Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


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About Free Wheelin'

Publisher Rathjen weighs in on different things pertaining to motorcycling. Sometimes a bit hard to the point and slightly abrasive, his Free Wheelin’ column is not afraid to make a stand on issues that he feels are of importance to riders and riding.

Name: Brian Rathjen

Current Rides:

Kawasaki KLR 650, BMW R1200GS

Favorite quote:

If you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right.

- Henry Ford

The Guy

My friend David Hough wrote a book once called The Good Rider. In it he penned his thoughts on what makes a “Good Rider,” and advice on how to become one.

On a recent tour, with a group of riders brought together from different points on the globe, I thought of this book often.

One of the most difficult issues that motorcycle tour companies have to deal with when bringing riders along for a few weeks on the road is vetting the customers. Knowing that someone can actually ride a motorcycle is a very reassuring thing to any tour operator.

But, what if one of the group members coming in can ride, but chooses to ride in a bad, aggressive and less than courteous manner? What if this rider shows, from the very first day, that he or she will be trouble, dangerous and a rider of which to be wary?

I have had this conversation with some friends who have been on a number of tours and we have come to the conclusion that most times, on any given ride, there with be ‘The Guy!’

Don’t be ‘The Guy.’

Let me be clear here – The Guy can be The Girl too – but for the sake of this missive I’ll stick with The Guy.

The Guy is usually an older bloke. He has a decent job (which he’ll tell you he excels at), usually professional upper management or business owner. He inevitably was once a winning racer, back in the day that Daytona was still a beach track.

These riders like to hear themselves talk and will tell you all about it and happily set you straight on any and every subject during lunch stops or at dinner, in between poorly timed and usually misogynistic jokes.

On this tour it took Shira and me only one day to know who The Guy was and to stay as far away from him as possible whenever, on or off the bike. Lunch and dinner were under our control but, on the road, it was a bit more difficult.

Almost always The Guy’s mind works differently than the rest of us. His hubris and self-importance can almost be legendary in his own mind.

On the first day of this tour we were asked for a volunteer to ride Tail. Like you would think it was the Tail Rider’s, or Sir Lastinline’s, task to hang back and help make sure our group, as a whole, got to where we needed to get to that evening.

I’m easy - so I took the high-viz vest that would be easily seen by the lead rider and stayed way back in the group (Space Cushioning always).

This also gave me a great view of the dynamics of the other riders. All seemed competent, excellent riders and then it got weird and The Guy showed up.

We had come into a mountain section and the road began to snake a bit, offering a nice easy ‘left-right-left’ sort of flow.

This was followed by a short straight section. It was towards the end of the twisties that The Guy first reared his petulant helmet and charged past Shira in the turns and then past the rest of the group as the road straightened out.

Shira and I were using Sena Bluetooth communicators and I clearly heard her say “What the frack!” as The Guy skimmed past her at speed.

At the next group stop he came over and apologized to Shira, stating he just got ‘carried away’ with the great roads.


Shira rolled her eyes at me and told me over the intercom that we were going to have a problem with The Guy.

The red flags were raised in my head and stayed flying an hour later when he made an inside pass on a rider in a hairpin forcing the rider to go wide with oncoming traffic approaching in a blind turn.

Holy crap! Seriously?

We were not the only ones aware of The Guy’s idiotic, discourteous riding manner and general assholiness as he continued to dog others in our group at the most inappropriate times.

Parking for the night in one tiny town, one of the other riders explained to him in a very “I grew up outside Philly manner” that he was riding very badly and it would be in the group’s best interest for him and his desire to continue the rest of the tour in a physically healthy and pain free manner to reconsider his ways.

Well, there were a lot of colorful metaphors in these statements, but, you get the idea.

In true The Guy fashion he simply could not understand why anyone would be angry with him.

As the trip went on he continued to be The Guy on and off the motorcycle. What can you do – he paid his money too.

On the last day he began to follow Shira through some sweepers. Up until then she was having a grand time this last day on the road until The Guy came riding on her butt just a wheel-length away. I could her Shira cursing in her helmet urging him to go by and ride off to hell.

Although never happy with The Guy’s antics I did my best to stay away from him, but he was now messing with the wrong person – my honey.

Shira slowed and let him go by then he went to pass me. In my current state of concern, that wasn’t going to happen till I wanted it to. I stymied him for a few miles through the turns and along a short straight before listening to my wife order me to stop playing with him.

“Okay… you’re just no fun, I tell ya.”

It was that moment that I once again thought of Hough’s book The Good Rider. I told Shira I wish I had a copy with me so I could present it to The Guy at lunch. Shira asked if I really would give him the book. No, I planned to shove it up his….

Well, don’t be The Guy!