The Lone Ranger
Traveling alone is an option often reserved to the most seasoned bikers. People such as Nick Sanders, the unofficial round the world record holder, spring to mind. Make this choice if you want the most out of your journey and know that you are experienced enough to deal with any unexpected situations on your way.
Motorbike tours are all about being immersed into new environments. But meeting new people, exploring different places and facing the unknown all require a little effort before they becom the enriching experiences they will be remembered for. And this effort can be hard to make when travelling in a group; the bubble of security can indeed be hard to leave. This is why going solo is the preferred option in order to multiply the immersion effect to the maximum on a journey that becomes both physical and spiritual.
Another advantage of traveling alone is that the rhythm of the journey syncs up with your own internal rhythm. Alone you decide when to start and when to stop, when to stick to the plan and when to deviate from it. There is no one else to worry about; it's just you and the journey. This freedom of space and time is one of the most sought-after feelings provided by road trips. While it allows the biker to escape the prison of the daily routine, it also allows choice and opens up the ability to dig deeper into the experiences that really matter.
Of course, riding solo can also get boring, so if you’re the shy type who struggles when talking to new people be aware that your motorbike tours could get rather lonely. The key is to find a balance between having time to yourself and finding a like-minded person to chat to and share things with from time-to-time.
Traveling as a pair is the most widely used form of travel and the most recommended option. Why? Because it dramatically reduces the risks associated with the journey but also keeps the tour very personal and allows for unique experiences.
If either biker is unfortunate enough to have an accident, the other can help arrange the rescue. Should there be a technical problem, repairs are easier and more spares can be transported. Should good-for-nothings try to target you or your machine, they will be put off by the additional presence and move on to easier prey. Riding with someone makes any unwanted situations a lot simpler to manage.
On the flip side, travelling with someone does slightly reduce the degree of immersion each biker experiences. And for some this is an unacceptable compromise. But, contrary to larger groups, the individual experience remains there, just on a slightly lower degree.
If you do decide to pair up, choose your partner carefully. Obviously your future team mate must go through a selection process and a good way of doing this is on a small trial journey, as people tend to change under pressure or fatigue. But nevertheless, spending all of your time with someone will create tensions, even if he or she is your partner in other ways too. So when the right person is found, those tensions must and will be managed sensibly.
Our tips for managing a good biking relationship:
- identify when tension is building up and keep in mind that this is expected and try not to make a big deal about it
- slot some private time into the tour every day (like sleeping in different tents or having a few hours apart in the afternoon) to charge the public batteries up again;
- elect one main or two co-leaders (a head navigator and a chief mechanic, for example) before departure. In case of conflicting opinions, he or she will have the power to make a decision respected by the other without question.
The Unfortunate Triplet
Threesomes can be incredibly tricky, and this configuration slots in somewhere between a duo and a group as it throws up its own problems. Quite often the formation of a trio is not intentional; it may be a compromise or the result of one rider having a pillion. And in general the results are not satisfying.
First is the fact that one team member will always feel or act as an outsider. There is no way around this problem as people tend to pair up depending on their moods or personal preferences. It is not to say that the same person will always be on the outside ,but there will be one depending on the time and place of the day. This results in tensions building up, especially when the natural leader of the group falls victim to a coup by the other two members. If there is a couple within the triplet then this can often be the root of any tension, so you may want to lay down a ground rule that excludes “other halfs”. This situation is less likely to arise in a larger group as it is by definition more fragmented.
The triplet also marks the start of the group experience rather than the individual immersive experience. But without the diversity and richness of characters that can be found in larger groups.
The Conquering Horde
With larger groups, the experience with the other team members counts as much as the experience with the roads and places you visit. Stories that come out of such journeys are made as much of “X did Y” as of “desert riding was seriously tough”.
Meeting people, dealing with situations and seeing places as part of a larger groupis a lot different. Each character has a chance to fall back into his comfort zone or specialisation; the extroverts will handle conversations, the geeks focus on the technical stuff, the control freaks on the logistics etc. It is good in the way that you get to benefit from the skills and personality of others and will discover things that you wouldn’t have done on your own. But on the same token it also means you have to put up with characters or situations you would normally avoid.
Overall, traveling in a large group is an experience on its own; different from the other configurations but by no means less interesting. The one big problem with the group however is the logistics. Some aspects are made easier, such as cooking as the specialisation of each individual means tasks are done in parallel and with better results. But travelling is also about moving and in that respect the group is the slower option. Its setup speed and daily average will invariably depend on the slowest member of the team. Each issue also requires the entire group to stop and deal with it, which means the rate of interruptions is largely increased. So it is good to keep this in mind before making your decision on who to head on a motorcycle tour with.