Thursday, January 28, 2016

Motorcycle Reading... When You're Not Riding.


Motorcycle Reading... When You're Not Riding.

A Collection of sure-fire books that will interest, excite and inspire motorcycle journeys near and far.

Written By Jim Foreman

Maybe if you’re like me, you think a lot about riding your motorcycle.  When one doesn't ride one's motorcycle, for example, on an international flight or long hot boring drive, one still thinks about one's bike.

As one who frequently travels to destinations not well suited to a motorcycle, reading about travels or listening to audio books while driving is the next best thing.

Motorcycle travel books also serve as a source of inspiration and motivation to go out and do more riding farther from home.

While listening to or reading an engaging book, I often become transported to the locations described by the author and begin to hear the sounds of an approaching thunderstorm or smell the scents in the arid African plains, in my imagination. 

In Southern California, there aren’t too many days we can’t go out and ride.  Now and then we do get a good rain, or our main mountain pass is snowed or iced over.  There are times when we have to commute in four-wheelers, and an audio book eases any frustration of being caged up on the road. 

Listed below is a thoroughly vetted list of great books one should strongly consider purchasing.  Many of them are available as an audio book on sites like Audible.com and others.

Sadly, many adventure books start off with lush and vivid detail and dramatic situations, but as the effort of writing drags on, the descriptions get more terse and hastened.  These books listed below do not suffer from this common affliction.  They are great, from start to finish and leave you, the reader, desiring more.

The following selections are books I've read, and often, re-read.  They will certainly capture your imagination and bring a longing for more riding.


Into Africa – Sam Manicom

Into Africa remains my favorite book I’ve ever enjoyed.  I've read it four separate times, and each time, I'm transported to this amazing continent.  Sam does a cracking job of describing the environment and feelings and making you feel like you’re right there with him.  Sam Manicom has four books, and they are all wonderful.  The four books chronicle his Round-the-World adventures with wit, triumphs, and disappointments.  Once you start, it will be a challenge to put it down.  After completing this book, you’ll want to dive immediately into “Under Asian Skies”, “Distant Suns” and “Tortillas to Totems.”  “Into Africa” is particularly unique as it, along with “Under Asian Skies” is also available as an audio book.  Sam, himself, is the narrator and this brings a particular joy listening to him recount these travels.  Sam appears in an episode of the SoCal BMW Motorrad Podcast.


One More Day Everywhere – Glen Heggstad

Glen Heggstad is another unexpected Round-the-Worlder.  After a kidnapping by FARC rebels in Colombia, detailed in “Two Wheels Through Terror”, Glen set out on his journey to see the world.  Motivated by a desire not to let terrorists win, Glen's journey started from the eastern Siberian coast and traveled east.  Glen’s book is full of wit, wisdom, and strange adventures.  Throughout, Glen keeps an unusually honest and real portrayal of the highs, lows, desires and fears. 
One More Day Everywhere” is also available as an audio book.  Though Glen does not read the book, the narrator does very well.  If you have an opportunity to see Glen’s “Earth Ride” presentation, make sure you do!


Long Way Round – Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

OK, who hasn’t seen an episode of “Long Way Round”?  These are charming and fascinating episodes highlighting the round-the-world trip Ewan and Charley made on their motorcycles.  While some have foolishly criticized them for having a camera operator and a support vehicle, it remains a powerful motivation for people to venture beyond their comfort zone.  If you enjoyed the TV series, the book is even better.  Ewan and Charley each write up their experiences in a way that brings more depth and feeling to the journey. Ewan and Charley also did a follow-up journey from the northern tip of Scotland to the southern tip of South Africa called “Long Way Down.”  The book for that journey is equally captivating and brings a profound human and personal perspective to the experience.


Lois on the Loose – Lois Pryce

Lois Pryce is a firecracker!  Lois left a good job at the BBC to discover an exciting life.  She shipped her bike to Alaska and began a solo journey that brought her to Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina.  Lois details her experiences and surprises of how different countries like the USA and Mexico were from how they were described by those, back home.  Having worked in the media, Lois saw first-hand how perceptions she had were entirely different from reality.   “Lois on the Loose” is an enjoyable story and one that will keep you entertained and longing to set out on experiences for yourself.  Lois Pryce also wrote “Red Tape and White Knuckles” which is equally delightful and a page turner.  Lois is also featured in a segment on the SoCal BMW Motorrad Podcast.  Her personality and zeal shine brightly in the interview.


The Perfect Vehicle – Melissa Holbrook Pierson

“The Perfect Vehicle” is a masterpiece that takes the reader through Pierson’s personal experiences with deciding to ride and own a motorcycle.  Pierson shares intimate details and personal reactions motorcycling brings.  “The Perfect Vehicle” features a relaxed writing style that welcomes readers into her life.  Much later, Pierson wrote, “The Man Who Would Stop At Nothing.”  The follow-up is a fascinating story of World Record holder John Ryan’s casual style and his determination to revive Pierson’s love of riding.  Sadly, John Ryan left us too early in 2013.


