When to Say “No” to a Group Ride

I haven’t been able to do a lot of riding this summer for a variety of reasons, so when my buddy invited me on a group ride up Angeles Crest Highway last Sunday I was keen to get out there.  That is until I was told who else was coming.

  • One college-aged, slightly aggressive rider.  He’s a good kid and wants to get to the track, but like a lot of young riders who haven’t had the privilege yet, rides a little too hard in the canyons sometimes.
  • One twenty something female noob with 6 months or less experience, who got a Suzuki GSX-R600 for her first bike.  Let’s call her Fnoob.  She had to lower her bike quite a bit but still drops it all the time.  All the time.
  • Fnoob’s dad, a long time Harley rider.  Let’s call him Noobdad.  He bought his daughter the GSX-R600 when she wanted to start, then bought himself a GSX-R1000.

Angeles Crest Highway is no place to screw around on a motorcycle.  Let’s just say there are lots of ghosts up there and it behooves every rider to treat that road with respect.  My buddy knows how to ride and although he doesn’t have a ton of canyon experience, he has a good attitude about riding within his limits and making sure he gets home in one piece.  I was surprised that he was still eager to ride with this group, but then again he’s excited just to get out there anytime.  The biggest concern for me was Fnoob’s inexperience and propensity to drop her bike, along with Noobdad being a total wildcard.

I don’t know the guy at all but I think it’s a bad idea to run out and buy your kid a brand new sportbike that can do 0-60 in 3 seconds when she’s just starting out, not to mention buying yourself an even faster version.  I have no idea if this was due to ignorance, hubris or miscalculating power when comparing cruisers and sportbikes (a 600cc cruiser will be slow but a 600cc sportbike will outrun any cruiser regardless of engine size).  I declined to come along and it turns out my instincts were right.

The group rode Angeles Crest Highway to Newcomb’s Ranch, a favorite biker hangout.  They had been joined by yet another rider, an acquaintance of my buddy, who showed up on a new Kawasaki ZX-14 but without the proper experience.  When they sat down for lunch, Noobdad ordered a beer.  So did Fnoob.  My buddy was in disbelief.  I never drink when riding nor ride with anyone who does.  I would have excused myself from the ride after leaving lunch, but my buddy stayed with the group as they rode further up Angeles Crest to a lookout point.

On the way back down the mountain, the ZX-14 rider binned his two-month old bike into a pole and totaled it.  Good times.  After waiting 90+ minutes for a tow truck, the remaining riders continued the trek down the mountain.  My buddy was a little spooked from the accident, but not Noobdad.  He passed everyone in the group, over double-yellow lines, dragging his daughter with him going way faster than they had any business going.  At that point my buddy finally realized he was better off behind them and let them disappear into the curves.  “Never again” were his exact words.

If you find yourself on a group ride with people with the wrong attitude (or drinking habits), don’t be shy to excuse yourself.  Better yet, just decline the invitation if you’re not 100% comfortable with everyone going.  Yeah it might be awkward but a little awkwardness is a lot better than an accident.

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