Group Motorcycle Riding – Benefit or Burden? (Video)

by: MCg

OVER THE YEARS I’VE DEVELOPED MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT GROUP RIDING. Although most of my weekend excursions and long-distance tours have been on one bike (with and without a passenger), I’ve enjoyed a number of trips with a second bike/rider and sometimes a total of three (such as this weekend in Death Valley National Park – see video below).

And as much as I am aware of how other riders find enjoyment riding with larger groups I have found the social experience “after” the ride to be very enjoyable, but the group riding itself to be somewhat restrictive, since I have a tendency to randomly stop to take photos, or take off in different routes on a whim, and generally start, stop and get going again in a somewhat unpredictable fashion. Heck, I don’t even always plan where I’ll be spending the night until I get tired and start looking.

The point to emphasize is that I have enjoyed my limited experience with group riding (a dozen riders) but my preference has been to ride solo or only with a few friends.

Of course with each additional rider, further coordination is necessitated regarding food, lodging, rest stops and destinations.

However, this weekend I had so much fun riding with 2 other buddies for 3 days, in Death Valley National Park that I’m re-contemplating the advantages and disadvantages of group riding. (Although, in this case, 3 very flexible and friendly guys hardly serves as an example of “group” riding, as we managed to generally enjoy our travels in a similar fashion as I would on my own. In other words, it was mostly an extemperaneous riding adventure with like-minded riders.)

So, the reality is that I’m really pretty inexperienced riding in real groups (more than three).

I’m hoping to gain some insight from contributors here on additional benefits and disadvantages regarding solo riding, very small groups (couple of riders) and real group riding.

What is your experience and preferences?

Comments

77 Responses to “Group Motorcycle Riding – Benefit or Burden? (Video)”
  1. Jim Craig says:

    Nope. I bought a bike in 1965 to get away from people. I joined the Blue Knights in 1996, and when travelling with them, there was the thrill of going 130 kph for kms at a stretch. But really, I enjoy being the loner again. Just let me do my own thing.

  2. The Wolf. says:

    I have been riding since 1954, and I prefer to ride alone, I am a long wolf by nature I guess. I have ridden with small groups, medium sized groups, and very large groups. I find that in groups we get a lot more respect from the cagers, and are given a lot more room on the road. I can’t tell you how many times I have been run off the road by some ignorant cager, they just don’t do that to a large group.

    When I ride alone I go where I want when I want, and how fast I want to go. I eat when I am hungry, I drink when I am dry, if a cager does kill me, I will live till I die. Nothing is more boring than putting along on a perfectly good straight road at 50 or 55 miles an hour. When riding in groups you ride with the group regardless of speed. You go with the group where the groups goes, and you stop, and start when the group does. Most of the time when riding alone, I will burn a tank of fuel between stops, you just can’t do that in groups.

    So you see there are advantages to both kinds of riding, and that leaves it up to a personal choice of the individual rider and their riding style.

  3. jimbo says:

    Group rides of three to six riders is OK for short rides, one hour or less, breakfast, lunch or dinner rides. I ride as the mood strikes me. Sometimes I prefer to ride alone, just to kick back and enjoy the experience. Other times with another rider with a spontaneous nature. We may select a tentative destination but never make it if something of interest appears along the way. I like to paraphrase Louis La’Mour’s description of a trail ride: “The trail (ride) is the thing, not the end of the trail (ride). Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling (riding) for.”

  4. Alan Severn says:

    I’m with you ref group riding. May be because I have always ridden as a singleton and find group riding an extra concentration factor which detracts from the ride. I do enjoy the social side of group riding but as a single rider have always found like minded people at the stop-offs anyway.

  5. DownrangeFuture says:

    I like to meet with some friends after we get to where we’re going, but group rides tend to be stressful for me. I just want to hang with friends and enjoy the ride, not worry about losing people if I take back roads that look interesting. Sometimes there’s a great looking sign for some local attraction that I’ve just gotta see.

    Besides, 10+ guys riding through town to go chill at a bar or something and then just standing around with their bikes in the parking lot isn’t my idea of fun.

