GOOD RIDER - Hough, David L.


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What’s your idea of a good rider? Several years ago I participated in an organized tour in New Zealand. During dinner on the final night of the tour, I raised the question, “What’s a “good rider?” One of the participants immediately responded, “Valentino Rossi.” Obviously, this rider equated “good” with “fast on the track.” Of course Rossi has been a very competitive road racer, but my view of motorcycling includes activities other than racing. To stimulate a little thought about this, I asked whether or not Rossi would have made a good tour leader, or whether he would have been fun to ride with— or for that matter, what sort of dinnertime conversationalist he might have been. My point was that each of us has our own definition of “good rider.” If you are focused on racetrack wins, the latest and greatest race winner might fit your definition of “good rider.”

Let’s be clear that I am impressed with the skills required to negotiate a racetrack at winning speeds, but with due respect for racers, I see racing as only one narrow part of motorcycling.
For those of us who are focused more on riding public roads, our definition of “good rider” might be quite different, because the skills are different for commuting to work every day in urban traffic, or participating in an organized tour, or heading off to a rally thousands of miles from home. Maybe you’d value a tour guide who can show you the way at a pace more in tune with your riding style or lead you to out-of-the-way sights and experiences that you would otherwise miss, or maybe just someone with whom you would enjoy traveling. Wouldn’t stacking up a million miles of riding be some indication of a good rider? Speaking for myself, I am more impressed with riders who can function in the real world of public roads, traveling far and wide, and surviving the inherent risks of aggressive traffic, strange cultures, and unbelievable surface hazards or weather conditions. I don’t know Rossi or Reuben personally— I’ve never ridden with either one. But my guess is that a professional road racer probably wouldn’t be my first choice as a tour leader or dinnertime conversationalist. Negotiating public roads requires a hefty dose of control skill plus an even heftier dose of street smarts, knowledge born of experience, and a few social skills, such as being able to control aggression.

Hough, David L.