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The Motorcycle Diaries: Tips from the Back of the Saddle

By Elisabeth Eaves

Jun 14, 2012

From the July/August 2012 issue

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A few years ago Elisabeth Eaves, author of the travel memoir Wanderlust, took a motorcycle ride around Europe. But she didn’t drive. She sat on the back while her friend piloted them on a Suzuki Bandit in a loop that began in Prague and snaked through Poland and Slovakia. Here, she shares what she learned about life on the back seat.

“Trying to read a folding map on the back of a motorcycle is like trying to do origami in a wind tunnel. Hold the map flat against the driver’s back or it will take flight. A plastic sheath ensured that part of Poland wouldn’t rip off and be left on the road.”

“An eight-hour drive on two wheels leaves both riders saddle sore. We stopped at least every two hours to do roadside jumping jacks. This helped prevent end-of-day bowleggedness. Plus, passing drivers often found this amusing.”

“Give up any ideas of looking like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and dress practically. The wind is chilly and sunburn is a threat. Even if it looks silly, buy the helmet with the chin guard. I didn’t, and the lower half of my face got chapped.”


“Back roads are best for photos. Sure, there’s the thrill of speed on highways, but when we slowed down, it was easy to sit back and shoot. We rarely saw other motorcycles, so I took a lot of photos of kids staring in surprise at our shiny blue Suzuki.”

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