101 Road Tales – Clement Salvadori

If you’ve ever picked up Rider Magazine, you’ve no doubt read and probably enjoyed Clem Salvadori’s writing.  Clem is a legend for having an easy-going writing style that feels like he’s right there, in the room, telling you a story.  “101 Road Tales” is a compilation of these stories.  Every story leaves one feeling a bit wiser and intrigued to go and discover another corner of their region, state or country.  “101 Road Tales” is a little harder to find so look carefully.  I recommend that you enjoy a chapter, each night before you go to sleep.  It will guarantee happy and exciting dreams as one drifts into twilight and sleep.


Motorcycle Adventurer – Dr. Gregory W. Frazier

Today, riding around the world still captures people’s attention.  The mere mention brings anticipation of extraordinary stories, photos, and experiences.  With modern motorcycles, air-freight, GPS technology and a network of relatively easily obtainable parts, it has never been easier to setting off on one’s individual round-the-world adventure.  That’s today.  Now imagine yourself in 1912 trying something nobody has ever accomplished.  Sitting astride a 1912 Henderson, Carl Stearns Clancy did what nobody had done before.  From 1912 to 1913, Clancy became the first person to ride around the world.  Dr. Frazier, who also shares a love of Henderson Motorcycles, gathered up all of Stearns’ newspaper article submissions, journals, and other sources to piece together a lush and fascinating history of this fascinating person and his great accomplishment.


Proficient Motorcycling – David Hough

Not an adventure tale or even a narrative, but rather one of the best and most complete instructional books on riding motorcycles safely and correctly.  Most motorcyclists already own this book.  Take a look at it and flip through the pages.  It’s a sure bet you’ll re-discover something useful and probably spend more time going through the book.  If you have a friend who has just started riding or returned to riding, buy them this book.


A Twist of the Wrist II – Keith Code

Aside from “Proficient Motorcycling” this book is probably one of the best books available to learn and understand about Motorcycle performance and how to be a substantially better rider.  The technics taught in this book work beautifully in both track and street riding.  You'll discover practical ways of handling unexpected situations without yelling an expletive into your helmet.


Tales of the Midnight Rider (Series) - Gary 'Koz' Mraz
Gary 'Koz' Mraz, like many of the other authors mentioned is someone counted as a friend.  What started as a simple magazine article about night riding evolved into a provocative,  fascinating and sometimes unbelievable world of those who are moving goods while we sleep.  The "Tales of the Midnight Writer" series is based, mostly on fact and real people Mraz chronicled and observed.   Mraz keeps embellishments to a minimum while setting a mood that seems as foreign as Kathmandu.  With each page turn, more and more of this subculture is revealed with all of it's tangents and dramas.  If one is looking for a seemingly unbelievable world, right here in the US, give these amazing and fun books a good read.  The series is also available as ebooks.


Motorcycle Owners Manual - Various Authors

The owners manual is an important book everyone should read.  In it you'll know correct tire pressures, bulb replacements, and what that little blinking light on your dash means.  If you don't have one or would prefer it on your mobile device, go to your manufacturer's website and download an electronic version.  If your bike is an older model, search out other sources for obtaining the owners manual.  Google is your friend, for this task

Additional Reading:

There are hundreds more books about motorcycling and motorcycle trips.  Many are quite good.  A few are excellent. Some are awful and cringe-worthy. 

Listed are some additional titles that I haven't either read, or don’t quite measure up to the excellent storytelling of the ones listed above.


Jupiter’s Travels – Ted Simon 

Jupiter’s Travels is Ted’s first journey, made in the 1970’s.  There are many colorful and memorable parts of the book; some of which are quite entertaining.  Overall, a pall of negativity and prejudice permeates the book leaving one feeling a little flat and disappointed.  It’s worth a read and is a well-produced audio book.


Ghost Rider – Neil Peart

Legendary rock band, Rush’s drummer documented his ride and feelings after the tragic deaths of his daughter and wife.  Simply put, I haven’t read it yet.  Many trusted people have given it high marks. 


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig

More of an autobiographical narrative of a father who suffered a mind-altering nervous breakdown but later decides to take his whiny son on a journey across the Unite States.  Zen isn’t so much about motorcycles but rather an account of how Robert dealt with his schizophrenia and his bouncing between the character of himself and Phaedrus.  The motorcycling part of it is interesting, but the philosophical outreach leaves me turning the pages quickly to get back to the riding.


Motorcycle Therapy – Jeremy Kroeker

This book was frustrating.  In it, a rather arrogant Jeremy Kroeker mistreats and annoys his long-suffering friend.  After both men recently broke up with their partners, they set off on a journey from Canada to Panama.  It doesn’t take long to see why Kroeker’s partner left him.  “Motorcycle Therapy” does have some very charming and funny scenes.  Unfortunately, the story is hurried along, rather quickly, after two-thirds of the story is told.  Many times, I wanted to reach through the pages and sock Kroeker for being a cheap, overbearing jerk.

