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Leading Group Rides, responsible or not?

  • February 17, 2010 10:29 PM PST
      We take turns leading sunday rides here, always ride stagger, cross the paint to pass when it's safe to do so. About seven years ago I lead a ride to Okeechobee for breakfast to our favorite Golden Coral, it was closed for remodeling. I recommended Lake Placid thirty five miles further west, everyone was in. Highway 70 is a great road through the middle of Florida, nice sweepers and scenery in places. The last leg is a ten mile flat straight section known for speed.

      There was eight bikes, I checked out and opened my blackbird up in high gear a few moments, 185-195 and eased off the throttle, soon bike two and three caught up and we settled into a sixty or so mph pace to allow the others to catch up. Cruising along checking the mirrors we looked for a headlight that never came, fifty, forty five we slowed and eventually got to the intersection at Lake Placid, pulled over the three of us were getting a bad feeling as a jeep pulled up and said "Hey! one of your buddy's is hurt back there"................ SHIT!!!!!....  I remember looking at my watch, 8:45

      We hauled ass several miles back and came upon the debris field, this 24 year old had been riding with us several months and was quite talented, he had a Suzuki SV650 his Dad was riding behind him on his ST1100. They said he got into a "Tank-Slapper" at aroung 110 mph, he went airborn. As I stopped he was in the ditch screaming in pain, his head on Dad's lap, bones sticking through his leathers and bleeding. I went 100 yards one way, Harry 100 yards the other and used our Nextel 2-ways to direct traffic around, two lane road. At 100 yards I could still hear him on occasion.

      A highway patrol car appeared in the distance and sirens came into hearing range one after the other, within fifteen minutes there was two Troopers, a firetruck and a couple ambulances. He still layed in the ditch as they tried to stabilize and make him more comfortable. About half hour went by and a helicopter landed on the road, few moments later they actually turned the chopper off. That's never a good thing to hear, they finally loaded him aboard, it was 11:15, traffic was backed up for miles far as I could see.

      Before the chopper got out of sight two Troopers approached the dad and told him his kid didn't make it, he immediately turned slugged me in the arm and said "Thanks to you my kid is dead, you could have stopped at any other restaurant in Okeechobee".......................................

      I'll never forget that. I understand everytime someone dies someone else is responsible and it's common to strike out at the nearest thing, he worked at the bike shop here saturdays and I have seen him many times since, he has never took me aside and apologized for doing that. He knows it bothered me bad enough that I quit riding that bike and bought another one soon after that day. He quit showing up for sunday morning rides that morning. I settled in and slowed down from a 200 mph Blackbird to a 150 mph ST 1300.

      A couple years later the need for speed overtook me again so I bought a new CBR 1000 RR, a friend that had been on that dreaded ride bought a new GXXR 1000. We went riding by ourself all day racing out west, he wasn't used to this kind of power, everytime we stopped I had to remind him to keep his foot on the rear brake pedal to control the front end rise from acceleration, he finally got the idea by the end of the day. The next week I lined up next to an Aprillia at the traffic light on a double road, that made four of us waiting for it to turn green. I can do a hell of a holeshot, took off and saw them in my mirrors doing wheely's, next thing I knew my pal on the new GXXR was airborne, he nailed it in 2nd gear trying to catch me and it bucked his ass off the back. He landed doing about fifty with parts flying off the bike and took a hard hit on his head, was wearing full gear, no visable injury's. We scraped up the pieces and went on before any law arrived.

       It almost made me sick to my stomach, couldn't eat breakfast, all I could think of was that kid a few years ago all over again. I got rid of that bike soon after and bought the 919, if someone gets hurt keeping up with me on that bike shame on them. Maybe it's the Dad in me maybe not but it does hurt inside seeing people crash in my mirror keeping up.

      Leading Group Rides, Responsible OrNot?.............
    • 1042 posts
    February 17, 2010 10:51 PM PST
    Hey, it was his time to check out. Without tryin to sound hard assed; it is what it is. Everytime we get on a machine capable of the speeds on two wheels these machines are; we put our lives in something or someone greater than ourselves. Do we have control over our destiny?..Maybe, maybe not, but when it come s to riding, the very best we can hope for at the end of the day is that we make it home to see our loved ones and if we don't, then maybe thats the way it was supposed to be....Hope the young man's dad can understand they made the choice to ride that day and that he can live the rest of his life in peace even though his son is gone. Blame where blame isn't due is not gonna bring the young man back.
  • February 17, 2010 11:06 PM PST
    The F.H.P. kept trying to drag me into it as it turned to a Homicide Investigation, all I could say was that it happened miles behind me, didn't see anything. No one know's why he had the Tank Slapper, bike was pretty new, didn't hit anything on the road and he wasn't braking. Maybe the front tire blew, we don't know. Have seen four friends die on bikes over the years, never gets any easier or disappears.
  • February 17, 2010 11:06 PM PST
    Maybe the speeds you are talking about are best driven on a track. And, if I was wanting to go that fast I think I would ride them when alone. I was a on group ride as a passanger where the leader was cruising on the highway at 95. When we stopped to gas up, a couple of the guys asked him to drop it a notch. Thank goodness it was not a problem.. Personally I have no desire to go that fast.
    • Moderator
    • 16755 posts
    February 17, 2010 11:09 PM PST
    OK Even though IMHO what you did was wrong the other riders are adult and make their own choices. You do not control their action. If I were with you I would say wow look at that ass, and just let you go. The father who blamed you is just not facing reality and placing the blame where it belongs, with the son who couldn't handle his bike and was riding past his skill.


