“It is a significant act of trust to ride with someone else. You assume responsibility for each other’s safety.”
The above quote is from Richard Stewart as published in Cycle Canada cc First Person, March 2007.
Yes and yes again! I have not given this a lot of thought lately as I ride alone most of the time. There is a static comfort level achieved when riding alone, and then there is the complex pleasure of sharing the ride with others. I truly enjoy the whole motorcycle experience when shared; the rides, the roads, the bike chats, coffee stops, camping… but it doesn’t often happen for me – so I cheerfully head down the road and sing to myself!
Finding a compatible riding partner is somewhat like successfully locating mate – and just about as difficult. And yes, it does boil down to trust. But there is more! Awareness of your partner at all times and sympathetic riding style doesn’t begin to cover all of the pitfalls that can turn a good road into a bad ride with the wrong company. There are the obvious factors: type of bike, style of riding, choice of routes, speed, bladder capacity… the list is long and complex. But over and above the physical parameters of the riders and styles, there is a need for sympathetic vibes between riders -- A synergy of sorts that eases the individual load and makes for a truly shared ride. It is magic when it happens but can be misery, and tending to unsafe, when it does not happen.
If I am just out for a short Sunday ride with a known route or destination, there is no problem. Faster riders get there first, more leisurely ones later, and those with questionable on-road behaviour that frightens me completely – I simply avoid. But what of that long-planned trip? Do you really know how safely your friend rides, or how compatible your riding styles are over the long haul? I’ve heard some horror stories of tension and angst and anger – all because the riders were doing their own thing along the way and riding compatibility suffered.
Obviously, the odds of finding good riding partners increase drastically when all concerned have chosen the same genre of machine. One can hardly expect the ‘Busa pilot to hang out happily with the cruiser set. But do you always push the envelope and get your thrills from adrenalin? Do you like to pause along the way to appreciate the scenery and the day? Do you have to stop frequently for a smoke and a coffee or do you ride until the bike needs fuel? Camping or luxury? Maximum speed or maximum enjoyment? The variables are almost infinite…
In the early 80’s I was living in Calgary, Alberta and my main ride was a smoke-red R100RT. I was discussing plans for my upcoming ride to northern Ontario when my then- BMW dealer (Roger Reuben) mentioned that another customer and good friend of his was also heading east. Did I want company? To make a long story short, John Heppleston and I left Calgary very early (0400) and had breakfast at Strathmore just east of Calgary. Three long hard days to reach Timmins (northern Ontario near the Quebec border) and I have never felt so utterly comfortable and safe sharing the riding experience. If I remember correctly, John rode a faired R100/7 and we clicked right from the start. Hard miles for both of us: Calgary/Brandon, Brandon/ThunderBay, Thunder Bay/Timmins. It was brutal – but fun as we developed complete trust in the other’s riding skills and attention to the road. Neither of us would have ridden so hard had we been alone – the synergy between us was amazing and I treasure that ride to this day. John and I have remained good friends although moves and marriages and jobs have kept us from riding together since that trip. Someday I hope we can share the riding experience again and recapture that elusive magic of energy and telepathy.
I have certainly happily shared the riding experience with others over the years: Sometimes for an hour, sometimes a day, sometimes across the country, but only when it has been a positive and comfortable fit for all parties. If I am not comfortable, I simply go it alone. Less stress, easier, and safer for all.
Check your mirrors and keep track of your riding buddies – both their safety and yours depends on it! -- Alison Green