Riding Right: Are You Having Fun?

The importance of knowing how to read other riders in your group

By Amy Holland

I am pretty sure I don’t have to remind you of this, but motorcycling is supposed to be fun. Of course, fun is defined differently for each rider. Some riders like to push themselves and their bikes to their limits while others just want to cruise around town. As they say, different strokes for different folks, but only you know whether or not you are having fun.

Motorcycling is supposed to be fun,
and if a rider isn’t having fun,
that rider is going to be more prone to making mistakes.

For example, a friend of mine started riding a long time ago, and we would sometimes go on trips together. As is often the case, when we went on trips we had to endure a few hours of traffic before we were out of the city and on the back roads. My friend did not enjoy the traffic part at all, so she was always nervous at the beginning and end of our trips.

are you having fun riding in a group
No matter how big or small your group is, there should always be a designated leader.

Not until recently did my friend realize that street riding just isn’t her thing. The traffic wasn’t the only thing that bothered her. She could never get comfortable riding through the curves, so she ended up riding less and less. OK, no biggie, because I know that riding isn’t for everyone, and if she wasn’t having fun then she shouldn’t be riding. But when I had the chance to get a couple of dual-sport bikes for review, I invited her to give them a try. She loved it! She took to riding on the dirt like a duck takes to water. She loves that there usually isn’t any other traffic, that the roads we find are challenging yet not as intimidating as asphalt, and that she gets to ride out in nature. It looks like motorcycling has become fun for her again.

are you having fun riding in a group dirt bikes
Whether on the street or riding in the dirt, a leader should be constantly assessing the energy level of each rider.

But it’s not that way for everyone. Some of my more avid streetbike friends (I’ll call them Bri, Cami, and Carol) recently paid me a visit. I had some dual-sport bikes on hand, so we all decided to go for a ride. They all have done some dirt riding in the past, but it seems that Bri only rides on the dirt because Cami enjoys it, while Carol wants to ride on the dirt all day long. Bri really wants to like it, but there’s just something about riding on the dirt that doesn’t appeal to her.

Bri had been off bikes for a while and she wasn’t super comfortable on the dirt anyway, so she rode slower than the rest of us. This was not a problem because we would ride ahead and stop at various places to wait for her. Now, I knew how Bri felt about riding on the dirt, so I had initially planned a pretty short ride. I don’t like to force people to do things, and I feel that Bri is kind of like me in that she needs time to get used to dual-sport riding in a controlled environment before adventuring out onto unknown roads, especially after being off bikes for a few months.

When we got to what I thought was going to be our turn-around point, we waited for Bri to catch up and rest. Because of the slower pace at which she rode that first section of road, I really thought that we should go back. I don’t like to force my views on anyone, so I put it up for a vote. Carol was indifferent, Cami really wanted to press on, and Bri actually seemed comfortable with forging ahead, so we continued our ride. I think that Carol and I made it clear that it was okay with us if we went back, but Bri still seemed to want to go on. OK, let’s go!

are you having fun riding in a group rider meeting
A mid-ride meeting is just as important as pre-ride meeting to gauge the needs of the group.

Pretty soon we made it to our next turn-around area, so again we stopped and waited for Bri. We all thought that Bri would be coming around the corner any minute, but she didn’t so Carol turned around and started heading back to look for her. Cami and I waited a little bit longer before heading back.

Not too far from our turn-around, Carol found Bri sitting in the road with her bike on its side. Physically she looked OK and she seemed to be in good spirits as well, lightly joking about knowing that someone would eventually come back for her. Carol picked Bri and her bike up and made sure she was fine. She wasn’t going very fast when she lost control in some softer dirt and fell down, so on the outside it looked like no harm, no foul. When Bri was ready to go, Carol and I were all for continuing back down the road but Cami said that Bri should really go up to our turn-around point to complete the ride. When Bri said, “Why?” that should have been my cue to herd them out and move them on down the hill.

