The riding season has begun.
The maps are out,
The calendar is being synced.
These are not new for the ones who are already baptized into the religion of motorcycling. The average trip-prep time has reduced to a few hours from almost months. The art of packing has achieved 6 Sigma precision with many years of practice, so has the bike-work. But as bikers we always tend to seek new challenges, sometimes the route and other times the companion we choose. And when the plan is to expose the joys of moto-touring to our respective partners – the challenge multiplies many folds.
I have no qualms in accepting the fact that I have botched miserably in the past in my trysts of riding with a pillion, but with considerable retrospection I have been working consciously to smoothen the glaring rough-edges in these type of touring situations. I was in denial and made myself believe that I was doing the basics right – it has taken me a while to turn around and I’m still working at it. I hope the realizations of my mistakes help my fellow riders enjoy their trips with their partners without going through a few completely avoidable errors.
The article is a quick checklist that a rider may / should consider while planning to partake a journey with the stronger sex as pillion (especially for the first time). A trip of this ‘construct’ demands new perspectives. The following are my insights that have been instrumental in making me be a better co-rider than a pilot of a riding-group.
#1. Never be the one to impose a ‘ride’ on your partner…
Let her get interested herself and reveal her excitement, it automatically smoothens a few unnecessary creases. Having said that, as bikers, we eat, sleep, and drink motorcycles. This is not necessarily the most exciting topic for the lady to be immersed-in, that too 24×7. The trick is to balance the excitement with cautious regard to her mental make-up, it is an ongoing process. Keep an eye on how she is prepping herself for the ride – you will see traces of her anticipation – it is our duty to address her apprehensions.
The translation of the commonly used rider-phrase, ‘expecting the worst and hoping for the best (on a trip)’, needs a careful narrative as well. The worst and best have very different connotations for her unlike you. If we know a few extra things about the road, her intuitive sense has much more learnings to offer than what we can ever fathom, consider them. Share your insecurities like you would with another friend and verbalize your concerns – it will get the both of you on closer pages before the ride.
#2. It is not how safe you make your partner feel on the road
It is how emotionally comfortable you keep her throughout the ride.
The very fact that your partner has admitted her interest to take a moto trip with you means that she trusts you and knows that you will take care of her safety, already. We all know the basic pointers, ‘not to ride after sun-down’, ‘find the right kind of accommodation well in-time’ etc., but we often miss out on one of the most important concerns, the riddles of how to make her ‘feel comfortable’ emotionally.
A woman’s mind works a little differently from ours. The fact that she is behind your helmet, stuck under hers – riding with you for miles on-end makes her strong, so she seeks acknowledgement for her patience and (this new form of) resilience that she portrays.
Making her comfortable – the code: Unlike the earlier rides, this ride is not just about you and your bike – the bike this time is simply an enabler for the journey. The oil-leakages or your back-pain are not what she wants to hear the moment you dismount the bike. It doesn’t mean she is not participative or empathetic – these issues are just not on top of her concern-list, she is most likely to be excited about the cluster of clouds that looked like helicopters against the bright blue-sky. Be with her on that conversation, park your issues for a while. If your back is hurting – it is almost obvious that hers is too – she might not admit,’coz she feels it will dampen your spirits – but stop worrying about your back and show some spine, get her that last sip of water (a pain-killer or a muscle relaxant if she needs one), she will repay your thoughtful gestures in more ways than one – prepare to be surprised!!!
#3 Converging expectations from the journey
When we ride with fellow bikers – our expectations are simple – kill miles, stop when the moment demands – kill more miles, eat, drink, rest – ride again. We have been cultivating this routine for years. Consider this, it took us almost 15 months to learn how to walk – now we walk like pros; it was a process – riding as a pillion is no different, she would need her time to learn the codes – give her time to acclimatize; your patience and understanding can fast-forward her process. Pace out the trip, give her space to breathe (easy) after a hard day’s ride – walk with her (without talking about the bike and the nibbling issues hovering in your head – park them), click pictures, get those selfies with her even if you detest, smile a little more than usual – your smile is her source of courage. Write a story in conversations with her – it builds the excitement for the next day – almost like the next episode of your favourite sitcom. You would sail through the journey if you can unite your expectations with hers.
Our physical strength helps us go places, but it is our ‘might’ that helps us take-on challenges. Life on the road would have been simpler, if we all knew how to provide ‘might’ to our respective partners on the road, when a situation demands. You have taken the first challenge – by inviting her for the ride, now you cannot avoid the bigger challenge involved in it’s success. Training your mind to look at the ride with a fresh perspective not only assures great returns, the investment usually runs for an entire life-time, provided you do it right…
After all for a biker, it is the biggest joy to experience ever changing landscapes with our partners, knowing that she is smiling under her helmet, when in reality – all you can see is her glimmering eyes through the visor.