars, and one 18 wheeler came along. We did not have law enforcement blocking traffic for us. It is for that reason we chose the route that limited the amount of turns and that was safest. Our original route (Plan A), was changed (Plan B) because so many on-ramps and highway extensions would have created a huge mess. Choose the path of least resistance.
Finally, before riding, whether just with one buddy or 1oo buddies, have a safety speech first. Let everyone know not only where you are going, but what route you are taking. Remind everyone to fuel up and use the restroom. You would be surprised how many times 25 miles into a ride someone pulls up next to you pointing at his gas tank because they are running low on gas or they need a restroom break. That is even more aggravating when your meetup location was at a gas station.
Planning a route takes time, but you want the ride to be enjoyable and there is no better feeling than when your friends have a smile because the ride was perfect. Your hard work is instantly rewarded. It not only makes everyone happy, but more importantly, it gets everyone home safe.
My group, M.S.A.R., has the added benefit of a Group Page on Facebook. When going home, we all take different routes, but I ask everyone to post on the page when they arrive home. And when getting close to KSU, I also make sure to check my cell phone or the Group Page to confirm no one has posted they are on the way but had mechanical issues or are lost, etc…
Plan, have fun, ride, take plenty of pics, but more importantly, get everyone home safe.
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Crossing into the Georgia state line
Just 17 miles out from Savannah, we got slammed by the storm. Found a house that was being constructed for shelter.
Anny in Savannah
The Great Cross in St. Augustine visible from A1A (great road to take riding in/out of St. Augustine. The Great Cross stands at 208 feet high.
Arriving in St. Augustine. VIP parking at the Agustin Inn.
Aviles Street- The oldest street in the Country. Awesome feeling riding your motorcycle where horses & carriages did as well over 400 years ago.
Safety & Awareness Ride