My fiancée wants to start riding, but I’m not sure the best way to help her get started. My buddies say don’t teach her, because they’ve seen a bunch of relationships fail when partners teach each other. What would you do?
I’d start by offering to buy your buddies a round of beers for their excellent advice, and then help your fiancée find a local course specifically designed for new riders taught by professionals. The reasons for this are many, and not limited only to the desire to keep your relationship healthy.
Classes are designed to teach skills in a specific order, building on lessons that increase knowledge in a step-by-step manner. The instructors are trained to work with beginners, addressing their questions, concerns, and fears in a non-emotional and supportive manner. Most have taught hundreds of riders and have techniques to help each one master the skills needed to be successful out on the road, and also to help those who are struggling make the decision if it turns out riding isn’t for them. They will be presenting correct information, preventing the formation of bad habits that many riders may have acquired over years of riding.
There are many areas where partners teaching each other can be a bonding, positive experience, but first lessons on a motorcycle aren’t in that category. The risks, both emotional and physical, are too high. Performance expectations, on either side, can hamper the ability to listen, support and progress. Once your fiancée has mastered the basics, and feels comfortable with her budding skills, perhaps riding together on quiet roads, in parking lots, and increasingly complex situations may be appropriate, as long as you both agree on when, and how, you offer ideas, tips, and feedback. For some couples even that can be too much, and encouraging your partner to find others to help may be the most supportive thing you can do until she comes to you asking to ride together.
PHOTO: RTW PAUL
Excellent advice! My now-former husband taught me to ride (no, it’s not the reason he’s my ex) and I was very lucky in that he had overall good skills and safe riding habits. But there were a few critically important lessons I did not internalize (“look where you want to go,” “don’t apply the front brake in the midst of a slow-speed turn,” are two that come to mind) and for those reasons it took me a lot longer to really feel like I knew what I was doing. Although we are no longer married, I do acknowledge and appreciate that “how to ride” is a gift he gave me… but I don’t believe it was the best way to go about learning.