Soon, the Ride of the Patriots® to Rolling Thunder® will be upon us. These rides are the most important and popular rides you will ever have the chance to participate in.
At first glance the ride seems very benign, just a short ride around D.C. and back home for a cold one. Not so Fast! The Ride of the Patriots® is relatively straight forward, but requires your attention on riding.
Actually, Rolling Thunder® can be a very difficult and strenuous ride with lots of opportunities for disaster. Think about it. There are tens of thousands of bikers with varying skill levels that have never ridden together, trying to ride around a tight route that is lined with spectators.
However, with the right amount of preparation and training, riding in Rolling Thunder® should not be a problem and will be memorable experience.
Pre-ride preparation: Make sure your bike is well broken in and serviced. The Ride of the Patriots, Rolling Thunder or any parade situation can be very hard on engines due to the lack of air cooling. This can result in over heated engines. Fresh oil, proper tire air pressure and a clean engine are pre-ride essentials. Bring plenty of fluids and snacks for yourself as well. Although some limited concessions are available, having your own will make the wait in the parking lot more enjoyable.
Some people think that the helmet laws are magically repealed during Rolling Thunder. This is not the case. You will be required to wear you helmet when riding.
Be sure you have a full tank of gas when you stage your bike at the Ride of the Patriots and make sure to take advantage of the restroom facilities. The lines are long at the Pentagon.
Going to the Pentagon
Skill Level and Experience
You will be riding in a confined space at very slow speeds, and people and other riders will be all around you. There may be occasions on the trip to the Pentagon when road speeds are above 50 mph. You will be riding in a very long formation. Each year the riding formation from Patriot Harley-Davidson® is 10-12 miles long. If you are very new to riding or have never ridden in a large group before, you might consider viewing this year’s ride from the Washington D.C. mall area, rather than riding in it.
The Ride of the Patriots® is not for beginners. It requires a moderate level of riding experience and preferably experience or training in group riding.
The Ride to the Pentagon
Each year, members of various law enforcement agencies escort the Ride of the Patriots® to the Pentagon. Be prepared to be amazed at the talent, organization, and coordination displayed by the motor squads and the cruisers. These folks are first class professionals all the way. Traffic is not a concern as the police block it off. In the past, they’ve blocked off the Beltway just for us (way cool if you ask us). However, it is very important that you stay in your lane at all times. The police escorts use the other lanes for quickly maneuvering into position for the next block. Pay attention to your riding, waving at spectators is not a good idea or expected. Riders have been known to crash while looking away from the road and waving to spectators.
The Ride is approximately 11 miles at speeds from 10 to 45 mph. Our police escort bikes will be passing the formation at very high speeds. Give them room.
At The Pentagon
The ride will arrive at the Pentagon at approximately 10:00 a.m. You will have plenty of time to visit and socialize with old and new friends alike. Rolling Thunder personnel will direct you to your lane for parking. Be sure to bring basic comfort items such as water, snacks, sunscreen and a hat.
Once you arrive at the Pentagon, there will be more volunteers who will guide you to the proper place to park your bike. Typically, you are directed to have your bike fall into a line one after another. Be aware that some folks might not like where they're being directed and may change their course abruptly at the last minute and cut you off. Be watchful. After you have arrived at your final staging point, turn off your bike and enjoy the day.
The Ride Around the National Mall
Around 12:00 noon, the National Anthem is played, motors start and bikes begin to be released from the Pentagon parking lot. It’s really awesome to hear the roar of the bikes as they leave the parking lot. The ride around the National Mall is a combination Formula 1 race, parade, and viewing spectacle. Put all of these ingredients in a blender, mix it up, and you have an instant challenge on your hands. Further, spectators will be lining the streets trying to shake your hand or "high-five" you. In some cases, people will be standing in the streets, dodging bikes while trying to cross the road. You must pay strict attention to what you are doing. Don't get caught in the trap of watching the parade and the spectators, rather than paying attention to your riding. Expect and prepare for the unexpected. You should resist the urge to shake hands or "high-five" people while riding. On several occasions, riders have fallen while doing this. Sometimes it is just as much fun to pull over to the curb and watch all the action, people and bikes go by.
The ride through DC goes past the Lincoln Memorial down Constitution and back up Independence. Thousands of spectators line the street. Take care. Many spectators will want to come near the moving bikes and slap your hand. Use your judgment. This is not a good idea while moving.
Most importantly, have fun and remember why we are doing this ride: LEST WE FORGET.