Traveling in Packs

Reader Contribution by Alison Green
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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

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