Saturday, July 26, 2014

2014 - So Far, and a Bit About Group Riding

Way back in February I posted about plans for this year.  The BARF spring rally was scheduled for June in Quincy, CA, and it came off as planned.  We ended up with more than 70 riders, and everyone had a pretty great time.  Well, there were one or two people who had mechanical issues, but on the whole it was a fun, safe rally.  No reports of performance awards either.  Good stuff! 

Quincy has a lot to offer as a rally destination, not the least of which is that it's smack in the middle of some of the more spectacular riding roads in California.  Oroville-Quincy Highway has a long section that is as fun to ride as just about anything I've seen.  Very little traffic.  Great road surface, and the ability to see two and three apexes ahead on consecutive corners signed at 25 MPH.  Seriously great riding. 

Its neighbor to the south is a little known sweetheart called LaPorte Road.  LaPorte is one of those roads in the Sierra that could just about convince you that you were in the Alps.  Just about.  Even more lightly trafficked than Oroville-Quincy, and somewhat more technical in its nature, it's a must ride.  Be aware, that it's a road that can bite, and that help will be along way off if it does.  Ride it with a healthy reserve. 

There were a couple more pleasures forthcoming from the rally.  It was my first experience with Lassen National Park.  Starkly beautiful, and largely uncrowded, particularly compared to its more famous neighbor to the south, Yosemite.  Active geysers and mudpots that emulate Yellowstone to boot! We followed my buddy, Andy west from there down Hwy 32 towards Chico, and went off on a goat trail roller coaster that brought us back around to Oroville-Quincy to head back to the motel. 

Then on Sunday we headed back towards Lassen, then on towards the pleasures of the legendary Hwy 36 from Red Bluff to Fortuna, perhaps the greatest single piece of road in Northern California.  36 did not disappoint, though we turned south at Bridgeville on Alderpoint Road, for a goaty romp through the Coast Range.  This is narrow, bumpy, demanding riding, and as a result is wildly entertaining.  Plus it has the added benefit of little traffic.  We joined Hwy 101 at Garberville, and all of us made our own way home from there. 

So a word about group riding, as promised.  All my riding during the rally, except for the last part of 101, was shared with anywhere from one to eight or nine other riders.  No drama.  Lots of joy.  When you hear what some riders say about group riding, you have to wonder how their experiences could have been so different. 

Here are a few things that help:
  • Setting expectations about riding The Pace.  Lots of credit to Nick Ienatsch for developing, describing and promoting this approach.
  • Letting everyone know what to expect - the route, the stops, where to get fuel, and so on
  • Getting alignment on how we treat our fellow riders in our groups so that no one gets sucked in or stuffed
  • I hate waiting around for folks to get ready to ride after a stop.  I give a five minute warning prior to departure, then I depart when I say I will.  It's not fair to keep a whole group of riders who are geared up and ready to go waiting in the sun because someone was too busy jawing to actually put fuel in the bike and get ready to go.  
  • Make sure everyone knows that we'll hold (briefly) at any place where the route turns so that riders don't go over their heads trying to keep the next rider in sight.  
  • Everyone rides his or her own ride - meaning a pace they can safely manage.  The only time there's been a serious crash on one of my rides, the rider who crashed was pushing too hard on an overtake.  We talk about this in advance now.
  • While there is no way to guarantee this, it's really, really nice if all riders can keep their heads in the game on a group ride, paying attention to not only what the other riders are doing, but at least as importantly, what they are likely to do.  Is the rider ahead of you looking for an overtaking opportunity?  Anticipate the move.  Is the rider behind you likely to follow on the overtake?  Make sure you leave that rider room to tuck in behind you.  Anticipation is one of the most important skills any rider can develop, and it's particularly important for group rides. 
Enough for now.  I will post up another time about the recently concluded EuroBARF 2014, and our trip to the Isle of Man.  Stay tuned

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Upcoming 2014 Stuff

Nearly two months in, what's 2014 holding in store?  While in the UK at Christmas time, it became clear to me what needed to happen for EuroBARF 2014, details here.   The first 3 stages of the 2014 Tour de France are coming through the UK, and the second stage is going right through the town where my sister-in-law lives.  Then just a few days later, the Southern 100 will be taking place on the Isle of Man.  Brainstorm!  Tour de France and real roads racing, all tied together will several days of riding in the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District!  And that's the plan.