But I didn’t. I let Cami talk Bri into continuing up the hill even though my gut instinct told me that Bri really wasn’t enjoying herself. Bri didn’t complain, didn’t cry, didn’t show in any way that she was angry, upset, hurt, or scared, but still there was something in that simple three-letter word that told me she was ready to go back.

Bri and Cami have known each other for a very, very long time (much longer than Carol and I have been friends with them), so I guess I didn’t feel it was my place to keep Cami from talking Bri into riding that last 800 feet to the turn-around point. Even though nothing bad happened in that last 800 feet, my 20/20 hindsight tells me that in this particular instance, I should have interfered.

Luckily, the rest of our ride went well, but Bri’s question of “Why?” kept weighing on my mind. Motorcycling is supposed to be fun, and if a rider isn’t having fun, that rider is going to be more prone to making mistakes that either scare or hurt her. And once a rider gets scared or hurt, who knows how long it will be before she reaches the same emotional level she was at before getting scared or hurt. Sure, Cami was using the old “Get back on the horse that threw you‚” philosophy, but I don’t think that works for everyone all the time.

And I don’t know if it’s different for men, but getting back into riding after I crashed was not a carefree event. It took me a while to get comfortable and to the point where I could concentrate on the ride and not let my fears control me. Some riders who have crashed never get back to that point while others seem to immediately get back into riding. It all depends on the person and only that person knows how she or he feels.

What I am certain of is the next time I ride with someone who gives me the slightest inkling that she or he is not having fun I will stop the ride and go home. Sometimes a rider can push through those feelings and end up having the time of her life, but sometimes she can’t. While it is difficult to discern what someone is really thinking, there are times when it is best to just stop and try the ride another day. If you do it the right way—stopping the ride without making the person feel guilty for not continuing—that other rider will probably thank you. And one of these days, that other rider may be you.

are you having fun riding in a group amy holland
Journalist Amy Holland (left) with WRN editor Genevieve Schmitt, on a ride they did together.

About the Author

Amy Holland has been riding motorcycles since 1981. She is the founder and editor of Friction Zone magazine, a regional publication serving the west. That magazine has since ceased publishing.

Related Articles
Riding Beyond Your Comfort Zone
Riding in a Group

17 thoughts on Riding Right: Are You Having Fun?

  1. This is a note to Nancy. After I read your comment I had tears for what you are going through. First off, riding with men who are crazy fast drivers in the twisties is no fun. I have drove with a few and I can tell you, if you are not interested in crashing your bike and killing yourself you will drive differently. I know I do! I have had a few male leaders that make me totally uncomfortable and it has the opposite effect they are hoping to achieve out of you, instead of driving faster, I will drive slower, because I am pissed off and yelling in my helmet as I am driving at the situation I am in. Then forget it, it has ruined my day. You are in a really tough situation because this is your hubby doing this. All I can say is please keep riding if you truly love it, and maybe start riding only with your best friend, yourself! Hang in there Nancy.

  2. Excellent article! I have been riding for almost 40 years and still have “those days” when I feel like I can’t do anything right. This feeling is not exclusive to new riders. Sometimes even the most experienced riders have days where they are not on their game. Those are the days that should be taken easy, or not at all. My husband is generally supportive and he just goes on ahead and lets me do my thing. We use the “Last Guy Rule” when riding in a group. This entails that when you need to turn off the road, you wait at the intersection to make sure the person behind you sees which way you went. Each person does this until the last guy takes the turn. This is especially helpful when you are on the winding roads where you could be 500 feet away from the person in front of you and you can’t see them due to the curves, i.e. The Tail of The Dragon! (Wicked fun road!) When we do roads like that we have a designated meeting spot at the end of the road. Everyone can ride their own ride and know they are not being left behind. When I AM on my game, I can leave my husband in the dust! Heehee! Just sayin’.

  3. I dont like dirt or gravel roads! We got stuck 1/2 way up a scenic “highway” in Arizona when the pavement just ended! I ended up dropping my brand new 1800 but I rode it all the way down the “highway.” My rule is no pavement= not going!

