A Rally Is Not A Race

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A Rally Is Not A Race

People sometimes ask whether a long-distance motorcycle rally is a race. I answered the question this way in early 2006:

Somebody on the LDRider mailing list wrote: 
> Is a rally like Cape Fear a "motor vehicle race" ... ? 

No, absolutely not. LDR events like this are not races. A race is where the first person across the finish line wins. We never, never use the word "race" in talking about LDR events, because they are not races. When a reporter uses that word we always work hard to correct this misconception. Races on public highways are illegal, and rallies (including LDR events) are not races.

Scavenger hunts using public highways are not against the law. That's what LDRiding events are: you go after the points you think you can get within an allotted time, like a scavenger hunt. If you arrive late at the end, you may be penalized or disqualified, but there's no benefit for arriving first. Not a race.

This is kind of a touchy subject, which is why you're getting touchy answers. Also, these are my opinions but IANAL. (I Am Not A Lawyer.)

The best approach is to keep the rally out of sight entirely. If you get stopped for a violation, it's bad form to admit to being in an organized rally. It's your ride, and if you were speeding or crash, that's on you - it wasn't the rally that was speeding or crashed. Some rallies have a charity-drive tie-in that you can resort to if you have to: "Not only is it not a race, Officer, it's a fund-raiser for deaf kids!" But it's better if the topic doesn't come up.

If you ask the question because you're not sure of insurance coverage, you should read your policy. The policy says what's covered and what's excluded. Read the policy. It's a contract and you signed it, so you might as well read it. Chase down all the cross-references, pick apart the tortured syntax, and you will eventually be able to answer the question of coverage for yourself.

Reviewing my own policy, I see that it excludes coverage when I am engaged in a competitive event. That phrasing is much more broad than "race," and it would be pretty hard to say that most LD rallies are not competitive events. There are points and a winner. I don't think it matters that there is no cash prize, just a plaque.

You should also read the policy for the distinction between liability coverage and loss coverage. Loss is when they pay to fix or replace your bike or other property. Liability is when they pay somebody else because you hurt them or their property. There are fewer exclusions for liability coverage than for loss coverage. What that means is, depending on the circumstances, they might pay the poor innocent that I hit (liability) but they won't pay me to replace the bike I wadded up (loss).

If you really want to be sure you have liability coverage when you're engaged in competitive rallying, here's what you do: read your policy, shop around for one with a set of coverages and exclusions you can live with, and consider getting a special-purpose policy just for this. Somebody somewhere will surely write a policy that covers this situation, though of course they will charge appropriately.

A final word: lots of people think the better part of valor is not to discuss this subject much online, lest you leave a "paper trail" of web pages and mailing list postings for someone to use against you in court one day. I'm answering because I don't compete in rallies (though I do volunteer), and because there are always new people who should hear this stuff, and because I don't think I'm saying anything I wouldn't want to see in the paper.



This page was last edited April 26, 2008.