One of the great things about motorcycling is that it can be enjoyed solo, or in a group. Solo riding allows you the chance to really ride your own ride and enjoy life on two-wheels completely on your own terms, while group riding gives you that typical sense of camaraderie and an added dimension of fun. As in other areas of life, though, who you choose to be around says a lot about who you are, so it is equally important to choose the right riding buddy. Doing so can be tricky, but let’s take a look at how you might go about doing so.
Location, location, location
This is a bit of a no-brainer. Obviously, you want to find a riding buddy or buddies who lives reasonably close to you, otherwise two thirds of the group ride turns into a solo ride! Social media and Internet forums make it easy to connect with people locally as well as globally, so there are ways to accomplish this. If it takes more than 20 or 30 minutes to meet up with someone else for a group ride, then everyone involved will want to be absolutely sure that they want to spend enough time together and have enough time and energy to do so and then head home afterwards. The less time it takes to meet up, the more time you and your buddies can spend riding together.
Riding the same ride
This might also be a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s important to connect with riders who enjoy (or are at least open to) the same kind of riding you are. If you are a spirited adventure rider, then you may not hit it off with a rider who is all about leisurely, lake side cruises. If you are a regular track-day rider, then you may not relate to a stunter. It’s a bit of a “birds of a feather” situation, really. If you enjoy different types of riding and are lucky enough to find a similar riding buddy, then you could have a variety of shared adventures.
An understanding of skill levels
It’s easy to get into the frame of mind that gets you to look for riders of similar skill levels, which isn’t unreasonable. The problem is that there is no real way to do it unless everyone is perfectly honest before hopping on their bikes, or until everyone gets out on the road and it’s all gauged that way. Not only has everyone been riding for different periods of time, but everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. What you really need in a riding buddy is someone who understands not only that these differences exist, but that understands how to account for them while on the road. In essence, an experienced rider who understands the needs of an inexperienced rider, or a novice who understands that they shouldn’t ride above and beyond their skill level. Bring those together in the middle, and you have a stable and, most importantly, safe riding partnership.
State of mind
Mindset is not too far away from an understanding of skill levels. You want to be sure that the way your riding buddy approaches motorcycling is at least somewhat similar to yours. Hopefully, you care about maximizing your enjoyment and safety on the road, so find other riders who are in tune with this.
Tying all of the above together is the ability to communicate. The only way you and the people you ride with can continue to safely enjoy motorcycling together is if you are able to plan, adjust, learn, re-adjust, and acknowledge each other. If you cannot communicate with each other, then all of the above points are moot. The key word is “together,” and that means you need to openly discuss everything about your shared motorcycling experiences and even your own individual experiences.
This is the one word that hasn’t come up yet, but hopefully the implicit understanding is that everything we have covered above really amounts to a whole lot of trust. Yes, there is an initial bit of trust involved in starting a relationship with a riding buddy, but the idea is to give it a chance (unless it’s nothing but red flags right from the start), then build and maintain that trust from the first ride onwards. This is especially true if you don’t know each other beforehand outside of motorcycling.
Say your regular riding buddy isn’t actually another rider, but your passenger. It can happen, and passengers are friends, too! Most of what we have covered above applies, but your passenger must have an extra measure of confidence in your abilities and mindfulness because they are placing their life directly in your hands. If the total trust (there’s that word again!) doesn’t exist, then it’s not going to work.
It may sound like a lot to deal with, but in practice, finding the right riding buddy tends to work itself out. Keeping all of this in mind, though, will make it easier to foster a safe and lasting relationship.