Print this page

Motorcycle Ride Volunteer Network - Pass the Word…Share the Wind

Written by  December 31, 2004

“In the wind.” For those of us who ride, there is no place we would rather be. Just for a moment, try to imagine what life would be like if the privilege of putting down the road and all the freedom that it represents was taken away from you forever by a disabling accident, or if the ability to experience the pleasure and thrill of riding was denied you because of a disability—an unsettling feeling, isn’t it?

Gary and CJ Foote, founders of the organization Motorcycle Ride Volunteer Network (MRVN), have undertaken a worldwide effort to provide the opportunity and means for anyone, regardless of their disability, to experience the gift of being in the wind that we so often take for granted. As avid riders since the day they met, Gary and CJ understand “knees in the breeze” fully. A conversation with a blind motorcycle enthusiast led them to the realization that riding partners for the physically challenged were not easy to find, and an idea began to form. They needed to find a way to match up able-bodied riders who were willing to share their seat with those unable to ride on their own. The word needed to be spread globally, and as owners of Webbers Communications, with over 500 websites developed since 1994, they started the groundwork in July 2004 by developing the MRVN website, as well as a forum on the high-traffic Delphi network.

Their brainchild, the Motorcycle Ride Volunteer Network, was launched in October 2004. With the motto “Pass the Word…Share the Wind” they gather willing volunteer enthusiasts and disabled passengers and match them up in riding partnerships. The program focuses primarily on enthusiasts, who, for whatever reason, have lost the ability to ride their own bike, but also provides the means for disabled individuals wishing to take their first trip on two wheels to realize that dream.

When the website was launched, responses from the biker community all around the world started pouring in. Dozens of volunteer riders register to be a part of this grand undertaking on a daily basis, with entire chapters and clubs volunteering their membership as potential riding partners. To date, six countries are represented in the volunteer ranks, from the United States to Australia, New Zealand to Sweden and from Canada to the Philippines.

We became acquainted with Gary and CJ through our involvement with Delphi forums and knew immediately this was an organization with which we wanted to become involved. We have not yet had the opportunity to link up with a disabled rider, but we asked those who have to share their experiences with us.

John Luttrell from California was kind enough to share his first experience with MRVN when he took a blind passenger for her first motorcycle ride in the San Francisco area.

CC: How did you find out about MRVN?
John: Through Delphi Forums. My club, The Blacktop Knights, located in the San Francisco East Bay Area, was contacted by Gary letting us know what he was attempting to put together. No pressure and no sales pitch – all personal choice.

CC: What prompted you to volunteer?
John: I have always tried to promote motorcycling in a positive way and to enlighten non- motorcyclists as to what the fuss is all about. This gave me an opportunity not only to do that, but also to let someone incapable of doing it on their own experience the passion and intense pleasure of the ride.

CC: Describe your first MRVN ride.
John: My only apprehensions were cornering and how to safely have my passenger mount and dismount the bike, not just for her safety but mine and the bike’s too. It was a little sketchy at first; traffic in downtown San Francisco where I was meeting her was moderate and safe pullouts aren’t very abundant in the city. I had a friend (another volunteer) with me, and that made the logistics much easier, and it went without a hitch.

As for the cornering, we took a few curves and I asked her how they felt. She said she could feel the motion, and I explained to her how to lean with the bike, and if she felt awkward to just rest her chin on my shoulder that was leaning into the turn. Again, this turned into a non-issue – even on the 5 mph declining radius hairpin I accidentally took us on, she was an outstanding passenger.

The ride went across the SF-Oak Bay Bridge, up into the Oakland Hills and back down to Alameda where she lived, about 48 miles total. During the ride, I let her tell me the types of environments (smells, sounds, etc…) that she wanted to experience during the ride and did my best to accommodate her wishes.

She was overwhelmed by the pungent aroma of the eucalyptus trees and oleander that we passed in the Oakland Hills. She could smell the salt air while crossing the bridge and also was surrounded by the calamity of noise from the other vehicles on the highway. She asked for a tunnel and we not only went through a tunnel, but one that went under the bay. She was giggling like a schoolgirl for most of the ride and was disappointed that it had to end – but vowed she wouldn’t let this be her last ride!

CC: Would you do a MRVN ride again, and why or why not?
John: I would and will when I feel that my bike is again safe for a passenger (needs tires!) and the weather turns a little warmer for a first time.

Why? Hmm, because I love the opportunity to share my passion and also to maybe bring a little something out of the ordinary into someone’s life. If I can provide someone a positive lifetime memory during 90 minutes of my life, I need to do it as often as I can.

CC: What would you say to someone considering volunteering to the MRVN?
John: If you love motorcycling and have the capability and experience, the rewards outweigh the deficits tenfold. Remember this though; if you’re not having a good time how can your passenger?

Bill Lacelle also shared his experience. His passenger was a former rider who lost his ability to ride due to multiple sclerosis.

