To Ride, or Not to Ride? That is the Question….

Africa Twin desert
The decision to ride or not ride a motorcycle in these troubled times is a highly personal one. Photo by Kevin Wing.

As I write this in early April 2020, the effect of the novel coronavirus on the planet is evolving daily. Currently entire countries are on lockdown and shelter-in-place orders are in effect in more than 40 U.S. states in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19 and “flatten the curve.” The toll on human life and the global economy has been heartbreaking, shocking and downright scary, and unlike anything most of us have experienced.

The concept of “social distancing” is strangely new and difficult to fathom by a species for which socializing is so vital to our health and well-being. Yet physically distancing ourselves from one another or just staying home has become the second most important weapon in our defense, after our brave, selfless and heroic first responders and healthcare workers, who soldier on despite a lack of basic supplies and the risk of infection. God bless every last one. Being an optimistic type, I believe we will get past this eventually, and that life will return to something like normal — perhaps even better than normal having learned a lot about ourselves from the experience (hoarding toilet paper, really?). 

One topic of discussion that’s come up regularly, both within and beyond the friendly confines of the Rider office, is whether or not we should still be getting on our bikes and riding. Like any difficult question, the answer lies in a gray area; it’s not as clear-cut as many believe or would like it to be. I will say that here at Rider, we are still swinging legs over saddles and hitting the road, but only in the name of photo shoots and actual bike testing (perhaps at a slower pace than normal), so that we can continue to bring you the content we hope will help see us all through the coming weeks (months?). Touring is pretty much off the table, but fortunately we’ve got plenty of stories in the bank from our contributors around the country to see us through. 

But to answer your question: to ride, or not to ride…I won’t tell you outright that you should defy an order to stay home — we’re all in this race against the virus together and can’t afford to let our guard down. We certainly can’t get together to kick tires or bench race at rallies or races right now, or even just hang out at the usual gathering spots, a major sacrifice for those of us for whom the group social experience is the ride. But riding a motorcycle can be the very definition of social distancing, and the soul-cleansing joy of a ride is needed by all of us now more than ever. It’s certainly much more rewarding than binge-watching Netflix!

While there are a lot fewer vehicles on the road, it’s important that if you choose to ride, you do so with extra caution to avoid placing an additional burden on the healthcare system. Weigh the risks and make an informed, careful, personal decision about where, how and with whom. In areas where it’s still permissible to visit public parks and go walking, running and bicycling, it seems to me that motorcycle riding adheres to the spirit if not the letter of a stay-at-home order and provides an equally and adequately social-distant venue for recreation, provided that extra caution is observed. Consider your skill level and the local healthcare situation, and do or don’t accordingly.

Curious about how you, our readers, are handling the riding question, we sent out a survey to our eNews subscribers (you may have seen it, and hopefully you participated). While nearly 85% of you are currently under a “safer at home” order, 58% of you are still riding — but you’re doing it alone. Only 10% still meet up with their friends for a ride.

If you decide a motorcycle ride is out of the question for now, fortunately there is still plenty you can do to stay involved in our favorite activity/lifestyle/passion. At this writing the industry is just beginning to generate some special promotions and contests to give us something to do while we shelter in place. Roland Sands Design has kicked off a bike build-off contest open to anyone, for example, with some very cool prizes for the winner — a deadline for entry has not been set so check out

Although some dealers are closed and only doing business online, it’s vitally important that we support local motorcycle businesses any way we can, even if it’s just ordering up some parts and doing those basic maintenance chores you’ve been putting off. My 1982 Yamaha Seca is finally going to get the carburetor rebuild it needs, and maybe I’ll pull the exhaust system off and polish it up as well (the wife is taking bets).

Of course one of the most hopeful things you can do at home that will help keep your two-wheel dreams alive is to start planning some rides! Order up a highlighter and some maps and paper the walls of your living room with them — no one’s coming over anyway, right? Search the touring features and Favorite Rides on this website by region or keyword to research the best roads in the area, the things you should see along the way and great places to eat. In the meantime we’ll keep finding and writing about new places for you to ride when we are released from this nightmare. 

Speaking for the entire team at Rider and our contributors around the country, we hope that you and yours are safe and well and that you stay that way. For ourselves, the staff is taking the necessary precautions recommended or mandated by local government, but will continue to bring you Motorcycling at its Best somehow, some way. Motorcycling isn’t unique in that its enthusiasts have always nurtured and been part of a tight-knit community, but I like to think that we are exceptional in the strength of that bond, and in the universal understanding by our community’s members that for many of us motorcycle riding isn’t just a sport or a pastime — it’s a necessity, like breathing or eating. Stay safe and thanks for reading Rider.


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