Sunday, September 18, 2005

Flat 4 Tour Menomonie, WI

September 17 & 18, 2005

This weekend was the second F4T ride of the year, a ride that I’ve been putting together for 5 years now, twice each year. The fall ride is always smaller then the summer ride, we had about 30-35 people this time around. We had three groups riding, three people leading. I lead the slow group. Ridding the ST3, I arrived at Starks BP early in the morning, some people were already there, some were still rolling in to the gas station. The morning was foggy and cool, The high’s were expected to reach the 70’s. Looked like a nice weekend for a ride. The groups rolled out and headed west stopping only once in Stockton, IL for gas, then Dubuque, IA for lunch.

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When I arrived at Culver’s, one of the groups wasn’t there yet and I was informed that there was already a crash this morning near Galena. A new rider went off road in a corner. Rick arrived shortly with his group, the crash was minor, everything was good.

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We ate lunch and continued north stopping for gas in Iowa on the Mississippi River twice, then crossed in to Minnesota stopping again on the other side of the Mississippi in Wisconsin for gas. I was really enjoying myself, my group was great and I was having fun leading. I had a about half ST bikes in my group and half sportbikes. Andy was my back marker and since he is so much quicker then me though the tighter stuff, I suggested that he led the group up 88, the tightest road of the day. I took the position of back marker and relaxed for a while, we re-grouped just before entering Mondavi and I took lead again. We arrived in Menomonie just as it started to get dark.

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As we arrived at the Super 8 I found out that there was another crash in Rick’s group which took place on 88. He was pretty upset now, crashes are hard on the leaders and the group. They have to pull over and help the rider, make sure the bike and the rider are OK, it also delays getting to the next stop. Having to do that once in a day is bad enough, twice really sucks. The bike looked pretty bad, the guy was supposedly looking at cows and missed a turn. Our mileage today was about 400 miles and I would take a guess that some people just can’t ride that far, they get tired and loose concentration at some point.

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While the rest of the people took off for dinner and drinks to different places, Rick, Chris, Andy and I walked next door to Perkins. After doing this ride for so long and having people crash on each and every ride (except for one) I may just have had enough of it. I wasn’t in the mood to mingle. It was nice to have a quiet dinner with friends and go to bed before midnight.

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Sunday morning was beautiful. By the time we got to the first gas stop, two people had to run back to the Super 8, one left his watch behind and other left his cell phone, my back marker was one of the people, so I got another guy to take his place while he was gone. They would meet up with us as soon as they could, hopefully at the lunch spot.

We continued and as we rode the curves of road “N” the back marker from Rick’s group passed us going the other way motioning with his hand to slow down. Oh no! I knew exactly what that meant and I knew exactly what corner, there was a tricky “S” curve on this road, it’s tighter than all the others and not marked were well. The back marker from Rick’s group did a u-turn and led our group past the crash scene. I couldn’t really tell what had happened, the rest of the group was pulled over and waiting. I continued with my group to the next gas stop.

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We arrived at the lunch spot in Rockton at the BBQ place. One of the groups was already there, getting ready to eat. Over an hour later Rick arrived with his group. We found out what had happened. There were two crashes that happened right after one another. One rider went off road in a turn and crashed and the rider following him panicked and followed also crashing. Rick now had four crashes in his group on this ride and he was not happy.

We continued, although could not hook up with my back marker, they were already ahead of us. In Janesville some people headed for the northern suburbs of Chicago and some got on I-90. I continued via back roads alone.

I’m in a predicament. I love putting on this ride and introducing people to sport-touring, but I can not continue organizing a ride that people continually crash on, so for next year some changes must takes place. A pre ride? Invitation only? I don’t know yet. I hate seeing nice shiny bikes at the beginning the ride, looking crunchy, busted up at the end of the ride. At least this time no one went to the hospital. All the crashes are due to rider operator. New riders, riders not able to go though corners safely, and riding too fast and over their heads. Even though no one blames anyone and people that have crashed always say they have learned a big lesson from their crash, but still. The crashes impact the ride and other riders and give the Flat 4 Tour a bad reputation.

I used to able to sympathize with those that have crashed, but lately I can not. I look at myself. I can’t even flat foot any of my bikes, I’m not the greatest rider, so how did I manage to ride over 70,000 miles though unfamiliar curves without crashing? I ride in the rain, fog, in the dark and sometimes I’m very tired. I’m a bit surprised and I know my time will come, but I’m very cautions and I ride within my limits all the time.

1 comment:

Rick said...

Anna,

I love this ride! What I don't like are the people crashing, it really takes the joy out of riding when you see riders and bikes down. To have 4 riders go down in a group I was leading is very disturbing, I don't want people getting hurt, this is suspose to be fun. Yes, people will go down, sometimes due to rider error, sometimes due to circumstances beyond their control (my crash of Aug 10th) but to cancel a ride that is so much fun is a very sad thing. My only suggestion is no more, Slow, Intermediate or Fast groups, instead, groups labeled "Never done a tour", "I've done 2 or 3 tours", "I have done 3 or more tours". That way inexperienced riders do not get over their heads. The second day usually is the worst for crashes, too much partying happening the night before, I don't have a clue on how to impress on riders that it's a bad idea to party on the night before a ride.

Rick