When you are in Southern California, please come to Irv Seaver BMW in Orange County, CA.  There you'll find a fully stocked parts department, extensive apparel department and a huge selection of new and pre-owned motorcycles.  There's some great people there, too!
Sam Manicom with Ted Simon and Libby
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

James Franco and Amber Heard between takes on set.
Melissa Holbrook Pierson and her Moto Guzzi
Glen Heggstad on his Round the World trip
(L-R) Alan Karl, Sam Manicom, Jack Borden, Jeffrey Polnaja, Ken Duvall, Jim Foreman
Clement Salvadori


©2016 Jim Foreman All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Riding the BMW R 1200 RS

A practical and noteworthy return to sport touring

Words and photos by Jim Foreman

Upon its first glance, it was easy to be smitten with the new R 1200 RS.  The Blue and White colors seemed to accent the bike and carry one’s imagination with it.

The newly imagined RS seemed to be a perfect ‘Sport-Tourer.'  Nestled between the R 1200 R and the R 1200 RT, the RS combines the best of both of those bikes.  

Certainly sporty like the R 1200 R, the RS has plenty of power and thrills to keep all levels of riders satisfied.  With it’s simple yet effective half-fairing and windscreen, long distance rides at a clipper’s pace is easy and enjoyable.  Leaving the luxury and bulk of the RT behind, the RS is a perfect mix for a rider inclined to this style of riding.

This time out, Evan Bell, owner of Irv Seaver BMW in Orange, CA, handed me the keys to the new 2016 BMW R 1200 RS for the weekend.  This weekend is the same weekend I was to participate in a Streetmasters course at Willow Springs International Raceway’s Horse Theif Mile.

The RS Demo had 40 miles on the odometer when riding off the lot.  Once I got the geometry in my head, the R 1200 RS came alive.

Having experience with the amazing water-cooled boxer engines, I changed the riding mode and suspension, both, to ‘Dynamic’. 

To me, the bike has perfect ergonomics.  'A perfect fit' was also a similar conclusion for the half-dozen people I let ride the RS.  I'm 6-04 with a 34" inseam.  Riders of all different sizes commented on the comfortable and enjoyable fit.  The seating position is slightly leaning forward with the footpegs, comfortably beneath the rider’s mass.

Riding the new RS is so natural and effortless that it inspires confidence and appreciation.  Steering is light and easy.  Clutch and brakes respond with precision.  The throttle is always smooth and responsive. 

Riding with a group to Lancaster was both fun and interesting.  The group I was with preferred not to lane-share.  As Los Angeles traffic notoriously backed up, it was effortless to bring the bike to a quarter walking speed and see how long I could keep from touching the ground.  It wasn’t obvious that anyone riding in our group noticed until I finally had to put my foot down.  I saw pointing at me in my mirrors and gave a nice thumbs up in return.

Finally departing the motorway, the fuel level on the bike was reading a quarter tank.  Knowing there would be no fuel station until Palmdale, I motioned to the leader of the group and veered off to fuel up.

This fortuitous event allowed me to run up Angeles Crest Highway and Angeles Forest Highway on my own, without being slowed down by other’s more conservative pace.

Fueled up and personally hydrated, I ran up the notable Angeles Crest Highway.  Dropping into the corners felt awesome on that bike.  The Boxer Twin was running like a thoroughbred and making the ride delightful and spirited.  The powerband on the RS was meaty and full of grunt until the top revs got near.  Furthermore, the stability both leaned over and on straightaways was incredible.  There’s a stretch of Angeles Forest Road before it meets up with the 14 Freeway.  Running a rather high and autobahn-grade rate of speed showed how beautifully balanced the RS is. 

Before and during the Streetmasters course, several people were offered to try out the R 1200 RS.  It was a demo bike, after all.  The response was one of joy by the riders.  Curiously, the names “Evil One” and “Bad Man” came my way by their lovely partners.

Walt Fulton of Streetmasters takes the RS for a spin
Racer Walt Fulton completely loved it.  No stranger to the RS lineup, he boasts that he owns two R 1100 RS’ from the 1990’s.  Walt ran the RS through Horse Thief Mile at a wicked pace.  Most people in the class to looked toward the track and appreciated what a pro can do. 

Walt did seem to have a brighter smile for the rest of the day.

The following day, I met up with two great friends.  Yes, many of my friends also ride.  John Kenji Hawley and Emmanuel Paraskiv jumped on their R 1200 R and GSX-R 600s to ride Angeles Crest Highway again.  Splitting lanes on the RS was easy.  The bike’s seating position gives easy visibility to traffic around while maintaining maximum control and maneuverability of the bike. 

