I let other people ride my motorcycles. You may find that crazy, but motorcycles are made of metal and plastic and relationships are made of friendship, warm deeds, and memories. There’s a famous line at the end of “The Maltese Falcon” when Sam Spade is asked of what the Falcon is made and he says, “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.” That’s how motorcycles are - they’re the stuff that dreams are made of, so why deny someone the opportunity to fulfill that dream? Or to make that memory?
I’m a little careful which of my litter I loan: I’ll turn you loose on my late-model Speed Triple, replete with rider aids and easily-replaceable parts, but you won’t touch my Street Triple without serious chops if I let you touch it at all. No one gets on my first-generation SV, but anyone can get on its more recent, fully-faired cousin. It’s all about getting parts. What it comes down to is that if you are willing to let someone ride your bike, you have to come to grips with the chance that it may come to grief. The reward side of the equation is frequently worth it, however.
I’ve been the lucky recipient of loaned motorcycles from the day I learned to ride, starting with my brother’s Trail 90. In our back yard I learned about riding and falling down, including how to tweak forks by hitting the back stoop. Later, it was a CL350 owned by my neighbor, who came into our basement one night to find it completely disassembled. We assured him it would be put right and he was completely astounded that it was. I learned to use a clutch on that bike…poor clutch.
My buddy Randy used to let me ride his trials bike and I have the burn scar on my leg to prove it. The time his brother let me ride his two-stroke motocrosser, reportedly my eyes were as big as dinner plates when I hit the powerband. My buddy Dangerous Dan has loaned me many dirt bikes in his so-far successful attempts to keep me alive whilst riding offroad, including the replacement of my DRZ-400 with a more cuddly Kawasaki at the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. As someone who has been the beneficiary of such largesse, I have no right not to also be the benefactor.
My buddy Wayne forgot the keys to his V-Strom when he came to VIR for the Pridmore school, so he got to ride both a DRZ-400SM and a Kawasaki Ninja 650. Some guy whose name I don’t even remember had his BMW R1200RT go wonky at the school, so he got to use my Street Triple R (replete, as I said, with rider aids). My buddy Dave from NJ had his Yamaha WR blow a fork seal at the Shenandoah 500, so my XR-250R was his stand-in. I rented some guy from Virginia my CBR-500 to ride at the track, because…CBR-500. In later days, I supplied some of the instructors from the school with bikes so they wouldn’t have to schlep theirs all the way from California. It’s not like they don’t know how to ride…
You never know what riding your motorcycle will mean to someone - sometimes nothing, sometimes it salvages a potentially wasted trip, and sometimes it means everything. I got a really touching note from a guy who rode one of my litre bikes at the track. He talked about how he had come to a watershed moment in his riding and how that bike brought him back to life. He was reawakened and ebullient about motorcycling again, so much so that he went and bought a similar model. I read his words and realized that the risk I took was well worth the change I was able to bring about in his life, without even knowing it at the time. It was all the more meaningful because I got the bike when another man hung up his riding career for good.
So far I have been lucky. I can count on one hand the times that I’ve had to repair something as a result of allowing someone else to ride my machines, and both times the damage was superficial. Don’t get me wrong - a neophyte isn’t going to saddle up on my RR anytime soon, but they’ll probably get a shot at the cuddly CBR-500. I’m generous, not silly. But still, whether it’s a salvaged trip or a life-changing experience, when it comes to giving someone a chance to ride a motorcycle, you just never know.