What Went Wrong
Being a responsible ride leader, and follower
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.