Learning to ride on the other side of the road is a great way to build brain plasticity and to broaden road reading and riding skills.  Combine that with some great roads, an introduction to English pubs (after riding, of course), and the fact that the locals speak something we'll mostly understand, as well as the aforementioned events, and it will be a brilliant rally!

Next up will (first on the calendar) was to put a plan together for the BARF Spring Rally.  We looked at several possibilities, but in the end we decided on Quincy, CA as our destination.  We went to Quincy in May, 2011, but got chased out on Saturday by a spring snow storm.  This year we've moved the rally back to early June, and besides that, it's a drought year, so we think we'll be safe.  Actually, I'm more concerned about early season forest fires than last season snow storms. 

Quincy is surrounded by some absolutely wonderful roads, with a little something for everyone, whether it's sightseeing up the Feather River Canyon, or riding the challenging twisties on LaPorte Road.  Everything from race tracks to goat trails will be on offer, details here.

One more thought on road reading.  Last Sunday was a day to be out on some of my favorite Sonoma County goat trails.  While this winter has been painfully dry, many narrow, shaded roads have still attracted a coating of moss on their less trafficked surfaces.  It's not always easily seen, but it's pretty much always slippery.  Don't let the dry weather fool you - lots of the roads are much more greasy than during the summer.  Smooth on the control inputs, and relaxed on the bars, keeping your eyes up is the way to deal with this uncertainty.  Last Sunday everyone had some slides, but none came to tears.

Shiny side up!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's No Mystery Why I Love the Mystery School



Last weekend was my fourth ever Fun Camp at Rich Oliver’s Mystery School, and my first in a few years.  Why do I keep going back, and why am I already planning next year’s camp?  Two reasons, really.  First, it’s just amazingly good fun.  Second, it makes me a better rider. 
Let’s go with the second reason first.  Rich and his team put campers out on his nicely groomed dirt track complex on a fleet of TTRs with upgraded suspension to give us a good taste of how motorcycles handle at the limit of traction so that we can learn what it feels like and how to deal with it.  While there are some differences, the physics of a motorcycle at the edge of traction are pretty similar whether that motorcycle is a 175 HP liter bike, a 600 pound touring bike, or a 125cc minibike, except that a mistake on the minibike on dirt is much less likely to involve large medical and repair bills than would be the case to the tourer or sportbike. 

Rich takes all campers through a series of skill building drills to accustom us to the limits of traction, how it feels, and the tools to manage the motorcycle right on the edge.  Each drill builds upon those preceding it, and by the end of the weekend you’re doing things you scarcely imagined possible on Saturday morning. 

If I had already done it three times, what could be gained by going back a fourth?   In my case the answer to that question could have been any of a number of things.  When I compare what Rich can do one of these little TTRs to what I can do, the opportunities for continuing improvement look endless.  One really popped up over the course of the camp, and that was what Vince Lombardi might have called “running to daylight”.
One of the realities – benefits, really – of pushing your skills on dirt is that you’re quite likely to spend some time on ground.  Your fellow campers are likely to as well, meaning that there are lots of unanticipated obstacles to contend with – with the added pressure of competition.  Unanticipated obstacles are a reality of goat trail riding – maybe one of the most fun reasons to ride goat trails – and anything that makes me better at dealing with those obstacles is a plus. 

So, what did I learn?  A few things weren’t new, but the camp gave the opportunity to knock the rust off old skills and knowledge.  It also provided some new revelations.  Let’s go with the latter.  One thing that was new at Fun Camp this year was a threshold braking drill on dirt, and when I say “dirt” I don’t mean nice tacky stuff, I mean dried out, dusty, slippery stuff. 

