The Right Passenger

I’ve ridden my share of bikes in this life. I can’t think of a brand I haven’t piloted at one point or another. Even odd stuff like Ural, KTM, Garelli, Moto Guzzi, and Matchless, despite my Harley proclivities. I’ve been lucky to throw a leg over enough bikes to fill a parking deck. With bike varieties, been there, done that. With women passengers, well,   —  not so much. I’ve just never had much opportunity to ride consistently with a female passenger. I’ve enjoyed my life of solo riding. Especially as some of my trips have taken me to exotic rides in South and Central America, Switzerland, France, Italy, Germany, and all over North America including all 50 states. Some of these  great places to ride are not generally adventures geared towards two-up riding.  I’ve simply had a lot of impediments in my life to female motorcycle passengers. While married, I didn’t have a two-up wife, so I didn’t have a two up life. I guess you could say I had a one up life. My X busied herself with kids and home and preferred 4 wheels over two. Getting on the back of my bike went from occasional to infrequent to never. Post Divorce, I’ve realized the value of a rear passenger pressed up against your back, chin peeking over your shoulder, enjoying the sights and sounds of the roadway as it unfolds before you on a bike trip. It’s a bit of an odd social phenomenon. But it is something you don’t give much thought to if you don’t have it. With my divorce over for a couple of years, there is a myriad of adjustments I’ve made, including the way to ride, to where and with who. I sat in my garage recently pondering this. Needless to say, when I refer to “garage”, I mean my “new garage”, as opposed to my “old-garage”, which I left to my X-wife, and incidentally, that garage was connected to my “old-house” too!! The new garage, while sufficient in size, was plain Jane and is currently being painstakingly personalized. To fit me and not the old retired hot rod guy I bought it from. A man cave makeover over the past year has kept me busy weekends and nights. An interior facelift, a pool table, a gun cleaning station, a humidor, a big TV to order the fights, a LOUD stereo (for classic rock), a bike lift, and of course GIANT toolboxes to service the bevy of bikes parked about. After all, I gave up the house, but kept the bikes and the life!

So I sat there one night after hanging my 10 pointer over the pool table. Formerly relegated to the attic in the old place. I noticed something of almost all my bikes parked about in various states of readiness and repair. Of the mainstays that I pilot regularly, NONE had 2-up seating. All solo saddled. Sure they have luggage racks and top cases and saddlebags, but none really had been set up for a passenger, as I’ve never really had one. The bikes were set up for long haul duty and favored luggage space over passenger comfort. Well, if you follow my travels on Facebook or on my You-Tube page you will see that my trips this year have been almost all “two-up”. Riding WITH someone who enjoys the lifestyle, the curves, the throaty chug of a V-Twin up a mountain pass, it’s very rewarding. Of course picking the right passenger is of utmost importance.  While performance is reduced with a 2nd human on the back of the bike, it certainly adds to the experience and is a welcome change. The company, the conversation, the experience and simply the camaraderie with another human being gives you a whole different way of looking at the world from behind the handlebars. Now don’t get me wrong. There are some downsides, they’re just outweighed by the benefits. The saddlebag sharing can be challenging. Gas mileage suffers a little. Twists and turns require a higher degree of concentration with weight distribution and turn set up. But all in all, the shared riding experience complements the ride. I have a few pals that just roll their eyes when I mention a ride to them in front of their wives and the ladies perk up and query: “where are we going”? Same guys that tell me ‘mums the word’ on a upcoming ride here and there when ‘the old lady” is around. Yea, “old lady”, never a fan of the phrase despite its commonplace use in the biker community. Well, needless to say, if you’re trying to escape out on the bike solo because your significant other ruins it for you, you need to rethink either your relationship or at least your riding relationship. The passenger seat is suppose to ADD to the fun, not DETRACT from it.

So sitting in my garage, looking about, it was odd to me to come to the realization that I need to swap out some seats from solos to king/queen. My big Road Glide comes with a two up seat by default. Typically relegated to holding my jacket or maybe a backpack or laptop that I peck on now. Now the seat is occupied. My girlfriend Mandy cheerfully pressed against my back. Peeking over my left shoulder with a consummate smile. Pointing out landmarks, hand signaling lane changes, chattering up as the miles click by and good times roll. There is something about sharing the experience of motorcycling. Something more than riding with your pals on separate bikes. If you are a solo rider as I have been, try a passenger. It doesn’t have to be a romantic interest. It can be a neighbor or a co-worker or your pal’s girl, who is always hawking for a ride anyway. I occasionally take my 80-year-old Mom out for a spin on the bike. She loves it. Getting on and off is a little challenging, but then again, she’s 80! At that age, most stuff is challenging. I write this to report that my riding experience has been enriched by the ‘right’ passenger. I encourage you to find the right one for yourself. After all, riding through life solo is not what the creator intended. If giving up half your saddlebag space is not worth it, you’ve just chosen the wrong passenger! Even if she does let you call her your “old lady”.

Remember, ride hard, ride safe, and in the end make sure you ride home.  –Irish

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