What Went Wrong

Be­ing a re­spon­si­ble ride leader, and fol­lower

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Zack Courts


I thought I was on a pleas­ant and re­lax­ing ride, but be­fore I knew it I was about to ram my friend and co­worker Ari right in the tail­sec­tion. I swerved so that my tra­jec­tory would miss him, and then I jumped on the brakes. But in do­ing so I didn’t pull the clutch in quite enough. The rear wheel locked, stalled the en­gine, and be­fore I could re­act the back of the bike was pass­ing the front. I spun into a low­side and fol­lowed the bike into the ditch, lis­ten­ing to Ari say, “What the hell?” over the com­mu­ni­ca­tor be­fore I had even bumped to a stop.


There were three of us on the ride, headed into the hills in search of some gnarled ter­rain for our ADV bikes and trundling along an empty moun­tain road at a re­laxed pace—ride leader at the front, Ari sec­ond, and me bring­ing up the rear. We were all in search of an en­trance to a dirt road that we had rid­den be­fore, eyes scan­ning the right side of the as­phalt for a fa­mil­iar open gate.

Just over a crest and a slight left-hand curve, the ride leader spot­ted the en­trance to the road. He stabbed the brakes and veered right. Ari re­acted by steer­ing left slightly and brak­ing. My at­ten­tion be­ing split be­tween rid­ing the pave­ment and look­ing for the gravel road de­layed my re­ac­tion, and the next thing I knew I was aim­ing 600 pounds of ADV at Ari’s tail­light with no hope of stop­ping.


There are lots of lessons here, no ques­tion. I hadn’t thought that I was fol­low­ing too closely be­cause I trusted the peo­ple I was rid­ing with and the pace was leisurely. But there are lots of other fac­tors— wildlife, blowout, etc. Clearly I mis­judged the mean­ing of “too close.” Pay­ing at­ten­tion to what’s ahead is a very sim­ple guide­line to fol­low as well, and yet I man­aged to get just dis­tracted enough that I wasn’t ready to re­act to what was hap­pen­ing on the road ahead. I should have been more alert, pe­riod.

After I picked my­self and the bike up, the ride leader apol­o­gized. He ad­mit­ted that he had been overzeal­ous with his brak­ing and hadn’t con­sid­ered the consequences, which brings up a few more good takeaways from this sit­u­a­tion. If you’ve got rid­ers be­hind you, sig­nal what you’re go­ing to do with a hand ges­ture, a warn­ing flash of the brake lights, or, if you’ve got head­sets, give them a ver­bal warn­ing. If it’s too late, then just pass by and go back. There’s less shame in miss­ing a turn than end­ing up in a heap on the side of the road.

The next thing I knew I was aim­ing 600 pounds of ADV at Ari’s tail­light with no hope of stop­ping.

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