Riding solo vs riding in a group: BHPians share their preferences

Solo rides have taught me a lot about myself, made me tougher and appreciate life a little more. Group rides on the other hand introduced me to motorcycle brotherhood.

BHPian saishivaj recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Motorcyclists are a different breed altogether. And I believe there is a caste system within us. This caste system is formed not just because of the type of motorcycle they own but their own use of it. For some, it is just the cheapest tool to commute while for some others, their motorcycle is a member of their family. On the latter spectrum, everyday, I come across enthusiasts with such infectious fervour about riding motorcycles that it instills me to do more rides and more difficult rides.

In my short (or relatively short) riding years so far, I have covered the length and breadth of Indian highways on my beloved CBR250R, Interceptor and Classic 500. My CBR recently even crossed the 1 lakh mark. In all these years of riding, I have done various forms of motorcycle trips, solo rides, small group rides, breakfast rides, large multi day group rides, etc. While each of these types have their own ups and downs, I have enjoyed solo rides the most.

Solo rides have taught me a lot about myself, made me tougher and appreciate life a little more. Group rides on the other hand introduced me to motorcycle brotherhood and the fun that an introvert like me can have when he meets like minded individuals. I am now part of more motorcycle groups than I can do justice to.

Here are my identifiers of riding formats and my thoughts on why going solo is my preference:

  • Solo ride.
  • Group ride with known folks (2-7 riders).
  • Large group ride with known/unkown riders (>7)

Why do I prefer solo rides:

  • You are free, responsible and independent to take the decisions you want. You want to take the more difficult but scenic path, or you want to take the faster route, it is on you. You want to stop for a break or ride 600 km at a stretch, it is on you.
  • Solo rides are always faster. Unless you end up basking in the sights more than normal, you are always quicker. You can set your own comfortable pace.
  • In my opinion, riding solo in most cases is a safer option. You don't have to deal with newbies as part of your group. You can maintain your own comfortable distance and speed with traffic. You are not bound by the group rules (if any).
  • Flexibility of control over itinerary.
  • You are also on your own when it comes to unforeseen incidents like breakdowns and accidents.
  • Group rides are a nuisance as seen by general public. With riding gear, loud exhausts and fancy toys, that feeling becomes all the more pronounced.

Downsides of solo rides:

  • You are on your own during incidents like breakdowns, accidents or when you are a bit under the weather. While this maybe fine in most situations within India, given the population density you will find help, there will be a few cases you wished you had company.
  • Boredom. On longer rides, riding with company can possibly reduce fatigue during the ride and provide company after the ride.
  • There are smaller nuances like language, shared resources and local support you may end up getting from group rides.

I have done almost 2 lakh km of saddle time. And my preference is currently solo rides for 80% of the time and 20% of group rides. I see group rides more of a social gathering than actually enjoying motorcycles and enjoying the ride.

What would be your preference?

Here's what GTO had to say on the matter:

Not a rider, but I enjoy solo drives more . Just like a great workout at the gym, I really get "in the zone" with a great car and a great road. It's extremely therapeutic for me & I get some of my best ideas and thinking done when on solo drives.

Second choice, driving in small groups. Even when it comes to offroading, I prefer just another 4x4 or two for company.

Here's what BHPian aargee had to say on the matter:

As I started solo, moved to group & now back to solo & semi-solo (will get to this later), my thought is simple:

  • If you're beginning - Start, start & start ONLY with a group which will accelerate getting to discover if you're a social animal loving to be in pack or a lone Wolf or even whether you love to ride or drive & all the nuances of being on open road.
  • Choosing the group is very very, VERY important. I consider very lucky enough to start when the culture of motorcycle riding was picking pace & had made some awesome friends (both TBhp & xBhp across the country & best part being we're all still in touch more than a decade) & almost all of us have identical thoughts, shared similar interests with motorcycles; point being, the group was a RESPONSIBLE one from where I learnt much beyond motorcycling...FOR LIFE!!
  • These days I prefer solo or max with 2-3 riding buddies; some of the most important point to consider in group riding are:
  • No matter 3 or 30 people in the group, one should know the remaining 2 or 29 folks not just by their name, but also their abilities to ride.
  • A common pattern being, everyone wants to be that lead rider after 2-3 group rides; needless to say the lead has to come from the experience of ride + skills to lead & not by the age or having the most powerful motor!!
  • Larger the group, better, shorter the distance unless everyone are equally skilled enough & determined, which ofcourse ages over time.
  • Mixing motorcycles with different segment (like 250/400/650/800/liter) are most likely to result in dissatisfaction, which ofcourse can be mitigated by having subgroups according to their classes. But then, some 250 riders are too spirited & can keep up with some lethargic 400s or even 650s that might turn sour.
  • If the entire group is not like minded, groupism (politics) plays a spoilt sport as well.
  • Last but not the least, if one is picky in nature, group rides are to be avoided straight away!