(L-R) John Kenji Hawley and Emannuel Paraskiv
At one of the scenic turnouts on Angeles Crest, John and I traded bikes.  John took up the RS and was instantly impressed.  John isn’t one to overact.  He asked several great questions and thought about it, quite a bit.  John summed up his riding experience by saying, "It's a really nice bike. Right off, I could tell it was very familiar to my R 1200 R, but far superior in handling, smoothness and power. I nearly got pulled off the bike when I took off the first time."

When it was Emmanuel’s turn,  he took to it like a bear to honey.  Even from behind, one could see the huge grin on his face.

Emmanuel’s previous riding experience is made up of a Honda Rebel and the GSX-R.  Needless to say, the GSX-R and I are NOT friends on Facebook or real life.

Emmanuel simply took off his helmet at the next meeting point, hugged me, and stated loudly, “I LOVE BMW!”  Emmanuel mentioned that he didn’t much care for the last-generation Oil/Air Cooled R 1200 R.   He said he wants to find a way to own the R 1200 RS.  Naturally, I casually dropped that Irv Seaver BMW offers to finance, with a huge grin.

Alf Assouad's 2016 BMW R 1200 RS
A good friend and international pilot, Alf Assouad, based in Australia, recently picked one up.  Here's what Alf has to say: "I love its power delivery and it's a real joy to ride. On the highway, I find it is much more solid and stable than my previous F 800 ST.  It's not effected, as much, by strong cross winds. Around corners it is as solid as a rock and on rails. This bike is exhilarating to ride.  Once the first service has been completed and the rev limiter removed, it will be interesting to explore the bike's full potential."

Previously, the S 1000 XR was given a long and enjoyable run.  Between the two, my riding style leans a little more toward the XR.  That said, as an owner of two K 1200 RS’ and one who appreciated simple sport-touring, I would not be disappointed if the amazing R 1200 RS wound up in my garage.
I do love the R 1200 RS.  It so happens that I simply love the S 1000 XR a little more.

… I do have room for two more…

If you are in Southern California and wish to try the R 1200 RS, S 1000 XR or any other BMW Motorcycle, please come to Irv Seaver BMW in Orange County, CA.  There you'll find a fully stocked parts department, extensive apparel department and the best selection of new and pre-owned motorcycles.  There's some great people there, too!

Racer Walt Fulton ripping it on the Horse Thief Mile.

Jim Foreman getting aggressive.

The R 1200 RS makes for a great 2-up motorcycle

John Kenji Hawley astride the R 1200 RS


©2015 Jim Foreman - All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Riding the BMW S 1000 XR

As a child I wanted to fly like superman.  On the S 1000 XR, I did just that.

Story and Photos by Jim Foreman

Walking into Irv Seaver BMW in Orange County, CA, the sight of the new 2016 BMW S 1000 XR Demo model took me aback.  I knew the demo bike was on the way, but the thought of getting to ride it had reached fever pitch.

Here it was, finally before me.  Boldly heading inside, I asked if the XR Demo was slated for anyone.  Looking on the reservation board, the answer was no.  Cool, I thought.  About this time, my good friend Devin Strange at Irv Seaver BMW, approached, nodded, and smiled.  Devin had taken the S 1000 XR out the weekend prior and was still grinning from the experience.  I knew from that expression alone that I was in for something very special.

Changing quickly into gear, a quick photo, before I left, was all that remained.  The GoPro was was mounted and running, and the smile on my face expanded to a broad 'Cheshire Cat' crescent.

Immediately upon putting my feet on the pegs, everything simply felt right.   Time was limited, so I decided to hit the freeway to get to Ortega Highway.  Getting to the on-ramp, I filtered to the front of the traffic line several times and the bike behaved beautifully.  The turning radius is much sharper than the S 1000 RR.  Engelbert Quechenberger and Sonny Singhanate of the Police Riding Technique Academy (PRTA) would be impressed with the bike and what I did with it. 

At high speed (not telling how high) the S 1000 XR loped as if that were it’s natural state.  The cruise control worked beautifully and disengaged cleanly when either the brake or clutch lever was tapped, or the throttle was rolled closed.  Those riders without cruise control may be quick to make childish remarks, but when it’s used and works intuitively well, all boorish comments dissipate instantly.  The value and usefulness are glaringly evident.  While riding on the interstate, I seemed to get more drivers looking over at me, and the bike, than is typical.  The XR loved to show off.  If I wanted to get out of a blind spot, the bike complied with a beautiful growl and leaped forward.  If a vehicle needed to be passed, it was effortless to do it safely and with precision.  The XR felt planted at high speed with no apologies. 

Exiting at Ortega Highway (CA-74), from Interstate 5, I made a left turn and headed to Lake Elsinore.  At every stop light, I received tremendous attention from men and especially women.  Soccer moms, college co-eds, and professional women alike all gazed at the bike and her pilot with lustful intent.  Crossing Antonio Parkway, Ortega Highway starts to become the road riders, near and far, flock toward.

