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 Post subject: Rallies: What You Need to Know
PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:02 pm 
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Joined: Jul 25, 2003
Motorcycle: 98 Valkyrie
Rebel: 250
Country: USA
State/Province: GA
City: Vidalia
Motor Cycle Rallies

What you Need to Know

This is intended to be presented in two parts: the first part here is for those folks considering attending a rally; the second part is aimed at those folks considering hosting one. I encourage both camps to read _both_ parts, simply because one will help with the other. If fact, the only reason that it's being written up in two parts is because I already know that it's likely to be extremely long. ;)

All right then; down to business. :mrgreen:

So you've decided you want to see a rally. That's great. Now ask yourself why you're going. Seriously. Ask. Go ahead; I'll wait.

Well, that's not really fair, I guess. Most people are going to respond with "I want to go to a rally" or "I've never been to a rally." They will totally fail to consider the preconceived ideas running through their heads about just what exactly a rally is, and that, more than anything, is what I want to address.

You see, most folks have some idea about what a rally is. The sad part is, they're usually wrong. :( Most people don't give a lot of thought about the definition of the terms. Conversationally, that's fine. We can use one word when we mean another, and generally we all still get along fine. However, sometimes, the terms aren't interchangeable. Three of those words are "Ride," "Rally," and "group of motorcycles."

That's the big one. Most people today have, for various reasons, attended one or more organized group ride, and they seem to be under the impression that a Rally is an ever bigger organized group ride. However, the two are not the same. For one, a Rally is nothing more than people who love motorcycles for any of a thousand reasons getting together to meet other people who really enjoy motorcycles. At the majority of rallies, there isn't even a ride planned. Yes; I'm serious. The majority of rallies have no actual ride planned. Certainly some do have plans for at least one ride; some for more than that. But the bigger the rally, the harder it is to pull off a ride. Further, in small groups, conversation and company come easily enough that a ride is often a distraction to the "getting together" aspect.

This phenomenon is why "rallies" are called "Rallies" and not "Rides." While a Ride pretty much has to have a ride to be worthy of the name, a Rally has to have a Rally to be worthy of being called a rally. And a rally is a gathering, period.

So before you decide that you want to attend this rally and have a ride with the folks there, it would behoove you to find out if there is actually going to _be_ a ride. This is rather important! You don't want to travel six hundred miles for a ride that isn't going to happen. Just because there isn't going to be a ride doesn't mean that it's not a rally, and it doesn't mean that you won't have a good time. It just means that there isn't a planned ride. Nothing to stop you from trying to pull one off yourself when you get there, of course, but again: if there is no planned ride, don't expect that the people showing up for a no-ride rally are going to be raring to go on a ride just because _you_ want to. Remember, they were happy enough with a no-ride itinerary that they showed up. ;) It doesn't mean that they won't; it's just something to keep in mind.

Once you have ascertained that there _is_ going to be a ride, you need to find out all you can about the ride itself. Certainly you want to know where it starts, when it starts, where it's going, and how long it's going to last. But you need to know a lot more than that. For one, you need to make sure of the course. That is, you need to make sure that you yourself and your machine are capable of handling the course. Don't laugh just yet: certainly there is no chance that there is an "unridable" paved road anywhere in the world. But can you ride it at the posted speeds? A lot of folks run the tail of the Dragon at forty-five miles an hour. Still more of them run it at _five_ miles an hour. Which one are you? Just because you can make your motorbike putt back and forth doesn't mean that you have the skill to do what the pack is going to do. You _need_ to know up front. Nothing can ruin _everyone's_ good time faster than stopping every five miles to send someone back to hunt for you. Unless of course it's that kind of ride. We'll get to that shortly.

First, let's discuss the next thing you need to know about the ride. Is it going to be a pack ride? Don't think I'm kidding. The "Loop" at Bike Week is one of the most ridden ride courses in the country. It's not actually "scheduled." As I recall, there is one big inaugural every year, and then people just file through it for the rest of the week. It's really perfectly normal to find four hundred bikes on that loop, none of them riding together. They showed up stag; they rode stag; they're going to do their own thing when they get off of it. If you're going to run all the way to the Rally because they're having a ride, make sure it's going to be what you _think_ it is.

