I’m a western Massachusetts native who’s been called Bones since childhood, so when I learned about an upcoming “Western Mass BONE Ride,” naturally, I investigated. A BONE Ride, it turns out, involves an organization called New England Riders and roads that its members include among the Best Of New England (“BONE”).
New England Riders (NER) is a group of motorcyclists who self-organize in an online forum in order to have fun with other riders. It’s an inclusive group that welcomes riders on all marques. Members are quick to point out that it’s not a club as there are no rules, dues or officers.
Longtime member Rich Pont told me about the first time he organized a ride. “We decided to do a group ride through the Connecticut River Valley and posted plans on our website,” Pont recalled. “At the time we had maybe 10 members, but 95 bikes showed up. The group grew exponentially just like that.”
Ed Conde runs the group’s website, newenglandriders.com. “The website is about giving back to the motorcycling community,” Conde said. “A few years ago, we started posting information about our favorite roads, the nicest views and the best places to eat. That grew into our Best of New England.”
BONE routes can be downloaded from the NER website in Google Maps, GDB, S&T and GPX formats, and there is a helpful video that shows how to modify the GPS files to customize a route to your liking. For riders who want to build their own routes, NER also lists BONE information by state and category (Roads, Views, Restaurants, etc.). Sticklers for detail will notice that routes are included for eastern New York State, which is not part of New England. There’s great riding in that region, however, so consider these routes a bonus.
“You can piece together a ride for whatever regions you want to cover with good roads, interesting places to stop and nice things to see along the way,” said Conde. “The lists are constantly being updated and if anyone has a restaurant, destination or hotel to recommend, we’re grateful.”
Among the useful rider resources I discovered were waypoint files for New England must-do’s such as covered bridges, lighthouses and lobster eateries. There’s a foliage tracker that should be handy for ride planning in autumn.
Bob Fesmire, who hosts the forum site, said things happen in NER because someone makes them happen. “An individual will put a ride together and post up an invitation on the forum,” Fesmire said. “In years past, we’ve done anywhere from eight to 18 day rides, plus ride-to-eats, meet-and-greets, and a couple of long weekend rides. There are lots of folks who attend NER events regularly and just about every ride has new friends showing up.”
All of this sounded good to me, so on the first Saturday of last August I decided to experience NER firsthand. I rode through early morning fog along the western shore of the Quabbin Reservoir to the meeting spot in Orange, at the junction of U.S. 202 and Massachusetts Route 2. Riders arrived on an assortment of sport tourers, adventure tourers, sportbikes, baggers and cruisers. License plates revealed some had come from as far as New Jersey to spend the day winding through western Mass. I noticed that several riders were wearing Hawaiian shirts and learned that these are a tradition for many NER members. The bold print on one rider’s Hawaiian shirt featured motorcycles!
Ed Conde held a brief riders’ meeting to welcome friends old and new and set basic expectations for the day. Rather than attempt to keep a group of about 30 motorcycles together along the curvy route, Conde organized several small groups with riders placing themselves in a group that matched their intended pace. Each group had riders with the route (including planned stops) on GPS, and some groups kept in touch via CB or intercom. This “group of groups” format worked well, especially considering that several riders were new to the region and others (including me) were new to NER.
Conde led my group along some of my favorite western Mass twisties, including 116, 112, Zoar Road and the Mohawk Trail. As the smiling faces at rest stops proved, they were roads well chosen. Lunch was in Clarksburg at the Golden Eagle Restaurant, on the Mohawk Trail’s famous Hairpin Turn. The view is tremendous, plus diners can entertain themselves watching drivers attempt to negotiate that turn. After lunch, we savored switchbacks to the top of Mount Greylock, the highest point in the state. From here, riders started to split off and make their way toward hometowns in New England, New York and New Jersey.
A friendly and uncomplicated approach to group riding made my first experience with New England Riders a great one. “NER is pretty straightforward,” Conde explained. “We believe in safe group riding and being respectful toward others. No one tells you what or how to ride. We have no rules except that everyone is safe and has a good time. That, and we’re going to find someplace good to eat!”
(This article Western Massachusetts BONE Ride was published in the June 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)