  6. WELDER DON says:

    Like “TOM T. Hall”, I’m a philosopher of sorts. A famous philospher I’m sure we all all are at least remotely aware of, “Merle Haggard”, says “There are good dogs & bad dogs, in-laws & outlaws, right guys & wrong guys, We all wear our own kinda hats”!The quote may not be perfect, but you get the point.I don’t expect ya ta kiss em but , didn’t “Three Dog Night ” ask us “Try A Little Tenderness”? When it comes to large-large group I’m pretty much gonna shy away from it. It may be jes the ole country boy,me,but Ima a sorta fond of an un-numberd buncha folks ,guys & gals, payin attention to another one of Mr. Merle’s idears! “Wish I Were Down On Some Blue Bayou. Bamboo Pole Stick In The Sand. But I’ll just dream & Keep On Being The Way I Am”! Maybe “Im Just A simple Man”? Didn’t Lynnard Skynnard give us that? To put it a little more direct country forward: A mean old sgt told a couple of buck-privates:”I bet ya’ll wish I’uz dead so you cud spit on my grave!’ One private told him” No sarge,wen uh git outta this here mans army,I ain’t gonna never stan in no dang line ever again”! Tht may be why I’m not really thrilled about BIG rides. The execption to that rule vthough is I’ll Do Whatever I Can To Honor & Protect A Fallen Hero! I will humbely honored! The Don

  7. mark says:

    i’ ve ridden solo and with large group i like both but riding with a larger group is better i guess i likw the comrodery with other bikers , really it just depends on the person every one is different and have different opinions you know the old saying ” To each is his own”

  8. Jayson says:

    I enjoy a good group ride for a local benefit perhaps as far as 200 miles around the area .. For Long Distance traveling though prefer to go it alone ..

  9. Jimbo says:

    I have ridden in large groups, the PGR with 150 bikes and riders. The groups are well organized and LEO escorted. A mandatory ride briefing is held, miss it and don’t plan to ride. The escort rides might be as short as 5 miles or as long as 50 miles.

    Small groups, under 10 riders and distances of less then 100 miles round trip with a destination planned is acceptable providing riders are familar with each other. Unfamilar riders ride at the back of the pack and the group is broken up into groups of three bikes so as to not aggravate cagers wanting to pass. Groups will always travel slower then one or two riders. All riders know the destination and intermediate stops in case of separation.

    I have also been an outsider to a group, riding at the back of the pack. If there are “squids” acting out I will leave the group at the first opportunity, letting the ride captain know why in no uncertain terms.

    I prefer to ride solo or with one other rider on longer rides. We have an understanding and similar ride philosophies. (I) We are rather spontaneous, not set iron-clad schedules preferring to take each day on it’s own merit. Feeling good I (we) might do 500 miles, feeling crappy, mentally or physically, I (we) will stop at the first opportunity. I relate to Louis L’Mour’s phrase: “The trail (ride) is the thing, not the end of the trail (ride). Travel to fast and you miss all you are traveling for”.

  10. John M says:

    Lots of passion about this topic. I love riding. I have had amazing solo rides, and find it to be a very focused, personal time. I’ve had some great rides with others – 1 or two friends, or sometimes groups I just kind of meet and ride with for a while.

    I don’t think there were really more “real motorcycle” people when I was riding 30 years ago, and frankly the bikes were way easier to work on back then as well. I never ride close to another vehicle – motorcycle or automobile, and see bad drivers are plentiful on two or four wheels.

    for group rides I look for mellow circumstances – no rush, and relatively safe routes. i also make sure I let the group know that I may stay with them, but also may see something interesting and peel off. I either use a bluetooth intercom or cell phone to let someone know so they know my plans.

    I love riding, and ride how I want to and enjoy everything but bad traffic.

    As to those who seem to feel everyone is stupid but themselves; Even a lot of newbies are nice people, and I don’t care how long you’ve been riding – at some point you didn’t know how to fix a bike or ride a bike – so maybe pay it forward a bit and patiently teach others what you’ve learned. Or go live in a shack in Montana so you can be happy by yourself….

  11. drDave says:

    Difficulties aside, I wish there was a BMW riding group in northern lakefront Illinois. All the groups for my bike are far west or south, making motorcycle ownership a far less social experience than I thought it would be.

