Motorbiking is a very social hobby. Bikers feel that mutual bond and the most obvious proof is the friendly wave of a hand when passing on the road.
Riding with friends is great but sometimes you may want or need to ride on your own. Perhaps on the way to a rally or another gathering or to meet friends a bit further away. Or just to explore new roads and countries on your own. Holidays and other schedules do not always meet but when you have to go, you have to go.
There is really no reason why you could not just go on your own. To many it may be a bit daunting prospect, particularly if you are not a seasoned bike traveller. But fear not! We have all heard and witnessed the comradely on the road when a fellow biker has stopped to help out a friend. Showing the way, booked a hotel or helped fixing another problem.
Here’s my two pennies worth, a few words about going solo on a biking trip.
Now, start planning where you want to go! Explore travel blogs, blogs of your interests, etc.
I skip the obvious, like the pre-arrangements that you may have to do regardless of who you travel with, such as passport, visas and other paperwork (can be complicated and take time – carnet for one – depending where you go but usually known before travel – find out if in doubt!), insurances for YOU and your bike (often Green card), vaccinations, etc. Membership cards for discounted travel or accommodation. Learning the basics of your bike’s maintenance.
Note that hotels or ferries are not necessarily something you need to book in advance but you can decide on the go. This is often the best way and gives you the freedom of choice of roads and places to go. Just be mindful of peak/holiday seasons, so that you are not left stranded without an accommodation or a ferry.
Finding your way
Finding your way is important, even if you plan to go without a plan. A GPS navigator is a good investment although you can navigate without one the old school way. GPS may be handy if you need to pinpoint exactly where you are for any reason. A mobile with a suitable app also does the trick.
In any case, have a paper map of your planned area of riding with you and you can also usually get more detailed maps from petrol stations on the go. Do not just rely on the phone and make sure your phone app has off-line maps functionality. I have found Maps.me good but I am sure there are others. Also apps for finding wi-fi hotspots…
If you are not rigidly following you GPS route, which usually may be the case, I recommend that you keep north UP. Many GPS maps tend to have your direction of travel up but I have found that having north up lets you keep the general direction of travel without following the GPS dictated route. This is much easier than trying to look at the small compass arrow.
Overnight in a Guesthouse or a Hotel
You may want to check local habits for check-in times for accommodation. Many country guesthouses and even small hotels may close early. Even if you could check-in, you may be left without dinner. Start your day relatively early and after a day’s ride you can look for a place to stay before 6pm in the countryside. Hotels in bigger towns you can usually check-in whenever.
You may want to find out some biker friendly hotels on the way to stop by. In any case, on the road you are usually not alone and can ask help from fellow bikers, make new acquaintances or even life long friends.
Have Wing Men – Join a Club
When riding solo and without the safety in numbers, the most important rule is: Make sure you are not on your own! You may travel alone, but not on you own without ”wing men”. These wind men can be some local contacts on the road or someone at home who can launch a rescue operation, should it be needed. Preferably both.
Many of us are members in motorcycle clubs with international reach and a good idea is to take with you some international contact numbers of your bike club – and/or Automobile club recovery number. Perhaps a good reason to join, if you are not a member of one already.
Sew your club patch on your riding gear together with your national flag. A good way to start a conversation.
Inform the Closest
It is a good idea to let your close ones know where you are and that you are OK. Daily. The modern social media applications are good for this. WiFi hotspots are usually relatively easy to find and a local sim card can be a good investment. It is a good idea to have a spare phone with you.
There are also stickers and documents that you can carry with you for emergency, particularly if you have illnesses that need attention in case of an accident. Have these on your bike, helmet, wallet, bracelet… where appropriate. I also carry an organ donor card and as I will never need it myself, someone else might! And before anyone comments – this has nothing to do with my choice of transportation!
Venturing Further Afield
If you go anywhere more exotic, before you go, do your research, make contacts, read web pages, etc. Identify who are the people ”traveling with you”. These are the people you will have to rely on should something go wrong – big or small. Your contacts must be able to help you in ANY situation.
In exotic travel, it is a good idea to spend a bit more time in finding the right contacts to arrange the trip with. Particularly if your plan is to do more that hire a scooter form a street corner for a day, find a contact that can plan you trip with you, stays in contact during the trip and is reliable.
You rely on them to launch a rescue operation should it be needed.This may sound exaggerated but as it happened when traveling to Nepal, although I could expect an earthquake, the previously peaceful Nepal passed a new constitution just before my trip after eight years of deliberation! Ethnic groups started internal skirmishes and people got killed. The aggressions came too close for comfort at some of the road blocks near the Indian border. Also this could have turned nasty.
Seize the Opportunity
If you travel for business, do not be afraid to make a solo tour and seize of the opportunity to see the area further than just the hotel and airport. Just check with the dealer, get a Harley and visit the local sights! Worth it!
The biggest downside with traveling on your own is that there is no-one to share the experience with you and no-one to encourage you to explore the opportunities that do not occur to you. You probably will miss some local habits, history and interesting places.
Also being alone may limit your ability to wander away from your bike. Leaving your gear behind is not often advisable. Bring a few locks that you can easily use.
You get to go! You get to ride your bike. You can go wherever and whenever you like. You get to see places and you get to make new friends. As you are a party of one, you may be invited to places where a group would not be able to get. A family dinner perhaps! You will certainly have something to tell to your children and grand children about.