Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


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About Whatchathinkin'

Backroads’ fairer half, Shira Kamil, has an interesting perspective on the day-to-day things riders run into which is both extremely well written and informative. She adds a new polish to the editorial team here at Backroads.

Name: Shira Kamil

Current Rides: Honda 919, Suzuki V-Strom 650

Favorite quote:

Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator. ~ Robert Orben

Space Madness

WhatchathininSMGroup riding is not really my thing. When gathering for rides during our rallies, we highly recommend no more than 5-6 bikes riding together. I’m sure you’ve all experienced the exponential length of time that passes with each additional bike on a ride: gas stops, bathroom breaks, meals, etc (see this month’s Free Wheelin’). If only that gap in time could transfer to some groups’ gaps between motorcycles while riding.

I was recently traveling along a not too offensive interstate, trying to make some time so I could enjoy the backroads and twisties the rest of the route had to offer. I do my best to keep to the middle or right lane except to pass while on major roadways, as I am not always the fastest vehicle on that road. Seems there are always people who are in major hurries, late for appointments or just need to beat the ‘time to destination’ that appears on their GPS.

As a habit, I check my mirrors on a regular basis and, even before I saw them, I heard the group coming up fast to my left. It was early on a Sunday and there wasn’t much traffic anyway, but this group of riders was making headway to whatever their destination might be for the day. I thought they were a group of four but, as they got closer, I saw they were at least six or eight. My remarked to Brian was, ‘Holy crap, look how closely they are riding together at that speed. I couldn’t even tell how many they were until they passed us.’

I continued the conversation in my head, thinking that should some unforeseen occurrence take place – blown truck tire, stray animal in the roadway, whatever – these riders would have one hell of a time getting around it safely. We continued on our way, as did they, never to have our paths cross again.

The topic of space cushioning has been brought up ad nauseam, in these pages and throughout print and digital motorcycle venues. But it still seems to be dismissed by so many group riders of every ilk. The ‘parade’ rides, while usually done at a slower speed, are still putting themselves in great danger by riding side by side and just a bike-length away from each other, if that.

We were taking part in the Blue Knights Gooch’s Garlic Ride some years ago, after they moved the destination from Little Italy in NYC to the Ironbound district in Newark, NJ. Brian and I used our press status to secure a spot at the front of the pack, hoping this would be a safer place to ride. Along for the ride were one or two family members of the young recipients of this generous club’s rides. Perhaps one or two bikes in front of us was a gentleman wearing leather loafers, dress pants and a half helmet (I think he may have had on a leather jacket, but I’m not really sure). As we exited the highway towards the endsite, this ‘rider’ took the turn too wide, perhaps grabbed some brake, and took a tumble. Brian and I, seeing that someone had already stopped to lend a hand, continued on. As the saying goes ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’ and bottlenecking an already difficult situation would do no good. If this had happened further back in the pack, I have no doubt that more riders would be on the ground, as there was no space to maneuver around the obstacle.

There has been much talk about the recent tragedy that took place in New Hampshire. While there was some speculation as to what transpired to take the lives of seven individuals, there is no consolation to the family and friends of these lost riders. One can only surmise as to the riding positioning that may have added to the multiple deaths. Not knowing or having seen the circumstances leading up to the accident, it would be interesting to know if these riders were in the aforementioned parade positioning while they were riding. If so, and this driver swerved into them, there would be absolutely no way for them to escape, no exit strategy as it were. If, on the other hand, they had been riding with at least two bike lengths between them, they may have had some reaction time and a place to put their bikes to, perhaps, lessen the blow.

If you find yourself in a group ride and feel the onset of claustrophobia, take a step back or move to the back of the pack. You certainly don’t want to develop Space Madness.