As I have noted before, I’ve done most of my touring by myself. To begin with it was just because I didn’t know anyone else who rode a bike during the early days (around 1980 onwards) and so it was just convenient to go by myself. Later on, when I became associated with various motorcycle groups and forums, (the last 5 years or so) I’ve done group rides to lots of places and it’s always been enjoyable.
But I keep coming back to the solo ride, for all sorts of reasons. Because I am a person who likes to look out for his fellow riders, I’ve always found that group rides are a bit of a worry as I’m always wondering how the other riders are getting along. Then, if someone is late for a checkpoint, I get concerned that something has happened to him/her. I know that sounds stupid but it’s something that I’ve never been able to work out of my act.
I also find that riding with riders of differing abilities and experience means that compromises have to be made, usually in favour of the least experienced/slowest rider/s. Not that this indicates that I like to speed or set silly point-to-point times (I gave that up years ago), but it can be and usually is a limiting factor.
Riding with smokers is a pain, because they want to stop every half hour for a coffin nail; riding with VTR1000 riders is the same because they need to stop every quarter of an hour to get fuel…sorta 🙂
Riding with people who like to have a few (too many) beers at the end of the day’s ride is also a worry, as I always wonder how much their judgement is going to be impaired on the next day’s itinerary.
Now I know that group riding has advantages and I don’t want to minimise them for a moment. Other riders to look out for you and help you. Good company at night at the end of each day’s ride, shared costs of accommodation to keep the expense factor down and the fun factor of doing things together with good friends. So please don’t think that I hate group tours because I don’t.
There, put that all together and it sounds like I don’t like riding with anyone; the original grumpy old man, but it’s not really that bad. But, on balance, solo touring is still my cup of tea.
But there are distinct advantages to travelling alone. All of the upsides of the above downsides, for a start. You can set the pace you’d like to ride at and not have to slow or speed up to the pace of the group. You can stop wherever and whenever you want to to take photos. rest, go to the loo, adjust the volume on your .mp3 player, whatever. You can go as far as you like in a day without worrying about whether it is too far or not far enough for the rest of the group. Yes, accommodation is usually a little more expensive, but you don’t have to share a room, and that can sometimes be refreshing too. You can explore more because you have the flexibility to do so.
I guess that’s the real difference; group rides, by their nature, tend to be structured and a bit inflexible because they have to take into account the needs/wants of all group members as much as they can. Inevitably this leads to compromise. But solo touring gives you the flexibility and that’s something that I always think is worth having.
So, a vote for solo touring for me, but, having said that, I’m most probably heading down to the Snowy in a couple of weeks on a group ride and I know it will be great.