  • February 17, 2010 11:18 PM PST
    There is no tracks big enough to open these kind of bikes on unfortunately. Here we have roads flat and straight as far as you can see with very light traffic on any given sunday. Group riding everyone rides their skill level and catches back up at the next light or stop sign if you fall behind. We leave no one behind.,
  • February 17, 2010 11:25 PM PST
    I agree with Rex also. We are responsible for our own actions and need to take responsibility. No one made that guy get on his throttle. That was his choice. I can only imagine how you feel after something like that happens.
  • February 17, 2010 11:26 PM PST
    • 1042 posts
    February 17, 2010 11:31 PM PST
    sidetrack wrote...
    I agree with Rex also. We are responsible for our own actions and need to take responsibility. No one made that guy get on his throttle. That was his choice. I can only imagine how you feel after something like that happens.

    Exactly...My point as well but better stated

    • Moderator
    • 16755 posts
    February 17, 2010 11:36 PM PST
    Also I will add I do not think you are an ass, just have some ass like actions. Speed is your choice. I am a low and slow kind of guy.
  • February 17, 2010 11:38 PM PST
    It's a speed thing, something in the blood like an addiction. We don't race up and down I-95 or the turnpike, don't do wheely's or lane split through traffic. We ride max. 10 mph over the speed limit around here, that's why we go 35 - 40 miles west to have fun away from everything. If you don't go at least 150 mph for a moment on a sunday ride you will never understand it. A Natural High..........
    • 1042 posts
    February 17, 2010 11:43 PM PST
    if I were to go 150 I'd have to go to the doctor when finished to get seat leather removed from where my ass sucked it up..Like Rex...Low and Slow be better for me.
  • February 17, 2010 11:46 PM PST
    My last wife loved it at 150 on the Blackbird, I did too, she could scream at the top of her lungs behind that full face helmet and I was just like lalalalala couldn't hear a thing, yes dear............. lol........
    • Moderator
    • 1362 posts
    February 17, 2010 11:52 PM PST
    Spot on REX, The kid made his choice, Also I believe that if your going on or going to lead a group ride. Know what your getting into. Group rides are for many (Group) Where your going ? Whats the skill level > What kind of ride ? If people are lagging behind, where is everyone going to meet ? Usally the group rides I've been it there is one person that ALWAYS stays in the rear Just in case somethings happens.... I been in group rides where the "LEADER" is riding like a JACKASS. Simple solution.......... Let them know when you catch up (at you own pace) Your heading out on your own. We all have the choice to ride the way we choose to ride, and who we ride with. Sorry for the loss of your friend.
    • 352 posts
    February 18, 2010 12:17 AM PST
    I have had my days of hi-speed thrills so I can certainly feel you there. I have run some insane machines over the years, back before kryptonite was found here on earth and I though I was indestructable, had my share of close calls - including a rear wheel blow-out on an 18 over chopper ripping down a highway. I have also seen a buddy broadside a lane changer to his final ride...(he was about 200 ft ahead of me)

    Should the 24yr old been running at that speed? not if it was past his skill level
    Should the Dad let his son run at that speed? I would not encourage my son to run like I used to

    Are you responsible for the accident...that is something only you can answer.

    I am with fxrdude - when it's time for the final ride or time to check out cause your number is called...it does not matter what you are doing or where you are doing it...it's game over time.

    That said, I have learned not to play more hands than I can handle...(damn that kryptonite)
  • February 18, 2010 12:20 AM PST
    There is a difference between Sportbike and Harley group rides now, don't forget it's a different style altogether. These bikes average 100 mph all day long purring like a kitten, it's what they do, that's what the people like that buy them, it's in their blood. There's more fatality's on cruiser bikes than sportbikes at the Tail of the Dragon each year due to inexperience and lack of riding skill. Some prefer station wagons over Corvettes, same thing.

    Before I lead or even go on a group ride I look over all the bikes riding for obvious potential problems, chains, tires, anything that don't look right and continually watch them throughout the ride if I'm behind. At each fuel stop or restaurant I do it to without thinking all forced habit. If it's a long ride we always have a sweeper and wait at each light or stop sign for everyone to group up again.

    • 0 posts
    February 18, 2010 2:33 AM PST
    Just my opinion but;

    1. everyone is responsible for themselves and how they ride. "ride your ride" If you are not comfortable, let them go and meet up later.
    2. as a group leader you have the responsibility to assess the groups capability's and to stay within them. If you can't accept that, don't lead.
    3. if you, as a leader, encourage someone to break the law and do stupid shit, I think you should share in the results.

