Monday, April 28, 2008

The making of a road captain

This is my friend, Wally. Last summer I joined a riding group called the Southern Cruisers on his recommendation. He belongs to the chapter in Brampton and I belong to the one in Toronto.

Every Southern Cruiser ride has a Road Captain, who rides in front and is responsible for setting the pace and leading the group through traffic. It also has what members of the SC call a Tail Gunner, who rides last and helps the Road Captain by doing things like changing lanes at the same time as the Road Captain so the rest of the group can change lanes safely in between the two of them.

Most riding groups have some version of both. Members of have a Ride Leader and a Sweeper, who brings up the rear and makes sure no one gets left behind.

This past Sunday, Wally took his Road Captain test with his Brampton chapter, and led his first SC ride.

Here is the group before the ride.

The last photo shows Wally discussing the ride route with Bill, the senior road captain who was along to observe. He still has to get input from the other road captains before Wally gets the green light to become a road captain. Fingers crossed!

Postscript: Wally totally aced the whole thing and has been leading rides for his chapter of the Southern Cruisers all summer. I borrow him sometimes, too. He's a great ride leader!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

First all-day ride of the season!

My riding buddy Timothy had to go to Sturgess Cycle in Hamilton to pick up his new bike and the day was gorgeous, so I went with him. Here he is, with his new love.

And here he is, gearing up to ride!

We hit up Snake Road in Burlington first. But that's a very short ride -- you can do it end to end and back the same way in 20 minutes. Timothy wanted to get a good feel for his new baby.

After my disappointment checking out the condition of Southwood 13 yesterday, we figured most of the twisties up north would be in similar condition. Some of the fellas on the boards said Forks of the Credit Road near Caledon here in Ontario was still pretty sandy. Highway 507 isn't very technically challenging, but it slaloms nicely and gets a lot of traffic, so decided to head up there to see if it was any cleaner.

Here's a map of how to get to the 507 from the 401. The section from B to C is the part that is the 507. And here's a link to the complete Google map.

It was almost pristine. Here's a pic I took of Baby while I was waiting for Tim to ide by so I could get action shots of him on his new baby. There was some sand on the side of the road, but the road itself was quite clean. We were able to push the speed limit a little bit. Fast enough to get some nice leans on the sweeping curves.

Here are some nice shots of Timothy putting his new ZX-6R through her paces.

You gotta admit the lad has excellent taste in his choice of colour. (grin)

We looked *GOOD* riding together. I'm not prejudiced at all! (laughing)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Southbeach 13

I was hoping to go on a couple of group rides this weekend up to Southwood 13 north of Orillia. If you click on the Google map on the right you'll get a better look at the road.

But it was so full of sand during that glorious week-long thaw in January, I decided I better go scout it out before taking anyone up there.

Good thing I did.


That's what I'm calling it now. As you can see in the pix on the right, there is so much sand it might as well be one long, curvy beach.

Never got out of 2nd gear the whole time -- and was in 1st for much of the time because the asphalt was so broken it was like riding on gravel.

Even where there isn't sand, the winter heave has wreaked havoc with the asphalt and turned it into gravel-sized chunks. The road is almost impassable on a bike.

I rode it as far as I could -- almost to the end -- but couldn't go more than a kilometre past the last railway crossing because the road was flooded. Forgot to take my camera out to get a pic of the flood, but on the way back (knew there wasn't anyone behind me) stopped a few times to chronicle the sad state of one of my very favourite twisties.

Forget about riding Southwood for more than a month. It needs major repairs and several heavy rains before it's safe. Normally, it's 30 to 45 minutes from one end of Southwood to the other. Today, it took an hour and 15 minutes each way.

Baby's got new shoes -- and the riding season is open!

Two weeks ago I went and picked up Baby from Brampton, where she was taking her winter nap in the garage at my friend Wally's house. It was barely above freezing, so I wore my heated gloves and Gerbings heated liners (they all daisy chain and plug into a harness I connected to the battery) under my leathers. Had an appointment at Riders Choice in Mississauga to get new tires and a chain put on her. Bought them as part of a special deal they offered at the bike show in January, and part of the deal was that the installation was free.

Even inner-city roads and highways were still pretty messy that weekend. Some of the turns -- especially on highway ramps -- were pretty hairy because they were still full of gravel and sand. But the ride to the shop was mostly uneventful, if you don't count the ditzy woman in the Toyolla Coronary who decided to pass me on the inside of the "on" ramp to the 410 South off Sandalwood. Almost ran me into the guard rail. I don't think she was *TRYING* to run me into the guard rail. I just don't think she cared if she did.

My friend Leslie, who had given me a lift to Brampton, was following me in her car. I could almost hear her cursing -- she's very protective when I'm on Baby. Thought for a minute she might try to chase after the ditz, so I started flashing peace signs.

But idiots are everywhere in the GTA. If I let myself get upset every time someone pulls a boneheaded move like that I'd be constantly exhausted. So I concentrated on getting to Mississauga in one piece and enjoying the rest of the ride.

Baby's old tires were touring tires, which aren't particularly suited for the kind of riding I like to do. The kind of riding I'm trying to learn to do. But at the beginning of last summer I thought I was going to be riding to Oregon and didn't want to have to change tires before I got back. So I had touring tires put on her.

But then I couldn't find anyone to ride to Oregon with me, and still had touring tires. Regretted it many times over the course of last summer. Even on the ride down to North Carolina and Tennessee. Yes, that was touring -- but could have used sticky tires when I was on the Tail of the Dragon.

LOOOOOOVE my new tires. Metzeler M3s: compound tires that are hard in the middle and soft on the sides. Really sticky. They fight me when I try to turn the bars when Baby's at a stop.

It rained a lot that first week, so we didn't get out much -- just when the rain stopped for a little while. Didn't go far, because the rain came in spits and spurts. and never knew when it was going to start pouring again. But didn't really mind -- we needed the rain to wash away all the sand, and, in some places, ice that was still on the roads.

And I'd just landed a whack of work (interesting stuff on the hydrologic system and how Canadians use water), so didn't have much time to ride last week, anyway.

So this past Sunday -- my birthday -- was the first day I got out on Baby for more than a few minutes at a time. Rode her to a Chic Riders meeting at the Goose & Firkin on Leslie St. north of Lawrence. This was my second meeting with them. I signed up at a meeting in March. I think I'm going to like riding with these folks. They seem to be a really together group of women. It wasn't cold enough on Sunday to wear the Gerbings, but it *WAS* still cold enough that only two other women showed up on their bikes. So we didn't go for a group ride afterward.