It happens to everyone. You look forward to a great day of relaxing riding, enjoying your favorite local roads, just getting out to clear the head and make life better. You exit your driveway and, within the very first mile, come upon the first of what will turn out to be many tortoise-like vehicles ahead of you, each one nicking away at the joy you anticipated in the day’s ride. Yes, patience is a virtue and prudence is most likely the better thing to have, but after half a dozen tortoises, the hare needs to break out.
During our Backroads’ gatherings we have always encouraged smaller groups when riding. Not only is it safer and more enjoyable, it makes for faster gas stops, quicker meals (usually) and just an overall better experience. I’d say 5 bikes is about right.
But, since we do put out our ‘suggested’ routes during the rallies, there is a good chance that several small groups will eventually come upon each other, thus making a much bigger group. More likely than not, the small group coming upon the other small group will have some faster riders and will probably want to pass. That’s when passing etiquette comes into play.
Hopefully, the last rider in the front group will be using her/his mirrors and know that other riders have arrived. An even better scenario is that the riders are using connected headsets and can communicate. Thus, the ‘arriving’ riders, with patience and prudence, may safely and easily pass the front group and continue on with their swifter pace.
Unfortunately, there have been times, within our own groups, that the quicker riders were not considerate nor patient, passing as if the group ahead were standing still and on roads that were certainly not safe for passing at all, let alone at that speed. This brought on animosities which need not have been if passing etiquette had been followed.
Many times, often when riding during Americade in the Adirondacks, Brian and I have come upon a riding group (generally too many bikes) doing a much slower pace than what we like to ride. We will bide our time and, when safe, attempt to pass as easily as possible. We have been greeted with both waves and single-finger salutes, as they either knew we were behind and attempting to get around them or completely in their own worlds and probably startled when passed.
On our most recent outing, during the Spring Break, Brian and I were heading home from Shippensburg with a fellow Branchvillean – Bill – joining us. He did not have the route that we would be following but informed us that he had ridden these roads very often and if he was not behind us, not to worry, he’d find his way home. We did part ways while riding through a town with many lights and Brian and I continued on our way.
It was a beautiful day and we were enjoying the afterglow of a practically perfect rally – wonderful people, places, riding and weather. Traffic was light, our pace was spirited and we were passing cleanly. Brian was in the lead, as is the norm, and I was keeping a nice gap between us. On a nice piece of roadway in Pennsylvania – Cherry Valley Road – we came upon a car and, as Brian approached, he waited until the ‘coast was clear’ and passed. As the road was curvy, it was a bit of a wait until I could pass. I put on my signal and, as I went to pass, the car pulled to the left and blocked me. I was dumbfounded! I tried again with the same results. I told Brian what had happened. He told me to hold on, as he slowed down for the car and me to catch up. When we did, he told me to go past and keep going. Yeah, like that was going to happen…
As I passed with my visor up, this time with no attempted murder on the driver’s part, I slowed to see a young punky male driver with a female passenger. As I let loose my best Cliffside Park colorful language, he answered with the single-finger salute. I’m not sure if he realized that I was female (if that made a difference) or if Brian’s slowing had brought him out of his cell-phone stupor, but he immediately backed off and made the next left.
I will be honest and say that we did pass on a double yellow but, as in many states, this is acceptable when situations are safe to do so and there are no posted ‘no passing zone’ signs. I believe that Brian startled the car driver and, thus, he retaliated when I attempted to pass. A clear case of lack of mirror use, awareness of his surroundings and, perhaps, distracted driving.
Did we use ‘passing judgement’? We absolutely did. Did it flutter my heart? It sure as hell did. But, after putting him in my rear mirrors, I continued on calmly. As we turned on to our last 5 miles before home, we came upon another motorcycle. It was our friend Bill. We followed until we came to the T where we parted ways, heading up the hill to home, our passing for the day now done.
Publisher Rathjen weighs in on different things pertaining to motorcycling. Sometimes a bit hard to the point and slightly abrasive, his Free Wheelin’ column is not afraid to make a stand on issues that he feels are of importance to riders and riding.
Backroads’ fairer (and some say faster) half, Shira Kamil, has an interesting perspective on the day-to-day things riders run into which is both extremely well written and informative.
Having piloted a motorcycle for many years, Mark has many thoughts floating in his helmet and he's ready to share them with us. Sometimes cerebral, often technical but always enjoyable.
Backroads brings you around the region, the U.S. and internationally with travel stories that will inspire your own adventures.
Whether it's a new product for your motorcycle, some great gear or the latest in model releases, we'll give you all the information you need to make an educated buying decision.
Backroads will help you plan your calendar and keep you up-to-date with the latest events, rallies and other motorcycle gatherings around the area.
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