  12. I have been riding this second time (had about a 20 year layoff) since 2003. I started off riding alone and over time, I found that I was getting bored from time to time. After riding for about 2 years, I found a local group that rides in the Texas Hill Country near San Antonio every Saturday morning for a couple of hours, stops for a meal, and then rides home. The group has about 50 members, but the active group that shows up every Saturday is from 5 or 6 up to 15 or 18 on really nice weather days. We have been riding together for a long time now, and the group rides generally go very well. There are not too many rules, but we do have a set leader and sweep and ride in a staggered formation.

    We have also gone on trips together from time to time, including rides to New Mexico, Colorado, and Tennessee and Alabama. I have also gone on long distance trips by myself. With that experience, I will tell you that there are benefits to both ways of travel. The freedom of being along and making all your own decisions and acting upon them can be very freeing and satisfying. On the other hand, when you stop for meals or for the day or if you should have a problem on the road, there is no one there but you. And that can get very lonely. So it is a balancing act, largely based on who you are riding with (both skill level and compatability level). Riding with someone you are not fond of is a real drag — and any kind of group riding demands compromises because no one (or at least not many) think exactly like you do. So do the social aspects of being with the group outweigh the compromises you will have to make to your particular riding style and desires in order to stay with the group? It is a pretty individual decision based on your own likes and dislikes, but generally, for me, the compromises to ride with the group are worth it. Most of the long multi-day rides I have been on have been with at least four or five other riders, sometimes eight or ten. They have all been memorable with not enough bad experiences to scare me off from doing it again.

  13. Phil says:

    I guess it depends on what you call a group ride. I don’t particularly like riding with strangers so stay away from most organized group rides. Not that I am antisocial or anything. I just find myself spending too much time watching and worrying about the other bikes around me to have much fun. That said, I do have a small group of guys that I ride with because we know each other and how each other reacts/rides. And that said, if I had to make a choice between riding with a group or alone, I would pick alone.

  14. r0y says:

    many years ago motorcycle riders were few but they understood the machine , did oil changes , tires, plugs … knew how things worked .. ask any rider about his machine and you would get , ” i tryed this spark plug ,i changed that tire brand to this one and it ” feels ” better….everything started with ” i ” did something …feels,rides,handles,seems..they knew tools dirty hands .. now .. because all the rider wants is to be SEEN on a motor bike ..to show off you get MOST riders who never even know about how to change their oil or when …so how can they understand motorcycles ….its just a toaster on wheels …oh i fell off ”how /why did that happen” …” i am supose to do what ” …”i just want to ride and look cool/mean/hot/bad ass etc etc.look at my new chrome [ ] or my bags. or my radio head set ..or power wind screen..heated seat.. speed control..new patch on my vest…check the air in the tires ???? whats that ???…

  15. Vern Rosa says:

    Don’t beat around the bush, r0y. Tell us what you really think. LOL

  16. r0y says:

    VERN i did not say because they just ride on week ends thats why the are dumb …they are / still would still be fools even if they rode every min of every day . dumb is dumb ..or dumber ….all the riding /schools will never make them any smarter …its in their blood ,dna..some people just do not belong on 2 wheels —-hell even 4 wheels ….but they have the $$$ and its the cool thing to do /.be seen / join a group where the machine hides your id-de-o-it ness …. so they try to ride because they are worthless people…. ask them whats going on between their legs and what type of oil they use ….and that cloud over eyes starts, tounge hanging ,drooling starts , the i want to flee look but need to come up with an answer or they will know i am a retard….followed by i take it to the dealer they do all my work ….i have even heard where they go to the dealer to put air in the tires ..air they can not even put air in tires .. so do you really think they really need to be on a motorcycle … other then body parts and used wrecked motor cycle cheal parts they are and never will be of any use …so group rides more of them ..its in the numbers … more people more crime , more swim more drown ,more ride more fools ….

