These ingredients, it turns out, were a recipe for success.
Union Garage recently teamed up with Aether Apparel and Tramas Motorcycle School to host a full day of riding complete with a spring-training skills session north of the city. The mass escape from NYC included an afternoon session of professional instruction, an obstacle course challenge, and a fully catered, on-site lunch thrown in for good measure.
We started with an early-morning meet-up for espresso and last-minute gear needs at Union Garage, and by 8AM we were zipping across the Brooklyn Bridge to meet up Aether’s new store on Crosby Street in SoHo. As bikes quickly filled up the cobblestone street breakfast was served and turn-sheets were handed out and taped to tanks.
We had zero expectations of everyone staying in any sort of formation, and everyone was encouraged to ride at their own pace and meet up again outside the city.
After a regroup at the Rockefeller lookout along the Palisades Parkway the morning route offered up a condensed “best of” Harriman State Park tour, with a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure format. That is, if you get lost, just keep riding—most all the tree-lined roads inside the state park are fast and fun. Those who managed to stick to the turn sheet were treated to an especially rousing blast through some of the best roads in the park—Kanawauke Road, Arden Valley, Seven Lakes Drive—after which we regrouped at the Bear Mountain lookout at noon.
After some obligatory Bear Mountain BS’ing (“hey, what year is that?” etc) we wound our way back down the mountain to a private lakeside parking lot we’d reserved just a few miles away within the state park. Upon arrival everyone was treated to a gourmet lunch of Black Angus burgers, chilli-rubbed pork loin, grilled sausage from the grill—plus clambake corn and potatoes and mustard slaw on the side.
After everyone had their fill we commenced the training portion of the day, starting with an introduction to the staff of Trama’s Motorcycle School. Trama’s trains thousands of riders every season and has been in business since 1982, making it the oldest Motorcycle Safety Foundation-certified school in the state. In short: these guys are complete professionals. And gals, it should be noted, including 73-year-old retired middle-school teacher Jerri (!) who has been riding and instructing for long enough to ride circles around most in attendance.
Eric Trama and his staff walked everyone through the five different cone course modules that were set up around the parking lot, while instructors demonstrated the day’s mix of intermediate and advanced drills: swerving in a curve, slow-speed maneuvering, emergency braking and weaving through various cone drills to hammer home some fundamental skills. For an early season ride most seemed to appreciate the skills tune-up and valuable feedback from the Trama’s staff.
With the serious skills training out of the way we moved to a secondary parking lot to start the silly stuff. The Aether boys visiting from L.A. had helped devise an obstacle course to test the skills we’d spent the day practicing. This wasn’t their first rodeo, they’ve successfully staged events like this before, and they put together a fun set of challenges that rewarded balance and bike handling skills.
The obstacle course started with a skinny wood bridge walk followed by a wooden teeter-totter. After a hairpin turn came the pool noodle slalom, followed by an even tighter hairpin and a debris field of cardboard boxes. Riders lined up to go through one at a time, and every time they put a foot down or hit an obstacle, a point was recorded. The highly motivating grand prize for the best score: a gift certificate for a free Aether motorcycle jacket.
Four riders made it through the course with a perfect score, and the ultimate champion was decided by Slow Race, with all four lined up for a 40-yard straight, flat course—the winner of which was the last to cross the line. It was a photo finish between a early 70’s BMW 75/6 and a modern Triumph—and Namit Saksena on the Bonnie took home the prize.
Thank you everyone for coming and making the day possible. Especially to Aether Apparel and Trama’s for helping put together such a fun format. While we’re not going to promise to put on a ride event as elaborate as this anytime soon, we will be running a series of regular shop rides this season and we’re already planning a sponsored Advanced Rider Course session with our friends at Trama’s later in the season. If you’re interested in either, email us at info@UnionGarageNYC with “Ride List” in the subject line and we’ll add you to the roster.