On the downside of Solo rides, one can always mitigate the risks to an extent; for instance:

  • Breakdowns can be mitigated with reliable motorcycles; Weather can perhaps affect the travel time & change plans; accidents, ofcourse, are bad, can't help much; but health issues are the worst nightmare where one can't do anything much. Atleast in an accident people will rush to help (either to make you or themselves better), but when health rots, things get worst; especially the headaches, diarrhea, dysentery where the fatigue hits after a while forcing you think you can manage.
  • Even if someone charts the route map, a solo rider has to do it; actions are much different GMap. Solo rides are tiresome both mentally & physically compared to some respite with group rides. In a solo ride one has to take decision on the stoppages, decision taking a route, decision on food, decision on accommodation, decision, decision, decision tiring mentally to ofcourse the riding which is both tiring mentally (in our Nation) & physically.
  • Boredom yes, on a long stretch of highways (eg: Nelamangala - Tumkur - Belgaum; Manor - Vapi - Surat - Bharuch - Ahmedabad; Adilabad - Nagpur; Nagpur - Narasinghpur - Jhansi - Gwalior), where one has to have a strong endurance otherwise a group can be a blessing here.

The speed of the group depends on the speed of slowest rider in the group; so if one is not comfortable riding in those speeds, better to ride solo.

However, there's a intermediate & yet a little uncomfortable that very very few people undergo - Semi Solo/Riding Two-Up. If spouse (most of the cases) is comfortable taking back seat or taking turns to ride, then, nothing beats this approach. Few downsides being:

  • One has to have a very very, very good motorcycle offering as much comfort as possible.
  • Spouse has be comfortable in being little uncomfortable with the attitude of swalpa adjust maadi.

Here's what BHPian Athek had to say on the matter:

Been on both spectrum, and have ridden solo as well in long and small groups quite a bit. Where in the larger groups looked fun earlier, the charm died very quickly and I stopped joining them and started going solo or with a friend or two at best.

One fine day I quit all the riding groups I was part of, and along with one another close rider we decided to form a small group of like minded people. We make it a point to add only people who align with each other and are a regular joiners. Now this group is my go to group, and more or less is again divided in sub groups where people ride in small groups and sometimes we all meet and ride together. Average size of a ride for this group is 2-4 riders on a given weekend.

We are only a group of 17 riders over a course of more then two years, and good thing is everyone gels with everyone and knows everyone both as rider and personally. This for me has worked the best, as I have grown in age I really am not upbeat about meeting new people regularly, and usually for this group also people are added based on referrals. This is my happy place where I would probably want to continue operating.

To quote an ongoing example few of them wanted to ride to Dhanushkodi for the long weekend, and others just wanted an overnighter. So few of them went to Dhanushkodi and some of us are going to Yercaud tomorrow, where they will join us on the way back and then we will all ride back together.

If not from some one from this group, then I prefer to go solo.

Here's what BHPian Slushmaster had to say on the matter:

After riding motorcycles across the length and breadth of Himalayas and Northern India, my two cents. it's always good to ride in a small group, if you are on long rides or going places you are unfamiliar with because of two main reasons:

  • Safety from mugging, road rage or even harassment by locals.
  • In case of an unfortunate incident, it's always good to have people who can take care of you, especially when you are far away from your home.

For small weekend rides around the city, I prefer going alone.

Here's what BHPian rohing had  to say on the matter:

Nice thread. I mostly agree with everything that has been said about different type of rides.

I did vote for a group ride of 2-7 but that was because there was no option of 2-3. I enjoy the safety and company of having someone along but 7 is way too much. After 3 it gets unwieldy. If you have 1-2 good friends along with you, they sometime open your eyes to new things which you would not do it yourself - new routes, new restaurants on the road etc. I do solo for short rides and like a small group for longer ones.

Here's what BHPian PrasannaDhana had to say on the matter:

I prefer solo rides.

Have done 700 km a day rides solo a decade back. Recent years, my rides have been limited to 300 km max a day. That too, only when I was in the mood to hit the ghats. Solo rides have the independence that group rides don't. I usually avoid group rides, specially with unknown riders.

Reason being, I lack the basic self control to stick with the group. Usually there is always one or two slow riders, who for some reason refuse to keep up the nominal pace.

I enjoy group rides when I ride with a select few close friends who have similar riding styles. There, the coordination gets magical!!

Here's what BHPian aravind.anand had to say on the matter:

I love riding motorcycles. And I enjoy both solo rides as well as rides with a small known pack in equal measure.

Solo rides give us a lot of independence and we can decide absolutely everything for ourselves - right from the start time, the route, the pace, the rest stops - so that gives quite a lot of flexibility.

I also enjoy the Sunday morning group rides. Our connected during a huge Royal Enfield ride where there were a huge number of riders. But a select few riders connected and bonded from that ride and we now have a Whatsapp group to connect and plan for rides.

I also have a good friend John (a fellow BHPian) with whom I have done several weekend rides together. Those have been some of my most memorable rides.

Only the larger group rides with many unknown faces where some are zipping away, some are too slow to catch-up to me are pointless.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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