    Not trying to be an ass, just my opinion.
  • February 18, 2010 2:40 AM PST
    well that is one "natural high" as you put it, that got someone killed. Pear pressure is a bitch and will make a young man think he can do anything. In my book its up to the lead to ride in a manner that is safe for everyone at all times. Dont blame it on what a bike can do.
    • 16 posts
    February 18, 2010 2:52 AM PST
    GaryTJ wrote

    "Just my opinion but;

    1. everyone is responsible for themselves and how they ride. "ride your ride" If you are not comfortable, let them go and meet up later.
    2. as a group leader you have the responsibility to assess the groups capability's and to stay within them. If you can't accept that, don't lead.
    3. if you, as a leader, encourage someone to break the law and do stupid shit, I think you should share in the results.

    Not trying to be an ass, just my opinion."

    Couldn't agree more. Regardless of if you're a squid riding a crotch rocket, or a geezer riding a glide. But like someone said, only you can decide whether or not you're responsible, fully or partially.
  • February 18, 2010 3:03 AM PST
    Hmmmm.

    We all have the priveledge of riding as fast as we want, until that privilidge is taken away, either by the Man or by your own rediculous choice. I have no problem with someone who is adicted to tripple digit speed, just be a man and admit that you screwed up when the consequences come crashing down on you.

    As far as riding like an idiot when you are leading a group... the bike up front needs to ride for everyone in the pack. Like driving a truck with a trailer, you need room for all of it if you are going to pass. I always wonder what the wreckless leader is trying to prove by weaving through traffic and then acting all pissed that the 30 others couldn't keep up. Tag or hide and seek are fun games, but not that fun if you are trying to get somewhere TOGETHER.

    Keep in mind that one bike speeding is just one bike speeding... but two or more speeding is called a race, i.e. go to jail, bike towed, priviledge suspended. I think hauling ass is cool as hell. Just quit your friggin snivelling if you get caught. Also, unless you were towing the bike that lost control I really don't see where it's your fault.

    Just the musings of a low and slow, 'walk there and do em' all' kind of guy
  • February 18, 2010 3:05 AM PST
    Roadbike Magazine covered this type of discussion. The editorial editors point is, if you are a leader you lead as a group unit. If a detour happens, a person drops out to direct the group and rejoin with trailer. If you dont wish to ride with the group, make it known up front and assume the lone ridder situation. Come and go as you please but make no assumtions and inform all of your ride criteria. The lead and sweepers are accepting the responsability of the group safty and enjoyment as a group. If you want to run at 200 then cut into two groups as determinded by the group. Each accepts the responcability of their actions and decisions
  • February 18, 2010 3:22 AM PST
    On the other hand. If you signed up to be a part of a rolling-thunder group ride, you might want to try to keep up. Most of the guys I ride with push it, and I personally have no problem with that, but I know if I get left behind... their attitude if 'see ya! wouldn't wanna be ya!"

    One aspect that hasn't come up yet is civil liability. I doubt that a guy in the leader position on a ride like this is criminally culpible, but keep in mind that the civil action is far easier to prove. If someone gathered a perponderance of evidence (more likely than not) that "but for" the leaders words or actions the accident wouldn't have happened... slam!
  • February 18, 2010 3:39 AM PST
    Well, this was a typical sunday ride no different than any other, regardless of who was leading or how fast they were going. I would still have waited for this stretch of road I know like the back of my hand, checked my mirror, got in the left lane and opened it up, the same bikes would have tucked in behind me and let them rip too. This kid and his dad would still have been at the near of the pack, we did this every sunday together. I only go fast with the people I know and trust.

    It could have been any one of us leading that particular day that's not the issue. You can look at it this way, if I had not gone riding that day, they may have rode north or south instead and it never would have happenend. OR ... a helicopter could have crashed and killed all seven of them, then I could think if I had only rode that day we would have gone west and no one would have got hurt.............

    Bottom line is shit happens one way or another, had he been racing me side by side and crashed nothing would change, I was miles ahead of him when it happened. We leave no one behind and would have gone back even if that jeep hadn't told us something had happened.
  • February 18, 2010 3:44 AM PST
    IMHO, you are going way to fast on public streets in the first place.

    As far as responsibility, I have to agree with many of the people who posted; the rider should be responsible enough to know what his/her limits are and ride within them. However, as the ride leader you may want to take in consideration who is riding behind you. Young people like this guy tend to want to prove they can keep up, and are not going to be the one left behind to catch up. My suggestion would be if you have to ride like that make sure everyone in your group is capable of either riding at those speeds, or at least mature enough to make the decision not to.
  • February 18, 2010 3:52 AM PST
    Flatlander - I don't intend anything person about you. Not my point. Actually, like I said I think speed is awesome and go for it. Let the chips fall where they may.

    Put it another way. You can ride as slow as you want to, with no lights or reflectors, and wear cammo so you blend in with the road and the scenery if that's your thing. Just don't whine when you get run over by a cage. Or stay home and die of a heart attack from eating 14 fried chickens a day, just don't cry about it