The exact content of the drill isn’t what’s important, but the technique is.  Rich had us apply the rear brake slightly before the front to get the back of the bike to squat down prior to applying the front.  This helps manage the weight shift to the front wheel and the subsequent unloading of the rear.  Applying the rear brake once that wheel has already gotten light is an invitation to lock it up.  Sometimes that’s what you want, but for threshold braking, not so much.  I was surprised just how hard I could brake on the dirt.
Right after applying the rear brake it’s time to apply the front.  This is about smoothly applying braking pressure.  You apply them hard, but in a progressive fashion rather than just stabbing at them.  Doing the drill in this fashion shows just how hard you can stop a bike in reduced traction conditions if you’re straight up and down, and you’re smooth.  This is a huge skill for helping deal with obstacles.

Rich also spent a fair amount of time training us on where to put our eyes in various circumstances, which can all be summed up in the longstanding canard, “look where you want to go.”  If you focus on the bike that just crashed in front of you, that’s what you’re going to hit.  If you focus on the gap between that bike and the edge of the track, that’s the “daylight” you’ll run to. 

Other than one notable collision with another bike (ALL my fault) on Saturday morning, I managed to get through the whole weekend without hitting a downed or stopped bike by seeing those gaps and following my eyes through them.  Following your eyes and running to daylight is critically important when you find something unexpected in your path on a goat trail. 

My friends and I have already signed up for another Fun Camp next year.  A big, big thumbs-up!  Try it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Practice vs. Variety, "Laps" vs. Vanishing Point, and Riding on the Wrong Side of the Road

Ah, long gaps between posts, many distractions, not enough riding (other than commuting), and the demands of a new job are all inter-connected, and make this blog too quiet.  Who knows when I'll post again, but I might as well post today. 

The first half of July, Sue and I went over to the UK to visit family, friends, and the blue Versys.  Riding wasn't the primary focus, but it definitely provided some spice.

When we got to my sister-in-law's home one my first tasks was to roll the Versys out of the garage, check it over, the start it up.  There's a lot to be said for Japanese bikes, and starting at the first touch of the button after sitting for a year (on the trickle charger) is one of them.  Wash off the bike, air up the tires, lube the chain, check the fasteners, and we were ready to rock and roll! 

Our first destination was a overnighter to the Isle of Man.  Neither of us had ever been there, and even though there was no racing happening the date we could slot in to go, I just wanted to see the place I'd seen so many times on DVD's and YouTube.  It didn't disappoint!  It was beautiful, dripping in moto history, and perhaps the friendliest place I've ever been.  It seems that everyone you meet loves motorcycles and motorcycle racing, and they are so pleased you've come to their home to share that love.  Having a license plate from a distant shore helps too. 

GaryJ's widow, Jill, gave me a little vial of Gary's ashes to leave on the island, a place he never got to visit, but like so many us, loved everything about the racing there.  When we arrived on a Wednesday evening we had the good fortune to arrive just before the annual memorial ride for the great Joey Dunlop. If you're reading this and don't know who Joey was, do yourself and favor and Google the man's name.  Not only was he the greatest and most successful racer in the history of the IOM-TT, he was a humanitarian committed to helping less the less fortunate.  The ride was a fundraiser for one of Joey's charities, a house right on the course at Braddan Bridge set up to accommodate disabled race fans. 

We joined up with about 400 other riders to do a lap of the course, passing through towns where the locals lined the roads to wave and cheer our parade lap.  The evening news came out to video the event, and you can even find videos of the ride posted on the web.  Unbelievable!  We managed to honor Joey and give GaryJ a lap to remember. 

The following morning we toured other parts of the island, were greeted by hospitable locals, and even met a podium finisher from the 1955 TT who told us where to find the best motorcycle museum on the island.  In the afternoon, after enjoying a lunch at the legendary Creg-ny-Baa pub, we set off to do one more lap and to find a place to leave Gary's ashes. 

