Adventures on Two Wheels

Documenting our adventures on the road.

Group Riding Safety

I came across this article recently. Since we had a large group for our ride last week, I thought it would be good to share it with everyone.
Group Riding Guidelines   – By Doug and Becky Westly
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Ultimately, the safety of motorcycle riders and their passengers is their own responsibility. Nothing presented in the column supersedes, negates or relieves a motorcyclist and/or passenger from assumption of personal responsibility for their own actions and safety.
Group riding guidelines differ between organizations, but here are some of the generally accepted basics:
  • A Ride Leader is responsible for route and direction of travel, but not for the speed of any individual group member. RIDE YOUR OWN RIDE.
  • Generally, riding in staggered formation, in the wheel track OPPOSITE of the bike immediately in front of you, is the accepted arrangement for a group ride. However, this can and does change with road and travel conditions. Changing conditions (road width, etc.) may require single file travel.
  • NEVER ride side-by-side in a single lane. Yes, in Florida it is legal and the motor cops do it. But they train to do that and you do not. Side-by-side riding reduces your margin of avoidance maneuvering and safety. Yes, other groups do it. Does that mean if they rode off a cliff, you’d follow them?
  • Safe spacing between bikes: While some advocate 1 second and others say 2 seconds are needed, the reality is you need the space required to make you feel comfortable about having a safe ride. Don’t park in your friend’s tail bag, and don’t lag so far behind that the group separates and becomes unmanageable.
  • Corners: We’re talking about those tight, fast, sweeping corners. Statistically, corners are responsible for more single vehicle motorcycle accidents than any other scenario. So why do they occur? The answer is pretty simple…too much speed at the corner entry and/or poor sight alignment. There are two basic fundamentals to keep in mind. First off, ride your own line through the corner. Don’t follow the other rider’s path. They may be a more accomplished rider, or moving faster on a machine more suited for cornering than yours. Or, they may have made a mistake and are heading off-road. If necessary, drop back a little ways before you get to the corner, so you have time to focus on your own speed and line. Second, always look where you want to go! The bike will follow your eyes, so remember to look through the corner.
  • Every rider is responsible for keeping the rider BEHIND him/her in sight. If you lose sight of the rider behind you, then slow down and wait for them to catch up. Never make a turn without the rider behind you observing the turn. If necessary, wait at the turn until the next rider can see your change in direction.
  • Passing: Quite often the group will come up on a slower vehicle or group. While the Ride Leader may decide to pass the slower vehicle(s), this is NOT the signal for everyone to simultaneously pull out and pass. A Ride Leader will make every attempt to ensure as much passing space/distance as possible, but you must decide if it is safe to pass. Wait until you are directly behind the slower vehicle to pull out and execute the pass, and MAKE SURE you have the space and time needed to safely execute the passing maneuver. If you have to wait for oncoming vehicles, don’t worry. The Rider Leader is expecting it and will not leave you! Safety always comes first.
  • Traffic lights and stop signs: NEVER run a light or stop sign just to keep the group intact. If the light turns yellow, go ahead and stop. If you have to wait at the 4-way stop, that’s fine as well. You will catch up. It’s hard to enjoy the ride when you’re too focused on the group.

These are just some of the basic guidelines to group riding. Depending upon the group, there may be additional rules or expectations. Always know the group rules, and make sure they fit your style of riding!

Group Ride

BMW organized a ride to lake Arenal this week. Since it had been a while since we last rode with them, and Arenal is one of my favorite places to ride, we decided to join them. Quite a large group showed up for the ride so they decided to split everyone into groups to allow those with more experience to go a bit faster if they wanted and let the beginners feel more at ease riding at a more comfortable speed without feeling guilty for holding back other riders (those of you who know Ricardo, I don’t need to specify which group we rode with…). We would then meet up at different points throughout the ride.

We took the new toll road to Puntarenas. It’s not the most interesting road, but it’s the quickest way to reach the west coast. Once we reached Caldera, we took the road north until we arrived at the restaurant Caballo Blanco for a nice big tico breakfast. After everyone regrouped at the restaurant, we got back on the road north through Guanacaste. Guanacaste offers a very different landscape compared to the rest of Costa Rica, with mostly flat and dry land, yet manages to remain beautiful and colorful. It was extremely windy making it difficult for me to take pictures, but I managed to get a few shots.

As we approached lake Arenal, the clouds started to look a little menacing but luckily we managed to stay dry (meaning that I didn’t have to put my camera away, which I was thankful for since I always miss out on great pictures of the lake because of the rain in that area). The lake was the clearest I had ever seen it. It was absolutely gorgeous, making me extra thankful to still have my camera out. We made our way around the lake, past the Arenal volcano and stopped in La Fortuna for a small break at our usual pit-stop in the area.

Then, it was time to head home. We took the road south towards Naranjo and merged onto the 1 highway back to San Jose.

Fight Against Nature

Ricardo heard of a road that could take us from San Marcos de Tarrazu all the way to Quepos. As you’ll notice from the map, there doesn’t appear to be any road there, and to tell you the truth, there barely really is any. It was a nice sunny Sunday morning, so we decided to give it a try.

