Street Savvy - MC Garage

Finding The Right Riding Partners

During my misspent youth, I savored riding with diverse and interesting motorcyclists. That is, until I experienced several disasters due to incompatibility. Case in point: There was a local club in my town called the Afro Dogs-a colorful bunch known for wearing tri-color wigs epoxied to their helmets and riding with near-drill-team precision. But my sole, 45-minute ride with them was preceded by an hour of bickering over which club members were to ride in which positions and whose wig needed re-attachment. Later, I felt similar frustration after hooking up with a group of area sportbike riders, some of whom were more interested in racing to the 50-cent beer special at the strip club than carving corners, while others turned out to be irresponsible thrill-seekers whose idea of a good time was hoisting wheelies every time they saw a state trooper.

Of course, there's no guarantee the person(s) you agree to meet for a ride will share your riding habits, personal speed limits or even your taste in afro wigs. To avoid sharing the road with the wrong riders, you may want to consider the following...

Ride the Internet: For nearly every type of motorcycle, rider or riding style, there's a Web site, discussion group or forum. Try typing your town's name and your style of motor-cycle-sportbike, tourer, cruiser, etc.-into a search engine such as Google or Yahoo, and follow the links to new friends. Failing that, even the smallest motorcycle shop maintains a bulletin board where a simple Post-It note can attract inquiries from like-minded riders.

Talk it over: Motorcycling, like another famously pleasurable intimate activity, is best when everyone's needs and desires are discussed, evaluated and mutually achieved. Heading out with a group of hotshot sportbike riders without first rapping about where you're headed, how fast the ride will go and your final destination is an accident waiting for an EMT. Don't be afraid to head off in the other direction if the group doesn't meet your standards, because the time to realize you've hooked up with the wrong crowd shouldn't come when you're being ticketed. If you're a cruiser fan, be wary of massive group rides. Riding at a parade pace in a vast, wheel-to-wheel formation for miles on end can be a tedious exercise in panic-braking and exhaust inhalation. If you prefer smaller groups, form your own.

Good friends don't always make good riding partners: You're psyched because your longtime buddy just purchased his first streetbike, but are his skills comparable to yours? If not, you'll likely spend many hours coaching, coddling and, ultimately, waiting for him to catch up. Unless you've got plenty of patience, you may want to steer your pal toward professional rider training before your divergent skill levels place a strain on your friendship. The same goes for spouses new to the sport: Set aside time to cruise at your significant other's pace or arrange for him/her to ride with people of comparable skill.

Share the road: Some of the more enjoyable shared two-wheeled experiences arise from sheer serendipity. Instead of passing that older couple on the touring bike, why not throttle back and follow their lines? You just might learn something. Likewise, getting stuck behind a crew of slower riders may be frustrating, but don't fight the flow. Instead, kick back and dig the scenery for a few miles. And if your habit is cruising, don't go hating on that group of sportbike riders that just passed you; they'd likely get a kick out of having you along for a few miles.