Polar Bear Blog, March 11, 2012, Long Valley, NJ.
By: Chris Loynd
Spring has come early to the motorcycle polar bears. Not that I mind. I've always said I would rather ride on a warm day than a cold one. I ride with the polar bears because I did not want to park my motorcycle all winter. And now polar bearing has evolved into a series of enjoyable Sundays with great friends.
This Sunday the weather was gorgeous, too warm for winter. I rode over in layers, but never dialed in the electric heat until we were up high on Route 80 west. And that was only for a little while. For the ride home I was peeling layers and trying to find room to stuff them into my saddlebags.
Token2 was ride leader. Long Valley has sort of become his, ever since he found some creative and fun back roads several years ago. He did not disappoint this Sunday. Some of the roads he found challenged our riders. Captain stopped in the midst of a very steep series of very tight curves to downshift. John J. and I had to make some important and immediate corrections in our respective bikes' handling. As Token2 quipped later when we groused about it, “I thought I was traveling with experienced riders.”
He also noted that while his Internet maps may have shown the tight curves, it was tough to see the sharp rise in elevation on that particular spot. Captain said he was halfway up the hill when his heavy Honda had not enough umph to climb any further.
Token2 hosted a good ride and found us some fun and scenic roads to ride. He doubled our fun by taking secondary roads a good part of the way home. Eventually we had to get back onto the Interstate highways to grind up enough miles to our far away Connecticut homes.
Pogy agreed to sweep this ride and found himself a bit frustrated at time, trying to keep the flock together from the back end.
Group riding is not the same as riding by yourself. It demands a fair amount of concentration and vigilance. It is important to hold your place in the line of bikes as accurately and consistently as possible.
Ride too close – or even, God forbid – next to a rider in line and you've compromised the safety of both riders. But drop back too far and the group falls apart. Once a car gets into your line, you can all be separated by some very big gaps. Then the riders caught in the back have to ride doubly fast to catch up. Or the leader, if he's paying attention, has to slow the group down significantly to let the others form up again.
Cars can be bad enough, even without big gaps in the line. John J. suddenly found an SUV trying to occupy the exact same space as his motorcycle on the last leg home. He corrected quickly and appropriately. But his demeanor expressed his displeasure.
Each inconsistency in speed, especially toward the front of the line, is multiplied by each bike behind. So the sweep suddenly finds himself hard on the throttle, then hard on the brakes, to try to keep his place. When I lead, I try to keep my speed cruise control smooth, even though no such device resides on my handlebars.
We enjoyed Long Valley Pub's fabulous brunch buffet. It is the best on the Grand Tour.
They shoehorned us into a very small corner space and I sat next the fireplace, fire going. Still it was all good and we had fun catching up with each other's news.
Token2 took us out the long way as well. And we rode through the New Jersey countryside, avoiding I-287 for as long as we could.