Sometimes "it" Happens

Ed McGrath with his daughters Chelsea and Brittany.
Ed McGrath with his daughters Chelsea and Brittany.

I just got home from attending a memorial service for two lovely people killed by a heroin addict who apparently nodded off and veered into the oncoming lane and struck their motorcycle. This is a tragedy that is made worse by the fact that the two people were father and daughter.
My brother’s deceased friend Ed loved sharing his passion for riding with his daughters…something I have done for many years with Jeannine. The unimaginable happened when something completely out of their control occurred and their lives ended in a flash.
Read the news story.
Read Ed’s obituary.
Read Britanny’s obituaries

Avoidable?

Ed was doing nothing to jeopardize his and his daughter’s safety except the fact that they were on a motorcycle. It was 3:30 on a sunny midweek afternoon with good visibility and little risk of drunk or stoned drivers (unlike midnight on a Saturday night). Yet, Ed and Brittany were at the receiving end of a one-in-a-million chance that a stoner would cross the centerline just as they were in the vicinity. Why it happened simply cannot be explained.
Some would say that putting you and a loved on one a motorcycle is jeopardizing your and their safety. And they would have a good argument. I’ve known too many people who have lost their life while riding and there is nothing telling me that that trend will end anytime soon.

The Takeaway

In reality, there is not a lot I can say about the situation that killed my friend and his daughter. It sounds like it happened instantaneously, so that parking lot practice to improve his braking or swerving skills wouldn’t have likely helped.
So, what does this all mean? To me, it is yet another sobering reminder that riding a motorcycle comes with the real risk of death, or worse. I know we all “know” this as fact, yet I’m not sure we really “know” what it means until it happens to us. So, we keep riding, as we should. Just remind yourself from time to time just how vulnerable you are and to not take your safety for granted…it is not guaranteed.
What we can take away from tragedies like this is a renewed diligence to be the best riders we can be. Not only for ourselves, but for our loved ones. The pain and sorrow I saw at the memorial service today is evidence of just how deeply we are missed.
Sometimes, as is the case of Ed and Brittany there is truly nothing we can do to prevent a crash. So, we must decide…do we stop riding? Or do we ride on, knowing the odds are mostly in our favor? You choose.

There is Hope

Thankfully, the vast majority of incidents are avoidable with excellent mental and physical skills.
Do yourself and the people who care about you a big favor and learn all you can about motorcycle safety and refine your control skills and ability to perform evasive maneuvers so that you at least have a chance of avoiding tragedy.
Share your thoughts below.


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"Riding in the Zone" Personal Training

AMA Charter Certificate
AMA Charter Certificate

The Riding in the Zone Motorcyclist Training Program is kicking off it’s third season with the support of the American Motorcyclist Association and the Massachusetts Rider Education Program (MREP).
I’m excited to see the RITZ street riding program grow. Students are signing up now for the summer. If you’re interested in participating, please visit the Personal Training Tours Page.

Scholarship Possibilities

One of this year’s students was able to receive the Paul B. Memorial Scholarship from the BMW/MOA Foundation for rider education. Here is an article about another rider who received a BMW/MOA scholarship to attend Lee Park’s Total Control course.
I understand that the cost can be prohibitive for many, which is why I will be reaching out to other organizations and put together a list of available scholarships. If you know of such a program, please drop me a line. My goal is to make this program available to as many motorcycle riders as possible.

Available Dates

I am scheduling training tour dates during the week when possible, but a weekend day is not out of the question.

Ken teaching an MSF course.
Ken teaching an MSF course.

Group Training Tours

Personal Training Tours are designed for one or two riders, which allows individualized training.
However, group days can be arranged. Last season, we conducted a two-day tour with the Women’s Motorcyclist Foundation Road to the Cures Program. If your group of friends or a club wants to talk about a training day (or weekend), Give me a shout.
Read more HERE.
Also, read the Personal Instruction web page to learn all about the Program. If you have any questions, Contact Me.

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Dual Sport Motorcycling: Discovering My Little Town

I ain't Scared. Bring it on!
I ain’t Scared. Bring it on!

I’ve lived in my small New England town for over 20 years. It’s a town that is nestled on the eastern foothills of the Berkshires. Ashfield, Massachusetts is pretty large when measured in square miles, but is quite small when you are counting human beings. In those twenty years, I have driven and ridden most of the roads that Ashfield claims ownership to. One reason I moved to this hamlet from the brick and concrete of Olde Boston Towne was for the awesome motorcycling roads.
It’s true, my town, and the immediate towns that border the place I call home, can brag to have some of the best motorcycling roads in the Commonwealth. Every weekend I can swing by the local gas station, Lakehouse Restaurant or Elmer’s Country Store and see license plates from surrounding states mounted on all types of bikes. It’s that kind of place.

