Driving with my wife from LA to the SF Bay Area on I-5 this afternoon, in the central valley near Harris Ranch, I was passing a group of about 15-20 motorcyclists riding their Harleys in tight formation. There were 2 lanes in our northbound direction. About halfway past this group, I came upon a slower car in my lane in front of me. The motorcycle group next to me was spread out at this point - turns out the tight formation was at the back of the pack - and there was plenty of room for me to safely move over in the middle of the group.
You probably can guess what’s coming.
There was some light traffic, it was not an empty road, and the flow was going about 80mph.
I signal, and change lanes. Safely.
Well, the group clearly didn’t like it and the riders at the back moved up and surrounded me, passing me on the left and right. They were mere inches from the sides of my car, on both sides. None of them reached over to touch or punch my car, but they easily could have - while we’re all doing 80mph. One rider planted himself directly in front of me and slowed down to about 60, while the other riders worked past me.
For a moment I wondered if they were going to try and force me to slow down and try to move me to the side of the road.
The riders wore Hells Angels on their jackets. No visible club name, although I saw some with MC (for motorcycle club) on the backs of jackets, but no club names. Big, burly guys, almost all riding solo (maybe 3 were 2-up). Was I a little nervous? Sure.
I’ve been riding continuously since 1985 and have a few riding miles (about 200K) under my belt. I also am a certified MSF RiderCoach (or, safety instructor). I know what bikes can and can’t do. These riders clearly tried to intimidate me, but I wasn’t going to be intimidated, mostly because of my riding experience. My wife, in the front passenger seat, wasn’t intimidated either. She often rides with me, 2-up.
It was a little dicey, but I kept calm but was also ready to act depending on what they did. If the riders tried to force me to the side of the road, I’d thought it out and decided I was not going to pull over or stop. I was going to hold my ground and maintain speed. If the rider in front of me continued to slow down, I was going to move left or right and force those bikes beside me away. If that meant I initiated contact, so be it, but I was not going to stop. While still moving, I still held some advantages. If we all stopped, then they held many more (if not all) of the advantages.
Fortunately they were just pissed off, call it road rage - they got their panties all kotted up. They formed up in front of me, regrouped, and kept riding on. They continued at 80mph in one lane, but whenever there was space to pass them the tail rider moved over and blocked that only other lane.
Other cars started collecting behind me, because that group was not allowing anyone to pass (posted limit is 70mph, but traffic often goes faster).
I just stayed behind the group, didn’t force the issue even though I wanted to pass. I was not being aggressive, and at one point the tail rider dug into his jacket pocket and flung something back at me. I saw what he was doing and had already started moving over. Whatever he threw never hit me, but may have hit one of the cars bunched up behind us. (I’ve heard stories of riders keeping lead fishing weights in their pockets to throw…)
We were flowing at 80, so it was moving fast enough and I just stayed at the end of the group, watching carefully. We kept this way for 10-15 minutes, and then I reached my exit and left.
Done. Incident over. But, I’m glad they didn’t force the issue by doing anything more stupid.