Midwest Scooter Enthusiast
The Comfort Zone
Each of us has ridden alone. Many of us prefer to ride in groups. It depends upon the individual. We all have a comfort zone of safety we strive to maintain no matter how we ride. Some of us have been involved in situations where other riders simply made us feel we were putting ourselves in dangerous situations riding with them. Situations which made us put distance between us and the other rider(s).
Its a matter of self preservation. You either trust who you're riding with or you don't and it changes your riding style when you're with people you're not sure of.
Sometimes you get really lucky and find someone whose skills and availability are very close to your own. Suddenly every ride is prefaced with a call to that one special riding buddy. Someone whose style you've grown accustomed to. You may even have developed your own set of rules for riding together.
I have just such a friend. His nickname to this day is Whitey. He could ride circles around me. He rode (and still has) a 1977 Suzuki GS 750. In my opinion one of the unsung best machines I've ever had the chance to ride.
Whitey is predictable when he rides. You never have to guess what he's doing because he's either in your mirror, right beside you, or leading the way with a smoothness I have seldom seen in other riders. Skill.
There were other people with whom I rode back in those days, but they rode differently. They were a little more... loose. Not that they were faster, they weren't. Not that they were necessarily worse riders, they might not have been.
There is a natural swiftness in Whitey's riding style. Yet you can see something else in the way he positions his bike in a lane, how he moves as half of a pair of riders or as part of a larger group. The best fitting description of him is as an imminently alert motorcyclist.
In some ways those years riding with Whitey have colored my perception of people I've ridden with since, although I never admitted it until now.
You can see people who've been through something similar. They tend to ride alone. They miss a special riding buddy. Sometimes more recent bad experiences with other riders make them shun the group rides they'd have joined in the past. They'd feel much safer in the singular. Knowing what I do, I can't blame them. Especially in a world of motorists who are often blind to who might be sharing the roads with them. If you asked someone what the colors of the vehicles are around them as they drive their cars and SUV's, how many would be able to tell you what they are? How many would have to shut something off in order to hear the question?
I've been that guy for a few years now. The one who rode alone or in very controlled environments where traffic is light and riding is done in staggered formation. Its hard to find a riding partner whose actions are utterly predictable.
But you have to keep up hope. You need to allow the chance to present itself. Because every now and then you find another such rider whose skills are close to yours. Someone whose of a like mind. It reinforces that hope.
I have to remember the years of riding with Whitey produced something which took a long time to develop. It had to be learned. You find what works best in practice. Out on the country roads. Adapted signals and positioning. Paying attention to the other guy. Nowadays there are prescribed hand signals so that riders of relative unfamiliarity with one another can communicate. We never even thought of that sort of thing back then. We just came up with our own language.
I've found another such rider. The kind who instills a sense that the ride will be safe with him somewhere around me. He rides well and he rides spirited. He also exhibits that same quality of being swift and smooth in his riding style Whitey has.
I like to ride with others but usually passed on the opportunity in the recent past. For a long time I had a fear of having another rider too close to me. Unsure of what the other guy'll do... A fear of the unknown rider. Probably more than is healthy.
Living on the outskirts of Saint Cloud Minnesota has given me a chance to breath deeper in the wind again. The roads are quiet. People seem really cautious around that scooter. And I've found another rider of the same mind as me. So am I lucky? No, that's the guy on the other Vespa LX150 I'm riding with nowadays. Its good to be confident riding with others again.