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

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