Motorcycle Adventure Essentials: A Guide to Group Riding
OK so you’ve taken the plunge and you are off on an epic motorcycle adventure. For a few weeks you are going to be immersed in motorcycling from dawn until maybe well past dusk. It’s the trip of a lifetime and naturally you want to get the most out of the experience.
ADVENTURE TRAVEL – YOU CAN’T BEAT IT
But aside from the myriad of decisions as to what to pack and what to leave behind, it’s maybe worth considering some strategies to get you through. You’ll be riding for longer than you’ve perhaps ever ridden on routes far more challenging than you’ve ever experienced and you’ll most likely be doing it with a collection of people you’ve maybe not met before. And that’s a good thing – adventure is not just about the journey – it’s about the challenges and the experiences too!
EXPLORE THE WORLD ON A BIKE
So to help you get the most from your trip, we thought we’d give you a few pointers to help you on your way. There’s nothing ground-breaking or revolutionary here, just things to bear in mind when you are spending 20 days crossing the Asian subcontinent, a fortnight on the Trans European Trail or even three days in the Peak District.
Whether you’ve booked yourself onto an adventure tour or are joining up with riders from a forum group or a local club, there’s a fair chance you will at least a proportion of the other riders will be complete strangers. And that’s a good thing – it’s a great way to share an experience and you get to meet like-minded riders from all over the world.
SHARING A BEER WITH NEW MATES – THE PERFECT START
The first impression you give is important, so make an effort to be friendly, open and interesting even if this may not come naturally in a group of complete strangers. You don’t need to be the class clown, but equally starting the trip too reserved and quiet may make your settling into the group slower than it need be. If you are going to share an experience with these people, then getting to know them and them getting to know you is a good thing – tomorrow you might be needing their help!
THIS IS NOT THERAPY
So this might seem to contradict the first point, but it’s all a question of balance. Your fellow riders will want to know what you ride, what you do for a living, whether you’ve been on any other adventure tours and that sort of thing. General information and sharing it will help bond the group.
But don’t think that means they instantly want to know the minutiae of your life, you disastrous relationship history / perfect marriage, or your hugely successful business / near bankrupcy and they don’t want to know about any unsavoury medical issues – they really, really don’t need this on day one.
Maybe after ten days on the road it’s just possible they might, but as for the first night – keep it light and bright …
KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY
This is a tough one for many riders, especially for us men who are genetically prone to exaggeration of all things. But as regards your prowess on a motorcycle it’s a smart idea to deliberately down play your riding ability. For one, we all think we are better riders than we actually are so any boasts are likely to catch you out. Secondly, if you are riding with a group for a number of days then your riding ability is going to become very evident to all.
Under promise and over deliver – are we clear?
LET’S NOT GET THE KNEE DOWN JUST YET
For some riders, the temptation to show off on the first few days of a ride is just too much to bear. Now this is commonly a perculiarly male affliction – we’re a slave to testosterone – but getting competitive when on the saddle seems irresistible, but it’s far from ideal for the safety or cohesion of the group.
So maybe give other riders enough space rather than riding too close, don’t try to find the grip limits of the tyres on unfamiliar and often perilous roads and don’t ride as fast as the bike will go. Adventure motorcycling is a marathon not a sprint – better to enjoy the ride and the scenery rather than treat each day as a race to be won.
BIG WHEELIES ARE COOL
The only exception is obviously massive wheelies, so if you are capable of holding the bike at 70 degrees for miles on end, everyone is going to realise you are the coolest man alive.
Hook that sucker up!
Maybe this should be first on the list, but being a team player is essential. Many riders don’t ride with others very often, so ‘group-think’ may be a new concept. But make no mistake, riding and acting as a group is the key to getting the most from your adventure. So if a rider has problems, the group help them through just like the marines – nobody gets left behind.
So if a bike breaks down the group stays together until an appropriate solution is found. You may have arrived as a dozen individuals, but riding and acting as a group is what will get you through the challenges you may face.
