The Benefits and Risks of Riding by Yourself
I like sharing long-distance motorcycle travel with one or two other riders, but no more than three; more than that and group management becomes burdensome and potentially contentious. Two of the benefits of traveling with fellow riders are the conversations at mealtimes and the help when there is a mechanical malfunction on the road. Having said this, though, how many times have we regretted not taking a multi-day trip, or even a one-day excursion, because riding companions were not available?
So let’s take that road trip when the opportunity presents itself, even if it means traveling solo—which, to be honest, has its own benefits and can be just as enjoyable as traveling in a small group.
In fact, many riders prefer traveling by their lonesome, because going solo can give you more:
- Mental freedom: It’s often said that the greatest pleasure in riding a motorcycle is that glorious feeling of freedom. Given that, riding solo—not worrying about the needs or expectations of other riders—may be the ultimate feeling of freedom. Go where you want, when you want, and how you want!
- Time for interaction with strangers: When traveling with partners, the focus is invariably on interacting with others in your group. But the perceived vulnerability and adventurous nature of a rider traveling solo on a motorcycle will often trigger conversations with strangers. Many folks will want to talk to you. Where are you from? Where are you going? How long have you been riding? Although these exchanges are usually rewarding in their own right, they can also impart valuable information to the rider, such as road construction delays ahead, must-see points of interest, good places to stay and eat, and much more.
- Schedule flexibility: I can’t count the number of times I have been on a trip and wanted to spend extra time at a museum, picturesque location, roadside attraction, or some other point of interest, but, in order to stay on the group’s schedule, couldn’t linger and indulge myself in something interesting. When traveling solo, a rider has complete flexibility to change the itinerary.
- Time for reflection: One of the greatest pleasures in motorcycle touring is the immersion a rider gets in his or her surroundings. Sometimes this sensory input is so strong I want to capture the experience on paper and write down what it means to me. But this is not so easy when your riding companions are anxious to get back on the road.
- Opportunities for self indulgence: Traveling solo means the trip is exclusively about the rider’s interests, desires, and pleasures. There’s no pressure to compromise in order to meet the needs or expectations of anyone else!
- Time for photography and other personal pursuits: I appreciate not being rushed once I’ve found something interesting to photograph. Other riders may want to put on hiking boots and explore a scenic trail, quit riding early on a particular day and get a massage at a spa, attend a concert or sporting event, or indulge in some other activity. The point is that motorcycle travel doesn’t have to just be about riding from sun-up to sunset. Riders have other interests that can be combined with a motorcycle trip, and those traveling solo have full discretion to do so.
If the benefits of traveling solo sound a bit selfish, well, they are! But this mode of motorcycle touring places a few additional burdens on the rider, too, most of which center around personal safety.
Here are several important considerations for the solo motorcycle tourist:
- Carry identification: If a solo rider is involved in an accident, this information is critical for first responders. Have your driver’s license and emergency contact and medical information stored on your person in a location that’s easily accessible and identifiable.
- Let others know your plans: Share your itinerary with at least one other person and check in with them daily. If you go missing, they will know your general location and can notify the appropriate authorities.
- Be sure your bike is in tip-top mechanical condition: A breakdown on the road can throw a monkey wrench in any motorcycle tour, but dealing with one alone can be very challenging, particularly if the rider possesses limited mechanical ability. Having your ride in top mechanical condition is important. Don’t forget to visually inspect it regularly during the trip, either; it’s much easier to deal with a nail in a tire while in town versus a flat tire in a remote area.
- Ride conservatively: When touring alone, be conservative in your riding style and the roads selected. Some highly experienced riders may embark on an adventure or dual-sport tour by themselves, but even they will likely not be riding aggressively.
- Carry a Satellite Locator Device: Having a SPOT tracker or another similar GPS device provides an extra layer of insurance that riders can get help in the event of an emergency.
- Take a cell phone: Although coverage is not yet universal, cell phones are a must-have on any motorcycle trip—and it goes without saying that you should be attentive to keeping the battery charged.
- Hide an extra credit card and cash on your bike: Highway robbery may not be the problem it once was, but riders are potentially more vulnerable than drivers of enclosed forms of transportation, and a solo rider may make an even more tempting target.
- Eat healthy and stay hydrated: Encountering a health problem while on a solo tour is an especially lonely experience. Being in the ER is definitely not the way you want to meet new people. So take care of yourself on tour.
- Take a First Aid Kit: This is always good practice.
- Carry water and snacks: This precaution is important when riding alone in thinly populated areas. If a lunch stop isn’t readily available, packed food and water can help keep your strength up throughout the remainder of the day.
- Don’t leave common sense at home: If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Solo riders need to continually monitor their risk profile. Avoid sketchy urban areas at nighttime, don’t ride in low-light conditions if possible, and if you see wildlife warning signs along the road, slow down. Listen to that little voice in your head and stay safe!