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Riding Right: Are You Having Fun?

The importance of knowing how to read other riders in your group

By Amy Holland


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I am pretty sure I don’t have to remind you of this, but motorcycling is supposed to be fun. Of course, fun is defined differently for each rider. Some riders like to push themselves and their bikes to their limits while others just want to cruise around town. As they say, different strokes for different folks, but only you know whether or not you are having fun.

For example, a friend of mine started riding a long time ago, and we would sometimes go on trips together. As is often the case, when we went on trips we had to endure a few hours of traffic before we were out of the city and on the back roads. My friend did not enjoy the traffic part at all, so she was always nervous at the beginning and end of our trips.

No matter how big or small your group is, there should always be a designated leader.
No matter how big or small your group is, there should always be a designated leader.


Not until recently did my friend realize that street riding just isn’t her thing. The traffic wasn’t the only thing that bothered her. She could never get comfortable riding through the curves, so she ended up riding less and less. Okay, no biggie, because I know that riding isn’t for everyone, and if she wasn’t having fun then she shouldn’t be riding. But when I had the chance to get a couple of dualsport bikes for review, I invited her to give them a try. She loved it! She took to riding on the dirt like a duck takes to water. She loves that there usually isn’t any other traffic, that the roads we find are challenging yet not as intimidating as asphalt, and that she gets to ride out in nature. Okay, it looks like motorcycling has become fun for her again.

Whether on the street or riding in the dirt, a leader should be constantly assessing the energy level of each rider. This shot was taken on the Dirty Dozen dual sport ride for charity last summer in Colorado.
Whether on the street or riding in the dirt, a leader should be constantly assessing the energy level of each rider. This shot was taken on the Dirty Dozen dual sport ride for charity last summer in Colorado.


But it’s not that way for everyone. Some of my more avid streetbike friends (I’ll call them Bri, Cami, and Carol) recently paid me a visit. I had some dualsport bikes on hand, so we all decided to go for a ride. They all have done some dirt riding in the past, but it seems that Bri only rides on the dirt because Cami enjoys it, while Carol wants to ride on the dirt all day long. Bri really wants to like it, but there’s just something about riding on the dirt that doesn’t appeal to her.

Bri had been off bikes for a while and she wasn’t super comfortable on the dirt anyway, so she rode slower than the rest of us. This was not a problem because we would ride ahead and stop at various places to wait for her. Now, I knew how Bri felt about riding on the dirt, so I had initially planned a pretty short ride. I don’t like to force people to do things, and I feel that Bri is kind of like me in that she needs time to get used to dualsport riding in a controlled environment before adventuring out onto unknown roads, especially after being off bikes for a few months.

When we got to what I thought was going to be our turn-around point, we waited for Bri to catch up and rest. Because of the slower pace at which she rode that first section of road, I really thought that we should go back. I don’t like to force my views on anyone, so I put it up for a vote. Carol was indifferent, Cami really wanted to press on, and Bri actually seemed comfortable with forging ahead, so we continued our ride. I think that Carol and I made it clear that it was okay with us if we went back, but Bri still seemed to want to go on. Okay, let’s go!

A mid-ride meeting is just as important as pre-ride meeting to gauge the needs of the group.
A mid-ride meeting is just as important as pre-ride meeting to gauge the needs of the group.


Pretty soon we made it to our next turn-around area, so again we stopped and waited for Bri. We all thought that Bri would be coming around the corner any minute, but she didn’t so Carol turned around and started heading back to look for her. Cami and I waited a little bit longer before heading back.

Not too far from our turn-around, Carol found Bri sitting in the road with her bike on its side. Physically she looked okay and she seemed to be in good spirits as well, lightly joking about knowing that someone would eventually come back for her. Carol picked Bri and her bike up and made sure she was okay. She wasn’t going very fast when she lost control in some softer dirt and fell down, so on the outside it looked like no harm, no foul. When Bri was ready to go, Carol and I were all for continuing back down the road but Cami said that Bri should really go up to our turn-around point to complete the ride. When Bri said, “Why?” that should have been my cue to herd them out and move them on down the hill.

