Where are the mentors?

I was riding behind my girlfriend, Ashley, the other day after she finished classes. I ride with her so she can solidify her skills as she learns and she has someone who can run interference for her if traffic gets a little squirrely. Close to the school, I saw a fellow rider. He wore a decent, new-looking Shoei helmet, decent gloves, a hoodie, jeans and high-top basketball shoes.

At first, I couldn’t place what kind of bike he was on, but as we pulled up to a red light I saw that it was a fairly new Ducati Monster, and if memory serves it was the 1100 model. He had bar-end mirrors, colored to match his bike, as well as a Termignoni exhaust. The rider pulled up behind a truck in the lane next to Ashley and I. He was about a car length ahead of us, and I watched as the light turned green and the truck in front of the rider accelerated. The rider waited a moment, and instead of a smooth, clutch-control launch to gain speed, the rider pushed the motorcycle into the middle of the intersection as fast as his skinny-jeaned legs could push it and then popped the clutch to get underway.

I was dumbfounded to say the least! For someone to not know how to use the clutch properly on a motorcycle was something that amazed me to begin with, but he was not on a cheap or starter machine! He accelerated past the truck in front of him, then changed lanes to cut off the car in front of Ashley and I. All the while, Ashley smoothly moved through the gears of the TW200 that she has been riding all summer. The fact that I could see two riders side by side who differ so much made me come to a realization: this young man had been failed by motorcyclists.

When I say that, I do not mean that the motorcycle community at large has made it so this young man is so dangerous to himself and others, but I mean that somewhere along the line, there was a disconnect from a good learning source and he stopped learning as a result. On the other hand, Ashley is still learning while riding with me after having her license for over a year. I’d like to say that I’m something of a mentor for her (though I don’t actually believe that), but she succeeds as a rider better than I ever did in the same amount of time, and eventually she may even surpass me in riding skill once she gets her feet beneath her.

What can be done for young riders like this fellow on the Ducati? The way I learned best was through riding with my parents, and the best way Ashley is learning is through riding with me, which leads me to the conclusion that mentorship is probably the most effective learning tool for a new rider. While the MSF courses can give the basics in motorcycle control, the best way to learn is through application in real-world environments, and the best way to do that is through riding with a friend or family member who has proven themselves to be trustworthy and capable.

My challenge to all riders is this: extend a hand. Be a friendly face. Invite new riders to ride around with you and show them the ropes. Inclusion is a large part of why many people join our sport. By being that friend to that rider, he or she can further understand the depth of riding as it is that so many of us know, but fail to explain properly. In doing so, they can themselves become a mentor to somebody at some point. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask questions of other riders, and be willing to hear them out when they answer. The best leaders are those that know how to follow as well.

Step up. Be an advocate for the riders you know and perhaps some of that good karma will come around and return the favor for you. Now get out there and be a mentor to somebody!