Bikes > Quickshift

A wingman is your most essential riding aid

Having one can mean the difference between life and death

Exploration is the raison d’être of an adventure bike. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

When you’re exploring new routes, things can quickly go bad in just a few seconds.

While I enjoy doing long solo rides, there are some instances where having a ride buddy can mean the difference between having a great time or making an early date with the Creator. I had just such an experience a few days ago.

It was a great day to ride—overcast skies, slight drizzle—and I had the whole day to explore the abandoned Marcopper mining site in Marinduque. There was a 50m river crossing ahead of me. My ride buddy Tan Moreno, whom I’d met in a KTM owners group a few months back, had made it across without a hitch.

It was at this moment that the author knew... PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Halfway across the muddy river, the front wheel bounced against a large rock, and I had to put my right leg down. Except the river floor was deeper than I thought. I just barely managed to keep the bike up, but I was now tiptoeing.

I tried to wriggle the wheel loose with a bit of throttle, but it only made things worse. The bike was now at a 40° angle, and only by leaning to the left was I still upright. By this point, I was fast running out of options, and a moment of staring at the swirling water thinking of what to do next only made things worse…now I was getting vertigo.

Out of breath, nauseous, and with my leg hyperextended, I thought about letting go of the bike, only to realize that I’d not only get pinned down and break my leg, but also possibly drown.

I did not really want to die in a contaminated river up in the middle of nowhere, to be honest.

Just moments after a very sketchy situation. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Whoosah! Sensing my distress from the shore, Tan hurriedly waded across to stabilize the bike so I could dismount and regain my wits. Seeing as how he stood an inch taller than I am and would have no problem standing the bike up on the river, I swallowed my pride and asked him to ride it across for me.

After I’d waded across to him, we had a good laugh about what happened, then watched as one of the locals waded across on a TMX…in the shallow part of the river which we’d missed.

Less than a kilometer later, we took turns pushing our bikes up a steep and sandy embankment. For the better part of the day, we had a great time talking about bikes, enjoying the scenery, sliding around on the gravel roads, and munching on cheap, homemade sari-sari burgers.

This is inevitable. At least you won’t have to pick it up by yourself. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

By the time we were on the final stretch, I’d gotten complacent and was going a little too fast on the muddy downhill segment. My tire knobs had gummed up from all the crud and were now slick, and target fixation on a rut sent me sliding off to the side.

Just like that, I had finally dropped my bike after more than a year of staying upright. Great fun!

After the stress of that river crossing, dropping the bike was just the icing on the cake, and we made sure to take lots of pictures before getting it back up and running again. Apart from a few scratches and a wounded ego, the bike was fine and so was I.

A ride buddy lets you do things you’d be stupid to try solo. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Today’s bikes are safer than ever, with traction control, ABS, and multiple ride modes, but nothing beats the safety net of having a wingman. A riding buddy will increase the probability of an innocent ride turning into a “budol,” but at the same time help ensure that any misadventure will be something you can laugh about and learn from rather than something that could cost you dearly.

It’s important to choose your riding buddy wisely, too. Does he ride responsibly or like to show off? Does he have your back, and you his? The right riding buddy will enhance your riding experience and keep you alive.

Like Iceman said in Top Gun, “You can be my wingman anytime.”

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.