A FRIEND was recently invited to go on a moonlight ride up to Tagaytay on the back of a motorcycle. She refused, saying it was late and that it wouldn’t be safe, etcetera, etcetera. When she told me about it, I pretty much exploded and scolded her more vehemently than I meant to.
It was an instinctive thing, and something that I really ought to apologize for. It wasn’t her fault, after all. She didn’t know that for a biker who rides for the freedom and inherent danger it entails, and not to pick up chicks, giving someone a ride is like lending a jacket, or holding hands, or telling a secret. It’s a very personal thing, and not offered lightly.
A motorbike (or scooter) can only put out so much horsepower. The whole point behind it is for it to be light enough for a relatively small engine to propel it faster than four-wheeled vehicles.
If you have ever been behind the wheel of a car and felt the urge to floor it, then you know about the edge of safety and being a wild man. Being on a bike feels much the same way except the edges shimmer even at lower speeds.
Having a backride, as local bikers have taken to calling pillions, limits your speed severely unless you are a maniac who does not care about details like safety. Ninety or so extra pounds may not mean much to a cage driver, but on a bike, it’s like being hobbled.
Handling is also different. It is clumsier and requires more effort. Where you used to be able to zip through traffic without even thinking about it, you’ll have to slow down and actually steer. It’s real work, and it doesn’t help if your backride does not know how to ride: does not keep her hands around your waist, peeks over your shoulder, smokes cigarettes while riding, screams in fright. Handling is wonky, unnatural and it feels like you might lose your balance at any time.
I once offered someone a ride, and she leapt on when I specifically told her to wait until I was ready. She shrieked in panic as the bike almost fell over, and, really, that was it for me. It’s harsh, I know, and it’s unfair for me to expect that people will be good passengers their first time.
I had a good backride for two years [Edit: for more than five years, but not anymore], and that may have spoiled me, but it underscores an important point: giving someone a ride on a motorcycle is very different from letting someone hitch a ride in your car.
It means a lot more than just clearing stuff from the passenger seat and making sure that the airconditioning works. It’s more than picking good songs on your iPod and not running out of things to say on the way.
It’s an actual sacrifice of the speed and mobility that got us into motorcycling in the first place, a negation of what a motorcycle is and could be, the watering-down of everything that is Motorcycle.
“31. The World in a Love Embrace”, 31 March 2008, salvaged from an old blog