  17. Vern Rosa says:

    Hoz, you and Roy seem to really have a negative outlook concerning other riders. Granted, there are people who should not be on two wheels…that’s a given. But when you say “it’s like everyone and their mother own a motorcycle these days and only ride it on weekends, don’t have good riding skills” there is no way to quantify that. Indeed, there are those who only ride on weekends when the weather is good, but that doesn’t automatically mean they have poor riding skills. It could be that riding for them is a part time hobby which they trained for at some rider’s course. People like me, who ride every day regardless of weather, probably have much better skills than most people, but it doesn’t mean that those who don’t ride every day are poor riders. Be safe and have fun.

  18. Howler says:

    We had a good group ride to Skyline Drive in VA yesterday. 10 bikes, all experienced riders. It was a lot of fun. We stopped every 5-10 minutes or so to look at the colours of the leaves, and the leader did a great job. Total ride in miles yesterday was 320 for me. I don’t mind group rides like that, though personally I like solo rides. I rode to Vancouver BC from Baltimore MD last year. 7907 miles round trip. Most days I was riding between 450-550 miles a day, and loved every minute of it.

  19. r0y says:

    ya again but , but…. but … big groups more fools ..now who wants to play mother hen over grown ups..large group ride turns into trying to please everyone …3-5 again we go there ,this route, gas/ rest /catch-up here…. look in mirror count the headlites..1-2-3-4 .all there keep going …if not slow or stop / wait / one go back to check..rest wait….when i am in the big group ride because i want to go some where …i know the route ..be last .. if lose em [ traffic/lights ] … no big deal.. catch up on own or just jump ahead [ main road ] ..and wait for em …. or just go my own way …no pain suffering the fools who can not read a map or even try..some people do not know what is beyond a 30 mile range of where they live .just follow the leader [ even over a cliff ] .and if they are out of cell or text coverage it is mental break down time … christ you can only go north-south-east-or west …how can you get lost …look up at the sun ..this is not wood craft in the jungle .. .its just not worth it..

  20. Hoz says:

    R0y, I have to agree 100% with that statement “signs of the times” it’s like everyone and their mother own a motorcycle these days and only ride it on weekends, don’t have good riding skills and don’t have the basic understanding of motorcycles, mechanics or rules and technology on bikes make it worse, when the motorcycle does most of the thinking for you, GPS fuel indicator even tire pressure indicators. People who ride these days don’t respect motorcycles anymore like they use to or should but a I still say a good leader will teach all that and manage the ride.

  21. r0y says:

    HOZ …YA IT SEEMS THAT WAY MOST OF THE TIME …$$$ bike still dumb ..out of the club group 3-5 seems to know you need gas by miles not lights , gas when ever you can , etc ,etc,etc ..seems few think about whats going on between their legs but wait for something or someone to tell them [ lights ,flat tire ] …. and its all age’s …just a sign of the times with all the electrics in the world today ??? …i do not know the answer or even care ..sign of the times of motorcycleing i guess …not good.

  22. Hoz says:

    @ r0y, man who are you riding with a bunch if 10 year olds!
    In my opinion a group ride is as good as the leader that is leading the ride. If the leader makes sure everyone is filed and ready goes over the ride again and knows his riders and there bikes the ride can be great but many times they are people who lead and they shouldn’t. They don’t know how to keep the group together, they don’t know how to assign spots to make sure they have the safest ride. True, not everyone that can stop with out falling over can ride but not everyone that can ride can lead!
    Leading a ride is more than knowing where you going. It’s knowing who your with, what are the limitations is having others desires over yours, it’s taking a whole new outlook to riding, it’s become a father/mother to a bunch of grown riders! Not everyone is meant to lead not having a good leader destroys a group ride experience. All I can say is ride with a group that has a good leader or if your the leader rethink the strategy and become a better leader. If it is a charity ride, just ride your ride and don’t worry about the rest.
    I myself prefer solo rides but when I do group rides I make sure to take a different attitude, just because I am comfortable at 80mph I know that others are not so I ride there ride and I keep them safe and my enjoyment turns from a ride on my bike to seeing my friends enjoy their ride.
    Riding a motorcycle is usually a selfish act but that has to be changed when riding in a group and you learn to enjoy it more.

