If you’ve been here for a while you’d know that my preferred mode of riding is solo; that is, by myself as distinct from riding with a pillion passenger. Try as I may I have never been able to get my wife to overcome her natural tendency to lean in the opposite direction to the corner when travelling on the back of the bike so pillioning is out. But I prefer to travel by myself when I do travel and there are all sorts of reasons why I prefer this mode to group riding.
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy group riding and I’ve done a fair bit of it, but there always seem to be a compromises involved in group riding that dilute the purity of being on the road and enjoying what it has to offer. For a start, you are constrained by what other members in the group want to do. These constraints are myriad, from important things like where and when to stop for petrol/food/sleeping to the trivial like when a group member wants to stop for a smoke. You are constrained by how fast/slow the rest of the group can/wants to travel. Your accommodation choices become vastly more complicated and require a great deal more advance planning. You are constantly aware of the need to try and keep the group together and to ensure that group members don’t get lost, miss turn-offs, way-points, etc. You are basically restricted to the skill level and expertise of the least-experienced rider whose bike has the smallest fuel tank. Having to stop every 200kms when you can comfortably do over 300km before having to stop can get wearisome, but you do it because that’s what riding ina group requires. Group riding can also be incredibly dangerous. I’ve seen many situations where lesser experienced riders have been sucked in to riding way over their limits in an effort to stay with the group and not make the rest of the group feel like they are being held up. And the possibility for multi-bike accidents increases dramatically as well.
But it’s not all bad news. If the logisitics problems can be overcome by good forward planning and goodwill, group rides (I’m mainly talking about tours here, by the way) can be great fun. There are the advantages of having the company of similar-minded people, support if something goes wrong, conversation and fun on overnight stops and lots of laughs. Accommodation costs are usually cheaper as the cost of a room can be amortised over a number of riders, most hotels providing some rooms at least that have 4 or more beds to a room.
Riding solo, however, also has advantages and disadvantages, obviously. The disadvantages are the lack of anyone with whom to share the “Wow, did you see that?” moments, being on your own if mechanical problems intervene (or, worse still, you have an accident), more expensive accommodation costs, less “clout” when it comes to getting discounts and boredom if the road has to be travelled but isn’t very interesting (regardless of how well you plan your route there is always going be this scenario somewhere along the line)
The advantages, I feel, far outweigh the disadvantages. Most significantly, riding solo means that you are completely in control of every aspect of the trip. You can go when and where you want to, stop where and when you want to and make any changes and detours that you feel like. You can go as fast as you like or as slow as you like. You can hang around if you want to or head for the hills as fast as you want to. Most of all, however, is the headspace that touring solo gives you; just you, the bike and the road, and that, for me, is priceless.