Dipping into the first good sweeper, the bike felt completely natural and confidence inspiring.  Further along are some beautiful 180ยบ sweepers that are well cambered.  Again the bike acted as if it were on rails and even begged me to take it faster.  Without citing numbers, for fear of setting a bad example, the XR was able to take these corners at significantly higher speeds than would be prudent on other bikes. 
Corner after corner, the XR flicked back and forth with ease.  At one point, the XR seemed to completely disappear.  The XR simply went where I willed it to go with hardly more effort than a thought.  It was as if the bike was no longer there, and I was flying through the air.  It’s a remarkable feeling that, in all my experience as a rider, has never happened before.

Using the quick-shifter both up and down was easy and uncomplicated.  When passing a slower vehicle, a quick foot tap down, to drop a gear, and a roll on the throttle were all that was needed to put the vehicle in my side view mirrors. 

Slowing down at El Cariso Village, the temptation to see what the XR could do on some less ideal roads was pressing.  A left at North Main Divide led to a loop of little-used picnic spots and campgrounds to satisfy the temptation.  The road varied from nice flat asphalt to asphalt covered with pea gravel and broken up, goat-trail, asphalt.  There are some elevation changes along the way, too.  A lot of interesting debris could be seen, strewn about, including several pairs of knickers, some pink heels, a pair of shorts and tons of condoms and wrappers.  It seems that this is where Lake Elsinore locals go for romance.

The loop is about 8 miles and is an interesting and scenic run, despite the aftermath of lustful desire.  After about 20 minutes, the road eventually takes you back to Ortega Highway.  Before you ask, "Is the XR a good bike for off-road?" let me say, yes and no...  It's fine on hard dirt or gravel.  It can handle sand.  It's simply not a GS with all the bash plates and protection offerings.  During the ride, it was taken a little off-road.  It performed great.  If you are serious about rougher roads than what I describe, this may not be the solution for you.  Supposing you are primarily a street rider and you don't mind taking it off the asphalt every now and then, the XR will perform admirably.

As is custom, a stop at The Lookout was in order.  Photos and some water to hydrate were necessary.  It is also a good opportunity to place the GoPro in a different position.  Once rested, the XR and I set off for the crescendo of Ortega Highway from The Lookout to the valley floor.  Waiting as long as possible to give any cars ahead plenty of room, I finally took off.  Again, the XR seemed to float in the air much like a speeder bike from “Return of the Jedi”. 

The best part of Ortega Highway
Having reached the bottom, in record time, a U-Turn was immediately initiated.   The incredible roadway was re-traversed, going uphill. At The Lookout, once again, a u-turn was made and the trek back down resumed.  Several other motorcyclists had a similar idea and we waved to each other, every time.

Knowing the deviations cost a bit of extra time, I opted to take I-15 to the 91 Freeway back to Irv Seaver BMW.  Again, the journey, even on the boring super slab, was fun, and filled with stares. 

The total trip was three hours, in the saddle.  During that time, I felt great and could ride it all day.  The wind protection was perfect.  Being 6’04” (193cm) with a 34” inseam, I was able to easily flat-foot at a stop.  Riding the XR for extended periods was comfortable and natural.  The ergonomics were spot-on with no improvements necessary. 

Some have commented that the grips get a little buzzy at higher speeds.  It is true.  Most high-performance liter bikes are buzzy at high RPMs and speeds.  The buzz wasn’t a bother to me, as I don’t ride with a death-grip.  Rather, a light and a looser grip is optimal with the XR. 

Final Thoughts


Stat junkies will probably be disappointed as this reflects my thoughts and feelings riding the S 1000 XR.  Don't be dismayed though.  If it's stats you wish to salivate over, here's the official Technical Details from BMW's Page.

The BMW S 1000 XR is simply amazing.  It is the bike I truly want and will work hard to earn.  It does everything one could ever want and need in a motorbike, and it does it better than anything I’ve been on before.  It would be a demon at the racetrack.  In the canyons, the XR dances like a world champion ballroom dancer.  For commuting and freeway travel it is precise and planted with excellent visibility and wind protection.  Heated Handgrips, ABS, Ride Modes, ESE Electronic Suspension, Luggage options, Cruise Control, GPS Mount with control ring and perfect brake response make this the very best bike one has ever ridden, to date. 

Come into Irv Seaver BMW to take a test-ride, yourself and see the Cheshire Cat make an appearance on your face. 
Grinning Ear-to-ear at the completion of my ride on the S 1000 XR



Giving the cars going down the hill extra space before I catch up to them.

Complete Moto Contentment

©2015 Jim Foreman.  All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Definitive Guide for Motorcycle Passengers

I am the passenger
And I ride and I ride
I ride through the city's backsides
I see the stars come out of the sky
Yeah, the bright and hollow sky
You know it looks so good tonight

The Passenger -Siouxsie and the Banshees

1923 BMW Series II R 32
Story by Jim Foreman.

Since the very first motorcycles were produced, one of the first accessories added was a passenger seat.