We pretty much toured the lower portions of the island, but once we began climbing up from Ramsey on to the mountain we could pick up the pace to "sporting" (no speed limits on the mountain).  As we rode the lap the question of where to leave Gary answered itself when we stopped to pay our respects at the Joey Dunlop memorial above The Verandah.  It has a great view of the course, a beautiful statue of Joey, and is covered with wildflowers. It was a perfect spot to spread some of Gary's ashes, and I hope he enjoys being there. 

What does all of this have to do with riding goat trails?  None of the roads we covered could really be called goat trails, but there were a couple of interesting revelations from the roads we did ride.  First, the roads are NOT smooth.  Not terrible, but bumps and ridges are an important factor, and riders can't just blithely assume that the road is perfect. 

Second, despite this being home of one of the world's most famous races, these are public roads maintained out of the public treasury, and any money spent on the roads is money that can't be spent elsewhere.  With that recognition in mind, the local road authority was chip sealing significant portions of the course when we were there.  Right.   Chip seal.  One of the largest causes of whining on BARF.  Sure, it will all be swept before the Manx GP
/ Classic TT begin in August, it's still chip seal.  The next time somebody on BARF goes off about how the local government is acting with intent to kill motorcyclists, I'm likely to go off.  Think of Guy Martin, McGuinness, and Michael Dunlop whining about such silliness.  Chip seal is a road condition, and it's one we all need to be prepared to deal with.  /whining

My next big day out was with my friend, Dominic Gill.  Dominic and I met during the 2006 Centopassi when he was part of Team UK, led by our great friend, Colin Barlow.  I've written at length before about Colin.  It's clear that Colin had a huge impact on many of the people who rode with him, and Dominic shares the same regard of Colin as I have.  Dominic laid out a great day of riding in the Yorkshire Dales on a perfect, sunny day.  We zig-zagged north and south, east and west, visiting some of the famous motorcycle destination towns, such as Hawes, but never really lingering anywhere for long. We were too busy riding. 

When we stopped for lunch, we caught up, talked about other friends who were unable to join us, recounted stories of Colin's feats, and drank a toast to the man.  Dominic told me about trips to the continent with our crazy Dutch friend, Peter, and his well crafted tours of Spain. 

He also told me about another rider who often accompanies them on these tours, and who always keeps them waiting anytime they're on unfamiliar roads.  The funny thing is, apparently this fellow is pretty quick on familiar roads.  Yep, if he knows a road, he can go fast.  If he doesn't, he's bog slow.  Why is this worth writing about?  Why, yes, you're right!  It is another of Kurt's pet peeve rants!

Rant?  Rant about what?  Simple, the rant about "practicing" a road by doing "laps".  That is, developing the belief that one can out-ride one's sightlines due to "knowing" a public road.  This flawed belief often comes up that if a rider only knows the road, the rider can go more quickly.  That means rather than leave margin for the unknown, the rider assumes that all important information about the road ahead is already known.  This is a belief system that sows the seeds for an early exit from motorcycling. 

Okay, if I believe this, shouldn't I be criticizing Dominic and Peter and the others for leaving their slow friend behind?  That kind of depends.  If Dominic and Peter and the others ride to the vanishing point on unfamiliar roads, and leave themselves adequate margin to effectively respond to the unexpected, there is no problem.  Okay, if they're doing that, why is the other guy still so much slower?  My guess - and that's all it can be without riding with the buddy in question - is that the slower rider is riding within the sightlines that result from looking too close to the front of his bike.  If he doesn't lift his eyes and stretch his sightline toward the vanishing point, then he can't possibly see what Dominic and Peter are seeing as far in advance as they see it. 

That's the goat road lesson here; push your point of focus relentlessly up the road.  Let your eyes flow over the road and you'll flow over it with equal smoothness.  Practice it.

Another goat road lesson from this trip is that when roads are busy, and there's strict enforcement, goat roads can offer a respite.  Britain is a crowded island, and even though the north is less crowded than the south, on a beautiful summer day lots of traffic clogs the roads.  Not where Dominic took me.  The roads were often more crowded with open range sheep than with other motorists.  Less traffic, less police, no speed cameras.  Sounds nice, doesn't it?

