Group Riding vs Riding Alone

There are many good points for riding in a group.  There are many good points for riding alone.  My personal preference has been the group for several reasons, but first, let’s look at riding alone and the benefits.

When you ride alone, you make your moves quickly.  Your independence is enhanced by maneuvering through traffic or mountain curves at your pace… at your performance level.  The total control over your approach is pleasant and fluid.  You’re also smaller (unit of one) and can move through traffic with an alertness that is sometimes more difficult if you are with fellow riders.  Cagers are unpredictable.  You can make instant adjustments when riding alone and avoid many situations where the cager didn’t see you.

Riding in a group has its advantages too.  The biggest disadvantage is you move as if you are a very large vehicle.  You pay attention to your fellow riders and make adjustments based on their level of proficiency, which isn’t always what you wish it would be.  The advantage will always be safety.  First, you are tremendously more visible.  The more bikes, the more visible.  Cagers become aware that there are motorcycles on the road when they see a lot of lights coming up behind them.  Another advantage is validation.  Sure, you did that set of twisties so smoothly… but no one saw it if you were alone.  With the group, you talk about it when you get to a stop.  You recognize each other’s riding abilities.  A final reason ranges from breakdowns to accidents.  If you are in a group there’s help instantly.  We ride in remote areas often and you can’t get a cell phone signal.  If you breakdown, or worse fall down, a group member can ride to where there is a signal to get help.  If you’re alone, you’re screwed.

Small groups are typically different from larger groups.  My philosophy has been that we use the “follow the leader” method if the group is four or less.  You still have to have some common sense and mental stability as you wind through traffic or twisties.  It only takes on goofball to screw up a day.  Our larger groups use the signal system and shift lanes from the back.  This requires cooperation of the entire line and a good tailgunner that is focused on safety as they secure the lane for changes.  The larger the group, the more difficult it is for the leader to manage, but I have had columns of over 25 on more rural or linear routes that have successfully used this method.  If the route or group isn’t conducive to this system, break the column into groups of 6 to 10.  Of course, this requires you have more people qualified to safely lead and tailgun.  That has often been a challenge.

So, if you ride alone, please watch out for the cagers.  A friend recently went through an intersection when someone did a u-turn without paying attention.  The broken wrist was not pleasant nor was the fact that she had no one there to help.  She was so far from home she had to catch a 30 mile bus trip and then take a commuter train to get home from the hospital.  If you ride in a group, you still have to pay attention.  They will notice you more, but never trust a cager when you are on a bike.