Riding Alone With Others

06 Mar

When I was in High School I was a sprinter and ran relay races on the track team. My coach said “Track is an individual sport performed with others.” I was recently thinking about how much this also applies to riding. Whether I’m riding to work, with a group, or on my own I’m never truly alone on the road. To ride a motorcycle is to ride alone with others.

We’ve all heard the phrase “Ride your own ride.” What does that really mean? For me, it goes to the heart of riding alone with others. There are always other cars and bikes sharing the road with me. The key is to ride to the level I’m comfortable with and not to exceed my skill level.

If I’m riding with a group I make sure I’m going at a pace that is comfortable and safe for me. This may mean I need to change where I am in the line up. I’ve realized it’s not a sign of weakness to move to the back of the line if I am feeling pressure to go faster than I’m comfortable with. It’s also not rude for me to move up the line if I’m frustrated riding behind slower riders. Having the correct pacing for a ride goes a long way to enjoying that ride. If the group is too slow or too fast I’m not going to have a good time.

On group rides, especially with new groups, it is hard to know what the group dynamic will be or what kind of riders will be participating. To solve that question in the group I ride with we have implemented riding levels we assign to each ride. This lets people know what they can expect before they even show up. We have a Pace level and a Difficulty level. The Pace Level is how fast the ride is. Level 1 is a relaxed ride where the group will stay in tighter formation. This pace caters to those wanting to take a more leisurely ride. Pace Level 2 is slightly more aggressive where every rider at least keeps the motorcycle behind them in their mirrors. Pace Level 3 is the most aggressive with a see-you-at-the-next-intersection pace. Difficulty levels range from Easy for straight roads with long sweepers to Hard (i.e. Tail of the Dragon-ish). With this system no one is surprised by the pace and difficulty of the ride they show up for. I try to remember that I ride with a group for the social stops and camaraderie, but the ride belongs to me. It’s nobody else’s fault if I have a bad ride but mine.

If I’m riding with a few friends I try to not get caught up in trying to keep up. I hear more stories of accidents where a less experienced rider was trying to keep up with a more experienced rider. The result is almost always an accident or a close call for the less experienced rider. Riding with a more experienced rider is a good way to learn from that rider, but it’s important to know where the line is between trying new techniques and pushing too far too fast.

If I’m commuting it means choosing a route that is going to get me to work safely. This may mean avoiding highways if I’m not comfortable sharing the road with that many other drivers. If I’m on a solo ride it means being aware of how traffic is moving around me and keeping my bike in a place that will keep me safe. When I ride to work or solo I use the ride rating system mentioned earlier. It helps me mentally prepare for the ride I’m about to take. Thinking through the route and what I expect to find gives me a mental image of how I need to ride and puts me in the right frame of mind. I call it putting on my mental armor. I go through the ride in my head while I’m putting on my real armor.

No matter how you look at it, operating a motorcycle is completely in the hands of the person holding the handlebars. We are, however, constantly being acted upon and interacting with other riders or drivers while on the road. Ride your own ride, be safe, and enjoy riding alone with others.


Posted by on March 6, 2012 in Motorcycling


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6 responses to “Riding Alone With Others

  1. twotiretirade

    March 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    How funny it is that the times I ride alone, I find that I have more interaction with those around me then when I ride with a group. In a group, I tends to be caught up with the pack and I’m less likely to roam socially out of the comfort zone. When alone, I tend to get caught up in the moment of time but have more random conversations with others while on the road.

    I have almost been in 3 accidents while riding. Two out of the 3 accidents were when I was riding in a group but most of my time I ride alone. I guess I am just distracted while riding with others. Call it Attention Pack Riding Disorder (APRD). Be aware of APRD on your next group ride. Take care!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 7acesmotolog

      March 10, 2012 at 9:41 am

      I totally agree. It’s really easy in a group to get fixated on the tail light in front of you. Because you’re following you don’t have to think about where you are going or how to get there and so your mind can really wander. It’s a problem that I see all the time with groups. Even more reason to pay attention and keep your head in the ride.

  2. nwroadrat

    March 10, 2012 at 2:38 am

    Nice post. On group riding I’m careful with the groups I ride with now. When the bike types are mixed, I like seeing one with lessor HP and torque set the pace of the group. When the pace setter bike is a Kawasaki ZX-10R or a Triumph Rocket, the accordion affect is generally pretty extreme.

    • 7acesmotolog

      March 10, 2012 at 9:35 am

      I’ve seen the accordion effect happen too. It doesn’t need to though. I ride a Connie 14 and have lead rides where this doesn’t happen. It’s up to the ride leader to make sure that everyone is “participating” in the ride. It’s a big reason that our riding group instituted the Pace Levels that we did. Most of the group ride cruisers but there are a few of us on Connies, FJRs, there’s even a BKing so it’s very important that we all know what the ride is going to be before we start.

  3. Stevie D

    March 10, 2012 at 7:34 am

    I rarely ride in groups nowadays although I’ve done plenty in the past.I find I simply don’t enjoy it anymore as one of the joys of riding for me is being able to ride when, where and how I like. I guess I’ve become a solitary old sod, although that doesn’t apply to my social life off the road.

    • 7acesmotolog

      March 10, 2012 at 9:38 am

      I hear you Stevie, I find myself on more and more solo or small group (2-3 riders) rides. Groups rides are nice, but they can be really limiting too. I find myself riding to a destination with the group and then finding my own way home. This way I get the social aspect and can also stretch my legs, so to speak, after we’re all done with the meetup. It’s the best of both worlds for me.


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