  4. A great article, thanks. So true to be true to yourself and trust your gut. If you aren’t fully focused, it certainly isn’t fun, and can be life-threatening. I remember well the times I should have stopped a ride, or not even started. I was very tired, upset, or just not able to turn my worries off. Fortunately, those times are few. Motorcycling for me has been the one strong force in my hassled days that has been the best “medicine.” Thanks to my husband who encouraged me to move from passenger to rider, that “medicine” really works!

  5. What a great article! I really prefer to ride solo. It’s almost spiritual. My husband, who is very supportive, is eager to ride with me. When he does, he provides very constructive feedback on my skills and things I should do differently. So, I ride with him often enough for the skill improvement and bonding. However, my true passion is solo.Thanks for reminding us to be true to ourselves.

  6. I too enjoy riding by myself. In groups you really have to pay so much attention to what the other riders are doing. I recently rode to Destin, Florida, by myself. I have to say that riding there was more enjoyable than riding back with the group. I do enjoy riding with my husband and my girlfriend, but more than four of us riding gets me undone.

  7. Great article. We have such a variety of women in our group – age-wise, experience-wise, etc. and there are definitely different riding styles. The biggest problem seems to be “ride to the ability of the newest rider.” I have been on rides, where instead of cruising, they take off like bullets. Also, if you are the lead, you are responsible for all the riders, and if you are the sweep you stay in the back – keep your position. We are never too experienced to learn better habits that will keep us all safe when group riding.

  8. This was a great article. I re-learned to ride through a super class here in Maine called Motorcycles in Motion. I own a Harley-Davidson Sportster 883. My husband rides but we share one bike, for now. We recently visited an old friend about an hour away and we all rode together. Me on the Harley, friend on BMW, and husband on my friends extra BMW. It was a gorgeous day on the coast of Maine. We rode with my friend (more experienced rider) leading. He was a fantastic leader, always looking for us slower pokes, no judgment. We enjoyed ourselves so much more with his patient guidance. I did drop the bike at standing. It just got away from me and fell over! All the guys around just came over and put it back up. I did pull my hamstring trying to keep it up. Too darn heavy. Learned the weight and balance lesson. Thanks to more experienced riders who respect a persons limits and abilities. Kudos!

  9. First off I loved your article. I really appreciate your editorial response to Nancy. I can’t believe someone would talk to another person like that, especially their own spouse!I’m a brand new rider. I just turned 50 and my 50th birthday present to myself was to learn how to ride a motorcycle and buy one to ride. I managed to get my motorcycle license one week before my birthday.I took motorcycle lessons with a very patient instructor. Unfortunately on day four of my lessons I had a bubble in my think tank and crashed the bike. I landed on the asphalt of the parking lot and the bike, a Buell Blast, landed on top of my leg. My motorcycle boots probably prevented me from breaking my ankle. Needless to say this did nothing for my confidence especially since I couldn’t ride until my ankle healed. My instructor patiently worked me through it and now I feel quite confident to ride my 2005 HD Sportster 1200XL. I love my bike. It fits me perfectly.I tend to be what many would call a “boring rider.” I am not into exceeding speed limits or breaking traffic laws (I drive school bus and obeying the law is ingrained). My preference is actually to ride alone and from my first ride on my own bike was happier to ride by myself. Even though I don’t have a ton of hours in the saddle when I ride by myself I can stop where I want, pull over and let faster motorists pass, etc. Riding in town doesn’t faze me at all.I did go on a ride of about 200 miles (my longest to date) with a group of eight people (including my instructor) and even though everybody rode pretty close to the speed limit and nobody did anything crazy I felt very uncomfortable. I was near the back of the group with only my instructor at a safe distance behind me and still felt boxed in. I am very claustrophobic and found group riding somewhat nerve wracking. With my novice skill level I didn’t feel I had enough room to react to an emergency. It was a cold day and I didn’t realize we’d be going so far. I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been and got pretty chilled. It ended up being a tough ride. However, I really did enjoy many parts of it and learned a lot during that ride. I am determined to overcome my discomfort with riding in a group because I do have friends I’d like to ride with.Riding season is over now in northern BC, but when I get back at it in the spring I’m going to be doing a lot more solo riding or riding with my husband and practicing my skills before I go on too many group rides. My husband actually decided to learn to ride a motorcycle after I did and he will be finishing his classes when riding season returns. I’m so fortunate to have a supportive husband. I can’t wait to go on long road trips with him.

