When it comes to group motorcycle riding, there’s no book of knowledge that you and your group can set your rules by.
With so many different people and personalities, it is inevitable that boundaries will be pushed and tempers will eventually be frayed.
It’s no secret that I prefer to by-pass all these issues by simply touring alone! That being said, I have participated in group motorcycle riding and tours and thoroughly enjoyed it.
These are our top 12 tips for group motorcycle riding – and how to ensure it all runs as smoothly as you imagine!
1. Group Motorcycle Riding: Prepare To Travel Alone
I hate to set the tone here with something so negative, but part of your planning should always include a contingency plan.
Things often go wrong when it comes to group motorcycle riding. You might not get on with the group. Or maybe the riding style doesn’t suit you (too quick, too slow, too dangerous.) Perhaps there’s just one participant that really grinds on your nerves and is completely ruining your trip.
In any of these scenarios, there may come a time where you need to part company with the group – and this leaves you with two options.
You either go home, or you complete the tour alone.
For this reason, it’s always advisable to plan for the worst and carry your own essentials. This then allows you to complete the trip by yourself if that’s what you decide.
Carry Your Own Essentials
By essentials, I’m referring to money, passport, documentation, camping equipment (your own) – anything you would need if you were to leave the group and complete the ride solo.
It’s all too easy when morale is high to spread the load of everybody’s stuff across the bikes to make it easier all-round. And whilst this is lovely in principal, limit your goodwill sharing to the things that you can carry on without if need be.
Anything you absolutely need to complete the trip alone stays with you or stored in your luggage – just in case.
Related: 12 Motorcycle Touring Essentials
2. Find Your Place Within The Group
It might be that you’ve got quite a bit of touring experience and therefore the group has designated you Ride Leader.
But it might be something more trivial. Maybe you speak the local language so have been universally designated chief negotiator and food orderer.
Perhaps you’re a dab hand with a camera and you have been designated as the group’s photographer and filmmaker.
It could be that you’re a mechanic and have been asked to lend your expertise whenever someone has a breakdown.
Or maybe you’re a techy-sort person who’s really good at route planning and ensuring everybody’s GPS units are synced and updated.
Whatever your role is, use your individual skills and experience to strengthen the group as a whole.
3. Group Motorcycle Riding: Accept Your Place
Once the roles have been allocated (usually in the planning phase), make sure you accept your role in the group. If you’re not happy, make your feelings known before the tour so something can be done to change it.
If you really wanted to be the Ride Leader, don’t wait until Day 3 of your tour to voice this opinion. Sniping at the designated ride leader in an attempt to assert your dominance and show your knowledge doesn’t do anybody any favours.
Making sure you voice any concerns about your role before you set off can avoid any discourse along the way. Either accept it or leave the group.
But whatever you do, don’t bitch about it for the rest of the tour.
4. Attitude Within The Group
It’s important to remember that everybody will be showing a certain amount of leniency towards each other during a group motorcycle ride.
And we need that.
The problem is, it doesn’t take long for that leniency to waver.
In order to avoid a breakdown in conviviality, we need to:
Learn To Compromise
Unfortunately, you are not the centre of the group. It’s fine to suggest something (a change of route for example, or a stop-off at an attraction you really want to visit) but it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t insist on these suggestions.
Put your suggestion to the group, and then decide as a whole on the right course of action.
In my experience of group motorcycle riding, most people are quite amicable and are happy to make small changes to a route in order to accommodate you, so there’s really no need to assert yourself too much!
Put it to the group politely. If they say yes, great. If they say no, then accept it and move on.
And prepare to compromise on the wants and wishes of others, too.
Adjust Any Expectations
You may be a really experienced tourer and adventurer. But that doesn’t mean you should expect the group to do exactly what you want, exactly when you want it.
There’s a time and place for voicing your opinions – people want a riding buddy, not a school teacher!
Ensure Equality Within The Group
You are the same as everybody else in your group – unless decided otherwise by the group. You are no more and no less.
Use your knowledge and skills to the advantage of the group. If you’re experienced, use this experience to help a newbie in the group. Show them the ropes and pass on what you know.
5. Group Motorcycle Riding & The Sound Of Your Own Voice!
People who are naturally shy, quiet, or timid have just as many valid suggestions as those who are loud, out-spoken, or extroverted.
Don’t be the one in the group who never shuts up! If you love the sound of your own voice, learn when to pipe down when riding in a group.
By all means, have your say. But people want you to be a part of the group – not the voice of it!
Socialise Within The Group
On the opposite end of the spectrum, try to keep social with the group.
It’s perfectly acceptable to get to your hotel and have an hour or so away from the group to phone home and let loved ones know you’re okay.
But try not to then separate yourself from the group by eating alone or excusing yourself from excursions or leisure time.
Dinner is often the only time a motorcycle group gets to chat and discuss the plans for tomorrow.
If you’re not around, decisions will be made without you. And if you choose not to be a part of the decision-making process, don’t complain the following day if you disagree with the changes.
6. Remember The Bigger Picture
As mentioned above, there is a good chance disagreements will occur throughout the tour. And whilst these disagreements seem important at the time, try to look at the bigger picture and remember that the tour is the most important thing.
Harbouring grudges and resentments doesn’t do anybody any good. Ride them off for the good of the group and by the time you’ve got to your destination, everything would have blown over anyway!
Don’t Become The Group Slave
Human beings are naturally lazy. You might think you’re doing the right thing by helping everybody out whenever they forget something, but once they know they can rely on you, they’ll begin to expect it.
They’ll no longer ‘forget’ stuff – they just won’t bother bringing it because they know you’ll do it for them.
