My current thoughts about riding solo vs riding with a group are that I love riding with a group because it makes one a better rider faster.
And on the other hand I don’t like riding with a group because there is less opportunity to focus on the road and improve my own riding skills.
While group rides are excellent for socializing, the constant chat gets in the way of actually enjoying oneself, which is sometimes all you want to do on a ride. Some pros and cons to consider are:
Group pros; – the feeling of being part of a large group. Sort of like in nearly every Western film prior to 1950.
A sheriff hastily assembles cowboys to track down an outlaw.
A Meetup post goes out to riders about an upcoming ride.
Area ranchers, or whoever was in the saloon after a shooting in the middle of the street, are quickly deputized.
Riders respond by saying epic ride, I made reservations, family commitment, or Im in.
The posse then mounts up and takes off in search of the bad guys. No one asked if the posse members could shoot straight—if they had their own guns and ammunition, or if they’d had any experience hunting fugitives.
If you own a bike or a horse – YOU are expected to know how to ride. Simple huh? How long could you stay on the saddle without a pee break? Are you now gassed up? How long could you be away from ma, pa or the Mrs?
It would appear all that was needed back then was a collection of outraged citizens or someone to hang out with and talk about anything so long as it wasn’t work.
Group cons; – can’t really ride your way if you want to stay with the group
Also, very important – the type of people you ride with; if they give you shit about your bike, gear or the way you ride you’re better of solo until you find better people to ride with.
Too many riders assume being in a group means they can relax a lot of their normal defensive riding habits. Bad idea. Lots of group rides have turned tragic from people making these sorts of assumptions.
Another way to put it is to “ride your own ride”. This also covers whether or not you as a group member should attempt to ride at the same pace & style as other people in the group.
MY PET PEEVE. People not able to keep up. You want to ride the speed limit then sell the bike. You are putting yourself and others at risk by riding with the cagers. Unfortunately most that do don’t know it.
People riding with others who are at widely differing skill levels, and attempting to keep up, is another common reason for crashing.
Advantages of Group Travel
- Camaraderie. It’s fun to banter over lunch, dinner, and shared experiences. It’s the stuff memories are made of. This is the biggest reason most travel together.
- Share expenses. Whether you’re sharing a campsite or a motel room, there’s economy in numbers.
- Another opinion. There’s always someone to consult with for directions, accommodations, or that strange noise coming from your engine.
- Security. There’s safety in numbers. Having said that, in my 46 years of solo riding hundreds of thousands of miles, I have never felt threatened. Nor has anyone I know.
- Initiation to riding. New riders especially feel more secure in a group. It helps them learn the rules of the road, etiquette, and there’s always someone to help pick up a tipped bike.
- Visibility. It’s easier for other traffic to see a group than to spot a solo rider.
Disadvantages of Group Travel
- Waiting for people. Punctuality can be an issue, whether it’s waiting for stragglers before taking off in the morning, stopping to put on rain gear, or filling up the fuel tank.
- Safety. Group safety depends on a tightly managed group, clear communications, and excellent riding skills. If any one of these is missing, the safety of everyone in the group is compromised.
- Safety 2. Impatient drivers will take risks attempting to pass a line of riders. Often, it takes longer than they anticipated and they’ll cut in between riders, splitting the group or forcing riders to the side.
- Scheduling. Vacation time is precious and trying to juggle the timing needs of everyone in the group can be a chore.
- Cancellations. You’ve booked your vacation, arranged the cat sitter, and are all set to go when people start backing out. Your choice becomes go alone, or stay home.
- Different interests. Personal preferences for routes, points of interest, and even distance traveled per day or between rest stops are as unique as the individuals in the group. This can create conflict.
- Everything takes longer. Whether it’s a gas stop, bio break, or lunch, it always takes longer than you expect.
- New riders. While new riders enjoy traveling in groups, they may not have the skills to do it safely.
- Interactions with others. The likelihood of being approached by curious strangers, or of initiating conversations with others outside of the group diminishes with group size.
Advantages of Solo Travel
- Travel on your own terms. Stop, get up, or eat whenever you want, wherever you want. Take any road you want. Change your mind at the last minute.
- Test your personal limits. Overcoming perceived fears of solo travel builds confidence. The more you stretch yourself by navigating in a strange town, eating alone (you’re rarely alone), or setting up camp, the more you open the doors to new possibilities. It’s confidence building.
- There’s always room for one more.There’s usually space for one more person to fit into a crowded restaurant, theatre, campsite, or onto a ferry.
- Approachability. Curious onlookers are more likely to find a single rider less intimidating, and more likely to approach you with some of the darndest questions! They’ll also invite you for meals and offer places to stay.
- Time for reflection. This is one of the greatest gifts of traveling alone. Solitude, quiet, and peace. It can be uncomfortable and lonely at times, but you learn a lot about yourself that way, including how to overcome those feelings.
Disadvantages of Solo Travel
- Financial. Alluded to above, it’s more expensive to travel alone, primarily because of the cost of accommodations.
- Carrying gear and tools. Even one other person makes a difference, especially when they have the same bike. One tent, stove, and cooking utensils can support more than one, and you can share precious cargo space between bikes.
Hopefully the words above are just food for thought. Now go out and ride your own ride.