by Liz Jansen
Tomorrow begins 10-12 days of working from the road in Northern Ontario. I’ll be attending a writer’s workshop on the shores of Lake Superior, researching travel stories, and spending glorious time traveling on my motorcycle. Much of my road time will be on my own, although I’m looking forward to meeting up with other riders along the way.
When it comes to choices between riding alone or with a group, most motorcyclists have a distinct preference. Most have ridden in a group, defined as two or more bikes.
Far fewer have traveled alone.
I love solo travel and advocate it for its unequivocal power to re-energize, rejuvenate, and restore balance. Even if it’s going out for a few hours and before staying away overnight, the experience is extraordinarily invigorating.
I also enjoy small group travel, with the right person(s).
There’s room for both in our motorcycle lives. Try each one, and then decide which one suits you best. I’ve listed the pros and cons of each as I see them. I realize my preference is obvious and welcome your feedback.
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.
What can you add as a pro or con to either solo or group travel? Post in the comments below!