I struggle with this concept a lot. What is my preference? Do I prefer taking motorcycle trips by myself or with one or two other people or do I prefer riding with a club and a large group? I have experience with both and I still cannot make up my mind.
When I first began riding, a long time ago, it seemed a natural progression to join a club and go on organized bike rides. It was a great introduction to the motorcycle culture and I learned loads about motorcycles, maintenance, safety riding skills and becoming part of a brotherhood. Initially, this really captivated me and I was in hook, line and sinker. But I think after a short while, my individual streak kicked in, and I didn’t really want to “roll with the pack”, so to speak.
If I’m doing a long road trip, I’m the kind of guy that may stop every fifteen minutes to capture a picture, experience a beautiful sunrise, or stop at each curio stop to check out the art work. When riding in a group, this is not so easy. People tend to get very irritated with the constant stopping. I don’t blame them. Different strokes for different folks. But this is who I am and I have discovered that it’s my preference.
What I do like very much about riding with a club and wearing their patch is the social aspect. Well most of the time at least. It’s rather enjoyable after a long ride, arriving at your destination and a great evening of entertainment has been arranged. Whether it’s dinner at a great restaurant, or perhaps a great big BBQ, it’s always nice to be able to reflect on the day’s adventure, mingles with old friends, make new ones and have a few laughs. But there’s also a downside. When you travel in a group and with a club in particular, you don’t really get to meet locals or experience the local traditions or culture. A large amount of bikers is an intimidating site for most people and no matter what the clubs represent (whether it’s a clean and sober group or a religious group), the stigma of outlaw biker can never be lost. Like attracts like and it’s hard to venture out. Personally I prefer getting out and meeting other people. As much as I like riding, it’s not my be all and end all. I have many other interests and one of them in particular is meeting people out of my regular environment and learning new things and at the same time teaching then what I know.
One of the most positive things about being in a motorcycle club is the ability to have the trips arranged with as little headache as possible. There is usually someone who arranges the event, takes care if transport, accommodations, meals and rides. They supply you with an itinerary, you supply then with the dollars and everything is arranged. The best thing is when a trip has been arranged on the other side of the country and all of the motorcycle shipping has been arranged. You drop your bike off at a pre-arranged destination and pick it up at the supplied location and you have your very own motorcycle to ride on an amazing trip in a new place.
It’s not that easy joining a motorcycle club. Of course you have annual dues and fees, but you also have to work to get in. When joining, there is a probation period to test your worth. Now it’s not like a gang initiation or anything like that, but each club has its own mission, statement, philosophy and standards and you have to adhere to them. So you really have to search for a club that is most similar to your philosophy and mission. It’s too much of a commitment for me. If I decide to go on a group ride, I’d rather be able to pick and choose the people that accompany me.
Joining a club really is like being in a brotherhood, having people stick by you and support you. But what I’ve found is that just merely riding a motorcycle automatically makes you part of a brotherhood. I know I have taken solo trips and encountered mechanical failure on the side of the road. Most times, if a motorcyclist is riding by, they will stop and see how they can help. Much quicker than, for instance if I was stopped on the side of the road in a car. When approaching a motorcycle on the road, there is almost always a recognition or acknowledgment that occurs.
So I struggle no more. I feel part of a culture, but I am truly the master of my destiny. I no longer join clubs. I feel I can experience the best of both worlds by being a solo rider.