New England Café Racer Convergence
I have never been shy about meeting people from the internet.
I’ve had plenty of strangers in my house buying things I’ve posted on Craigslist, and made purchases the same way. Even met with randos in parking lots to buy cars (though I always pack heat when I carry cash).
But the “2013 Convergence” held by the Café Racers of New England was the first large, informally-organized-via-the-internet, gathering of strangers I’d ever braved. Café of NE is a Facebook group, let’s call it a club, organized by a good guy Greg.
For real, he actually is a good guy and his name is Greg. His haircut even matches the meme! See?
The club is all about celebrating motorcycles built in the “café racer” style. If you don’t know what that is, get the hell off my website. Or Wikipedia dat if you must.
Anyway I joined the group and was rewarded by having my news feed was plastered with pictures of motorcycles. Awesome, something to look at besides pet pictures my parents post.
Soon I learned they were planning a gathering- a meetup someplace in central Connecticut followed by a group ride to a bar in Providence. I posted my motorcycle to their wall and asked if I made the cut for their upcoming gathering… After several members replied in a welcoming affirmative, I committed to making the journey.
Said journey was no joke. Fatigue comes on strong after about fifty miles on my bike, and participating in the 2013 Convergence required covering about three hundred more than that. But I really wanted to experience a massive pack ride, to make some motorcycle friends, and have something new to write about. Plus it’d be a great way to demo the EatSleepRIDE iOS motorcycle app I’d been asked to test (more on that later).
So on the day-of, I guzzled the contents of my French press and headed out at the crack of 10:00AM.
Knowing I was in for a massive endurance challenge, I paced my machine gently on the way to the rendezvous point in Cromwell, CT. At 60 MPH the wind wasn’t too loud and I was sipping petrol, life was good.
The first inconvenience struck in Waterbury, were traffic was stopped dead. I was sweltering in my leather and armor, and imagined my engine must be feeling even worse… soI took to some creative lane management and tip-toed my way through the suckers. I mean, cars.
Just under two hours from my departure, I arrived at the rally start point… which turned out to be some guy’s driveway. Granted, it was an awesome driveway- big barn for working and room to park the twentyorso bikes that were already laying in wait.
I didn’t know a soul there, so I dismounted and had a look around at everybody’s hardware.
Some people had brought really impressive iron- there was an exceptional Honda-powered Paul Smart Ducati looking thing, an old BMW GS that I particularly liked, and a smattering of 70′s Japanese bikes that had been stripped true to the café racer style. I felt out of place as I thought I might, with my full-fairing, but there was enough diversity in the crowd to keep me from being too self-conscious. Hell, there were even a couple Harley cruisers in attendance.
After a short bout of milling around, someone in full cafe-racer attire (would be “hipster” in Brooklyn) identified himself as Seth and briefed the group on the route. Knowing I had enough fuel to make to Providence without issue, I resigned to just go with the flow and try not to collide with anybody.
“Stay up close to the person in front of you” was the operative order given. This would resound in my head a few more times before we reached our destination.
As the pre-flight meeting broke up we broke off onto our motorcycles. Being re-seated on my bike in the crowd gave me a freshly boosted sense of comfort. It reminded me that I had a place among these strangers.
A line was formed fairly easily and I found myself in the first third of the pack. Once we got underway, I let the roar of fiftysomething exhausts drown out all non-motorcycle thoughts (of which there weren’t many to begin with) clattering around my skull. I tingled with giddiness as I was absorbed by the steel tsunami that was charging across Connecticut.
The riders ahead of me were moving along at an impressive clip indeed, and I found myself wondering what kind of municipal permissions the group had secured for our unofficial takeover of Highway 6.
Probably none. I also realized that just by pondering such trivialities as road laws, I could not join the ranks of the truest badasses, but I was okay with that.
After an hour or so on small major roads we circled up at a Harley bar called “The Back Door” or “Sketchy Entrance” or something. The latter would have indeed been an accurate name; inside was dark and cold as an old cave with smells to match. The contrast in brightness from the sunny Saturday felt like someone had turned the exposure knob on PhotoShop all the way down as I walked in, careful to hide the “TEAM SUZUKI” logo on my keychain. Sure guys, I love Harleys. Please don’t stab me.
I walked right back out and chatted up a few other riders, was happily unsurprised to find lots of friendly people in the impromptu biker gang we had formed. Some knew each other from previous events, many arrived solo.
Greg, the organizer, thanked me for making the journey and was impressed at how many miles I suffered to participate. A friendly couple even offered to let me crash at their place in Rhode Island if I didn’t feel up to the return trip. It was a solid crew, to be sure.
When kickstands finally started going up, I was eager to get back on my bike. I joined the first handful of riders in charging toward the main highway, holding tight formation as members of our group blocked intersections and on-ramps. It really did feel like rolling thunder. At this point I had already gained a preference for the sound of certain bikes in our group, and smiled when they blasted past me. Though I only knew these people by their exhaust note and jacketbacks, I felt like we were friends already.
We merged onto the highway and some of us let hell loose. Tucked below my little windscreen, I laid on my fuel tank and watched my speedometer needle climb a little mountain in my peripheral vision as my comrades and I guzzled air, fuel, and bugs.
When we finally did get to Dusk, a beautifully cliché biker bar complete with Kid Rock blasting out the windows in the middle of the day, everyone lined up and took pretty much the same photo as the one I snapped above (yes, I shamelessly parked on the end so my Suzuki could do some attention-whoring).
At the bar I had a beer, admired bikes, and chatted up my fellow riders. Even met a woman who had ridden from less than fives miles from my house of all places.
But keen to make it home before dark I cut west, following someone’s advice and avoiding 95 by taking secondary highways. As luck would have it, the suggested route brought me right past a car show in a coffee shop parking lot.
When I finally did return to my homebase I was completely exhausted, left wrist so sore I could barely squeeze the clutch.
Until next year, here’s to hoping for more gatherings… there’s still a lot of riding season left!