CC: How did you find out about MRVN?
Bill: Through the CCRC Forum.

CC: What prompted you to volunteer?
Bill: I felt this was a worthy cause and that I myself enjoyed being back on a motorcycle after a 20-year absence. The joy to bring to an individual is so enlightening it’s almost selfish. It’s twofold, we both win, the rider and the driver and the friendship that has bonded. The world today needs more friendship.

CC: Describe your first MRVN ride.
Bill: I received an email from the wife of the person that I would take for a ride. The email touched me in such a way that it brought tears to my eyes. The meeting at their home was great. They showed pics of his bike that he had. The day was a sunny Sunday afternoon on November 17, 2004, and a temperature of about 8 degrees Celsius.

I was excited and nervous at the same time. Earl still had his helmet and he was anxious to get going. It was hard to get him on the bike due to the weakness on his left side (MS diagnosed), but once on, we were away. He was a perfect passenger due to the fact that he had ridden before. Within a few blocks we were out in the country and I kept the speed to about 50 mph. We rode through a few small towns and stopped for a coffee and a nice chat about each other’s families and workplaces. On our return trip back to the house I could sense Earl's happiness and it warmed me greatly. Back at the house Earl was wondering if he could manage riding a trike.

This is what it’s all about--giving those individuals a chance to dream again and the opportunity to go after those dreams. Don’t allow a disability to win. MRVN allows us to help fight the downside of disabilities and give back the dreams one may have lost. This type of feeling is very hard to express. It is something that combines thrill, joy, caring, friendship, understanding and much more in a package that is sealed with your heart.

CC: Would you do a MRVN ride again, and why or why not?
Bill: In a heartbeat.

CC: What would you say to someone considering volunteering to the MRVN?
Bill: I would express my experience with MRVN and put them onto the forum. It’s not for everyone, and I can’t be the person to try and persuade someone to do this. This is something that is personal, one on one, the act of giving and reaching this point would be a personal decision.

Danni Rogers is a passionate member and advocate of MRVN. She participates as a rider.

CC: What is your disability?
Danni: I am blind.

CC: How did you find out about the MRVN?
Danni: A guy named LaidBack posted a link to it in LaLa's forum.

CC: Had you ridden before as a rider or a passenger? If as a rider why can't you ride now?
Danni: Yes. I rode with my dad when I was a kid and had sight. As for the why, well… they ain't designed a bike yet for us blind folks!

CC: Describe the riding experience
Danni: Here is the tough one! I am not sure how to describe it. It is just a feeling of freedom, even if I am not the one doing the driving. That is easy for bikers to understand but hard for me to explain.

CC: Would you do it again? Why or why not?
Danni: Definitely! I have done two rides so far!

CC: Have you recommended MRVN to others?
Danni: Yes and will continue to do so.

CC: What would you tell a disabled person to make them want to ride?
Danni: Hmm...Another tough one! It is fun and exciting.

Each of us takes the privilege of riding for granted sometimes, and few of us give much consideration to those who cannot share our passion due to disability. The ability and opportunity to ride is one of our most valued and precious gifts, and the reward of sharing that gift with others, as John said, far outweigh the deficits.

Don Yegge, a volunteer from California who has been riding for 54 years, summed it up, “When you add to that the enjoyment of hearing from other volunteers and riders through the MRVN forum, it's like an instant brotherhood of giving and sharing.”

As you can see from the personal accounts described by participants and volunteers, MRVN is an endeavor that benefits both the driver as well as the rider—a win-win situation—and its continued success will depend upon the willingness of riders like you to volunteer.

In Bill’s words, “It’s all about giving those individuals a chance to dream again and the opportunity to go after those dreams.”

To learn more about MRVN, go to the MRVN homepage at www.mrvnonline.org or contact Gary directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

You may also visit the MRVN forum at http://forums.delphiforums.com/mrvn/start where disabled motorcycle enthusiasts can arrange riding partnerships with volunteer riders, and volunteer riders can post their availability for riding partnerships in their region. This forum also provides extensive resource information concerning disabilities.

There is a need not only for volunteers to drive but also for those willing to open chapters in their area and assume the role of 1st officer. If you have an interest in organizing a chapter and assuming this role, you may go to www.mrvnonline.org/start-a-chapter.html to learn more or to submit an application.

If you have an interest in this organization but cannot be a driver, your help is still needed. You Don't Need to Take on Passengers to Join MRVN! To be a member of MRVN, all you need is a desire to be involved. Every member of MRVN can help “Pass the Word…Share the Wind.”

“To know a disabled person is to know courage, and the grace to carry on where few would go willingly. Some of the nicest folks I've ever met were, and are disabled. Most of them don't consider themselves disabled, as they face daily challenges most of us don't. And they don't want pity, but surely do welcome a friend.” (Posted on the MRVN forum, October 14, 2004.)

By Loney and
Stephanie Wilcoxson