Inviting a passenger to ride with you is rather straightforward.  There is no limit of people who want to experience the excitement of riding a motorbike.  Many of those passengers are even going to be future motorcycle riders.   Others are content being the pillion.

There are three elements or responsibilities to successful riding with a passenger.  First is getting someone to ride with you.  Second is what the pilot needs to do to ensure a great experience.  Lastly, what the passenger must do to make for a safe and fun outing.

Getting Someone to Ride With You

2016 BMW R 1200 RS
For some, this is the easiest part.  As an attractive single man, a conversation with a woman will invariably include riding my motorcycle.  From there, it's a high probability that she will desire and even ask to take a ride with me.

Ask any 19-year-old who just bought a GSX-R or R6.  They’ll admit it’s to pick up girls.  It works until they crash a short time later.  Sadly, many young women are just as stupid as the young men who try to pick them up.  A beginner with a huge ego and libido on overdrive is not a promising start.  Add a 600 or 1000cc supersport, with no training, gear, license, or insurance and one easily sees a fast lane to disaster.  It’s important to note that not all 19-year-old riders do this.  Many do get proper training, license, insurance, and become excellent riders.
A very unwise combination

Many potential passengers have been brainwashed into believing that even standing near a motorcycle will result in possible death.  Other times, partners or significant others don’t share the enthusiasm you have for riding.  Lastly, there are those who simply don’t have the confidence that riding with you won’t lead to a crash or worse.

All of these rejections boil down to fear.  Sometimes that fear is rational and justified, other times not.    One example of justifiable concern is after twenty something years, you decide to go buy a motorcycle to relive your wild youthful days.  The last bit of training you had was your uncle saying, “Don’t crash, OK!”  Another source of rational fear and doubt is when you arrive and your bike is all scuffed up, you’ve been drinking, or you brag about recent crashes.

The irrational fear is something entirely different.  There are levels of irrational fear from mild to extreme.  If the fear is unrealistic, it’s best to smile and forget it, at least for now.  Be pleasant and ask kindly.  If the answer is no, just say, “Whenever you change your mind, I’d love to share this with you.”  Then without any sadness or disappointment, gear up and go for a great ride.  Do wave and smile as you ride off.

If it’s your partner or child, it important to never be negative and always express the fun and beauty you experienced.  Build in them a desire to want to ride without nagging.  Nagging never works, it just annoys the other person.

For those with only a mild fear, mention a recent training course you took and how much better a rider you’ve become.   A sure-fire motivator is a photo or stories of a recent trip where you experienced incredible and beautiful things.  In every case, it’s your calm, confident, and non-desperate demeanor that will have the most success.

Sometimes, with your child, the other parent may have, for any number of reasons, filled your son or daughter's head to not go riding with you.  For six years, my daughter would not ride with me.   One week before Father’s Day, I casually asked her if she’d like to ride and she said, “Yes.”  She immediately got a big hug and then proceeded to gear her up with an armored jacket, helmet, gloves and knee armor.

My daughter, excited about riding
We did a short back-road ride for about half an hour, and then, we came back home.  When she got off the bike, she was jumping and smiling and asking when we could go out again.  We’ve been riding together, ever since.

Initially, her mother was furious.  Adjectives hurled at me included childish, irresponsible, a bad example, and reckless.  My response was to send a couple of photos of our daughter all geared up and smiling big with a beautiful backdrop.  After the initial outburst, her mother has mellowed out and has not brought it up since.

Your Responsibilities as a Pilot

OK!  You were successful in arranging a passenger.  It is entirely within your power to make the ride a great and memorable experience or a terrible one.

Foremost, please have at least 1000 miles of safe, recent riding under your bum before you think about taking on a passenger.   Any less and one is really too inexperienced to handle themselves on a bike, yet alone a pillion.

A good start is to ask if they have a helmet.  Some will and this is a good sign.  If they don’t have a helmet, do NOT go into your garage and dig out the old, stinky helmet you used to wear with a scratched visor, and it’s lining falling apart.  Now, what about states that don’t require a helmet, you may ask.  Make sure you are both wearing a good DOT helmet, period.

For me, any passenger I take with me will wear a helmet, jacket, gloves, long pants and boots.  Hiking boots work well, and most people have them.
Good reason for a full-face helmet

If your passenger does not have a helmet and you do not have a new or very lightly used helmet that will properly fit, meet at Cycle Gear or a local store with a large selection of helmets.  HJC makes pretty good DOT certified helmets.  Often they are less than $100.00.  It’s not necessary or recommended to go out and buy a Schuberth or Shoei helmet for a first-time or occasional rider.  If your passenger becomes a regular rider, then certainly get the top-tier kit. 

A full-face helmet is highly recommended.  If there is a protest or a comment that the ‘party lid’ half-helmet is fine, suggest that bugs hitting one's face don’t taste or feel good.  If anything were ever to happen, you’d want their whole face and head protected.