Pavement is Great, But Don’t Forget the Dirt

While Ashfield is well-know to savvy riders for its awesome twisty tarmac and light traffic, only those riders who dare to explore the dirty roads of Ashfield and vicinity truly discover the soul of this small Massachusetts hilltown. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that in my two decades living in Ashfield, I have only explored a tiny bit of what is available for a dual-sport rider to see and experience. It’s not that I haven’t had a machine to do the job. My 2000 Suzuki DRz400 is more than capable of handling the dirt (or mud) roads that connect remote parts of town to the civilization of Main Street, Rt 116 and 112 that are the lifelines to the Pioneer Valley.

The definition of bucolic.
The definition of bucolic.

These dirt roads aren’t hard to find. However, it does take a bit more time and a certain commitment to make the turn onto one of the many unpaved roads. I’m always rewarded with epic views, tree-lined paths, and bucolic farmscapes. Look for roads marked by green hand-carved signs with names like “Bug Hill Road”, “Lilliput Road”, and “Brier Hill Road” for an adventure and journey into New England’s past.
A short excursion off the pavement.
A short excursion off the pavement rewards me with nice vistas.

But Wait, There’s More!

The roads I’ve talked about so far are doable by most street bikes, so they are not exactly challenging for the really adventurous dual-sporter. For those wanting more than smooth dirt roads, there are plenty of logging roads, snowmobile trails and even single-track nearby. Recently, I’ve been exploring the un-maintained roads through the Hawley State Forest. These are public ways that once used to be busy thoroughfares, but are now grown in and largely forgotten.
Some of the off-road routes are private, and only permitted to be used by snowmobiles, but I try not to let that stop me. A quiet exhaust and a brief visit usually offends no-one. Loud pipes and disregard for private property will ruin it for all of us, so if you can’t play nice, please stay away.

New Bike Says “Let’s Play”

Three deer came by for a closer look at the Green KLX.
Three deer came by for a closer look at the Green KLX.

A lot of my riding involves big street bikes that I take all over the East Coast. These trips are epic and I will never stop doing them, but sometimes I just want to play. I recently bought a very playful Kawasaki KLX250s to replace my trusty DRz. I decided to buy the KLX because the Suzuki is set up to be more of a serious off-road bike than a playbike. The DRz is a bit of a brute; it’s tall, and hard-edged. The KLX, on the other hand, is unintimidating, playful and begs to be ridden.

Rekindled Passion

I’ve been riding motorcycles of all kinds for over 40 years. As is often the case, the passion and exuberance of my youth has softened significantly so that there is a danger of riding motorcycles to become same-old, same-old. I’m happy to report that the new bike has sparked the old passion for simple exploration. With the addition of the little KLX in my garage, my desire to simply jump on the bike and explore is rekindled. Just in time for the new riding season.
How do you keep the love alive with your relationship with motorcycling? Dual-sport? Dirt or trial riding? Racing? What? Share your thoughts below.

Elmer's Store. A must visit destination.
Elmer’s Store. A must visit destination.

Some Ashfield Attractions:

  • Ashfield Lakehouse: A really popular biker stop. Great food!
  • Elmer’s Store: Best pancakes around. Step back in time! A popular breakfast place to start a ride and is the meeting spot for the Riding in the Zone Personal Training Tours.
  • South Face Farm: A genuine Sugar Shack that serves pancake breakfasts during the sugaring season (that’s Spring time for you city folks).
  • Ashfield Lake: A quiet lake with wildlife galore. Loud pipes scare the wildlife!
  • Double-Edge Theater: A world-class theater that specializes in outdoor performances.

South Face Farm
South Face Farm


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"Why We Ride" Movie Review

My wife hates it when I dissect a movie after seeing it. She would say, “Can’t you just enjoy what it has to offer?”. Well, at the risk of alienating my RITZ blog readers who really want to like the “Why We Ride” movie, I will now poop on your parade.
Speaking of poop, please take my opinion as what it is. You know what they say about opinions? No? They say, “Opinions are like ***holes: everyone has one, and most stink”. Well, hold your nose because here is my opinion.
Before I give you my review, take a look at the trailer:

Pretty good, huh? Let’s see what it’s really like…

Beautiful Videography
Beautiful Videography

Video Craftsmanship: A-

The trailer gives a good impression of the visual quality of the film, which is very, very good. The videography is beautiful and inspirational. But, what is up with all the slow-mo?
I love super-slow motion footage, especially the shots of Moto GP racers dragging elbow. And the footage of the rubber-mounted Harley Davidson XR1200 race bike engines rocking in their frames at idle made me LOL.
But, there is a thing called “too much of a good thing”. The slow motion stuff was cool for about half the film, but unfortunately, it went on and on and on and on.
And why on earth would you show only slow motion footage of race bikes on the high banks of Daytona and never show how it really feels at over 170 mph? I know plenty of friends who could have provided some awesome on-bike video that would have driven home the craziness of the Daytona banking at speed. All they needed was one or two trackside shots of a bike flying by to paint a better picture.
I’ll admit that the super-slow stuff is fun to watch, but it kinda distanced me from what riding is really like. I get that the director was wanting to set a tone of romance and wonder, but for an enthusiast, I was a bit bored toward the middle of the film, partly because the action wasn’t really engaging at slow motion. It comes off more as a parlor trick.

