Which is Best? Riding in the Pack or Riding Solo? Part I

//Which is Best? Riding in the Pack or Riding Solo? Part I

Which is Best? Riding in the Pack or Riding Solo? Part I

Editor’s Note: When it comes to jumping on your bike and taking off on a road trip, you’ve basically got two choices. You can go it alone and enjoy the serenity of man (or woman), machine and the great outdoors. Or you can participate in the camaraderie of a group ride. That’s a personal decision, of course, but what we present here are two differing opinions on the subject. Today we hear from Patrick Garvin, who apparently isn’t into group hugs — or rides. Tomorrow we’ll hear from Jake Herring on the wonderfulness of riding with others.

I Ride Alone — With Nobody But Myself

Patrick Garvin

It appears that large portions of our culture as motorcyclists have taken to riding in groups. Great bunches of people moving as one — and not moving particularly fast. To be sure, a lot of these organized events are poker rides and charity events. Things of that nature. And that’s all well and good.

But I have to tell you, I recently attended my first poker run and I bounced out of there after Stop No. 3. I understand the thinking behind charity runs, but I’ll make my donation at the office, thank you very much. I mean I just don’t see the purpose of hundreds of bikes jammed into a large pack and disrupting traffic.

First off, there’s the safety issue. The fact that most likely I only know a few of the riders in this enormous pack of riders means I don’t know the skill levels of those with whom I’m sharing this roadside grunion run. Any one of them could pull a bonehead move and bang into another bike, causing a domino effect — with 700-pound steel dominos, no less!

Secondly there’s absolutely no pleasure in putting around town from point A to point B, navigating at a snail’s pace while my bike’s cooking the inside of my thighs. And that brings up another point — where the heck are we going on these poker runs? Many poker runs involve at least one stop at a tavern, and most of them include several such stops. What kind of message does bar hopping on motorcycles send? That’s a terrible idea!

And probably the least palatable part of this pack predicament is the fact that you’re spending most of your time fending off all the bikes around you instead of enjoying an actual ride.

What about riding with friends, you ask? Sounds good on paper but listen to this: Somebody innocently suggests everybody ride over to some local hang out spot. What generally follows is a period of waiting around for everybody and their mother to get their coat on or go to the bathroom or get gas. Then someone decides they want to buy a snack as long as they’re already at the gas station.

Before you know it, the day’s half gone. And then, once you get underway, there’s always someone who doesn’t want to go on certain roads or Billy Ray doesn’t want to ride in the back or Johnny Boy wants to stop every six miles to take a picture.

And with that many people, there’s always a reason to stop every 45 minutes, leaving little time to actually ride. Generally this day ends up being like your last family reunion where you said you’d go, but you really wanted to leave, but you ended up staying anyway, and then you vowed you’d never do it again.

My idea of a great ride is gearing up, throwing a leg over my bike and hitting the road as the sun starts to climb in the sky. I don’t have to worry about my destination; I just roll on the throttle and head in the direction of a curvy road. Hell, half of the time I just check the map for the road with the most bends and head that way. I can set a blistering pace through the corners without having to worry about anybody keeping up.

If I want to jack up the occasional wheelie, I don’t have to worry about startling anyone. I can just hang it out there to my heart’s content. Sliding through corners on the back road two lanes is completely encouraged by the entire group (me). Or I can cruise along in solitude at whatever rate of speed I like, taking in the scenery at my leisure and not stopping until the gas light comes on. Or I can hang around at a roadside pit stop as long as I want.

Because when it comes to taking a vote, I’m the only one holding a ballot.

About the Author:


  1. Bruce November 7, 2010 at 9:39 am

    I have been riding since 71, and I am a solo rider 98% of the time (by choice). The few time I have rode with others I have found that with more than two other bikes the enjoyment starts to decrease rapidly (for me at least).
    I think there are several things at play in your decision. 1) Your personality- do you always feel the need to be around others, do you get bored when alone? Are you very patient and flexible and adapt easily to other peoples needs/schedules? If so you are a group rider 2) If you are happy (or prefer) being alone a lot, impatient/inflexible with others – then you are a solo (or very small group of close friends with similar interests & personality.
    Just learn who you are and ride the way you enjoy

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  4. Dennis Lewallen November 5, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I am an old rider but yet a new one as well. I started riding back in 1958 on an Ariel twin. I loved that old bike, I was 15 years old then did not know a thing about maintenance riding solo or multiple. After 30 years of not riding I am on another Harley and my wife and I go it alone. Love it would not have it any other way. Oh yes, there is one other that always goes with us…..yep you guessed it and He has never let us down. Good biking to you solo or in a group.

  5. JeffG November 5, 2010 at 8:26 am

    I believe both have their place. I’ve done both, but usually ride alone. I’ve had alot of fun riding in groups, but you have to go into it with the mantality that your not going anywhere fast.
    I ride across country with my brother once or twice a year. Long trips are best done as either solo or two people.
    I appreciate Patrick opinion, but if your going to take safety, don’t add anything about popping wheelies (solo or otherwise), and don’t add the speeding down curves. These are two of the most dangerous things people do on a bike.
    Please take time to enjoy the journey. I’ve riden from the east coast to Sturigis, SD three times. I could have trailored it, or had it delivered. but the purpose of the trip was the ride out and back (not the event).
    Instead of telling everyone the negatives of what you don’t like about group rides. Try talk about what you do like about solo rides.
    I belong to a club who I like riding with, but I my solo rides better for more reasons.

