Monday, April 12, 2010

Serious Work Part I

Back when I first started riding, and venturing out longer and longer distances, I used to put down my 100 mile trips as exercise.  People would give me this funny look and say that riding a motorcycle isn't exercise.  I shot back that the vigilant attention and proper riding form were a good form of exercise.  Mentally, the concentration on what is happening around you and how you are riding within your environment is exercising many areas of the brain at one time that don't always function together in regular use.  And the proper riding form requires strong abdominal muscles for sitting up straight, arm muscles for holding the arms up and out with the elbows bent and thigh muscles for gripping the tank for better execution of turns and general control.  And if it wasn't exercise how come I was sore the next day??

Wow.  Those days are long ago, but not a distant memory.  No, I do not generally consider my 100 mile rides exercise anymore. :-)  It may be that I have regressed in my riding habits.  Or I have improved my muscular base.  Whichever it is, I generally am not sore after a regular days riding of 250-350 miles.  This weekend was the complete exception to any expectations I may have had.  Going to bed Saturday night I could still feel the vibration in my lower arms and legs from being on the bike all day.  Waking up Sunday morning at 5 AM to do it all again proved that sometimes those days aren't gone.  I was sore!  (Mr. Oilburner was too, so don't think I was the only wuss here.)

I only rode 183 miles on Saturday.  But I had to work the hardest I have ever worked since getting rid of the Suzuki to get those 183 miles. And it was worth every sore stinking muscle I could ever imagine!!

Mr. Oilburner and I volunteered to ride as Motorcycle Marshals for the Multiple Sclerosis Bicycle Event from Atlanta-Athens-Atlanta.  There are some tough people out there that used pedal power to cycle that distance in two days.  We merely patrolled the route to make it safe for those cyclists.

The marshaling planners did a great job in dividing the routes and groups, and we would be helping on the leg from lunch to Athens on Saturday and Athens to lunch on Sunday.  This isn't bad, just means we had to travel a little distance to arrive at our start points.


We were up early and on the bikes by 8 to reach the designated lunch spot to meet our fellow marshals and learn our responsibilities.  The 35 degree morning was not entirely welcome as we know the high today should be reaching about 67.  This means layers to start the journey and stripping before we begin the actual work.  Thank goodness for saddle bags...

As with any motorcycle gathering, we eye each other a little and ogle over their bikes a lot.  ;-)  The ice begins to melt and the finger pointing and farkle questions begin.  It is always interesting to see how other people farkle and trick out their bikes to determine if it just might work for me.  :-)

We learn our duties and are divided into groups and sections of road. There are 2 break points between lunch and Athens.  The first group patrols the road between lunch and the first break point.  The second group will patrol between the break points.  Then as the cyclists clear out the first section of road we all converge on the last section.  Mr. Oilburner and I are assigned to the first section and our group of 8 sets to work.  Our little section has a strange joggle through downtown Monroe, so we need to keep eyes out for bicyclists on the sidewalks as well as vehicles backing out of parking spots.  As far as I am aware there weren't any problems in this area.  After the first pass we are slightly reassigned and our little group has been split into two: patrol to Monroe and patrol from Monroe.  Easy-peasy.  My road between Monroe and the break point doesn't even have any turns!!

My first opportunity to help cyclists came after starting my second pass of the route.  A group of 3 cyclists had stopped after the first turn to scrutinize the route maps.  It seems the event planners were preparing for tomorrow and putting the direction signs up, confusing the route a little.  We had been instructed that when stopping for cyclists we needed to pull over to the other side of the road.  Nothing worse then a tired cyclist plowing into a stopped motorcycle...  But given the width of this section of road I didn't have much opportunity and immediately broke the rules.  (What else is new for me...)  Luckily the questions and answers were quick and easy and we were all on our way.

Upon learning of my new patrol area at the break point I head back along the route and have the excitement of encountering my first rider in real trouble!!  I dutifully stop the motorcycle on the opposite side of the road from him.  Really easy since I am on that side to begin with.  I then rush over to see how I can help!!  Turns out some metallic object sliced through his tire, making repair difficult.  It would be best just to call a support van to take him to the break point where a mechanic can replace the tire.  I rush back to my motorcycle to call the support vehicle!  Wow!  I'm helping!!  How cool is this?!?!  Support says that a van is on its way and asks me to stay with the cyclist.  Can Do!!  But no sooner were the words out of my mouth then the support vehicle arrives.  So much for waiting... :-)  The cycle and cyclist are loaded and the van speeds off.  I hop on my bike happy to continue my worthy patrol!  I am helping!!

Just to fill you in, my little 6 mile stretch of road has a speed limit of 30 through town and 45 outside of it.  It has been recommended to us that 35 mph with flashers on is a good speed to patrol, keep an eye out for cyclists or anything that might hinder dogs.  So I am happily motoring back and forth, and back and forth...and back and forth.  We are wearing high-visibility vests but our Marshal banners are on the front of our bikes.  So sometimes the cage drivers become a little agitated encountering us on the motorcycles when they don't understand what we are doing.  I generally tried to move as far right in the lane, like white line right, as I could and wave them on when safe.  Once the drivers understood our significance for the cyclists on the road and that we weren't trying to hold them up they were generally OK with us.  But it did make me a little uneasy sometimes when bicycles weren't around.  The last thing I want is some cage driver mad at me.  In the future I think we will print up some banners for the rear of the bikes.  Something meaningful like: Caution: Cyclists Ahead.  Something that will keep the cage drivers alert.

