Stand Alone or Ride with the Pack?

One of the questions I often ask myself is, “What I rather ride alone or ride with friends?” Both have merits and demerits too. Both have opportunities for disaster or to thrive and both can make your day great or the worst too.

In truth, I’ve never really been able to answer that question. I would like both rides equally but because of life constraints, I tend to ride alone…a lot, however some of the places I see and the trails that I ride would be great to share with others too.

Just as with any subculture in society, there are many divisions within it also. There are those who love nothing more than getting out into the wild, getting dirty and facing the challenge of off road riding head on, however, equally there are those that prefer the social aspect of biking, hanging out in bars and cafes and riding with like minded folk in clubs..whether officially or not.

Finding a riding buddy is almost like finding a life partner in many aspects. It helps if you’re into the same kind of riding and would like to go to similar kinds of places. It’s really no point in hoping your sports bike pal will want to venture out onto the dirt every 5mins with you, just as you’d rather not hoon it around the twisties or take it to the race track either. You could do the occasional things together, but trying to force each other into each other’s preferences is a recipe for disaster.

Whilst I know lots of people within my local riding area, my spare time is usually when everyone else is working…and their spare time is when I’m working…this is the malaise of all shift workers I suppose. However, it’s not something that has frustrated me too much or that which I have vehemently tried to change. I’ve gone along with it…like the flowing water over pebbles, I have found my own path and much of that is on the dirt.

There are some riders, I’m sure, who will only stick to one aspect of riding for most of their lives, whilst others may chop and change with the wind too. I would say I find myself somewhere in between. I started on muddy fields and farm tracks, got into scrambling & trials, then graduated onto tarmac with sports bikes, cruisers and sports tourers…but eventually found I was most content when out and about in nature and back to where it all started.

In motorcycling preferences terms, there never seems to be the correct answer or a singular solution. It is subjective and is usually multi layered too. There are endless possibilities, opportunities and the full spectrum of humanity that can be found on a bike, so to think you’ll feel comfortable with everyone would be a stretch too far, however for the most part that two wheeling connection is there to be embraced and exploited too.

Going alone does not mean you are lonely or a loner, just as riding with the pack doesn’t mean you’re sociable and extrovert either. We all have a preference in our riding and we all have limitations on our enjoyment, however the key to the happiness on a bike is to ensure that you do not stray too far away from your personal comfort level…and always try to enjoy what you’re doing with a smile on your face.

I cannot write enough or describe in words the immense sense of joy I get out of riding on the trails especially, however it is the wondrous sights that encounter that keep the smile on my face. Chance encounters with other riders is always a blessing, but being in the moment and seeing something for the first time is what I tend to favour more and more.

Whether travelling or riding alone, you’ll have a similar feeling of total independence. You are on your own clock, you decide which route to plan, to explore or to deviate from at the last minute. No nonsense, no questions, no explanations…just do! I must admit I love this kind of riding. A loose plan, a general direction and hours upon hours to lose myself.

However what you miss out on is precious too. That feeling of camaraderie, safety in numbers, having each other’s backs, sharing the moments with the highs and the lows. Just a shoulder to lean on, a second opinion or an alternative point of view that you might not have thought about too.

I often find this myself when I’m out riding in the back trails in the middle of nowhere. You have to be resilient and be able to improvise to get yourself out of some sticky situations, however there can be a tendency to keep pushing on regardless. Your focus is purely on the trail ahead and it takes someone else to make you stop and take notice of what’s around you.

Neither way is better, however being by yourself you only have one person to rely upon, whereas with others you can only hope that is the case. Whatever your preference, I would always ensure that whatever ride you’re on, that you get something out of it and you enjoy it as much as everyone else. Never feel the need to go off into the wild by yourself if you’re not that comfortable in doing so, and never follow the group if its something that really ruins your day too.

Whatever you’re doing and wherever you’re going…enjoy the ride, avoid the slide and do it with a bloody big smile on your face. You owe it to yourself!

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