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MC Dispatch

Reader-submitted rides, reviews and stories

Traveling in Packs

by Alison Green

Tags: travel, packs, touring,


Alison and BMWs 

Would somebody please help me? 

I’ve read the adverts extolling folks to buy into a certain brand of bike as a statement of individuality. The road to personal freedom! I’ve watched the market boom for ‘lifestyle’ accessories to accompany the chosen brand. (So you will look just like everyone else within the culture of THE BRAND.) I look at the double-page colour spreads in every current motorcycle magazine – you know the ones – a single bike with a carefully accessorized rider in the middle of nowhere with a glowing sunset behind and the empty road in front… 

So tell me, if buying into THE BRAND means personal freedom, why do so many persist in riding in herds? 

I recently spent a very pleasant weekend with friends who live rural, just outside of Orangeville, Ont. We did craft shows and summer festivals and art galleries and gardening. No bikes. We explored the back roads of the county and took in the early summer sights and smells. Leisurely activities prevailed. 

Twice our car was obliged to queue behind a centipede procession of more than 50 motorcycles that persisted in travelling at half the posted speed limit and they stretched out over a sufficient length of road that overtaking was out of the question. We were not pressed for time, but it was no less annoying to be held captive in such a manner, especially on quiet rural roads.  Admittedly, should I have found myself in such a pack; I wouldn’t wish to drive very quickly either – for safety reasons.  However, that is not the point. 

What pleasure or individuality is expressed by travelling in a tightly packed flock of identical, louder than necessary, slow-moving machines? It is not relaxing; one can’t converse even with a passenger. Stopping to take a photo, or just enjoy the view is out of the question: Impromptu changes of route or itinerary unthinkable. The scenery can be glimpsed only occasionally when one’s attention isn’t focused on maintaining path and not kissing handlebars with the adjacent bike… what fun! 

Why? What happened to individuality? To freedom? 

I just don’t understand. And I know that I definitely don’t want to go there. Ever! 

Three good friends and three bikes. Now THAT is group riding at its best!  Riding also works very well with a group of ONE. Just me and the bike…  cuts down on the decision making time and increases the pleasure/relaxation factors by a considerable margin. 

I don’t think that I am antisocial, but I have been suspected of being ‘different’ (maybe that means being individualistic). I sing and talk to myself too – but mostly when I’m riding and nobody can listen! My bike is not black or shiny, nor is there very much chrome. It usually sports a layer of travel grime.  If this makes me an ‘outcast’ from the motorcycle culture, then and outcast I will happily remain!  I can’t imagine the trials of arranging a bladder-motivated pit-stop by group consensus! 

I don’t begrudge others their pleasures (?) in group riding – I simply don’t understand the herd mentality. And I really wish that large groupings of identically-clad weekend warriors could maintain normal road speeds and not impede others. Common courtesy still should prevail even when one is travelling anonymously within the din and exhaust fumes of a chrome-clad procession. After all, we are law abiding individuals – yes? -- Alison Green 



ken mickler
12/10/2010 7:02:37 AM

I see your point, Alison. I ask myself the same questions about the whole group setting. What I have found is this: Many riders/bikers have expressed their desire to ride in groups for large visibility on the roads as well as the comradery. Others have told me they only ride alone or as a pair. I have been riding alone since September 1, 2010 through the 48 connected states in the USA while I am writing about Freedom in America. Not political. Not to make a statement. Only to explore the backroads, small towns and simple pleasures on my 1970 Moto Guzzi 750 Ambassador as the Solo Freedom Rider. Call me selfish, but as I travel and meet hundreds of folks out there, I don't care to share the attention given to me by those who express their envy and jealousy for what I am doing. I ride alone. Only alone. If we all rode alone, we would be hated by all automobile drivers. If we rode in large packs, we would be hated by all automobile drivers. I am happy to see the diversity and being able to choose my travel companions. For now, my companion is a vintage Italian horse named Mozi. On the road, I only have two rules: 1) Never pass through a state more than once 2) Never ride on the Interstate System Perhaps, I am not annoyed by the large groupsof motorcycle because I refuse to ride on 4 wheels again, therefore, I blend and weave through those slow moving herds.

11/18/2008 4:06:51 PM

I belong to a club that has over 500 members. When we get to gether each weekend during spring summer and fall we are rerely 15-20 strong. Even at that we can be spread out over a distance that may make passing by cars difficult. When we ride it is very well planed. We have ride captians, and safety look outs. Anyway when traveling like this we try to allow breaks in the packs for traffic to pass and we try to maintain highway speeds. BUT! there is something and I can't explain it about toolling up a road with the bike in 4th or fifth when the engine is in a state of resonance that is very relaxing and the corners are easy unfortunatly thats between 45 & 55 mph.

11/7/2008 2:33:13 PM

I too ride in small groups or alone. The motorcycling world is changing. It's a good thing that our sport, passion, or whatever you wany to call it is expanding into the mainstream of society. Generally people want to belong or identify with somthing and it seems like a large group on the same marque does go against the the individual freedom preception which brought many of us to riding. However we are social animals so when motorcycling got popular we tend to do what people do.

11/7/2008 1:57:49 PM

I too loke to ride in a very small group or alone. The riding world is changing. It's a good thing that our passion is expanding

11/4/2008 8:08:01 PM

I think that Alison's main point is that traveling in a large group below the posted speed limit is not only discourteous to other motorists, but it limits the opportunity of the individual rider to stop or take an interesting turn. Once part of the group, leaving the group without informing anyone of your intentions leaves them to wonder about your whereabouts. While I tend to agree with Alison, if your idea of fun is watching the tail light lens in front of you, by all means enjoy! Just don't expect all of us to "understand". ;-)

11/4/2008 7:58:05 PM

Alison, It sounds to me like you are a true motorcyclist not a biker. Bikers tend to do more posing than anything else. They have shiny loud bikes that I like to call Prom Queens. They tend to ride from bar to bar then home. Then there is the occasional bike night which means alot more posing. The group you were stuck behind was probably more into seeing and being seen than they were into the ride. aka. POSING If you were to ask one of them about the individual thing and riding with the herd. They would tell you "if you have to ask the question you would not understand the answer". As for me, I enjoy an occasional group ride. But would prefer to leave out solo and see where I end up at. As far as being an indivivdual I ride a Moto Guzzi and a 1964 Panhead. THATS INDIVIDUAL and thats also my 2 cents worth. RIDE SAFE! GuzziRider

11/4/2008 9:23:45 AM

Yep, I've seen those Honda riders out on a Hoot, and bunches of Beemer dudes....etc. It's a bit irritating that you deride certain riders, ones that have the freedom to choose to ride in a large or not, because you don't understand their enjoyment of that. Just how individualistic would I be, or any of your readers be, if we didn't ride in a group just because you don't like it?