My last big ride was with Stuart, a friend of Colin's who joined us in the Alps in 2010.  Stuart possesses Colin's famous battlestar BMW, but the day we rode he chose to bring his Kaw-Strom, a bike we didn't see in the US.  It's a DL1000 badged up as a Kawasaki.  Stuart was a student of Colin in an advanced riding course, then Stuart advanced to be an instructor too.  He joined Colin on many of their late summer blasts through France to attend the Bol d'Or.  Yeah, you could say Stuart's a disciple too. 

When planning the trip, Stuart asked where I wanted to go, and the answer came quickly - take me to the Lake District, particularly to ride Wrynose and Hardknott passes.  The ever-hospitable Stuart was only too quick to agree, and he set us off on a big day in some of England's most spectacular scenery.  A brisk ride across the top of England from Yorkshire to Lancashire and up into Cumbria started our day.  Stuart thoughtfully pointed out the speed cameras en route, wove us through the traffic along Windermere and through Ambleside on our way to coffee an scones at Coniston Water, a spectacular lake in one of the many glacial valleys that give the Lake District its name.

He was letting me re-gather my strength before hurling us up a road known as "The Struggle" on our approach to the 1 in 3 grades (yes) of Wrynose and Hardknott.  These roads have been in use since the Romans built them 2000 years ago.  They're about as wide as a Roman cart track, and not quite as smoothly paved.  I think I can say that Hardknott is the most challenging paved rode I've ever ridden.  I LOVED IT!  Stunning views, not much traffic, and a never ending mental and physical challenge to ride our bikes smoothly and safely through ruts, ditches, potholes, oncoming traffic, loose sheep, gravel, sand - all the fun! 

The day went on like that.  Great roads.  A leisurely stream side pub lunch.  A toast to Colin.  A blistering ride on A-roads to get to the other side of England in time for dinner.  Definitely on my list of all-time-great riding days. 

What's the point beyond telling the story?  Here's the point.  I came home riding better than I was riding when I left.  This almost always happens to me in the Alps too.  The key to this improvement can be associated with two key characteristics of these rides:
  • Riding unfamiliar roads.  Don't ride the same stuff over and over because you've fooled yourself into thinking you "know" them.  Deal with the variety and uncertainty and use them to improve your skills - all your skills.  Your road reading skills.  Your physical skills of providing inputs to the bike and dealing with its responses.  Your ability to remain calm, focused and centered.  You will only develop the ability to do this anywhere by doing it everywhere.  Stop doing laps.
  • Ride behind skilled riders.  If you don't know any, go looking for them.  They're out there.  They are not always the flashiest, or the loudest.  They're the ones you see who are smooth, who are quick without apparent effort, who don't bobble or make obvious mistakes.  That describes Dominic and Stuart, and it was a great luxury to be able to follow them, keying off their lines and their actions, learning more about what's possible, even if I didn't choose to always follow their approach exactly.  Thanks, guys.  
There was one more factor that can't be easily re-created here, but which was certainly a helpful tool for developing riding resilience; riding on the wrong side of the road.  What?  Yep, seriously.  Having to set aside the familiar and learn new places to look, new places to be, new responses to other traffic and road conditions, and having to do it with while following a quick rider is a great exercise in developing flexibility in your riding.  I had not expected this at all, and it explains why the Brits who frequently cross over to the continent to ride, thus having the mirror experience of this, are often such impressively capable riders.

Okay, if that wall of text was too much for you, here's a summary: variety, variety and more variety, all while following someone better than you.   Try it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring!

Long time with no posts.  Long time with not much riding.  I've got a new job that is pretty intense and time demanding.  My beloved Versys has been a little difficult, and is, in fact, in the shop right now for a weird electrical gremlin.  However, the weather could not be better, and the Hypermotard has new tires, so today was a day to ride, and ride I did.  

