Safe Riding: Group Ride Etiquette

The Pace

Graveyard Tour

Use BOTH Brakes To Slow!
Graveyard Tour
by Don C

Americade with three friends, among us a GSXR 1000, two ZX9Rs, and an R6. We're exploring Vermont roads west of route 7, and the one we're on is too small to have a strip, county number, or spot on our road map. But it's entertaining road nonetheless, up, down and around the rolling hills of the Champlain valley.

Usually I ride last, but today I'm third ahead of Ron, who has his wife on back. The two ahead disappear over a blind crest, and I follow doing an apparently sedate thirty-five. But shockingly, unexpectedly beyond the crest is a right angle turn, the reason immediately apparent. Directly ahead is a graveyard its lawn running up to the road. I take this in and note that beyond the apex of the turn a deep ditch intrudes, separating the road from the cemetery. Unprepared for the turn, can I press hard enough, quick enough and smooth enough to make the turn? The rubber has good stick, but if I break traction, we're in the ditch. Whereas if I run out straight into the graveyard I can just coast to a stop a sure thing. No cars coming. Before I know I have made a decision I'm running onto the grass and rolling to a stop. Flustered, I drop the bike at a standstill. Frame slider eats some grass, no other damage.

But what am I doing here? Why didn't I just lean the bike and press through the turn? More to the point, why didn't I slow before flying over the blind crest and why didn't I expect the unexpected? Was the graveyard tour a bad call? Not necessarily, under the circumstances. But the circumstances stemmed from my earlier bad decision overrunning my line of sight.

And with Ron having alerted the others, there is no sneaking back on the road pretending I stopped to smell the flowers.

For the others, my cemetery visit causes merriment. For me it causes embarrassment, reflection on inadequately applied riding skills, and the sense that graveyard tours are best saved for that last long ride.

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