“And she’s down, again…” winced Jason for the third time in less than a mile. Although having a blast, admittedly I was in too deep. Getting increasingly buried in the sand pit we thought would be a rideable road—a disused section of the old Ruta 40 in Argentina. Weary and winded with no clue on how to conquer the sand, Jason enquired on my well-being and lifted Pearl upright, my fully laden 650cc. I brushed myself off and casually suggested we turn around. For the umpteenth time, I was comforted by having my fella alongside my motorcycle and me.
Someone enlightened about moto-travel advised that before setting off with your loved one, the practicalities of riding as a couple should be weighed into the argument, not to mention the pros and cons. To my mind when you both love to travel, it goes hand in hand that two wheels—as does four perhaps—facilitate that shared agenda. Whether you’re ‘two up’ or astride your own motorcycles, you’re both enjoying the same open-air experience on a road in a way four wheels can’t quite compete or sometimes even accomplish. Through an unobscured view, you’re living out an adventure next to one another. Enraptured by motorcyling you may already be; how you will fare with your ‘marvellous other’ on a prolonged open-throttle journey is another matter entirely.
Executing a big motorcycling trip involves one step: going. However, trying to keep a handle on planning a moto-adventure with your beloved other isn’t always a cushy ride. What if it’s the instant gratification of rural rideouts over long weekends that appeals most? A sustained two-wheeled stretch is a complete lifestyle change and a reality one of you may not relish for so long. You might not be a well-groomed prince or pampered princess but what if you’re unable to find certain items, particularly those us females need in remote places?
Enthusiasm could outweigh skill level at some point or one of you could lose control down a steep hill. Worse still, you may be riding alongside a partner whose off road prowess could leave you lost in their dust—becoming as crestfallen from holding them back as much as not being able to keep up. So many whats, scary ifs and buts. At some point, a conscious decision has to be made to shelve the excuses and ruminate on those reservations no longer. Crikey, how hard can it be?
I won’t deny it, from personal experience of riding small stints throughout the UK and Europe and being 15 months and 23,000 miles into the Americas, there have been a few challenges to riding as a couple. Anyone considering co-motorcycle travel for an extended period, your relationship will be tested as will your forbearance levels. When you’ve both endured a longer than anticipated day in the saddle, feeling beastly tired isn’t always conducive to being amiable to one another. Suck it up, the low lows are just part of long-term travel together. Never hold a grudge.
Assigning roles such as tent-pitching while the other cracks on with the dinner for instance can prevent a cacophony of conflict in petty arguments. Having a solid relationship built on tolerance throwing in a big pinch of humour from the outset will stand you both in good stead.
Someone very dear to me recently advised that spending time apart on a regular basis is recommended. I couldn’t agree more: taking walks, going off to do your own thing, signing up to a class or course that doesn’t involve your ‘cherished other’ is undeniably beneficial; to keeping the relationship healthy and having new things to bring back to it. Not to mention fresh material to chitchat around. Otherwise, what would you converse about if you experience absolutely everything together, only having a break when one or both of you sleeps… My advice: don’t go there! What’s more, my wizened friend also suggested that having one or both of you be accountable in an argument goes a long way where one takes overall responsibility, even if that happens after a ‘cooling off’ period. Well said, Sam.
It can be tricky when a person assumes a grossly different pace to the other. Especially if one has considerably greater riding stamina than the other. Namely not biting off more than the lesser experienced can chew will result in them having enough energy leftover at the end of the day to stay sweet-natured, ensuring that you both remain happy.
Moreover agreeing to keep the off road riding in particular, well within daylight will prevent many a day on the bikes turning sour. If one of you prefers to spend every waking hour in the saddle while the other is more inclined towards a shorter stretch in order to be able to relax, go off and sight see on foot, establishing a mutual agenda each day will ensue greater long-term harmony. It will give rise to fewer unforeseen compromises as opposed to engaging in a constant battle of negotiation with each other, which will be as frustrating as it will unendurably wearing. Moto-travel is supposed to be fun! Keep it that way. And why not consider a few days apart if that’s what it takes to do just that.
Despite the potential tribulations on the trails, with motorcycling as a couple comes constant companionship. Sharing all the firsts, incredible experiences, soaking up jaw-on-the-floor scenery that will make your souls sing, not to mention the hand-holding on a beach, star-gazing under spectacular skies and being there for one another during all those moments of elation and accomplishment.
When riding in partnership, a cherished aspect has often been attributed to technologies such as the two-way intercom system affixed to the helmets such as the Sena or Scala Rider. The device is a convenient way to point out a family of four including the dog astride a moped, eagle-soaring or an iguana crossing the road up ahead, help each other over the trickier terrain but above all, as a means to further enjoy the experience on two wheels together. Whoever overtakes in busy traffic first for example, acts as the other’s eyes in following suit—especially in countries whose drivers of vastly varying speeds on single carriageways demands it. Moreover, forewarning something potentially perilous on the road is priceless.
Admittedly, some may find it nigh on impossible to communicate for hours on end and instead crave the peace and quiet that comes with the solitude of one’s own thoughts. Absolutely fair enough. For us, being able to jabber away now and again on the road facilitates the optimum way to ride with each other.
In summary, riding as a couple through unfamiliar territory is sometimes demanding. When unforeseeable circumstances occur, tensions can rise when your biking abilities, personal needs and wants differ if not clash on occasion. Although it’s good to take the time and address those early on. Acknowledging different strengths each of you will bring will help make the trip a sustainable one. One of you may be more apt at maintaining the motorcycles in a tip-top condition for example whilst the other happier to execute the agreed route that day.
Above all, taking extra effort to recognize each other’s boiling points and sources of irritation, even if you become one, is key!
As for any grave misgivings you may hold before setting off— mechanically or otherwise—there are no basic needs that can’t be met. If you’re on a road and need assistance, chances are someone will pass by with an offer of help. As far as sourcing specialist items is concerned, folks that reside in the middle of nowhere still require the same basic things all men and women worldwide do. Your motorcycle is highly unlikely to somersault out of control, and if one of you has less riding experience than the other, thank them in advance for mentoring you and foremost exhibiting unfaltering patience in allowing you to keep pace—it’s a recipe for shared motorcycling success.
And as for faring in the saddle alongside your partner goes: you’re as free to let your minds wander as your wheels are to roam. Motorcycle overlanding as a couple draws on a joint freedom to live a life dictated only by the pair of you. You’ll manoeuvre into a happier you: “Getting peckish yet? What’s that chap selling by the road?” or “Fancy heading that way on the map today?” are the light-touch mutual exchanges that will get you there. Ultimately pursuing your shared passion as a partnership—wanting the same thing in the spirit of self-governed adventure, travelling by the same means and wishing to see the same countries—no one can remove the exultation on your soul for which that will bring.
A version of the above post appeared as an article in Adventure Motorcycle Magazine.