There are essentially three types of ride:

Free Rides, Pick-up Rides, and Organized Rides. Free rides are those rides like the Loop in Daytona: there's a defined course or a route that is recommended by the ride organizer. And that's pretty much it. Go if you want; don't go if you don't want. Leave when you want; turn back when you want-- whatever you want, when you want. That's it. Free rides are more common at the extremely big, multi-day rallies. In this sort of rally, it's just not practical to arrange for everyone to do the same thing at the same time; it's usually not even _possible_.

Pick-Up Rides and Organized Rides have been discussed in another post, which can be found through the following link: ... =pick+ride

For the most part, the essential difference is that a pick-up ride is a ride in which each person is responsible for himself and no one else. An organized ride is the sort of ride that most of today's riders are familiar with: the entire group watches out of the entire group, and everyone stays together and watches out for everyone else. Often times there are "buddy systems" and such as that to ensure that everyone is being watched over.

Each type of ride has its own advantages and disadvantages. Make certain that you know which sort of ride you're preparing to attend. Countless people have been extremely disappointed simply because they were unaware that the ride they were going to attend was not the type of ride that they were used to.

Many rallies are much more than just getting together on a shady porch and gabbing with each other. Just as many aren't. Again, it's up to you to find out what's going to be going on-- if _anything_ is going to be going on. If the only thing planned is a meet-and-greet, and you are expecting more, well-- you're going to be disappointed. If there are six rides, three dinners, a rafting trip and a sack race on the agenda and you just wanted a meet-and-greet and maybe some coffee... well, you're going to be disappointed and possibly a real fifth wheel as well. As before, don't assume that you know _anything_ about what's going to be going on at _any_ rally simply because you have some idea what has gone one at others. It is up to you to find out what's planned for the rally you're considering. If you don't, then there's only one person to blame for your disappointment. Sadly, what usually happens is that the disappointed person fails to realize that he is disappointed because he let his assumptions preclude doing ten minutes of research. Then he goes home and badmouths the rally, the people, the organizer, and whatever hosts there might have happened to be. It's kind of sad, and it's really depressing, particularly in light of the number of rallies that very behavior has closed down in the past few years. :(

Find out what is or isn't on the menu for this rally before you sign up. Certainly, the rallies posted on the board often feature in-depth write-ups about the plans for the rally, but odds are that these aren't the only rallies you're going to be attending. And even if they are, make _certain_ that you read and understand everything planned, and _never_ assume that something that isn't mentioned is actually planned. Most likely, it _isn't_.

Is it a one day thing? One afternoon? Is it a weekender or days-long? Most people _will_ go to the trouble to find this out, but then won't bother finding out if the group is planning (or even expected) to stay at a certain lodge or camp site, or even if one or more of the organizers have negotiated with local providers for group discounts. On the other side of the coin, don't assume that they _have_ done that, either. Find out! It's important to know as much as you can, simply because any disappointment might well sour your mood for the entire event.

Here's another one-- you know how it is: save the best for last ;)

Find out what _your_ responsibilities are going to be as an attendee. That's right. You might well have a job to do. If the ride is an organized buddy-system ride, you will certainly have that to do. If everyone is expected to attend communal dinners, that includes you. If there are going to be thirty-five stops for photos and snacks, you better be prepared to either make them or abandon the group. Maybe the ride is a charity event with an entry fee. Perhaps there's a cover charge to get into the rally-- charity events often do this, as do rallies with door prizes or "half-and-half" prizes. (for those not familiar with half-and-half prizes, check the Glossary ;) )

Even if there isn't a prize, there may well be an attendance charge if the organizers have laid out expenses that they need to recoup. At any rate, not finding out till you get there that you're expected to pony up a few bucks can be something of a shock if you didn't bother to find out before deciding to show up.

Certainly I could go on and on forever, and of course the reason for this is because each rally has the potential to be completely different from the last one. Each and every rally is put together by different people with different ideas of just what a rally "should be," or at least with different levels of success at getting to where they wanted their rally to go. And because each one _can_ be different, some of them _will_ be different. It's up to _you_ to find out what's going on. Assuming that you know already, well-- that's a recipe for disappointment.

And the very most important job you have as an attendee is to remember that someone-- and often a lot of someones-- put a great deal of their own time and labor-- and often even their own money-- into pulling the whole thing together. Remember it always. Appreciate it for what it is, rather than disparage it for what it is not. After all, if you have bothered to find out exactly what it was before you showed up, you wouldn't be disappointed with it after you got there. ;)

Part II -- your job as an organizer--- will go up when I have time to write it up ;)


"Skills must be Learned"
------ Herb Christian

"Ask your doctor if medical advice from a television commercial is right for _you_."

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