I have to admit after so many years of not riding on the road, I am really enjoying the feeling of freedom that heading out for a cruise on two wheels gives you. There is a totally different feeling however when riding alone as opposed to in a group or with a few buddies. While most of the time when I go for a cruise I have my lovely wife as a passenger, most times we head out without expectations or even a destination and we are both fine with that. As soon as you add a few more machines to the mix and you are the lead bike the pressure is now on. Not only do you now have to make sure the ride lives up to everyone’s expectations, you have try to time things such as traffic lights and passing slower vehicles so you don’t lose anyone along the way.
Back in August I took a couple of rides with Inside Motorcycles editor Patrick Lambie. He was in Ontario for a couple of weeks testing some bikes so it was a good time to catch up as well as twist throttles on some country roads. The first time we got together Patrick was on a beautiful new Harley Davidson but man was that thing a tank. After the boss picked up the tab for breakfast we went for a relaxing Sunday cruise. While the ride was enjoyable, I know Patrick likes a little bit of speed and a little bit of lean angle in his riding so we agreed to reconvene the following week when he would be testing a Yamaha MT-09.
I had invited my buddy Gary to come along and apparently he was a bit excited as he showed up at my place almost half an hour early. The plan was to meet Patrick in Listowel which is about 45 minutes from my place so a quick trip for some fuel was in order. I noticed Gary struggling to keep his Interceptor running on the way to the gas station and even as I filled my tank he was fighting to get the machine fired up. What I thought was looking to be a crappy start to the day turned out to be a quick fix as Gary had just forgotten to turn his fuel petcock on. Yes he was excited!
Gary and I headed towards Listowel with Tim Hortons being the not so surprising location for meeting up with Patrick. After a quick coffee and some racing and motorcycle talk, we headed outside to where the bikes were parked. For about the next ten minutes Patrick and I checked out the Interceptor, Gary and I checked out the MT-09 and well nobody really looked at my bike except the guy who almost clipped it with his truck in the parking lot. Despite a slight feeling of bike envy it was time to head out on our journey as Gary told us he would do his best to keep up on the straights.
As the leader of our posse, I felt a bit of pressure instantly for the reasons I had mentioned earlier as well as wondering what would be a comfortable speed for everyone not only because of riding ability and road conditions, but of course riding close enough to the speed limit as to not attract the attention of the local police. There are a lot of cool roads not far from my place so the plan was to head back that way and take Gary and Patrick on some of my faves but I sincerely hoped the ride wouldn’t become stale before I got us to familiar territory.
As I took us towards the Elmira and St. Jacobs area, it occurred to me that Gary and Patrick probably don’t have much experience dodging horse poop on the road. With Patrick living in Calgary and Gary in the greater Toronto area, I don’t think it is very often they come across a hundred Mennonite horse and buggies leaving church on a Sunday. I also wondered how all these people happen to know which horse and buggy is theirs since they all look the same but that is another story.
For about the next hour and a half we cruised some of my favourites close to home roads which just happen to have some pretty cool twisties as well as some nice changes in elevation. I did my best not to take us on the same roads twice but there were a couple of times I had to double back a bit on tarmac that we had already travelled. I think I set a comfortable pace and as was expected, I twisted the throttle just a bit more when we got to some of the s-bends along our way. Glancing in my mirror much more than usual, I noticed a few times that Gary did drop a bit farther back on his older machine that doesn’t quite stick to the road like the bikes Patrick and I were riding. As he had promised though, Gary would quickly be right back up with us as soon that skittery feeling he was experiencing in some of the tighter corners disappeared.
As we got into Elora, Gary needed gas and at that point it seemed like a logical breakaway point as we all had places to be within the next hour or so. We shared a few more laughs and then parted ways and just like that our ride was over. It seemed to go so quick and I instantly craved more. The initial feeling of leading the group had excited my head almost instantly when we started riding and I realized we were just three guys enjoying the open road on a beautiful summer day. Originally I had a few stops planned for some photo ops but unfortunately I seemed to forget those as soon as we started riding so I have very little in the way of photographic memories of our ride. Maybe next time.
That nervous feeling of leading the posse seems silly now. I don’t think I am ready to lead a Ride For Dad or anything but if a few of you ever want to go for a cruise I would love to show you some of my favourite roads.
- From Todd Vallee