Monday 6 July 2015

Passing Etiquette

I came upon a group of riders after exiting the ferry and getting most of the way across Manitoulin; first off the ferry gives you wide open roads!

I'd been moving along at a nice clip alone but had to slow down to follow them.  Had they been a car or truck I'd have used my power to weight ratio to good advantage and made a quick, safe pass.  This clump of bikers were much longer than your typical truck, so passing them would be tricky.  In addition to the physics there was suddenly a lot of motorcycle psychology to consider.  Would these riders take offence at being passed?  I'm not safely ensconced in a box if they got aggressive.

In wondering about this I sparked a rather heated debate on COG.  The sensible (and rather Zen) solution seems to be to find a nice place to have a stop, a stretch and a drink, then get back on the road when they're well down it.  Strangely enough, the only thing that seems to be able to clip the wings of a motorcycle are a bunch of motorcycles in front of it.

I had a moment when I first started riding where I suddenly realized I'm on a machine that has Lamborghini like power to weight ratio.  Since then I've made a point of exploring what this means.  When you ride you're missing the steel cage, but what you lack in mass you make up for in agility and power, and learning to harness that power is vital to your well being.   Following that logic I prefer to have things coming at me and don't like being passed or boxed in, but for twenty frustrating minutes that's exactly where I was as a line of campers and SUVs formed up behind me.

The general feeling on COG was to either pull over or take your chances passing a bunch of leather clad bikers not knowing if these are wannabes or one percenters.  The later are much more likely to do something about it if they perceive disrespect.  In any case, it's not like you're in a big box so antagonizing them seems like a potentially dangerous course of action from both a physics and a psychology point of view.

I was out on a ride with a group the other week for the first time, but these guys didn't hang about and were making a point of using side roads rather than main through fairs so we weren't holding anyone up, and there were only half a dozen of us.  We were also riding a wide variety of machines designed to exploit the natural agility of the motorbike from GSX-Rs to forty year old Kawasakis in genres from adventure to standard to sport and sport touring.  I'd also say we were pretty approachable based on the number of people who approached us.  Eclectic would be a good way to describe us, we certainly weren't wearing anything approaching a uniform.

On COG someone suggested that when they ride in a group they intentionally get out of the way if they feel they are holding up traffic because everyone has the right to enjoy the road how they want to, but not everyone feels that way:
A clip from Henry Cole's World's Greatest Motorcycle Rides:
Riding the American Deserts

I'd say physics and some rather negative stereotypes (along with a lot of bikers adopting those stereotypes) held up that traffic.  I don't think respect had anything to do with it.

So there you have it:  the best advice when you come upon a large group of floorboard grinders is to pull over and take a break, it's not worth the hassle of trying to make a pass, even though you're on the machine best able to do it.

Google motorcycle films and this is what you get, the odd intelligent attempt amidst the bikespoitation flicks.  And
we wonder why the general public still has doubts about motorcycling...