Is motorcycle riding an art? Or is it just a death wish? Is it the perfect orchestra of man and machine? Or is it just a pastime of dimwit whack-jobs? Is it a personal feeling? Or is it a group orgy session? I have been riding for well over 6 years now, with 60,000+ kms clocked and almost entire India seen. Most of my long rides have been solo, my Ladakh trip was with just one another guy, and the biggest group I have ever ridden with had 10 bikes in total.
I don’t understand the mentality behind group rides, especially those hordes of hundreds. I have seen a huge amount of bikes riding together, crashing into each other and sliding off the road, all in the name of Ride for Safety. Where’s the logic? Beats me. I also have been to rides with small groups that turned out to be awesome, much more fun than just twisting the throttle on your own. Here are my 2 cents about pros/cons of both solo and group rides.
Advantages of Solo Riding/ Disadvantages of Group Riding
- No waiting: You never have to stand at some meeting point, check your watch a hundred times, wait for everyone to arrive to begin the trip. You are the boss, you make the schedule, it’s a very personal experience. I have never been on a group ride where I had to wait less than half-hour for other people to arrive.
- Long distances possible: My longest rides have always been solo, simply because groups are never as fast as a single rider. Keeping a group of 2 wheels together for 1000 kms is nearly impossible, and utterly slow. Your average speed will be much more solo than in a group.
- Absolute freedom: You can do whatever the hell you feel like doing. You can take whichever route pleases you, even if it a long cut. You can stop for food wherever you like. You can rest for as long as you feel. It’s all about you and your machine. In group rides, you mostly go with a plan, and it’s hard to do what your heart desires.
- Safer: This might be debatable, but in some ways solo riding is safer than group. I have heard so many instances of people within the same group ramming against each other. Logically speaking, so many bikes riding together increases the probability of a mishap exponentially, but this greatly depends on the type of people you are riding with.
Disadvantages of Solo Riding/ Advantages of Group riding
- Lonely: Solo rides are not for the feeble-minded, they involve a lot of self-introspection and the ability to amuse yourself! Imagine riding 15-17 hours a day, not speaking to anyone else, just you and your thoughts. It does teach you a thing or two about yourself, but can get very boring. Group rides, on the other hand, are easier on the mind, with more human interaction and less alone time.
- Costly: Solo rides with overnight stops tend to get costlier than group ones, simply because the cost of your hotel isn’t divided between people. It is nearly impossible to find dormitory style beds around India, so you end up staying alone in a room meant for 2/3 people. Finances are better managed when the cost is divided between people, be it room or food.
- Less safe: I know, I just said solo riding is safer. Well, in some ways it ain’t. You are alone, hundreds of kilometers away from friends and family. If, by bad luck, any mishap occurs, you are on your own. It’s good to have friends around when times aren’t in your favor. Like if you end up having a catastrophic failure in the middle of nowhere, your riding partners can go far and wide and come back with expert help. If you are alone, you are stranded.
- Very uneventful: Solo rides are like the ECG of a dead guy, one straight boring line. Nothing much happens, unless it is bad! In one of the group rides I went to recently, I witnessed not 1, but 2 major bike crashes, heard many interesting stories, and met many lovely people. My solo rides are just a blur of wind noise and fuel stops.
These are my thoughts about solo/group rides. I still prefer riding alone, but that can be attributed to the lack of similar-minded partners. I would strongly advise against riding in these huge groups that seem very common nowadays, simply because they are filled with inexperienced, show-off, and generally obnoxious people who will make your trip a living nightmare. It is also a good idea to ride with similar spec bikes, it is easier to stay together and enjoy the roads if all can keep up with each other. Always keep an open mind, do new things, and have fun!