Breakfast at Smiths of Smithfield

8th December 2019

So the 2019 season has come to an end. The full schedule of Sunday rides and the Chapter’s premier event at Faaker See has been achieved. 154 Chapter members put in 485 appearances, so each member attended just over three events. We recently held the planning meeting for 2020 and suffice it to say there will be the usual wide selection of day rides and foreign weekends. The Premier event at Portoroz is already fully booked for Chapter members which augurs well for a very busy year. Alongside the ride-outs, every member is invited (and reminded) to attend the monthly social at The Rose in Harwood Terrace (opposite the King’s Road dealership) which is always on the 1st Thursday of each month. The dealership stays open until 8pm that evening so a bit of fun shopping is also available. Generally the Sunday ride-out occurs on the second Sunday of the month, the dates will be published just after Christmas so get your new 2020 diaries ready. Don’t forget that taking part in a Sunday ride will help to build that precious metal rocker collection... we also highly recommend that our members get themselves some further training after taking the DVLA Test, whether it’s IAM or ROSPA, or simply BikeSafe to point out those areas for improvement.

8th December was a pretty nice day without any obvious overnight gritting, so I got the Sport Glide out for the ride up. Last year there was snow on the ground, so I took the Volvo. I arrived at 9.45 but wasn’t the first one there... the manager had laid out enough tables for our booking for 30 but in the event 39 turned up, about half on their bikes, and we had a very convivial time. The staff fitted in the extra covers without demur and generally were cheerful and pleased to see us (for the 15th year running). Some Christmas jumpers were evident, but smiles were universal. The ever-present Steve Graham took some photos which should be attached, but are viewable on the C&F FaceBook page.

Breakfast at Smiths of Smithfield

And so to other things...
Principally loyalty. John Warr fully supports the Chelsea & Fulham chapter and as a result there are no subscriptions and very little administration, equally demands on the members are minimal. Indeed, as the Chapter web-site states: Chelsea & Fulham Harley Owners Group Chapter is an open membership Group with no obligations, dues or responsibilities for the members. Any Harley-Davidson Motorcycle owner, with valid H.O.G. UK membership, can buy a Chelsea & Fulham H.O.G. patch and hey presto you’re a Chapter member. That’s always been our style and we plan to keep this laid-back, informal approach.

However, when purchasing your new (or pre-owned) Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, clothing, parts and accessories, please will you consider approaching your sponsoring dealership first? Whether you want to order a fully specified custom motorcycle, or just buy a tee shirt, you should not be surprised to learn that (all other things being equal) Rob, Les, Glynn and all the other members of the team at Warr’s can probably match any deal you could be getting elsewhere. My nearly 20-year experience of Warr’s (including buying 10 Harleys) is that you simply won’t do better elsewhere, when you take into account the full value of what you are getting. And it’s not rocket science to match up Chapter membership lists with customers. Please give it some consideration.

Secondly, there were a few instances last year where (e.g.) coffee stops were laid on with the expectation that participants would contribute to the cost, but not all did. There was also at least one instance of failing to pay for petrol. One outcome of not having Chapter subscriptions is that in such instances, the Road Captains on the day end up subbing you out of their own pockets. To the tune of 30 to 50. We cannot and will not leave premises with unpaid bills behind us, it would do irreparable damage to our fiercely guarded reputation as well as giving all motorcyclists a bad name. So next year, if it says 2 for coffee, please pay up. 2, after what you paid for that bike and that jacket and those exhaust pipes? Don’t make me laugh.

And now I’m firmly up on my soap box, let’s mention two aspects of group riding that are the most common cause of issues; failing to drop off where required (or leaving your post before the last man arrives), and NOT BEING ABLE TO KEEP UP. These are in fact linked but can be viewed separately.

Navigating a group of up to 65 motorcycles through the crowded roads of South East England requires a system that does not contravene road traffic law and enables each rider to travel at his or her own pace (more of this later). Accordingly, we use the system of marking junctions by leaving a rider in a previously reconnoitred location where they can indicate to the other members of the group which way the group has gone. They must stay in that location until collected by the last man, who will usually be wearing a reflective jacket, riding an enormous Harley Davidson motorcycle and possibly waving and metaphorically jumping up and down and shouting words of encouragement. If however the Chapter member concerned either declines to stop, or having briefly stopped decides that the football/mother-in-law’s lunch/cutting the grass/literary criticism of 1920’s modernist texts is more important they disappear... and the next people along have no idea where to go. You get the picture. Ah, I thought, let’s publicise the route in advance then no issue, as enough people will have satnavs so that we won’t all get lost if someone lets us down. No, that was used as an excuse by some to avoid attending the briefing and registering for the ride, thereby obviating the reason for the briefing, which is to ensure compliance with the conditions of the Harley group liability insurance and to make sure everyone actually knows what they’re doing. That’s why there is such stress laid on the absolute requirement to attend in time to hear the briefing, and why the gates are closed at a specific time.

Not keeping up causes both frustration amongst the other members of the group and, on a faster road, actual danger as it promotes bunching and tail backs. We will seek to travel at the speed limit where appropriate, remembering it’s a limit not a target, which ensures both that we are making reasonable progress and also that we are not unreasonably impeding the progress of other road users. Frankly, if you can’t ride at the speed limit where safe to do so, please don’t come on one of my rides. Honestly, would you drive your car that slowly?

And finally... I’ve been a member of Chelsea and Fulham HOG since October 2000, and Road Captain since May 2004. In that time I’ve taken part in 121 Day Rides, and 51 trips lasting a weekend or longer. Due to impending retirement (and a growing number of grandchildren) I have decided to stand down at the end of the 2020 season. Next year I will be organising three events - day rides in July and November and the end of season breakfast.

So, if you want to come out and play next year (and we’d love to see you) please remember the following simple points:
1. Loyalty is a two way street
2. If you’re dropped off at a junction, obey the rules and make everyone’s day better
3. If you have trouble keeping up, ask yourself some serious questions including but not limited to reflecting on your driving skill, age and physical abilities
4. Advanced training is universally acknowledged to be a very good thing, and
5. Look out for horses and bicycles (I may have said that before once or twice)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.
See you on the other side...

Michael Howers - C&F Road Captain