Your motorcycle riding companions can make the difference between an extremely pleasing experience and a joyless -- even unsafe -- motorcycle trip.
This is especially true when you take off on multi-day trip with one or more riding companions. Traveling too long and too far with the wrong riding partner can wreck your trip and make you crazy.
Now, when I say riding partner or motorcycle riding companion, I mean the person traveling with you on his or her own motorcycle. I don't mean your “significant other” sharing the same seat with you on the same motorcycle.
That's a different kind of partnership you'll have to figure out for yourself. I’m talking about the importance of finding a kindred spirit whose riding style and temperament fit yours.
Traveling with the right person has as much to do with safety as with enjoyment.
When two riders have very different riding styles and they can't find a happy medium, nerves can unravel.
The need for one rider to continually speed up to keep up or otherwise ride outside the limits of his or her abilities or comfort zone is distracting and dangerous.
On the other hand, a rider who can safely take the turns at speed and likes to travel at a fast clip must make allowances for a much slower rider.
Continually looking in the rear view mirror for your motorcycle riding companion can become a dangerous distraction.
I know of two riders in particular who, after five days of traveling cross-country together, split up and went their separate ways rather than continue riding with each other.
One guy just couldn't cope with the other's tendency to ride too fast and take chances.
Over the course of a trip, many other factors can make the difference between fun and aggravation.
For me, long distance riding has been a largely solitary experience. And that's the way I like it.
However, over the years, I've lucked out with motorcycle riding companions.
Actually, I've had some of the most enjoyable and memorable motorcycle touring experiences while traveling with other riders.
For about six years in a row, my friend, Don, and I took a series of one- to two-week-long motorcycle trips.
We traveled all over the United States, camping out just about every day and in every conceivable location where we could pitch our tent.
In addition to being good friends, we had similar driving habits, abilities and tolerances.
We didn't mind riding long distances, often in lousy weather, or camping in the rain.
We enjoyed visiting small towns and eating in local diners and cafes. Rather than camp out in legitimate campgrounds or stay in motels, we often pitched our tent in unusual, solitary places.
Occasionally we'd spend a day or two hiking or fishing rather than riding. And we always found lots to laugh about.
Every now and then, our spirit of adventure got the best of us.
...Such as the time we drove down an unmarked dirt road in Yellowstone National Park to find a nice campsite well off the beaten track. About a mile into the woods, we saw such a spot.
It had been raining and we were still wearing our rain suits when we parked the bikes and started clearing a patch of ground for the tent.
During the process, the two of us picked up each end of a heavy log to move out of the way. Suddenly, a swarm of bees came streaming out of the end of the log I was holding.
When I suddenly stared at Don with panic in my eyes, he thought I'd seen a bear or some other creature attacking him from behind.
Before I could say a word, he dropped his end of the log and sprinted past me. I did the same and raced him up the gravel road we'd just rode in on.
There we were, two jerks in yellow rain suits and rubber boots, looking very much like oversized beach balls running through the Montana woods. And me frantically waving my hands over my head to ward off the bees.
Many years later, I joined my cousin, Dennis, and a group of riders up from Florida on a trip through New England and Nova Scotia.
This was a new experience for me because I'd never ridden with a group or traveled without camping gear. These folks liked to eat well, stay in nice motels and hotels and relax in a Jacuzzi at the end the day.
I must admit, I quickly got very comfortable with this routine.
We all traveled well together and made allowances for each other's personal needs and riding habits.
Some riders had their wives along and were extra concerned about the ladies' comfort. They wanted them to enjoy riding two-up over the long haul.
We would stop about once an hour to fill our tanks or for meals or just to take a break.
We traveled an easy 250 to 300 miles a day and made sure we had a comfortable place to stay each night. Evening meals together were lots of fun with lots of laughs.
Unfortunately for me, I had to split from the group to head home early. When we separated somewhere on a back road in Nova Scotia, I definitely felt alone. I missed the camaraderie.
All in all, I'd say that traveling solo on your motorcycle emphasizes the inherent freedom of motorcycle touring and travel. You can ride at your own pace, stop when you want, go where you want and stay where you want.
However, you'll also get lots of enjoyment when traveling with one or more riders who you get along with and who make the ride that much more fun.
But, remember...when it comes to selecting your motorcycle riding companions...choose wisely. Your safety and sanity depend on it.
You can find a nice variety of motorcycle travel, adventure and riding stories in my "Ten for the Road" series of books.
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