How fast is too fast?
3/1/2011 2:56:11 PM
This week is Daytona Bike Week 2011, and we have been discussing riding up as a group. I actually bailed out on this, but I wanted to pass on the story, and tell you why.
First off, I want to make sure everyone here knows that it is so important to ride YOUR ride. This means that you need to make the right decisions for your own personal comfort level, and more importantly your safety. This is the #1 rule, and as you will see it is why I bailed on some friends for the ride up to Daytona. This does NOT give you the right to mess up your group ride - don't misunderstand me - in a group you really have two choices: ride with, or ride alone. If you ride with, you must conform, or you put everyone else in danger.
(Go to http://www.RideBellChain.com and click on TECH from the main menu to see the MSF video on group riding. 10 minutes watching this won't kill you, so take a minute and watch it.)
Let's talk just a moment about group riding and how to position your bike in the group. I always ride in a staggered formation as they show on the MSF classes: 2 seconds behind the bike in front of me, and 1 second behind the bike diagonal from me. It is important for us all to agree that this is safe and the proper way to ride with others.
The REASON why we ride like this is because 1. It spaces us properly apart so that we can see all bikes around us in our rear-view mirrors as well as managing the stopping time for each bike, and 2. It keeps us together, so that cars/trucks won't cut in and split the group.
Now I'd like to discuss the issue that bothered me. One of the guys in our group, who feels as if the group was traveling too fast, decided to "ride his own ride" but stayed in the group. The posted speed limit was 65mph, and we were doing closer to 70. The guy decided that he didn't want to do 68+ and throttled back to match the speed limit of 65mph. This in itself was not a bad thing, but being the 3rd person in a group of 12 bikes made it dangerous as hell. Within minutes the group became two groups. The smaller group up front lost their tail-gunner, and worse, the newbie who slowed down is now the leader of group 2! This is a bad recipe brewing here for several reasons, but I would like to talk about speed first.
This is totally MY opinion, but I think most will agree with it: It is just as dangerous to be in a wreck at 70mph as it is at 65mph. I think we can agree on that, right? Yeah, ok…so? The second part of my opinion is the important one: The folks going a few miles an hour faster than the cars and trucks on the road are SAFER. Yep, I said it, and here's why:
As we all know from riding our motorcycles, we generally go in the direction of our eyes, right? If you're going the exact speed of all the cars and trucks around you, you are basically a stationary object in a "flock of traffic". But you're on the bike…you're cool, having fun, got all that shiny chrome, and people are really checking you out (STARING AT YOU). It distracts them. It makes them have lots of different emotions ranging from "How cool does that look?" to "What an idiot, risking his life on a motorcycle"…all kinds of thoughts that have nothing to do with paying attention to the road. But they're staring, not watching the road or traffic, and chances are they're going to merge into you if they keep that up for too long.
You are now in much more danger than you think….first, you've relaxed with a false sense of security because it FEELS like you're not moving. Second, you can't see around the car in front of you very well. Third, you will not have time to react to road hazards hidden by the cars in front of you. Finally, you are presenting the cagers with something to stare at - YOU.
If you are moving even just a little bit faster, they look, they acknowledge you, and you move on, eventually away from them and out of their site. Less distraction is absolutely better for the zombies in the cages. If you're passing vehicles on the road, you're actively scanning the road, measuring the distances from the other vehicles, and basically staying sharp and aggressively keeping yourself safer.
Back to my issue…so this week, I started making plans with a good friend that I have ridden many times with. My friend also had invited Mr. Newbie from our group to ride with us. I then got an email saying that Mr. Newbie did not want to go any faster than 70mph on I95. I'm not trying to be speed racer by any means, but I'm not willing to ride that slowly when the rest of the South Florida traffic is moving 10-15 mph faster (for all of the reasons I listed above). It's not about getting there faster, because I'm on vacation and not in any real hurry - it's about being safe. So I politely made an excuse about having to leave a bit later, which was not in line with their schedule, and told them I'd meet them up there.
I don't want to tell anyone how to ride - that's out of line, unless I'm actually leading a group I think.
Mr. Newbie THINKS he's being safe by going slow - what do you think? I think that's a bad decision, and will tell him about that in person because I don't want to read about him in the newspaper...
I'd like to hear your opinions…what would you have done and why?
Next week I will post a ton of pix from Daytona for you all, and I hope to see some of you there…if you're going, please be safe and have fun! I will be at the SCRC Meet and Greet on Sunday…look for me and say hi if you find me!
Cya and Ride SAFE!