  23. r0y says:

    group riding sucks … 3-5 no more … all the club group rides turn into ”i need to stop for gas” forgot to fill up before meet …thats 10 miles out . then at 20 miles its some one else who needs gas [ because the light came on ] ”it was not on before 10 miles back” …or i need a break …or when will we get to [ food-beer] or the best is before you start ”when will we be back, in time for foot ball” ….” how far is this ride” – and thats after 1 week in plans with a map …or ”where are we going”…then its bunch up because then did not read the map and are scared to get left behind or are just to slow and fall back more and more…blame the frt ones, but its all ways the same ones who drop back every ride… . just because people ride or manage to stay on a motorcycle with out falling over stoped ,it does not mean they are any smarter then 90% of the car drivers …so all the bonding, brothers of the road, we happy few …they still are id-d-o-its …and the more [group] the worse it is ..3-5 no more ..then throw in the 50 hand gestures the its this way /my way every one is doing it wrong i am in charge ..fools..and group rides really suck ….3-5 riders- we are going there -lets go – wait here to catch up – enjoy …that seems to work

  24. Vern Rosa says:

    Rick… You are entirely correct; if someone does not know how to group ride, that person should not group ride. Some think they are supposed to ride side-by-side with other bikes in the same lane, like they’ve see motor officers do. That’s scary. Some try to ride in a group but can hardly ride solo. I was a a law enforcement charity ride last year and was one of the first to arrive and register. This gave me time to watch the others coming in. A man and his wife (girl friend?) came in, each on their own bike. She could not even maneuver into line without duckwalking several bike lengths. I remember thinking I was glad I would not be behind her during the ride. I think that anyone who wants to try group riding should first and foremost be an experienced rider. I don’t want to exclude anyone from enjoying riding, but by the same token I don’t want to be involved in a collision because an inexperienced rider joins a group ride and then makes a bonehead mistake, or panics because of a pothole or whatever.

  25. Rick Kirk says:

    Some people say they want to group ride, but they have not got a clue about group riding. you show them how it is done, and you give them books on it and they get out there and it’s like did you remember anything at all!. they ride to far back from the rider in from of them or to close. Or some one will split the group to let a car thru to exit the road. To me a group ride should be done the proper way or don’t ride in one at all.

  26. tinmanmartin says:

    I love to ride alone or in groups. It is a good idea to ride with people that you know who have similar riding styles and interests. Keep the group small around 5 bikes. Ride a staggered formation preferably an uneven number of bikes. The lead bike should be in inside of the lane as well as the last bike in the group.This will stop people trying to squeeze the last bike on the shoulder. Keep the group fairly tight to make it easier for a person in a really big hurry to pass the group more safely. If you have 15 bikes leave in three separate groups,Riding a motorcyle alone or in a group is awesome.

  27. Earl says:

    @Vern: Sounds like you’ve a marvelous motorcycling adventure about to unfold. Long distance touring’s something my wife and I’d also love to do some day, although presently we feel somewhat pragmatically constrained from doing so by our circumstance of having recently adopted our wee rescue pooch here who, we rightly or otherwise believe, is still too insecure to handle our lengthy absence. We compromise by instead including her along on cruises aboard our sailboat.

    As for such group riding events as charity runs, I can fully comprehend why many persons would both enjoy them and promote more of them, despite that I myself still wouldn’t feel confortable confined within such a long, staggereed line-up of motorcyclists. What my wife and I’ve lately given thought to is instead participating in something like a charity related motorcycle rally in which participants ride independently, but meet up along the general riding route at prescribed locations. I suppose this pretty much equates to doing what’s called a poker run.

    I/we would most certainly on occasion enjoy the accompanyment of another motorcycle. Unfortunately, it’s proving very difficult to find any motorcycling companion(s), given that no close friends who also ride bikes and it seems like most other bikers in our circumstance either just continue to ride solo or otherwise join into one of the local riding groups and opt to follow a leader. I’ve several times tried posting ads for a riding buddy, but to no avail. Oh, well….

    I highly encourage you to include the PNW in your summer’s tour. Perhaps consider a circuit around our Olympic Peninsula here on Highway 101 – a terrifically scenic route replete with both rugged mountain and expansive coastal vistas.

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