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

Drive, Ride or Fly?

How many times have we heard a non-rider make the statement that we ‘drive’ motorcycles?

If called for and, in as nice a way as I can, I try to point out that we ‘ride’ motorcycles, we do not ‘drive’ them. Metaphorically I point out that back in the day we drove the stagecoach, but we rode horses. That usually works.

But do we ever ‘drive’ a bike? I think that we do.FW

In those slow speed maneuvers when there is a definitive turning of the handlebars to go where you need to go.

I saw the perfect example the other day when stuck behind a lost 18-wheeler on a very rural two-lane road. The truck was causing mayhem with oncoming traffic and there was no way to get around him and the car directly in front of us in a safe manner.

It got worse when he finally did get to a larger road only to discover he was pointed in the general wrong direction.

His back-up lights came on. The car in front of us threw it into reverse and the three riders behind her had to think quickly.

This was a ‘drive’ situation. A decision was made by two of us and there was a turn of the handlebars, point and drive out of the sticky situation.

Seeing nobody was approaching and riding around the car and the tractor-trailer – using the oncoming lane. Not the best solution, but the only one there at the time.

The third rider, although proficient at speed, curves and when counter-steering is involved is lacking in slow speed talent. They can ride, but they cannot drive.


In some very slow or from a standstill situation, such as this one, you must be able to drive the bike to where it needs to go.

Two of us rolled. One froze. But disaster was avoided, regardless.

Most other times many of us are happy simply riding. We are in no rush. No hurry. And, there is not an incredible amount of cerebral power being used to ride the bike.

But, if we sometimes drive the bikes and most times ride the bikes…
Do we ever fly these machines?

Indeed, we do.

I have spoken a few times of being in “The Zone.” That mental state while riding, or many other things for that matter, that you are in total sync, complete concentration and almost one with your machine, the road, and your surroundings. Things flow and there is rarely a bobble, oops or holy crap moment.

The third rider who found themselves facing two larger vehicles backing up towards them – well they can fly too. It is just a matter of skill, preparation and practice.

I recently got a chance to witness Shira’s sister Rowena receive one of the highest distinctions an educator can have. For nearly 40 years she has made such an impact in Leonia High School, that they honored her by naming the business academy after her.

A once-in-a-lifetime, never-been-done-before, much deserved high honor. Many of her students spoke of her and what she has passed onto them over the years and one of the things that I heard again and again that evening was to be prepared.

How does this apply to we as riders? Easy. Skill. Preparation. Practice. Be ready for that unknown occurrence. That unexpected variable. For that shocking happenstance.

Learn to drive your bike. Learn to ride your bike. Learn to fly your bike.

Be wary. Be alert. Be prepared.

That is surely what Rowena would tell us to be.