  6. Marc Pouliot November 5, 2010 at 6:15 am

    I prefer riding alone since bad experiment. I tried being in a group but there was always something wrong. One needed gas, another the toilet, one did not like the restaurant or the motel. I even left Quebec one day with a guy and his wife to go to Virginia. The guy had a crisis of anxiety when we crossed the US border and I had to accompany them back to Quebec, ruining my trip. Now, I am preparing for a ride on the Blue Ridge Mountains next spring, from Virginia to North Carolina, And I will be alone. No one else to take advise from or to take care of.

  7. Marc Pouliot November 5, 2010 at 6:09 am

    I prefer riding alone eventhough I am 1000 miles from home. I tried being in a group and we did not go anywhere. One has to take gas, another the restroom, another one did not like the restaurant, there was always something wrong. There was even a time when I left Quebec for Virginia with another guy and his wife and the guy had an anxiety crisis when we cross the border and I had to accompany them back to Quebec, ruining my trip. So now, I ham preparing a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains from Virginia to North Carolina next spring and I will be alone.

  8. ronnie November 5, 2010 at 4:33 am


  9. Gerard White November 5, 2010 at 4:11 am

    only will ride in a pack if i know all the riders as i have seen too many weekend warriors or inexperinced riders bring down a pack. Usually ride by myself or with only about 3-4 close mates

  10. Don Fossett November 5, 2010 at 3:50 am

    “Organized rides” can be good where everyone knows their “place in the pack” and stays in formation. Or just riding with some buddies that have experence riding and know you well enough to know when you are getting to your point of splitting from the pack , and give you the ‘elbow room” when you do take off. But on the flip side I also like to ride solo because I can ride as fast (or slow) as I feel comfortable with the road that I’m on and how familiar I am with it.

  11. Gus Lachnit November 5, 2010 at 12:24 am

    I don’t mind locally riding alone. You just have to be beyond careful riding around Baltimore. If I was planning a long ride especially if I were to travel on a major interstate I would much rather ride with a small group no more than ten others just enough to be noticed by all.

  12. Ron November 5, 2010 at 12:00 am

    All good points… I have no problem riding solo, but I also like to take a tour with my buddy… just two of us. I set my GPS for a destination, and set it for the scenic route. If we don’t feel like taking a particular route… we just ingnore it and go somewhere else. We will still wind up getting there eventually. I have discovered many great roads doing this.

    The main thing is… if you love to ride… then ride!

  13. Ron Beatty November 4, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Riding alone can be a very relaxing afternoon, but alot of times riding somewhere with a group of close friends is the best of times. Sitting around with those same friends reminiscing about a good ride can be an enjoyable evening as well. You can’t do that riding alone. Riding a motorcycle to me is a freedom and using that freedom to choose to ride alone or with someone is part of the whole experience.

  14. John Hoegemann November 4, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    I rode with a club in the 60s. Not these days! Riding has become a full time job just riding alone.

  15. David November 4, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I agree, riding solo is great, but a buddy or two that knows how to ride makes it all good. The organized 200 plus riders is more of a question of how much patience you can muster..

  16. […] Which is Best? Riding in the Pack or Riding Solo? Part I | Motorcycle Parts and Accessories Blog […]

  17. ron MacKenzie November 4, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Solo is the best way…
    you’re never::
    late for anyone,
    holding anyone up,
    stopping on someone else’s schedule,
    The only one you answer to is you…

  18. Ol'Gar November 4, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Well I’ve been riding since 1968 with friends , groups and solo. i’ve been X country from Ohio to California and back, up and down the east coast adn all over Florida with a good group of riders and also solo. It’s nice to solo for the obvious reasons of the independence to go and stop where ever but the group ride has it’s advantages too . The comaraderie is always there, taking the lead and leaving the group to follow behind and keep the safety margin to a minimum is a plus and just being with friends to ride with is great . I agree the levels of riding skill and tecnhique are always a challenge but it should raise the defensive driving flag big time. I enjoy both rides but enjoy having to share the experience with passengers and the occasional other rider.

  19. Bill Ferguson November 4, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I do both. I group ride and I solo ride. I enjoy both emmensely (sp?). I will agree with the one comment about drinking on poker runs. Its NOT a good thing. And I also agree that there are some riders who do not have the skills to ride in a large group. But I don’t hold their lack of skill against them. I just ride cautious of them. And I’ve never seen an accident happen in a group ride although you read every day of a solo rider being involved in an accident.
    Sometimes, a ride with one or two close friends can be the best. A little quality guy time.

  20. Vinnie B. November 4, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Im gonna vote for the solo ride. I’m pretty much a lone wolf, like to ride when I want and where I want,stop when I want and so on. However I do enjoy a group ride sometimes too. I have a few friends I like to ride with usually the group is no more than 12 riders.

  21. John November 4, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    My friends ride on the weekends and we are at least 10 deep

  22. Uboat November 4, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    The only way I ride in a group is with a club,otherwise it’s solo.

  23. Uboat November 4, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    The only time I ride in a group is with a club, otherwise it’s solo

  24. Merf November 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I totally agree with Patrick. There is nothing like the adventure with a tent, sleeping bag, my bike and me.

  25. Ed Schuman November 4, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I ride solo and have since 1966 .I go where I want and leave when I want that’s freedom!

  26. George Smith November 4, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    I agree with Patrick on the solo ride.Group rides are
    to dangerous because you get to many people who don,t know how to ride in a group.Went on a toy run with about 5000 bike’s (never again) to many wrecks and near accidents from people who wanted to ride like they were solo.

  27. D.U.G. November 4, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    I think poker runs should be banned. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in the bar on my cage and see a group full of drunk idiots belly up to the bar and get their stamps, have a few more drinks and get back on their bikes.

    I’m not saying all people drink during poker runs but there is a good majority do drink and do have more than they should on a bike.

    Endangering the lives of others and themselves.

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