But I didn’t. I let Cami talk Bri into continuing up the hill even though my gut instinct told me that Bri really wasn’t enjoying herself. Bri didn’t complain, didn’t cry, didn’t show in any way that she was angry, upset, hurt, or scared, but still there was something in that simple three-letter word that told me she was ready to go back.

Bri and Cami have known each other for a very, very long time (much longer than Carol and I have been friends with them), so I guess I didn’t feel it was my place to keep Cami from talking Bri into riding that last 800 feet to the turn-around point. Even though nothing bad happened in that last 800 feet, my 20/20 hindsight tells me that in this particular instance, I should have interfered.

Luckily, the rest of our ride went well, but Bri’s question of “Why?” kept weighing on my mind. Motorcycling is supposed to be fun, and if a rider isn’t having fun, that rider is going to be more prone to making mistakes that either scare or hurt her. And once a rider gets scared or hurt, who knows how long it will be before she reaches the same emotional level she was at before getting scared or hurt. Sure, Cami was using the old “Get back on the horse that threw you‚” philosophy, but I don’t think that works for everyone all the time.

And I don’t know if it’s different for men, but getting back into riding after I crashed was not a carefree event. It took me a while to get comfortable and to the point where I could concentrate on the ride and not let my fears control me. Some riders who have crashed never get back to that point while others seem to immediately get back into riding. It all depends on the person and only that person knows how she or he feels.

What I am certain of is the next time I ride with someone who gives me the slightest inkling that she or he is not having fun I will stop the ride and go home. Sometimes a rider can push through those feelings and end up having the time of her life, but sometimes she can’t. While it is difficult to discern what someone is really thinking, there are times when it is best to just stop and try the ride another day. If you do it the right way—stopping the ride without making the person feel guilty for not continuing—that other rider will probably thank you. And one of these days, that other rider may be you.

Journalist Amy Holland (left) with WRN editor Genevieve Schmitt,  two of the women on the Dirty Dozen dualsport ride.
Journalist Amy Holland (left) with WRN editor Genevieve Schmitt, two of the women on the Dirty Dozen dualsport ride.


About the Author
Amy Holland has been riding motorcycles since 1981. She is the founder and editor of Friction Zone magazine, a regional publication serving the west. She live in southern California.


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Reader Comments


A great article, thanks. So true to be true to yourself and trust your gut. If you aren't fully focused, it certainly isn't fun, and can be life-threatening. I remember well the times I should have stopped a ride, or not even started. I was very tired, upset, or just not able to turn my worries off. Fortunately, those times are few. Motorcycling for me has been the one strong force in my hassled days that has been the best "medicine." Thanks to my husband who encouraged me to move from passenger to rider, that "medicine" really works!

Joyce Liana
Troutville, VA
Saturday, February 12, 2011
What a great article! I really prefer to ride solo. It's almost spiritual. My husband, who is very supportive, is eager to ride with me. When he does, he provides very constructive feedback on my skills and things I should do differently. So, I ride with him often enough for the skill improvement and bonding. However, my true passion is solo.

Thanks for reminding us to be true to ourselves.

Cindy W.
Chesterfield, MO
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
I too enjoy riding by myself. In groups you really have to pay so much attention to what the other riders are doing. I recently rode to Destin, Florida, by myself. I have to say that riding there was more enjoyable than riding back with the group. I do enjoy riding with my husband and my girlfriend, but more than four of us riding gets me undone.

Beckie Smith
Pass Christian, MS
Saturday, November 06, 2010
This was a great article. I re-learned to ride through a super class here in Maine called Motorcycles in Motion. I own a Harley-Davidson Sportster 883. My husband rides but we share one bike, for now. We recently visited an old friend about an hour away and we all rode together. Me on the Harley, friend on BMW, and husband on my friends extra BMW. It was a gorgeous day on the coast of Maine. We rode with my friend (more experienced rider) leading. He was a fantastic leader, always looking for us slower pokes, no judgment. We enjoyed ourselves so much more with his patient guidance. I did drop the bike at standing. It just got away from me and fell over! All the guys around just came over and put it back up. I did pull my hamstring trying to keep it up. Too darn heavy. Learned the weight and balance lesson. Thanks to more experienced riders who respect a persons limits and abilities. Kudos!

Tracy
Harpswell, ME
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
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