We headed east, but instead of passing through Cartago this time we went south towards San Isidro. We followed the 226 to San Marcos, where we left the main road and rode towards San Lorenzo.

At first we missed our turn to take the dirt path (I will call it a path since it doesn’t really qualify as a road in my eyes) to Quepos. But thanks to Ricardo’s great new GPS app on his phone, we were able to make a quick u-turn to get back on our previously anticipated route.

Once we got on the “path”, we were mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape. Aside from the path, we found ourselves in completely untouched nature. It was gorgeous. But then, in a worried voice, Ricardo told me to look ahead: dark clouds. Clouds and dirt roads are not a good combination because it often means mud and thus difficult maneuvering. We decided to continue on anyway and hope for the best. Unfortunately, we were right: mud! Ricardo did his best to keep the bike steady, but the wheels slid and we fell. We don’t let this discourage us. We pick up the bike (yes, my tiny muscles did help slightly in pushing the bike back up, so I can say we!) and try again. To help out, I walk the very muddy parts of the path to give Ricardo more stability. However, down we go again a few minutes later. We took a break and analyzed our options: (a) we keep trying and hope the path gets better further down, (b) we turn back around. We had only gone a few kilometers down the path so we decided it would be best to turn around at this point. Plus, we were alone on this ride and hadn’t told anyone where we were headed, so it sounded a bit risky to keep going.

As we turned around, Ricardo mentioned that the handlebar felt off. As soon as we got off the dirt path, we stopped to take a look. Sure enough, the whole front part of the bike had shifted (noooo, our new baby!!). When we slid the first time, we hit the side of the mountain (which, in my opinion, is a much preferable choice than sliding the other direction down the cliff!). The shock seems to have been hard enough to damage the front wheel’s shock absorber, displacing the handlebar and tank forward. After a quick call to the BMW mechanic to make sure we would not be damaging the bike more by riding it in this condition, we decided to call it a day and head home.

Although the mountain may have defeated us that day, we won’t give up. We’ll be back another day, more prepared, and make it through to the other side. Maybe we should think of investing in off-road tires…

Distance: 183,7 kilometers
Elapsed Time: 4:09:37
Avg Speed: 44,2 km/h
Max Speed: 147,3 km/h
Avg Pace: 01′ 22″ per km
Min Altitude: 1.087 m
Max Altitude: 2.343 m

Rough start, great finish

Another Sunday, another adventure.

This time, Gabriel and Ana joined us on our ride. We left early to pick them up in Heredia. We say our hellos, get on the bikes and off we go… or so we thought. We had barely travelled a few meters and I see Gabriel flagging us down. I let Ricardo know and we turn back around. Gabriel’s bike would not start! We tried pushing it to get it to start (first Ana, and then Ricardo gave it a push). That didn’t work, so they got the car out to try to jump-start it. Success! … but still, we took the jumper cables with us just in case.

Our plan was to go through Zurchi and come back around. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. As we approached the Zurchi tunnel, we found a line of cars waiting at a complete stop. We drove to the front of the line (that is one of the top luxuries of riding a motorcycle). A police officer informed us that the rode was closed and would not reopen until 2pm. So off to plan B.

We headed back towards Cartago and then went up in the direction of the Irazu Volcano. At the fork (marked by a large statue of Jesus, so you can’t miss it), we took a right instead of continuing left which would have brought us to the crater of the volcano. This is another nice mountain roads interrupted only by the occasional country town, although the road was not in perfect condition and, I would even say, a bit bumpy. After passing Pacayas and Santa Teresa, we stopped for a nice brunch. I say brunch only because it was already past 11am by this time, and some chose to have breakfast food while others opted for lunch.

We got back on the road and continued around through Turrialba, La Suiza and then Cachi until we finally arrived in the valley of Orosi. We stopped to enjoy a granizado from our favorite vendor in front of the Orosi mission and watched some local soccer as we ate/sipped on our Sunday snack. Since this was their first time in Orosi, Gabriel and Ana took a few minutes to visit the mission before we left.

We stopped again a few kilometers later to take some pictures of the valley before heading home. And 30 minutes later we were back home, ready to relax and watch American Idol.

Note: Ricardo just downloaded a new ap on his phone which allows us to get accurate maps of our rides and calculates the exact distance we travelled, time on the road, speed and even altitude info. Here are the details of this ride:

Distance: 200,2 kilometers
Elapsed Time: 4:37:55
Avg Speed: 43,2 km/h
Max Speed: 128,8 km/h
Avg Pace: 01′ 23″ per km
Min Altitude: 581 m
Max Altitude: 1.773 m

Note: I am sad to report that Gabriel and Ana have just sold their motorcycle in preparation for a different type of adventure. We are sad to lose such great riding partners but wish them all the happiness in what’s to come. We hope to see them on the road again someday.

A change of scenery

This December, we went to California to visit my family for the holidays. During our time there, my step-dad took the guys for a ride, California style. However, since I wasn’t there, I can’t write about it. So, until one of them decide to narrate their adventure, here are a few pictures of their ride:
The boys are ready to go…
Enjoying a very different scenery than what we are used to in Costa Rica, but definitely not any less beautiful.
The happy son-in-laws.
* Photos courtesy of Khoa.