  10. Well said Genevieve! Nancy, motorcycling has such a mind/body connection the last thing you need is someone else getting into your head, casting doubts and judgment your way. Maybe consider looking into a group of lady riders in your area.

  11. I’ve had a similar problem in that I ride with my husband a lot of the time with him taking the lead since he can read the road signs better than I can and has a GPS on his bike. He likes to take his time and savor the ride, which is fine at times, but I like to crank it up when we hit the twisties. After discussing this several times we finally came up with a solution. If he wants to take it easy and we’re on a road that we won’t be turning off of for quite some time he’ll take the right side of the lane and gives me the opportunity to run for awhile. I pull off and wait for him when I’m not sure which direction to go. Now his riding experience is better since I’m not pushing him, and mine is because I get to roll on the throttle.

  12. This is a well-written article with an important message. Many people think they should be doing what others are doing believing that’s how it’s done by the “cool” set. It’s time to change that.This is my eighth riding season and I have put on about 40,000 miles, so believe I can add something of relevance. I think it’s very important to listen to one’s gut instincts when you are thinking about joining an unfamiliar group of riders. Also, listening in on their conversations about riding can give you a clue about their riding style and whether it’s something you’d feel comfortable with. Many times, I have silently asked myself while amongst a group, “Why are we going 20 or 30 mph over the speed limit?”I am very comfortable with riding and have been told many times that I am a competent rider, but speeding way over the limit isn’t my thing. I can do it, but the law is the law. Some riders don’t seem to learn even after the two riders at the back of the pack have been pulled over and ticketed. So, yeah, it is prudent to pick your riding companions carefully i.e. being with those who are like-minded makes it more fun.Or go out alone. And believe me, when I started riding, that’s something that I thought I’d never have the guts to do! Now, however, solo riding is very enjoyable. I’m on my own schedule, taking rest stops for as long as I want and where and I meet lots of friendly people along the way.And I have to add, I appreciate Genevieve’s answer to one reader here. I agree!

  13. Nancy I honestly have to agree with Genevieve. You truly do need to find a new riding partner. His attitude is the very reason so many woman do not attempt to ride. And if you were to happen to go down while riding with him do you think he would be any happier taking care of you if you are lucky enough to survive a crash? You really do have to ride your own ride and you should never have the added stress of being bullied and ridiculed. As far as I am concerned some of his friends need to give him a attitude adjustment.

  14. Great point! I ride with some folks who prefer winding country roads. I’m just now realizing what I like…city traffic. It may sound strange to some but I love feeling like I’m in the mix of it all. Those country roads are nice but I become bored and for me that’s just not fun. Thanks for reminding me to be true to myself. I guess it’s just the Chicago in me!

  15. Loved your article. I love riding my bike but sometimes my husband gets really critical about my riding skills. In fact, he said I was an embarrassment to women riders. I am a rider who likes to take my time riding the back roads in Florida. He likes to take the curves fast. He says if I can’t keep up, then I shouldn’t be riding. He sure has taken the fun out of riding. BTW-I’ve been riding for six years and own a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy. Any feedback would be appreciative.

    1. Find a new riding partner. Honestly. He has no business dictating to you how you should ride. What if you got into an accident trying to keep up with him. How would he feel then? Any seasoned rider will tell you, “Ride your own ride.” Everyone becomes a more skilled rider at their own pace, not by being pushed beyond comfort zones and berated. I’m sure you carry a cell phone. If he loses you, he can call you. Riding should be fun. Your husband needs an attitude check. I can’t believe he made that comment to you about being an embarrassment. What a mean thing to say to someone. Does this guy love you?If you are a danger to other riders, he should share that with you constructively.

Scroll to Top