In my newly acquired Harley-Davidson jacket and black leather chaps, I thought my job was to look cool and enjoy the scenery as the plus-one on the back of the bike. Turns out, there was more to my role than that.
“This will be your job,” one guy said to me while helping my husband push the 400-kilogram Harley Electra Glide into a parking spot in front of the hotel where we were staying. I stood by and watched, while his wife nodded in agreement.
Apparently, I needed to learn a few things before becoming a respectable back-seat rider. Like how to help keep this beast upright and push it into tight spots when needed.
What else was required knowledge for being the gal on the back? There was no shortage of advice – or stories.
We were signed up for the day-long 26th Anniversary Charity Poker Run in the scenic Kamloops region of southern British Columbia with 750 other Harley enthusiasts. That would be followed by a three-day motorcycle tour.
This was to be my abrupt indoctrination as a motorcycle passenger – having only ever spent 30 minutes on a bike before.
There would be no shortage of collective knowledge about doubling up on a bike from this bunch, where they had amassed millions of miles among them and where their ages ranged from 45 to 75.
“Always remember, ride backbone to breastbone,” to stay in sync with the driver, Robert, an affable rider from Texas, told me. “And don’t wiggle around when you’re at a stop,” he added. That’ll just make the driver go off balance.
Some bikers had that bad-ass weathered look that comes from blasting into the elements at 120 km/h for years. Others were more concerned with their appearance, such as the woman at the barbecue lunch who told her friend how she couldn’t wear mascara while riding with her new bifocal motorcycle goggles.
The stories would dispel any notions I’d had about these “rebels,” turning out in droves for a good cause.
Diane Pennock has been riding on the back of her husband, Jeff’s, bike for 18 years. The couple has ridden across the country from their home in Langley, B.C., to Newfoundland, dodging tornadoes and braving storms. Diane, who doesn’t ride a motorcycle or drive a car, takes it all in stride. “I don’t have any stress about where we’re going. We just roll with whatever.”
Her advice? Don’t move around much. And “try not to bang your helmet against the driver,” which seems hard to avoid.
Her puny perch comes without a backrest, but she says she’s used to it, and makes sure to brace for the bumps. “Some girls get to sit like they’re on a living room couch,” she says. “I’ve even talked to some who say they fall asleep, but I like to pay attention.”
Nor does she use an intercom to keep in touch with partner. “I don’t want my husband talking to me; I want him to pay attention to the road.”
On a bike, it’s especially important to keep an eye out for wildlife leaping out of the bushes, something we experienced several times on our trip.
What’s also unpredictable is the weather. A helmet with a face shield is a must for rain and wind – and the inevitable insects – as is a rain suit. Otherwise, a couple of wicking layers and a good heavy leather jacket, protective pants and heavy-duty shoes will make riding a little easier.
No one had mentioned the fatigue. After an afternoon of ripping through the steeps and twisties of B.C.’s Cariboo Chilcotin region, I learned how good a steaming hot bath and a cold beer feels at the end of the day.
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