In one instance, my passenger met me, at her door, holding her helmet but wearing short shorts, a baby-doll tee, and sandals.  She looked stunning, and I offered a pleasant kiss upon first seeing her.  I asked her if we could take a few photos to remember the day.  I put the motorbike on its center stand and had her sit in different poses, on the bike.  Her roommate was asked take some photos of us together both on and around the bike.  After the fun with the photographs, I calmly smiled and said, “That was a great idea dressing like that for photos.  Now, let’s get dressed for the ride.”  She hesitated for a brief second, smiled and said she’ll be back in a few moments.  When she reappeared, she looked incredible in jeans, jacket and hiking boots, and I told her so.  I even asked for another photo of us and the bike and one of us riding off together.

Many first-time pillions only understand being a passenger by watching movies, TV or notice women wearing skimpy outfits.  That's all they know, so they come to believe this is acceptable.  Without ever being negative, I say, “Yes, they do reveal a lot of skin.“ I express, “If anything were to happen, I want you to have the best chance of being uninjured.   Then I'll add that nothing looks more attractive than a woman in good riding gear.”  A quick browse to the Dainese or Held website women’s section will prove your point.
Dainese Woman

For the first ride, it’s imperative that it be short, fun, and interesting.  The first trip should last 30-60 minutes.   You want to leave your passenger asking for more rather than complaining that it was boring, or too long.   If your passenger is experienced, she'll probably have her own riding gear.  You both can decide, later, to extend the ride.  Stop for a break after a short time and ask how your passenger is doing.  Make sure they are comfortable and happy on the bike and with you as a pilot.

Before you take off, take a minute or two to tell your passenger what to expect.

First-time passengers hear these simple instructions when riding with me.
  1. Keep away from the muffler.  It’s hot and will burn quite quickly.
  2. Please ask before mounting or dismounting the motorcycle.  Do it as if mounting a horse.
  3. Indicate how you prefer they hold on.  I prefer they grip me so I know where they are and can feel what they are doing.  The ‘girlfriend’ holding your chest or waist, or ‘backpack’ is perfect.
  4. Look in the direction that we're going.  It will put you in a good position.
  5. Explain leaning and how they need to lean with you.
  6. Indicate some simple taps or signals to communicate, as it will be difficult to hear.
  7. Have Fun!

As the pilot, it’s critical that you don’t make the following mistakes with a passenger.
  1. Don’t ride like a jerk or show off.  Wheelies are a very bad idea!  Scaring your passenger will only get them not to like you and regret their decision to ever ride with you.  It will also guarantee any romantic intentions that might have existed will be lost forever.  Mellow out and ride a little slower than your solo-riding pace.  With a passenger, it will take longer to slow down.  The bike will also react differently than you are used to.  Be Smooth and your passenger will respond warmly.
  2. Don’t do an epic ride on the first or second outing.  Your passenger is likely not used to being on a bike for so long.
  3. It’s advisable not to ride with anyone else the first couple of times.  When there are others, egos tend to be fueled.  Riding with others will result in your passenger feeling awkward, at best and angry at worst.
  4. Don’t talk too much when you take a break.  Listen five times for every one time that you talk.  Your passenger will want to express how they feel.  Let them.  Don’t brag.  Simply and positively express how they’re doing and make simple corrective suggestions, if necessary.
  5. Don’t put ‘the moves’ on your passenger.  Even if you two are already romantically involved.  There is enough swirling through their head without the added nuisance.  If there is a romantic desire, pursue it at the conclusion of the ride.

Being an Excellent Passenger

Being a passenger on a motorcycle is a compliment and an honor.  Good riders don’t just take anyone on their bike.  Whether it’s your first time or your twentieth time, it’s important to recognize that every pilot is different.  It’s important for you to sync up with their unique riding style and be as neutral as possible.

Being an excellent passenger starts with having a great attitude.  If you’re not in a good mood and ready to have a great time, don’t do it.  You will be experiencing new and exciting sensations.  How you react will depend entirely on your mood.

Care about your safety.  Even if you’re not prompted to by the pilot, wear long jeans, a sturdy preferably leather jacket, hiking boots, gloves, and a Helmet.  Most of the time, the rider can help you with these items.  Don’t be afraid to visit Irv Seaver BMW or a gear store like the Dainese D-Store or Cycle Gear to pick up some moto apparel.  Remember, nothing looks more attractive than a passenger in well fitting riding gear.  Some riding gear is so stylish that people choose to wear it when just going out on the town.

Here are some ways you will be an excellent passenger.

  1. Listen to the pilot’s requests and follow their instructions.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  3. If the pilot grabs or taps your leg or hand it means you are doing a brilliant job, not that they’re trying to feel you up or get fresh.
  4. It’s OK to give the pilot a hug if you are happy or they completed a complex move well, in appreciation.
  5. Look in the direction you are traveling.  Keep your body close to the pilot and lean as they lean.  It may seem awkward at first, but it’s important.
  6. Try to use your feet and body to keep from putting too much weight on the pilot while braking.
  7. Be gracious.  At stops go in a buy both of you some water or a snack.
  8. Have Fun!