Remember that this is your tour as well as theirs. And whilst you’re happy to contribute to the smooth running of the group, you’re not the skivvy, slave, or water carrier.
7. Group Motorcycle Riding: Consider Any Limitations
It’s very easy to say yes when you’re having a few drinks with your riding buddies and the prospect of a group tour arises.
But just take a second to consider any limitations you might have which could hinder the group.
Touring / Riding Experience
Are your buddies experienced riders and tourers? If you’re a novice rider, expect to be left to your own devices whilst on tour.
Sure, they’ll tell you they’ll wait for you and that they’ll ride at your pace. But will they? Really?
Yes, they might ride at your pace for the first few hours, but once they get into the twisties, they’ll want to let rip and have some fun. And they should be allowed to do that because after all, it’s their tour as well.
If you’re unsure, a safe bet is to join an advanced riding club such as RoSPA and take it from there.
Limitations Of Your Bike
Most touring motorcycles these days can easily see 250-350 miles between fuel stops. If your buddies are on BMW GSA 1250’s and you’re on a sports bike that has to refuel every 120 miles, is that really fair on them?
At the outset, this doesn’t seem like a big ask. But when you get in the middle of nowhere, it could mean re-planning the entire route just to make sure you have somewhere to get fuel even though the rest of the group still have 200 miles left in their tanks.
And whichever way you look at it, that isn’t really fair.
If they want to go, say, 150 miles between stops, you should ensure your bike can make it.
As above, you need to consider the cruising speed of your motorcycle.
Participating in group motorcycle riding is going to be difficult if everybody wants to cruise at 120mph on the autobahn but your bike tops out at 60mph.
Make sure you find out the intentions of the other group members. It might be that they have no intention of stopping to check out local attractions because their sole enjoyment comes from riding mountain passes all day.
If this aligns with your riding style, then go for it!
However, you might like to slow down a little and enjoy the scenery.
Perhaps you want to stop regularly to take snap shots and enjoy a coffee.
Either you need to establish compromises within the group, or, you hold off and tour with a group whose riding style aligns a little more with your own.
8. Ride At Your Own Pace
This is an absolute classic!
We’ve all been in situations when participating in group motorcycle riding and the lead riders are powering through the twisties.
The pace is higher than you’re comfortable with but you want to be ‘part of the gang’ and power on through with the other faster riders.
And this is where it all goes wrong.
Ride to your own limitations and ride at your own pace. It’s far better to get there a few minutes after everybody else than not get there at all because you came off trying to keep up.
A decent group will slow down for you. But even if they don’t slow down, they certainly won’t ridicule you for not keeping up.
If they do make fun of you, I would suggest leaving the group and finishing the ride alone. If they start to get under your skin, it won’t be long before there’s an accident.
9. Buddy-Up When Riding Your Motorcycle In A Group
During the planning stages of a tour, it’s sometimes a good idea to establish a buddy-up system.
With this system, you pair up with another rider who you get on with and you help each other out throughout the tour.
You’ll room together and help each other pack in the morning. You’ll wait for each other if one of you gets lost or can’t keep pace in the group. And you’ll share the burden of load by splitting your luggage equally between bikes.
A buddy system can be a good way of harnessing support without relying on the entire group.
10. Group Motorcycle Riding: Don’t Be Late
Nobody will mind if you oversleep one morning and you’re late (another reason to buddy-up!)
But don’t be the one person in the group who is continuously keeping everybody waiting.
If you know it takes you 15 minutes longer to load your bike in the morning, then be outside 15 minutes before everybody else to start packing things up.
You might be like me in that it takes you an hour or so to wake up in the morning. If this is the case, get up an hour earlier rather than keeping everybody waiting just because it doesn’t fit in with your morning routine.
As already mentioned, nobody minds mistakes. Just don’t keep doing it!
11. Group Motorcycle Riding: Have Money
We’ve all been in social situations where we’ve either had no cash on us or we’ve forgotten our wallet.
It’s an awkward situation, but most people are happy to bail us out and lend us some cash until we can repay them. It’s what friends do.
But don’t make it a habit.
Try to take some extra cash to ensure you are never having to ask for some off friends.
Whilst nobody will mind helping you out, most people will only bring enough money for themselves. Not themselves and you!
Buy Your Own Food And Drink
Establish before you set off whether you will buy rounds or whether you will buy your own.
We’ve all got ‘that’ friend who accepts everybody else’s drinks and then conveniently disappears when it’s their turn to pay.
Don’t be that person!
Either fulfill your role by contributing to drinks, or, decide at the start that you will all pay for your own food and drink for the duration of the tour.
12. Accept The Group May Carry On Without You
I’ve only ever been in one situation where there was a breakdown and the group had to decide whether they would stay with the broken down rider or continue without him.
Inevitably, some people will think you should all stay. Others will think that the ride should continue.
It might be worth discussing this before you start the tour.
If the group unanimously decides that the ride will continue if someone breaks down, accept that this might happen to you and put a personal plan in place for what you will do in this instance.
Accepting now that you might be left to fend for yourself for a few days will ward off any resentment that the group should have waited for you.
Instead of feeling betrayed, you will be able to execute your contingency plan and catch the group up a few days later to continue your tour.
Group Motorcycle Riding: Conclusion
People always forget the possible pitfalls of group motorcycle riding.
We all have our own agendas. We all have our own wants and ideals. And this is why I prefer to ride solo!
Group motorcycle riding can be great fun if you and everybody else in the group have shared visions, riding styles, and ideals that align as a group.
If compromising isn’t your thing, consider riding the tour alone. But if you’re happy to accommodate the wishes and necessities of others, you’ll have a great time riding in a group!
Top image via Heather Oliver