The following pointers are based on true events experienced on a first-time long-distance bike ride to Coimbatore. Although many are applicable, please do not consider these tips as relevant to all bike-riding experiences.
1. Wear a helmet, always.
Like they say, safety first. So even if this point is little “duh mom!” I had to put it down, and put it down as the first. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting behind the world’s best rider, the road is full of terrors and terrible drivers and riders. I can say from first hand experience, that falling flying off a bike is going to leave you with more than a few bruises (shout out to my two fake teeth).
2. Wear comfortable clothing.
Another “duh” point but some of us get carried away by what to wear while travelling. You start with I’ll just throw on something and then you realise there may be a few photo ops, and the next thing you know you’re wearing those brand new shoes that you haven’t broken into yet. What a blister-ful beginning to your holiday.
When you’re on a bike, it’s a whole other deal. Should I wear jeans? Because hello, chafing. Do I need a jacket? Because you start out early in the morning and the wind is making you cold in places you didn’t think it could. But then halfway through the ride, it’s noon. It’s not enough that your butt is sore, now you’re sweating in places you never thought you would.
It all depends on which part of the world you’re in, what weather conditions you face and how long your ride is going to be. So I have no real solution to offer here except make sure you’re covered head to toe, cold or not. Because a tan that gives the impression you’re wearing opera gloves or knee-high socks is not a great look for anybody.
3. Forget your own needs in terms of luggage.
First of all, if you’re carrying anything other than a backpack, you need to rethink your choice of luggage. Secondly, unless your backpack is the size Alicia Silverstone carries in Clueless, you need to rethink what you’re packing.
You’re going to be carrying your rider’s bag because he/she needs to focus on the road. So if possible, send your luggage to its destination on an alternative transportation. If this is not possible, your butt won’t be the only thing that’s sore at the end of this bike ride.
4. “Don’t shake your bum too much”
This advice is borrowed but very true. Remember that sore butt of yours? A little into the journey, it’s going to want to move around. Sitting in one place, when you’re in transit, is never easy. (You’re moving but you can’t move. My mind is blown, what about you?) And when you’re on a bike, it’s not just difficult, it’s kind of mandatory.
If you jiggle about on the backseat, your rider is going to have a hard time balancing the bike, which is not a good thing. At all. So sit still. A great way to do this is just imagine you’re playing the mannequin challenge and if you don’t win, you’ll die.
5. Be prepared for helmet hair
That helmet you’ll be wearing for protection offers another GREAT benefit – a new hairdo. That heavy cushioning inside your helmet soaked in sweat accumulated over the hours is exactly the kind of spa-like treatment your already undernourished scalp is in dire need of.
Of course, you can always be smart and wear a scarf underneath the helmet. But where’s the fun in that.
6. Make up a language or learn to have a conversation with yourself
Here are four types of conversation you might end up having when you are riding pillion:
A) You say something to the rider and he says “WHAT?” – on repeat.
B) Your rider ask you something and you say “WHAT?” – on repeat.
C) You say something to the rider and he/she won’t hear you. But you think he/she heard you and assume he/she agrees with you. Only to find out the truth later.
D) Your rider says something to you, you mishear it and come up with a completely inappropriate response.
When you’re sitting back to face/face to back, travelling at a speed of whatever kms/hour and your ears are subject to the bellowing wind accompanied by the constant guttural of the bike, it can be hard to have an effective conversation.
I would suggest sign language but it might not be fair to expect the rider to use his hands. Either you get innovative or you enjoy the opportunity to talk to yourself without being judged.
7. Enjoy the ride
You’re on a bike, somebody else is doing the riding, the roads are seemingly endless, there are mountains and green fields on either side of you. Oh the pictures you’ll want to take, the Instagram and/or Snapchat stories you’ll want to share – the temptation is real. I understand. I’m a victim just like you.
So I say, take the occasional picture and video but for the most part of it, make the conscious decision (and not just because your battery is dying) to put it all away and enjoy the ride. You don’t want to miss the actual experience for the sake of a few 100 Likes/Views, do you?
8. If you get a chance to do it all over again, do it
Yeah, your thighs are going to be sore, your butt is going to be numb and your back is going to behave like you’re 90 (unless you’re already 90, then please choose a suitable age to replace that number). Not to mention the back of your neck is going to be sunburnt and you might be left with exactly four strands of hair on your head. Basically, it can get really uncomfortable and a whole bunch of things can go wrong.
But it’s okay. Because it’ll be worth it. In the end, you’ll have a story to tell. And I’ll be waiting to read all about it.
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