Finally, a spell of summer sunshine. I hope you’ve all been out on your motorcycles making the most of it. We know that many of you have been on TVAM’s social rides: 413 of you joined 36 social rides in April alone, and that was before the sun came out!
I recently had a friend stay from South Korea on his way to Canada. He wanted to visit Wales and so I booked a lovely Airbnb near Llanidloes for a few days. This time travelling in the Mustang, I was still able to enjoy some of the fabulous roads that Wales has to offer, but without the ability to overtake quite as keenly as I would on the bike. The fine weather (yes, it does happen in Wales sometimes) brought out many a motorcyclist, either riding solo or in groups. In fact, there were a number of foreign groups, including a contingent of Dutch Harley riders gathered in Aberystwyth. What this meant was that I was able to sit back in the car and watch riders out on the road, and experience being overtaken by many. This led to a number of observations and “gosh, I don’t think I would have done that” moments.
First, I noticed a tendency for riders in groups to try and keep up with each other, seemingly at all costs. A good example was a group overtaking a queue of cars on approach to a solid white line and a blind summit. The first three riders completed the overtakes safely and in plenty of time. The fourth rider cut the white line a bit fine but the fifth and sixth riders were clearly over the solid white, at a pace that was maybe too fast with closing oncoming traffic; the car flashing its lights not totally unexpected. It didn’t seem to me that the “ride for yourself” mantra was being practiced.
Second, a comment about following distances. I had a number of instances where a motorcycle had overtaken one vehicle to come up to mine and sat right on my chuff, literally a few feet away from my bumper. Clearly waiting for the next overtaking opportunity, this posed a risk to both rider and me, and to compensate, I increased my own following distance from the car in front. Of course, what that did was to invite him to overtake me and said rider then found himself hugging the back of the car in front, trying to jump him or her too. We do allow a closing of the safe following distance to one second when an overtake might be on but we all know to drop back to two seconds when it clearly isn’t.
Riders riding in groups were also getting very close to each other, especially at speeds approaching or even exceeding the National limit. Some were trying to ride offset, but were invariably still too close. If anything had happened necessitating a rapid brake application, I am not sure all would have come out unscathed.
Marking rides was also variable, with some markers choosing some of the most inappropriate (i.e. unsafe!) places to stop in order to wave their fellow riders through. I saw one marker stopped on a zig-zag of a pedestrian crossing and another on a level crossing!
The first task for a marker is to keep themselves safe. This is made all the easier with a run leader knowing where best to drop them.
So what has all of this got to do with TVAM? I know that “we” would all be far more aware of these poor practices. But it does ram home the need for riding within your own capability, especially when the temptation might be to “keep up with your mates” on some fine roads in a social context in fine weather. As members of TVAM, we should be upholding the advanced riding standard at all times and acting as ambassadors for the Club on the road. These examples also stress the importance of effective run leading and back marking, and particularly the run leader’s pre-ride briefing. We are making our own Club social rides more descriptive, focusing more on route complexity, run length and time between stops. From this month’s St Crispin’s, Green Team ride outs will not be graded, the idea being that social rides should cater for every rider, riding to their own capability and with effective run leading, back marking and good use of the marker-system, making the ride enjoyable for all.
When I got back from Wales, I had one of my many chats with Barrie Smith, our Chair, and remarked on a new route I had discovered: the A485 from Aberystwyth to Tregaron and then over the Esgair pass and down the Devil’s Staircase to Beulah. “Oh that…” he said, “was where the ‘bimble’ in Barrie’s Bimble came from, having had an evening ride out from Doddy Wells.” It goes to show, we all know all the best roads in the country! Definitely one I want to go back to but on the VFR.
While on the subject of trips away, if you are planning your own trip abroad this summer with fellow Club members, remember not to fall foul of the EU package travel directive. If you are booking travel and accommodation, irrespective of how this is paid for, it would constitute a “package” and potentially expose yourself to liabilities for cancellations and/or repatriation. This is easily overcome by using our Club-approved travel partner – Not just Travel. Alex Harding was at St. Crispin’s last month and will be back periodically to offer practical advice on booking trips. He said he is happy to book specific travel and hotels, so please do discuss your needs with him direct (https://alexharding.notjusttravel.com/) This is good for you and good for the Club too, as we receive a modest commission back that we can reinvest in you.
So, here’s hoping the sun keeps on shining!