Have I mentioned how much I love new tires?  Something about the Hyper, these multi-compound tires, and maybe the way I ride, makes tires get REAL ugly before they wear out.  I mean scary ugly.  The most recent set of tires on the Hyper, Dunlop Roadsmarts, wore in the same pattern I've seen on Bridgestones (14's, 16's, 20's, 21's, 23's, they all do it) in which the sides wear off before the centers, leaving a tire with a profile that looks something like a stop sign.  Lots of tread in the middle, wear bars showing on the sides, and a frightening transition as you fall off the center, and plummet to the side.  Not confidence inspiring.  You have to flick over hard and get on the gas like you mean it to catch it.  New tires are so much nicer.  Pirellis Scorpion Trails, which I've run on the Versys, but not on the Hyper before now.  They were nice today. 

A couple of great goat trails were on order today.  Fairfax-Bolinas - running that direction - was delightful.  Not much in the way of cars, plenty of bicycles, and only a handful of motos.  The coast side was chip sealed late last year, and you'd think the winter rains - that we hadn't had much of - would have washed away more of the gravel than is the case, but it was still a good time. 

Then I headed north to try out a highly recommended goat that starts near Guerneville and goes over near Healdsburg called Sweetwater Springs Road.  This was really a good time.  No cars, two bicycles, one other motorcycle that I passed.  The road was technical and fun.  Lots to keep you busy.  Dirty, narrow, rough, short sightlines.  Life is good!

One of the treats of living in Northern California, is that the great roads attract some neat vehicles.  Today was no exception.  How about what appeared to an Allard J2x?  That's pretty unusual anywhere.  Okay, how about a brace of Alfa GTA's?  A gaggle of Morgans? And just for spice, a Ferrari 365 GTC, and at the other end of the spectrum, an MGA coupe?  To top it all off, coming home from work on Thursday on the San Pablo Dam road, I see a red Vincent coming the other way! 

Last but not least, I staggered into a nice little diner today at the edge of Sebastopol called D's - Diner.  Great hamburger and malt, and neat ambiance.  Not cheap, but definitely very good.  Check it out.

Have a great riding season.

PS: The Aerostich folks have been in town for the past week.  Went and got measured for Roadcrafter.  Nice folks.  Got to meet the founder, Andy Goldfine, the new CEO, Mark, and the fitter extraordinaire, Stephanie, not to leave out, Oora (sp?).  The technical term is "Minnesota Nice".  Oh, and Andy introduced me too well-known moto-journalist, Marc Cook.  It was a great visit. 


Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Backwards, Looking Forwards

Oh jeez, not another end of the year special?!  Sure, why not? 

Highlights for me of 2012? 

Got to ride Europe again, and that's always a treat.  Picked up my Versys from the garage of my late riding pal, Colin Barlow.  Visited with his wife and friends before heading out to ride the Chunnel to France. 

Met up with my good friend, Matthias in Dole, France, and the two of us had a lovely ride through rural France on tiny roads between Dole and Lyon.  In some ways it was the best single day of riding for me in Europe this year.  Matthias sorted it all through his GPS, and we had a ball zinging up and down tiny lanes. 

Once in Lyon we were hosted at the home of a fellow whose videos I'd admired on YouTube, BenDYd.  That was enough of an introduction that he invited us to stop by and spend the evening.  He and his boys cooked us a delightful French meal enjoyed on a perfect summer evening, and providing us a good night's sleep before launching off into the Alps. 

Best new-to-me pass this year?  Colle Sampeyre in far northwestern Italy.  At least I think it was new to me.  It reminds me of a road we ran in the 2006 Centopassi.  Not sure.  If you like the goaty stuff, try it out. 

After the Alps it was time to rendezvous with my lovely wife at her sister's home in North Yorkshire.  It turns out that one of Colin's best mates - Stuart, who we rode with in 2010 - lives close by.  That meant we got a brilliant guided tour of the Yorkshire moors and a lovely evening out.  So fun to watch Stuart's effortless speed on the wild and nadgery lanes and humpback bridges of the rural UK. 

Every year the high points have to include the BARF rallies, and thanks must be extended to those adventurous souls who trustingly follow me on all the most treacherous roads I can find en route to our rally destinations.  I love you folks for your enthusiastic comradeship! 

