The Rain Ride

by Anton Largiader

Friday afternoon, I left work (later than normal!) and headed west to Carlisle to meet Bruce and Mike Ormont for a weekend of touring. I headed west on 84 to Scranton, then south on 81 to Carlisle. There was a little bit of rain and fog on 81, but generally it was OK.

A note on average speed, here. From the moment I got onto 81, I cruised at 80mph wherever possible. I had 3 hours to cover the 200 miles, and I actually worried (at first) that I'd be way too early.  At 80, that distance is 2.5 hours, and I actually considered slowing down. But I knew that over-the-ground averages are much lower, so I maintained speed and decided to see how it worked out. Well, the inevitable slowdowns occurred, (traffic, interchanges, construction, rain) and after the first hour I'd covered 65 miles. Right on track, I thought, for a 3-hour trip. Holding speed where possible, after two hours the average was 67, with some more construction thrown in.  A true 80mph run until Carlisle, I figured, would get me to 70mph.  And with no delays, after 2.5 hours, the average was 69.6 when I hit traffic at Carlisle. The moral? None, really, but a 70mph average is harder to maintain than I thought. For the rest of the trip I let the Fuel+ do the math.

Rendezvous in Carlisle was a mess. My assigned meeting time was a bit earlier than needed, and I had trouble finding a good waiting spot. Bruce and I were wearing 900MHz Collett communicators, and for whatever reason (distance, terrain) we never made contact as Bruce and Mike approached. I eventually found them, though, and we set off for the Willow Hill exit, where we had some pizza and beer, dried out (it had been raining again) and then wound our way to the cabin.

Next morning, most of our stuff was dried out, and we packed the bikes just as it started to really come down again. In steady rain, we made it to a diner a few miles away for breakfast, and watched the rain. About 11:00, we didn't see any improvement on the way, so we set out northward. Basically, it rained all morning, and only well into the afternoon did we have any significant periods without rain.  But we still enjoyed ourselves, and we identified a few good roads for the Triple Pack. Around Renovo was the best area road-wise and scenery-wise, and that's also where it stopped raining. We explored a strip mine, and looked at some antique cars owned by a friend of Bruce's. Our dinner plan was to head to Cook Forest State Park, then on to Oil City for dinner. We'd skipped lunch in anticipation of a hearty meal at Quaker Steak and Lube, and hunger was upon us. But in Cook Forest, we found that QS&L was actually in Sharon (90 miles away, not 30) so we put on our road faces and headed for I-80. Mike and I switched bikes for the slab run to Sharon, and we got there around 9:00, and got out around 11:00. Good food! Neat decor (Harleys and old cars hanging over your head). A motel room that Mike had reserved was taken when we arrived <grrrr> so we found another in Mercer, where we again tried to dry out our gear. Fuel+: 43mph, riding time 8 hours.

Sunday morning we woke, packed the bikes again (without rain), and an early start took us toward Warren on 62. I was on Bruce's K11LT, and Bruce was on Mike's R11RT. We planned our day over breakfast at Perkins', and then rode east on 6. I had my own bike back, but Bruce and Mike switched for a while longer. Route 6 is really a pretty nice ride; gentle curves, light traffic, and good pavement. You pass through a few small towns, but you can keep a good pace going, and it's a really pretty area. I think that for someone who's not in a hurry, it's a great alternative to I-80 for crossing the state. At Wellsboro, we picked up 287 south, which is also a great road! Twistier, good pavement, and good scenery the whole way. It follows a river for most of the way. Bruce took us on a detour to a friend's fantastic mountain getaway, but we couldn't stay long because Mike was due in NYC for dinner, so we headed on down to 80 and headed east. Bruce and I turned off and went to Shamokin, where we had a really nice ride over the mountains on route 125. Mountain riding - you really learn to lean the bike when you go through switchbacks! I think some pavement was renewed since the last time I went through there, because it was the nicest trip I've ever had on that route. No traffic, and no rain. Then it was I-78, 73, and other back roads to get me home after a really nice weekend of riding. Fuel+: 53mph, 8 hours.

Other notes:

Collett communicators: Bruce and I used them Saturday, and Bruce and Mike used them on Sunday. Good line-of-sight performance when the bikes are off, but we didn't get great range with the bikes running.  They're simplex, so if one person is talking, or the wind is keying his VOX micophone, the other person can't talk. I don't know of any bike-to-bike system which doesn't have this limitation, though.  One effect is that when responding, you have to wait for the other person's unit to stop transmitting (takes a second or two) or else your response will be lost. It does take a while to adapt to this, since normal conversation has instantaneous response.  Responding normally creates a lot of did you hear me? going back and forth. Also, the units are helmet-mounted with battery packs in your pocket. Not optimal for long rides, but great for situations where you get on and off the bike a lot. You can go into a store and ask your buddy (out on his bike) what kind of soda he wants, for example. My preference would be for a system which I can interface to my Autocom, though. This would give me duplex communication with a passenger, and eliminate the box on my helmet.

Bike swapping:

Fun!! The R11RT is a great power-on machine. On this bike, you realize with total sincerity that all speed limits should be abolished. Travel everywhere should occur at maximum speed. On a hardship basis, communities would be able to request an 80mph residential area speed limit, but approval would still be unlikely. The bike did feel more squirmy than my own fantastiK solid-as-a-rocK road machine, and there was considerable handlebar vibration, but for that kind of roll-on experience I'll forgive a lot. The LT was neat, too. It has more power, but doesn't feel like it. Smoother (but not like a triple) and more knee room. Same riding position as my K-RT. Handling was heavier, but that could be attributed to tire condition and my suspension upgrades as much as bike design. Overall, very much like my own bike.

Whew! That's about it. Great weekend overall. Rain Ride