So with all of this I wasn't terribly surprised when a motorcyclist encountered a problem with a vehicle.  After helping my first troubled cyclists, I am heading back towards the break point and see that my leader is pulled onto the side of the road (opposite) and surrounded by 3 cars and quite a few people.  As there isn't a bicycle involved and everyone appears calm and vertical I continue my patrol knowing the cyclists need my help more then my leader.  I found out later that my leader had been rear-ended on his trike (he was riding a three-wheeled motorcycle).  Unfortunately that intersection was just a bad one.  Just before he was hit I had passed through and some inattentive dimwit must have mistaken my flashers for a right turn signal.  She turned left just in front of me.  Luckily I was already traveling so slow.  But I still had to slow down further to keep from hitting her.  My leader was OK, just damaged the fender of his bike a little.  It just confirmed my suspicions and kept me alert.

Back to my job...  The cyclists are fewer and farther between.  Just as I am nearing the crest of a hill a cyclist pulls into a driveway.  Perfect timing for me as I can just turn left right behind him.  He is off the bike and sucking the remaining drops out of his hydration bottle.  He asks me how far to the break point and what does the terrain look like.  We happen to be standing right next to the "Break Point 2 Miles" sign and I tell him there are two pretty good hills between us.  Nope.  He's done.  Call the support van to take him to the break point.  He can get a little rest before continuing the final 20 miles.  I hand him some spare water bottles I am carrying for just this occasion, call the support van and again amazed at their immediate arrival.  I shouldn't be too amazed as it is their job to troll the route, just like us.  So one is always relatively close by.  The cycle and cyclist are soon on their way and I am on mine.

The rest of the day is completely uneventful as far as my help is concerned.  Most of the cyclists are out of my area and we are told to move to the next break point and then start patrolling to the end point.  Let me tell you, that second section was the one to be on!!  Country roads with no cities!  But more hills for the cyclists.  ;-)  The only hiccup on this section of route comes from overlapping cycle routes.  It appears another cycling group is out today and the route signs are disturbingly similar.  So one of the marshals from the other group is stationed here to warn the cyclists.  It seems that before this was discovered some of our cyclists had taken the wrong route and had to be chased down and turned around.  :-)

By the time we make it to the last break point most of the cyclists have passed us by.  Our little group takes a short break and heads on down the road.  Expecting some interesting patrol here, as it is the last leg and I am thinking many people will be walking or dropping out.  But I actually only see one cyclist the entire distance.  Then sit in stop-an-go traffic in Athens, watching my motorcycle overheat.  This was a bad weekend for congestion with Spring Break, parents visiting (Athen's is a college town) and skirmish games for the Bulldogs.  But all is well and there isn't any trouble.  Most of the cyclists have already come through or been picked up.

We meet with our little group for a while, waiting for everyone to show up.  Some people will be staying in town.  Some, like us, are going home for the evening.  A couple aren't returning tomorrow, but most everyone else is.  So we mount our steads and high-tail it home to the pups and a warm bath!  In all it was a terribly fun day!! be continued.


  1. Dear Beemer Girl (Lori):

    I applaud your commitment to the Multiple Sclerosis effort through moto-marshaling. I have vicious arthritis and couldn't posibly match what you do as I have an extremely limited number of mounts and dismounts in a day.

    But I must admit I would not have anticipated temperatures of 35º (F) for Atlanta, Ga. (especially at this time in the spring.)

    I took my time reading your piece today, over a couple of cups of coffee, in fact. You painted a great picture of a Beemer cruising the "shipping lanes," looking for a bicyclist in extremis.

    I like the auxiliary riding lights you have mounted inboard on your "R" bike. What type are they? I have MotoLights on the forks, and PIAA HID lights mounted on the crash frame. (And I still get cars turning in front of me.)

    If you don't mind, I have added your blog to the "Destinations" list of "Twisted Roads." As you are undoubtedly aware, "Twisted Roads" is something of an acquired taste for some riders, in addition to being somewhat BMW centric.

    Nice post today.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  2. Dear Jack,

    I've just returned from a day of twisty riding in the rain but wanted to drop a quick note to express thanks for reading and commenting. I've been following your blog for a couple months now and find it entertaining and times. ;) J/K Sometimes the husband becomes annoyed when I'm laughing like a loon, then make him listen as I read to him to what had me cracking up. Sometimes I really relate to your experiences/thoughts/outlook.

    The lights on the crash bars are Hella's. I will try to remember the model, but I know they are no longer in manufacture. They are extremely bright and I receive comments about them whenever I ride with new people. No matter what they still won't stop everyone from turning in front of you. As you know, some people are just clueless. But I do believe their brightness and placement does make the front of the bike eye-catching to most. How do you like your MotoLights? I've liked their reviews.

    Will write more tomorrow. I will get the MS ride finished up. I have about 5 more stories to write behind this one even!! I need to get typing!

    BTW...honored to be considered for your "Destinations" list. Thank You!

    BeemerGirl: Lori

  3. Dear Lori:

    I have about 75 million candle-power on the front of my bike. The MotoLights are great for rider visibility. I ordered my set with 52-watt bulbs, to replace the 25-watt lights they come with. Then I replaced the headlamp with a 100 watt bulb sold by Asram in Great Britain. The HID lights on the crash bars have the intensity of two 300-watt bulbs. (Once lit, they burn at 30 watts apiece.) I can clearly see the pavement about 600 yards ahead of the bike. It should be noted, however, that the cost of these options came to $1070.00, not includng installation. There are those who say I am nuts.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  4. Good Lord!! With that much candle-power leading you people continue to turn in front of you? Are they nuts? I would be afraid of the low flying aircraft!! :-)