There's no way to pick a favorite rally.  Hawthorne is always its own thing, not really comparable to any other rally.  Paso Robles was fun, as always.  One little highlight at Hawthorne this year was the opportunity to stop by to see Andy's (tzrider) vacation home and tree house.  Not only was the tree house at least as cool as the photos, but Andy had a bigger treat for me.  We had the chance to discuss my 2011 crash, and Andy offered a possible diagnosis of the contributing inputs that - in addition to excessive exuberance - put me on the ground.  After reflecting on Andy's suggestion, it became clear that he'd nailed it (no wonder he's such a superb coach!), and now I have something to work on to keep me out of trouble. 

It's always a treat to get some advanced training in each year, and in 2012 it was provided by the Alameda County Sheriff's training center and their civilian motorcycle training class.  It's a bargain in motorcycle training, where they introduce you to the fundamentals of cop bike training (make sure to rent one of cop Kawasakis - they're a blast!)

Looking forward, what does 2013 have in store?

More training for sure.  Maybe a return to something I've done before, like Rich Oliver, or CSS, or Lee Parks.  Maybe something new.  At least go back to the Alameda County Sheriff's training.  There is so much opportunity to improve.

Hoping to get a small dual sport some time in 2013 so I can get some more off-road riding in.  Partly for skill improvement, partly for the chance to do fun and challenging riding that keeps me away from cars, and where fun happens at lower speeds.

Back to Europe seems likely.  The Versys awaits in the garage there.  Not sure about the Alps in 2013.  Maybe.  Maybe Scotland or the IOM instead.  Thinking that it would be fun to see the Southern 100 road race there in July. 

Obviously, the BARF rallies, but I can't say whether I'll be able to rallymaster in 2013.  Life gets busy.  Still, the rallies are so much fun that there must be a way to participate even if I may not be able to lead.

Group rides with my friends are always a highpoint, and not to be missed.  In that mix of group rides has to include the legendary highways 36, 162, and 25. 

If all those things come to pass, 2013 will be at least as wonderful as 2012. 

How about you?  What was the best part of 2012 for you?  What did you learn?  What do you treasure?  What do you want to make happen in 2013?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Riding With Friends

Today was highlighted by participating in a ride celebrating a friend's birthday.  Fourteen riders, some I knew, most I didn't.  The birthday boy wanted oysters for his birthday, and you really can't beat fresh oysters from Tomales Bay enjoyed outside on a brilliantly sunny late November afternoon.  It was wonderful!

Like lots of riders, I can be a little uncomfortable riding with folks for the first time.  Plus, it was a little damp under the trees from recent rain, so when the route was planned to go straight up Hwy 1 from Point Reyes Station to Marshall, I separated myself from the group to go ride Marshall-Petaluma, a local favorite, then reunited with the group at the Marshall Store.

Listening to talk over lunch, it was clear I'd missed out some by riding apart from the group, so when the birthday boy said he wanted to ride Fairfax-Bolinas on the way home, it was time to re-integrate with the group.  As it turned out, the group of fourteen fractured a bit going south, and I ended up in a group of four, all of whom I knew, but only one of whom I'd ridden with.  As it turned out, all were superb riders, beautiful and smooth arcing down 1, sharp and surefooted over Fairfax-Bolinas.

Once we were over the top of the ridge and down the other side we stopped to talk, trade stories, ask question, and review the highlights of what we'd just ridden.  The conversation was full of laughter, sharing the raw joy of a great ride in a way that can't be fully shared with anyone who wasn't there.  What a pleasure!

It brought up a number of recent rides, with old friends and new, small groups and large, in which the intensity of the experience, combined with the need to be flexible and ride in concert with others over the road in a sort of dance, brings to light a part of the motorcycling experience that one can't really get riding by oneself all the time.  There is much to be said for the quiet and introspection of the solo ride, and they are an important part of the riding experience.  That said, the afterglow of today's ride is a vivid reminder that joy shared is joy squared.  Enjoy.