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Back up - and behind

Posted By Dana Stover #45947, Sunday, December 15, 2019

Thirty years ago, I had an essay published in the 1989 August issue of BMW Owners magazine. Two years prior to that, I had purchased a 1987 BMW R80 and had taken my first solo ride of over 2, 600 miles, from Washington State to Minnesota and back. My essay cited an old research study whereby kittens wheeled through a maze in baskets never “learned” the maze, regardless of how many trips they made.

Kittens allowed to wander the maze on their own, however, quickly learned the route. It was a study on passive versus active learning and I, flush with excitement after my first solo ride, used it as an analogy about moving from simply following my husband on his bike, or riding behind him 2-up, to navigating on my own….and thus becoming a true “active learner” in control of my ride. Over the next several decades I put nearly 40,000 miles on my R80.

Flash forward 30 years and a new purchase in our family: a beautiful BMW R1250 RT. We immediately planned a trip to several National Parks in Oregon and California. Not relishing the idea of navigating California freeways, I agreed – with mixed emotion – to ride 2-up for this trip and left my R80 in the garage. Frankly, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel being “back up and behind”. Was I giving up my control, “my” ride? Should I feel embarrassed, sad? But the trip was a revelation.

I experienced many of the same sensations as when on my own bike…the same tugging wind, the same smells of the countryside, the same chills or heat as we changed elevations, the same thrill of being exposed to all the elements versus sealed off in a 4-wheeled transport. But in addition, riding behind, I could gaze longer at the passing scenery, twist around in my seat to see a roadside attraction, stare up and identify passing birds.

True, I was no longer in control of my ride. But was I a passive rider? No, I don’t believe so. I was able to study the road ahead, forecast the line and acceleration of tight curves, anticipate jolts from bumps, recognize a tight passing window and adjust my posture accordingly. I was still actively involved in the ride. Does this make me uniquely qualified to be a good passenger? No, by no means. But I do think my decades of solo riding has made me a more knowledgeable and aware-of -the -road passenger.

I still believe my R80 and I have a few more adventures left. However, as the saying goes, to everything there is a season. And if I’m entering the season of being back up and behind, I think I’m okay with that. After all, it is still a 2-wheeled adventure and I’m going to enjoy the ride.

As a side-note, we enjoyed the first 2-up trip so much that a few weeks later we rode to southern Alaska from our Washington home. We both love the ride, together.

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