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The Rally Virgin

October 22, 2000

Riding Partners

I recently met up with some BMW members of our local club and rode back to town after a breakfast. They took off at lightening speed, rode 65 in 45's including 90 degree bends in the road. I lost them. I stopped for gas and too my surprise/embarrassment , they were waiting for me 6 miles down the road. Asked me what happened and was up front, said I couldn't safely keep up. I am now rethinking joining this group.

Finding folks to ride with is a real challenge, especially for the newer rider.

FIRST A WORD ABOUT SAFETY

Before I even start I must emphasize that there is nothing more important than safety. You should never, ever ride outside your skill and your comfort (your "envelope.") Proper equipment, good training and sensible riding will go a long way to ensure a long and happy relationship with your motorcycle. Never, ever compromise safety for any reason. If you ever feel you are in a situation where you are riding beyond your envelope, slow down, find a safe place to pull off and take a breather.  Ask yourself how you got into the situation so you can avoid ever getting in that situation again. Most importantly, don't worry about the people you are riding with or the inconvenience they will face as they pull off down the road and send someone back to see if something has happened to you. Unless they are complete morons they will understand, the ones that don't aren't worth riding with anyway.

YOUR RIDING STYLE

Everyone has a riding style and everyone's riding style is always changing. As time goes by and Riders gain more experience and confidence they generally expand their envelope, their limits of riding. Some folks can tackle Deals Gap's 11 miles of 314 curves in just a few months of riding, others will never be able to feel comfortable crossing over to Tennessee that way. You've got to constantly be aware of your envelope, as that will determine whether you have a great day of riding with new friends or a frustrating day stopping to wait or trying to catch up. For most riders the envelope lies broadly in between and riding styles easily overlap enough as to make good riding partners. There are indeed those who cannot fathom scraping a boot, and on the other end those who cannot fathom not scraping a boot (or a sidestand for that matter), but they are quite in the minority and will usually let you know right away.

So what is your riding style? Do you like long leisurely rides through the countryside or would you rather spend your time up in the mountains blazing through the tight, twisty stuff? For most people, it is a combination of both. The trick is to find folks flexible enough to fit within the pool of individual riding envelopes such that while no one is bored, no one is climbing up the forward rider's tailpipe.

FINDING RIDING PARTNERS

One of the most frequent complaints I hear is the difficulty in finding riding partners. I've always found it helps to be proactive in that I've found there are a lot of folks out there that want to ride but not so many that will take the time to put a ride together.

Build an interesting ride
If you want to find riding partners, give riders a reason to want to ride with you. Just as you probably won't get many takers for a banzai run up and down I-95, you will probably get a lot of interested riders if you plan out an interesting and convenient ride. For me it was a 200-mile ride around western Virginia with a good (early) breakfast planned as the meeting point and a good lunch as the ending point. Folks still had most of the afternoon free and it gave me a great chance to find riders with whom I was compatible. OK, now that you've found a good breakfast joint and picked some interesting roads with a good combination of turns and scenery and an interesting destination or two, it is time to find some riders.

Find some Fellow Riders
They are everywhere, just waiting to ride. Most are just waiting for someone to give them an excuse. First, try your local BMW club. Not only do most have preplanned rides, the monthly meetings are a treasure trove of folks itching to find riding partners. Don't hesitate to walk up and introduce yourself, talk about your ride ideas, your riding style and see if folks bite. Chances are this is where you will find the majority of good riding partners. You should also think about trying to hook up with local riders through groups like the Internet BMW Riders.

Be blunt about your riding style
OK, you've found some receptive folks, Now is the time to see if you will ride well together. Be honest and don't fall into the trap of over-accommodating, it will just lead to at best a poor ride. I consider myself an average rider and found that I could comfortably ride with about 70% of any given riding group, with about 10% too slow/stop too much for me and the other 20% just too skilled/fast.

Ride!
Go ride! After a few months there I found a good 20 or so riders I was comfortable riding with, and 6 or 7 with whom I regularly spent 400 mile days exploring West Virginia. Sometimes we'd all go on a big group ride, other times it was just another rider and I after others passed due to conflicts, etc.

SUMMARY

Basically it all boils down to being pro-active - put together a good ride and find folks that share your riding envelope. Be honest, be patient and take the time to find a good group of folks

That is it - If I've missed something good, please let me know!

Ted

(Thanks to Omar for this one :))

1995-2016, Ted Verrill

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"Red Light Insight" is copyright Ted Verrill, 1999