And if the run is using a ‘Cornerman’ or ‘Second man drop-off’ system to ensure all junctions are safely negotiated. Don’t think they don’t apply to you, or someone else will do it!
Free spirits are great, but in remote locations, free-styling can be extremely dangerous.
WHEN THERE’S A PROBLEM, BE A TEAM PLAYER
FOLLOW THE LEADER
Whether we are talking a transcontinental trip with mates or a few days in the mountains of North Wales, there will be a run leader and they are the one in charge – period. By all means offer suggestions that may help and if you’ve ridden a route before, then pass on your knowledge, but respect that they are the one running the ride.
SETTLE BACK AND ENJOY THE SCENERY – SOMEONE ELSE IS IN CHARGE
This also means you follow the leader if that’s the way they want the ride to go. Try to avoid riding stupidly close as if you are grabbing as tow, and only overtake if they call you through and even then do not disappear into the distance. If it’s a trail ride, then the second man opens any gates, with the third man closing them. Leaders don’t do gates.
So sit back and relax – they are in charge and you can just enjoy the ride.
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON
Although we’d like to think that when we ride things will be all pink and fluffy, it’s an inevitability that on occasions things will go wrong. And if they do, then that team spirit and calm is what will get you all through.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG – TRY TO HELP NOT HINDER
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KNOW YOUR LIMITS
YOU CANNOT DO THIS, YOU REALLY CANNOT
Unless we are Marc Marquez or Graham Jarvis there are limits to what we can do on a bike. And on adventure trips that are commonly in remote locations or in extremes of temperature or altitude, then we will all reach those limits. So if you find you are struggling, the smart rider lets someone else help rather than battling on. This is not failure – this is a pragmatic and sensible decision that ensure both you and the group remain safe.
No one will mind you sitting out a section – but everyone will mind if you launch your bike off a cliff …
GO SPARE ON THE ADVICE
In a mixed group, there will be a mix of abilities and experience. If you are having problems, don’t be too proud to ask for advice – it will potentially improve your riding and makes the rider you’ve asked feel good – it’s a win-win situation.
ADVICE AT THIS POINT WILL NOT BE POPULAR
However, volunteering advice or offering a critique on other rider’s technique if you don’t know them really well is a fast-track way to seriously hack people off. If they’ve asked then fine – if not zip it tight!
"WHY DON’T WE GO LEFT”
Whatever you do on a ride out or tour, you don’t want to be ‘that guy’. Who’s that guy? He’s the one who doesn’t wear enough and keeps complaining he’s cold. He’s the one who needs petrol within five miles of setting off because he forgot to fill up the night before. He’s the one who knows a better route despite never having been to the area before. Oh and he always needs a pee stop three minutes after leaving ….
We could go on, but we all know that guy – don’t let it be you …
EASY ON THE SAUCE
Off road and Adventure motorcycling can be physically strenuous and punishing work and it’s no surprise that at the end of the day most riders will be reaching for a cool glass of the amber nectar. But bearing in mind you are most probably mildly dehydrated and calorie deficient, then getting fluids and sustenance from beer is maybe not a fantastic move. Try to eat relatively soon after stopping riding and load up with carbs for the next day.
If you do return to the lager, then keep things in moderation, working on the premise eight hours between throttle and bottle. Riding with a hangover is not pleasant and not safe – but you knew that anyway …
BIG NIGHT? DON’T SET OFF EARLY …
ENJOY THE MOMENT
SAVOUR THESE MOMENTS WHEN THEY COME
Faced with large distances to be ridden on challenging terrain, it’s easy to get wrapped up in riding so much that your focus is purely on the road ahead. But do this and you are risk missing the incredible places that adventure motorcycling can take you. Take time to stop and take photos or just enjoy the experience of being in a place that few people in the world will have visited. You’ll be back at work in the blink of an eye so make sure you enjoy the moment
So that’s our list. Maybe not exactly a survival guide but certainly some pointers as to how to have a smooth and enjoyable experience riding at home or in distant lands.
Do you have any more tips – share them with the class …