There are several key things that a passenger should not do or avoid.

  1. Don’t be a diva or complain.  Nobody likes that.  If you are too negative, you may find yourself taking a cab home.  As mentioned above, it’s preferable that you mention any concerns.  If the pilot is a jerk or not interested in what you have to say, arrange for your own ride home.
  2. Don’t make sudden moves.  The bike requires balance.  Any sudden moves can upset that balance.
  3. Don’t lean opposite of the pilot.  It will put added strain on the pilot and is more likely to cause the bike to crash.
  4. Don’t be a know-it-all.  It’s cool that your dad or uncle rode and blah, blah, blah.  You’ll be instantly ignored if you try to act like the smartest person in the room.  Yes talk and ask questions but don’t act like you have all the answers.
  5. Don’t forget to thank the pilot at the end of the ride.  If you’re inclined, offer to take the two of you out for a drink or meal in your car.

Reflections

Personally, Most every passenger experience has been great.  Everyone listened to my simple instructions, looked and leaned as I leaned and were exceptionally gracious after the ride.

On occasion it proved smart to wear my Oxford Riding Grips, a special belt with grab handles, to make it easier and more comfortable for my passenger.  Alternatively, some sportbikes have passenger handles mounted around the gas cap ring and they swear it works. Other options like Cycle Handles work well, too.

Several friends were invited to share their experiences being a passenger.  Here’s what they said.

Rocio Duran at the Korean Friendship Bell
Rocio Duran  –For years, Rocio’s mother would caution her against motorcycles.  It’s not uncommon for moms to do this even though their own experiences were probably positive when they were younger.
About two years ago, Rocio’s best friend, Nick Chan, also a rider, asked if she would like to go for a ride.  Rocio accepted.  Nick made sure Rocio knew about safety and gear and insisted that she wear a thick jacket, long pants, boots and a helmet.  He was able to provide a helmet for her to use.
The first trip was about an hour, and Rocio loved it very much.  Nick was an excellent pilot and made her feel safe.  They continued to take longer distance trips together for over a year.
When asked if there was any romantic intention with Nick, she said, they were and remain great friends, but no romance.
About the same time, Rocio began as a passenger, she also started attending bike nights with the Los Angeles Motorcycle Riders (LAMR).  Over the next few months, Rocio went and bought herself a helmet, armored jacket, gloves, and moto boots.
By the time all her moto gear was assembled, Rocio decided to take the MSF Basic Riders Course and get her license.  For the last six months, She has been riding a beautiful 2010 Kawasaki Ninja 250.  She rides primarily for commuting to and from work but is planning longer distance trips, for pleasure.
Recently we rode together, and she proved to be an excellent rider with a great attitude and sensibility.

Laura Ruddy in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Laura Ruddy  -Laura and I became acquainted through the BMW MOA.  We are both on the younger end of the age spectrum, of the group, and shared many similar interests outside of motorcycling.  Laura is originally from Mesa Arizona but has lived in Germany for the last ten years.
Recently, on a visit stateside, we met up, and I took her out as a passenger four or five times.  I knew she was an experienced passenger, so longer trips were not a problem.  Laura owns her top-tier moto gear.

Instantly, Laura proved to be a riding muse.  She was like a $10,000 suspension job on my bike.  She would keep her petite frame light on the bike and lean, perfectly, into corners as I did.  Laura’s actions would settle the bike going into a corner and give me the added traction to take a more aggressive line.

After Laura’s stateside trip, She invited me to join her in Germany for three weeks.  Every day we rode through Bavaria, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and Czech Republic.  Each time we would ride, our synchronicity would get better to the point where we knew exactly what we were thinking and how each of us was feeling based entirely on non-verbal communication.

(L-R) Sean Ruddy, Ian Ruddy, Laura Ruddy, and Jim Foreman
Many times, Sean, Laura’s husband, and her son Ian would also ride with us, on another bike.
Laura has evolved to become a 10 out of 10 pillion rider.  She can handle everything from a romp to the market or a day of laps at Nurburgring.  It’s reasonable to say I’m a better rider because of Laura Ruddy.

Though Laura has her ‘M’ endorsement and can ride, she prefers to be the passenger.  Lucky for me!

The things Laura loves, aside from Star Wars, her husband, and son, are motorcycles and a dunkel bier, and Germany.

Again, Many thanks to Irv Seaver BMW for their support of this blog.  Do stop in for the absolute best BMW Motorcycle deals, apparel, parts, and service anywhere in Southern California.

It would be wise to avoid riding with these kinds of riders.



Some inadvisable passenger riding techniques



Happy memories riding with a passenger
Gina Cardenas and Elaine Chang riding with the hero motorcycle cops of Santa Paula.

Jim Foreman and Laura Ruddy in Italy


Jim Foreman and daughter


©2015 words and photos Jim Foreman