Music: C-

The sappy music department worked overtime on this film. Again, I get what they were trying to do, and I’m sure the violin music hit a sentimental chord (ha, ha) with a lot of viewers, but it tried too hard. Mix it up with some raunchy head smacking tunes now and again to represent the vigor that many of us experience when riding. I can understand why they might not want to represent motorcyclists as people who relate to AC/DC (or whatever floats your boat), but everyone knows that motorcycle riders aren’t typical people who gaze with soft-focus at our bikes with violin virtuosos playing quietly in the background. My iPod tends to stream tunes that are a bit less somniatic (It means “puts me to sleep”… and I know it’s not a real word, I looked it up).

The message is all about family, fun and adventure.
The message is all about family, fun and adventure.

Overall Message: B+

The message this film delivers is “riding a motorcycle is fun”. Duh! I am reminded of the introductory video shown to new MSF students at the beginning of their first classroom session. It’s a lovely little diddy about the joy of riding a motorcycle. It includes many of the same things “Why We Ride” has, including fun action shots (at full speed) and interviews with interesting people. But, the message is delivered in about 5 minutes. “Why We Ride” took one point five hours to deliver the same basic message.
Granted, the film is intended to deliver more than a message, it is also about entertainment (maybe more so). So, in that regard it is worth the extra hour and 25 minutes.
Here is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation “Welcome to the Ride” video:

Is “Why We Ride” worth Seeing?: A

Yes. The fun shots of the families and kids are priceless, as are the interviews with some of my motorcycling heros, which makes the film well worth seeing.
I was totally loving the film during the first third and then they unmercifully started beating the poor dead horse. I get it, I get it. Riding is awesome and people who DO NOT ride are missing out on life. I couldn’t agree more.
It’s a movie that you will want your family and friends to see as an attempt to convey just why you ride a motorcycle. They still might think you’re nuts, but it’s worth a shot.
Both enthusiasts and regular people will like this film, as long as you don’t expect a groundbreaking classic here. For that, rent “On Any Sunday” , or if you love roadracing try “Faster” and the sequel “Fastest” (see trailers below).
But,  that’s just my opinion…what is that smell?

My Movie Picks:

On any Sunday:

Faster:

Fastest:

How about buying a book?

How about buying a t-shirt for yourself or a loved one, or maybe a coffee mug?

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A Family who Rides Together…

The tribe
The tribe

My family is full of motorcycle riders, including my wife, Caroline and daughter, Jeannine. Enter another member of the family in the form of Matt, Jeannine’s boyfriend, who rides a 2008 Yamaha R6s and you’ve got a rolling tribe.
My family didn’t start out as motorcyclists. I believe it was my almost crazy obsession with the two-wheeled sport of motorcycling that caused my otherwise sensible wife, Caroline, to take the MSF course in 1995 and trust me to provide her with the constant flow of  knowledge necessary to survive riding a machine that seems to conspire at every moment to toss you to the ground. A few years later she became a MSF instructor.  (I have been an instructor since 1995).

Along came our lovely daughter, Jeannine, who probably assumed every kid’s mom and dad rode motorcycles. After all, there have been stacks of magazines covering every flat surface in the house since she was a baby.

Well, Jeannine is no longer a baby (but she’s still my little girl), and she is an accomplished rider in her own right. She works for Twisted Throttle, has just returned from a week long dual-sort trip through Alaska, and has become accomplished enough of a racetrack rider that I hired her as a control rider for Tony’s Track Days. Proud, this father is.

Now, she brings a new member to the family. Matt and Jeannine’s first date was a ride, he on his R6 and her on her ZX6R. Love at first sight. I discovered that Matt is a good guy (once I put the shotgun down and gave him a chance). I shouldn’t have worried; Jeannine makes good choices.

Caroline has let riding fade a bit more into the background since her many hobbies take her time and energy. However, there is always energy for our annual family motorcycle ride.
 


This year we went back to one of our favorite places on earth: The Blue Ridge Parkway of Virginia and North Carolina. We love the scenery, winding roads, the people and Will Beers, the owner of Willville Motorcycle Camp. Will is one of us…a guy who decided that he wanted to surround himself with mountain beauty and motorcycle riders who share his passion for the sport.

Enjoy the gallery of photos from our 2013 trip to the BRP and stay tuned for more posts about my motorcycling family.

 


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Thank You!





Check out these posts:


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