Although I love travelling alone and it’s been ages since I’ve ridden with friends, I have not always been a solo rider. In fact, when I first started going on my motorbike trips I was always a pillion because I did not know how to ride. And although I bought myself a motorbike in 2007 until early 2009 I was not confident in riding it even in the neighbourhood. As expected that was a time for group motorcycling tours.
I have had my share of group rides and I am sure the future has to offer some more. And some of these rides were absolute fun while some others could have been managed better. I realised it when it comes to motorbiking tours if you don’t plan, you’re doomed. Unlike backpacking where you can just go and do whatever you wish to, going on motorbiking road-trips is a different ball game. However, if you can follow some simple rules and guidelines that everyone adheres to, travelling with fellow riders can be an absolute blast.
Arrange for a pre-ride meet up
A pre-ride meet up is an opportunity for all the people to meet, share information, select a leader and delegate responsibilities. Every member should share their phone numbers, ICE details, etc. At the same time, this can be a time to share information about ride plan, daily mileage targets, and clearing doubts. I’ve been on my share of rides when people have turned up without a clue regarding the tour.
Needless to say later in the day, there have been roadside phone conversations on the side of the highway that went like this. “No, no.. You have to turn left after that town. Why would you ride straight? There is a signpost right there” A simple pre-ride meet up which explains the route, the daily stops, choosing of ride leader, lead rider, sweep rider can help in avoiding such situations
Set a daily morning pre-ride routine
In case of a multi-day rides having a daily morning routine is essential. It doesn’t mean everyone has to get up at 5 am. But it makes sense to leave the previous night’s hotel premises by say 8 am (or whatever time suits the group) Then it is up to each individual rider to decide when to wake up. Some might be able to wake up at half past seven and be all ready to ride in 20 mins. While others who know they take longer will rise early.
Don’t restrict the routine to just ride timings but include other things as well. Something as simple as standing in a circle and discussing the day’s ride-plan for 5 mins. Or that breakfast will not be had at the hotel but after 50 km into the day’s journey. Or every morning people inspect each other’s motorbike to make sure there are no faults.
Every rider in the group needs to understand that her/his safety is her/his own responsibility. And should never compromise on it whatever other’s might say. It is inevitable that there will be people in a group who enjoy riding really fast. While there are others who like cruising at 60 kph. The faster riders should not force the slower ones to ride faster.
However, the group as a whole needs to understand that the speed of the group is as fast the slowest rider. Therefore while working out route plans and distance to be covered keep in mind the overall riding skills, stamina, motorcycle capacities of the group.
Keep an alert eye on your fellow riders
I have always experienced that how much ever one may try to stick to the group and ride together it becomes a difficult task on the highway. Therefore one should always keep their eyes open for their fellow riders. You had a friend who was trailing you but you have not seen him for a while now. Stop and wait for him to turn up. It might be possible he may have had a mechanical failure or a flat tire. At the same time, it may also be possible that he overtook you while you were too busy enjoying the sceneries. Or taking a leak.
Mobile phones these days have made it possible to just stop and call to check the whereabouts. However, in some remote areas, the cell phone access might be absent. Therefore it is very important to be alert where your fellow riders are.
A way to tackle such situations is for the entire group the assemble together after every50-60 km. Or each rider can buddy up with another. This way there is always someone watching out for someone else in the group.
Track and Manage expenses
One of the advantages of having a group ride is it lowers your cost because you end up sharing the expenses. To make sure it happens, either someone should volunteer or the group should appoint someone to track and manage expenses. All the members in the group can contribute say $20 every morning towards daily expenses. The volunteer can then use this money for accommodations, food, and similar common expenses. Whatever is left at the end of day or ride can be returned to the members. Or can be used to buy beer for the entire gang.
Share the responsibilities
Organizing and managing group rides is hard work and a thankless job. Mostly, it is just a couple of guys putting all the hard work. But taking all the blame when things go wrong. Sharing responsibilities helps not just organizers and the leaders but the entire group. Someone in the group is a good photographer, let him click the pictures. Another fellow has good negotiation skill, let him go and bargain with the hotel guy for rooms. Let another one manage expenses while another can plan the day’s ride. Volunteering and sharing responsibilities helps in matching the wavelength that I was talking above.
Personal Identification and Emergency contact details
Irrespective of a solo ride or a group ride I can’t stress the importance of this tip. The same as I said in my tips for riding solo should be noted and shared amongst all fellow riders. Each rider should take care that he has all the necessary documents of his bike and his ICE details. But he should also make it a point to note the registration numbers and phone numbers of the other riders int he group
With the advent of cell phones, nobody memorises phone numbers anymore. But you’ll be surprised how your cell phone battery dies when you have to make that all-important phone call. Prevent that situation, and write down phone numbers on a piece of paper.
Respect the locals and their way of life
It quite often happens that the group is so busy enjoying itself that they end up crossing the line and hurting the sentiments of the locals. Just because you are away from home does not mean you have all the rights to behave like a jerk. When you come back home at 3 in the morning after a bout of drinking with friends you do not wake the neighbours in the apartment up with your loud and unbearable singing. Why do it at the hotel you are staying it? Such irresponsible behaviour not only creates a negative impression in the minds of locals, but they also may not be so welcoming to other motorcycle tourers in the future. Or you as well if your ride those rodes again
Needless to say that along with the above one also needs to take care of the tips for long distance motorcycling that I shared earlier.
If solo ride helps you in knowing yourself, a group ride will help you with the same along with letting you know others. The sense of brotherhood that gets developed in a group ride is hard to explain and nothing comes quite as close as well.