I think we all know with tested certainty that two-up riding is not going to be much fun if your passenger is sore and grumpy. We don't need much for a fine and pleasant putt-a bike that goes and usually stops, a scenic road, and a sunny sky pretty much covers it. But even a perfect day can turn terrible if proper and thoughtful care has not been taken to ensure the comfort of your trusting companion. Beware the furious wrath of a scorned passenger in pain.
There is an old saying usually found painted or embroidered in big red letters that hangs prominently in many a kitchen: "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Scarier words have never been written, and if you ever doubt the raw power of this little maxim, then take momma for a long ride on some itty-bitty passenger pad and see what happens.
In the last installment of our "Psychology of the Ride" series (April 2010), we extolled the sensual and therapeutic virtues of biking as a couple, whether that was two-up or side-by-side. The bonds created by sharing the thrill, fun, and danger of the road can mend sputtering relationships, bring couples closer, and even create greater intimacy.
But it doesn't stop there. In our quest to find mental moto peace and wellness, we ride deeper into the motoring mind. Now that you've taken this path, biker lifestyle choices will follow. These will inevitably lead around to the bike itself and how it's equipped, including the perilous options offered to seating for two.
Of course, most of us ride dressers, which come pretty cozy and comfortable for both rider and passenger. There's not much to distract from the joy of the open road there-unless you have a second ride, a chopper or bobber perhaps, something tough, hard, and very phallic; something that shouts, "I prefer to be by myself!" Nothing in motorcycling seems more ironic than a head-turning pick-up machine purposely built to keep you alone. That's just sad.
We ride baggers because we enjoy company, and all the important stuff company needs to carry. But the bane of many a content couple has been the almost irresistible, sinister urge to fiddle. We cannot quantify the self-destructive effects of the fiddle factor, or how many once-happy bikers have been led to misery and ruination through an obsessive need to change stuff. One thing is sure; it has brought a world of woe down upon many a good-intentioned rider who just wanted to give their bike a bit more shine and sex appeal.
Pity the innocent fool who thinks no bad can come from customizing his machine. It is, after all, his or her own damn bike, right? This is your first mistake. It doesn't matter who paid for the bike, or who lovingly cleans, polishes, waxes, and maintains it. The bike is a joint venture, whether you know it or not. You'll be happier if you know it.
The old-school biker creed, "It's only the passenger," has little place in modern motorcycling. I can soundly base this on testimony from three marriages and 30 years of biking with passengers ranging from willful psycho-divas to shut-up-and-lets-freakin'-ride fanatics, give or take a Zoloft or two.
The gentleman, or gentlewoman, biker will consider his or her significant passenger from the showroom through the many miles ahead, that is, if he or she wants to live and be happy. Some partners will claim they don't care, that the bike and everything about it is their domain and they're just glad to go along for the ride. Don't you believe it. They're just saving up the grief for somewhere down the road, in the middle of nowhere, where nobody can hear you scream.