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Common Tread

Do you stop for a rider stranded on the road?

Jan 06, 2016

Dear readers: I want to ask you something. Maybe you can explain this phenomenon to me.

The question has been noodling around in the back of my mind a long time, but it came to the front last summer when I made my (apparently last) annual trip to Indianapolis for MotoGP. It’s a straightforward, even boring ride if I take the direct route. A little more than three hours of interstate droning.

On my way there, at one point I saw an unidentifiable black object lying at the edge of the right lane, and immediately afterwards I came to a stopped Ducati Monster, its rider beginning to walk back along the shoulder. There was no traffic behind me, so I braked hard and pulled over beside him to see he needed help. He explained that the black lump I saw was a tail bag that had fallen off and he was walking back to retrieve it. I was quickly on my way.

Two days later, on the way home from Indy, I was the guy stopped by the side of the interstate. The known weak link in my Kawasaki Versys 650 is the stator, and mine decided to go on permanent work stoppage after about 53,000 miles, and about 40 miles short of home. I coasted to a halt alongside I-70 in a rural area and started dialing the roadside assistance number.

I eventually waited almost two hours while they tried to scare up a flatbed truck on a Sunday evening. Of course there was a lot of traffic going by, including a higher than usual number of motorcycles, most of them no doubt leaving Indianapolis for points east, like me. In nearly two hours, nobody stopped. Not one rider.

My questions: Do you stop for a rider alongside the road? If not, why not? Are you worried about your personal security? Do you assume, in the age of cell phones and roadside assistance plans, that no help is needed? What if the rider is suffering a medical emergency instead of a mechanical breakdown and can’t call for help? Or the phone battery died? These are honest questions, not veiled criticisms. I just want to know what people are thinking inside those helmets.

Some of the riders who passed me actually beeped their horns and waved. I wondered how to interpret that gesture. As the blood-sucking mosquitoes emerged and dusk fell, it was hard for me not to be uncharitable and imagine them laughing in their helmets, “Sucks to be you!”

Over the years, I’ve pulled over to check on many solo riders (if a group of riders is stopped, I figure they don’t need me). There have been times when I passed by a stopped rider on an interstate because traffic made it impossible to pull over safely. I always feel a little bad afterwards. Obviously, I am in the minority.

What do you say, Common Tread readers? Do you stop?