The best way to solve all these problems is to just ride by yourself, old numero uno. But no man is an island, and group rides are their own special kind of fun. At MO, we definitely do our fair share of group rides. Here’s what we’ve learned about the things most likely to go wrong, and what you can do to ward them off ahead of time.
Listen, if somebody had told me ten years ago you’d get a huge chunk of the populace to buy a $5 cup of coffee every day, I’d have told you that’s as stupid as having a phone that shoots video. The current ubiquity of the Starbucks, though, means there’s always one convenient to wherever you want to meet up at the beginning of a day’s ride. (The chorizo, egg and cheese sandwiches are pretty tasty.) Just make sure you’re all meeting at the same Starbucks, though. Like, there are two of them on the circle in Orange, California.
New bikes come with two keys, used ones often don’t. Get a copy made on your way home. If you’re in a group and swapping bikes, and one or more of them uses a remote key fob, try to leave the fob someplace on the bike. Otherwise, it can be a long wait before somebody wonders what happened to Johnny? Strange… Oh, I have the key to his bike in my pocket from our last stop 35 miles ago. On the other hand, it’s a drag when the fob is in a saddlebag that won’t unlock, which means you can’t open the gas cap to fill ’er up.
If you think you’re going to hop on your old carbureted motorcycle that’s been sitting for a couple of months on the trickle charger and blast off, you might be in for a rude awakening – but you probably already knew that by now. Now they’re even boosting E15 in some parts of the country, which is 15% ethanol instead of the 10% that already causes lots of old bikes fits. Throwing in something like Sta-Bil can’t hurt, but what works best is to just start the thing up once a week and let it idle for a few minutes to keep those tiny idle jets from plugging up. That way we won’t be hanging around Starbucks for an extra hour waiting for you to get your bike started.
Now that the www is here, there’s no excuse for getting caught out in nasty climatic conditions without the right gear. Nobody wants to hang around while you cut holes in a Hefty bag or clutch another $5 cup of coffee in the Bumphuck Starbucks with your fingerless gloves. And when it’s hot, there’s no reason not to carry a water bladder to keep yourself hydrated and healthy.
A discrete wheelie through a school zone wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t draw attention to Bob’s expired license plate, Tom’s lapsed insurance, Bill’s illegal exhaust and Fred’s outstanding warrant for a parking ticket. Knowing who you’re riding with is always a good idea.
Having somebody crash their bike always ruins everybody’s day, especially if they’re injured and need CPR or a tourniquet or something. (Happily, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation has fallen out of fashion!) Stuff occasionally happens, but for some reason it happens more frequently to certain individuals. Look for the warning signs ahead of time and maybe stay home and weedwhack that day instead?
Sometimes you get lost, and every time that happens, the bike with the smallest tank threatens to run dry. That or the gas station that was there forever is closed for repairs. If you’re setting off on an unfamiliar route, remember to coil six feet of plastic tubing in your backpack. Then it’s easy to practice socialism by taking from he who’s got the most, to redistribute to he who has nought.
It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen: Usually it’s us who makes it happen on modern machinery (see number 5). When a rocky descent holed our Super Ténéré’s oil pan last year, that poor motorcycle wasn’t going anywhere under its own power. If you’re already paying for an AAA-type policy for your car(s), it’s a great idea to pay the extra $50 a year to have it cover your motorcycle and RV also. That $50 will save you quite a bit more than what you’ll pay Jethro’s Towing to have your bike flat-bedded out of West Pozo on a Sunday afternoon.
Well, we’re all a little competitive on our motorcycles, but the road is not a racetrack, and some people just carry it too far. You’ll recognize them by your ability to count their nostril hairs in your rearview mirrors. Waving them past is only a temporary solution, though. The only permanent one is not to ride with people who suffer from CPD: There will eventually be a gravity problem, or one involving two objects trying to simultaneously occupy the same space, that the whole group will have to deal with. Nobody’s got time for that.
If it’s happened to us once, it’s happened to us a hundred times: Either somebody picks up a nail in their back tire on the way to Starbucks, or picks one up along the route. The Ducati Multistrada above picked up two nails at once a couple years ago. Why, just last week we were running a bike on the dyno when we all ducked as a nail shot out of the back tire and ricocheted off the wall. Wondering where they all come from is as useless as contemplating why there is evil. All you can do is be prepared, by carrying a tire plugger kit of some kind; even a cheapy rope plug kit from Walmart (and a few CO2 cartridges in case you need to reinflate) will save you and everyone in your group a lot of time and grief.