I went up to Rancho Santa Fe on Saturday for a charity event. It's about 35 miles north of San Diego up I-5 to the dangerous east west highway known as 78. I kept looking in the rearview mirror before remembering I'm solo and have no responsibility for anyone else.
When we ride with people locally, it's a more casual thing. Sure, it would suck to get stranded in Julian, or down in the desert, but you're within reach of home. Of course, you still keep an eye out for your riding partner, but problems aren't as dire close to home.
I don't ride much in groups any more. The number one reason has got to be the riding style, two by two. I can't say I'm fond of having some guy three feet next to me blocking my escape route. Staggered riding is the choice of people who don't trust the skills of the people riding with them. That guy next to you might have just come off his poker run's third beer, who knows?
I've been on rides where someone went down, and the group made a series of horrible decisions. You do not take a guy who has been knocked unconscious and make him ride on the back of someone's bike. You do not lay him down in poison oak. You do not strap him on the back of your bike and ride him back to his house. All that wonderful stuff happened to a guy in one afternoon.
I've been on rides where being in the slowest group coming up last results in an intersection with no clue which way the riding party went. Dan'l Boone tracking skills don't help much if you can't see the dust plume, and the road's asphalt. That was a kind of horrible adventure one Sunday morning, when 99% of the ride went one way and we arrived at the crossroads without a clue.
So, we went over to the Ortega Highway to have a snack at the Overlook Cafe, arriving just a tick before a swarm of “Motorcycles for Christ” came along to fill up the parking lot and the rest of the tables. My slow compadre and I are not religious.
I know a guy who rode with a buddy of mine up to Laguna Seca. After watching a weekend of bike races, I reckon he got froggy and mistook himself as a racer. Long story short, left my buddy in the dust and he later skidded out and crashed on some sand dropped in the road. He called me, as his riding buddy wasn't picking up. I sent money so he could cobble his bike together enough to ride it home.
I've seen enough group rides to know that you have to manage yourself and don't expect anyone else to do it if you wind up with a bunk riding group. That means money, a cell, and a home base where you know someone can help you if you're stranded. Stuff happens, like my buddy who rode his brand new Yamaha on a ride to NorCal. Somewhere west of Sacramento, he picked up a 5 inch screw in his tire. IN his tire, it was living inside there, whomping around and making the tire all flat.
I'm one of his lifelines, so sent him money for a new tire, and he made it back in one piece.
Here I am though, riding down to Jamul and still tracking the lingering imperative of a companion rider from October, when I rode up with another blogger to central California. We would exchange positions, so I was either looking ahead or behind to peg the location of my riding buddy.
It's like hitting the road and suddenly wondering if you forgot to turn off the oven or something; a faint suspicion that you're forgetting something important.
Then I remember, I am riding alone, and try to put the bike-spotting on hold. It comes back.
This got me thinking; exactly what can you expect from a riding buddy? It's good to have somebody watching your six on the road, but how deep should that commitment extend?
Here's what I am prepared to bring to the table.
I will keep an eye on you at all times, to the point that I'll still be looking for you a month later.
I will help you sort out difficulties on the road, if possible.
I will never leave you in the dust. (shut up, I could too if I wanted to)
As a hang gliding instructor, I know CPR and first aid. I've actually used the first aid and all my subjects survived.
I know what to do if you drop it. (pick up bike first, turn bike off. Then come back for you. Gotta have priorities.)
I have a strong ability to read maps, and a weak smartphone that is three years old. This is why I carry maps.
I don't combine drinking parties with riding parties. I have been riding with some who did that. Didn't care for it one bit.
I have a pretty good logical compass when riding with others. By myself, I sometimes wind up in biker bars. I will curb that nonsense around others when riding in a group.
I try to travel with an adequate financial pad in case of a breakdown or tire puncture. If you need help because of motorcycle problems, I will help out if you pay me back. And you will pay me back.
I try to be safety conscious and responsible on the road, which can only benefit riding buddies.
Like the song says, “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down.” Once we're off the road and back home, you may never hear from me again, but while we're riding together, I've got your six.
What do you look for in a riding partner?