Riding Solo: Motorcycling tips

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - Enumclaw Powersports


Riding Solo as a Woman (or as a Guy!)

I’ve never really had a problem riding by myself. To be frank I preferred the idea to riding with others. I could choose my own pace, not being pushed by anyone else or feeling like I needed to keep up. Sure, I get the whole “ride your own ride” but I also know as a new rider I would be apt to try to keep up even against my best intentions. On my own there was no one to keep up with.

Solo rides down the Oregon coast in early December proved that this was a great option. Certainly no one I know would have gone as slowly as I did on that trip, three whole months into my motorcycle riding career. A year later riding solo through Baja confirmed my choice as I got to experience the freedom of riding alone, challenging my ability to corner on the twisty roads of Baja without pushing myself further than I wanted to go. I became a better rider at my own pace.

As a good friend, Laura once said, riding solo as a female is the best of both worlds. You’re not threatening because you’re a female but you’re also not someone to mess with, because you’re a female on a bike. In Baja I might as well have been an alien... A solo female on a bike is NOT the norm. I was treated with the utmost respect everywhere I went. As someone who travels solo in Latin American countries I can tell you that the treatment I receive when I ride is quite different than the treatment I receive when I’m traveling without a bike. I much prefer the former.

When it comes to picking up my bike, I can do that alone if need be. To be frank, most of the time people are more than willing to help if I ask for help, and sometimes even if I don’t. In Baja I managed to fall over at a military check point while messing with something behind me while still sitting on the bike. It was a very Wile e Coyote moment... suddenly recognizing your feet aren’t really on the ground. The bike was almost back up before it was over thanks to the gentleman behind me. Unlike the Road Runner, he was out of his car before I was off the bike and was helping me get the bike up almost instantly. People are regularly far more helpful than not.

How do you get comfortable riding solo? Baby steps.

Start with a relatively easy ride. Got a friend in the next state? Take the highway down to visit. Go on a route where you know you’ll have phone reception the whole way. Easy right? Not really any different than riding around town. If you’ve not done that yet then start there and work up, riding around town, and then to the next town, etc. Leave with a charged battery on your phone or set yourself up so you can charge while you ride.

Take a solo ride to a beach town. You could use a night to yourself right? Pick a hotel where you feel comfortable. Spend some money on a place that is nice enough so you’re comfortable with your fellow guests. When you call, ask about the entrances for the rooms, etc. Stay in a nice part of town. Look at review sites and ask friends for suggestions.

Do the same thing, but tack on a few more days... go one more town down the coast. Look at you, you’re road tripping all by yourself!

Family worried? Make them buy you a Spot, a DeLorme InReach, or similar device.

Set up your bike with good lights. I don’t care how much you insist you won’t ride at night. Hopefully you won’t. But if you do, it might well be because something happened that caused you to have to. Be prepared. I’m a HUGE fan of Clearwater lights... they are tiny and insanely bright. Best yet, they give you two extra points of light while riding during the day, making you a bit more visible to cars all the time. The first time I flipped the brights on while riding at night, I giggled uncontrollably. I could see ALL THE THINGS!

Have good maps and consider a GPS. Not only will you have access to gas stations and hotels with your GPS, but you’ll have a backup. Extra information is always good.

FUEL UP. Stop WAY before you need to. Fuel you, too. Eat more often than you think you need to. Drink water more than you think you need to. Always carry food, water, and fuel. If it’s hot, make sure you’re drinking something with electrolytes (no, really). Gatorade, Cytomax (my preference), something. Plain water isn’t enough. Take a water bladder and wear it if you can. You won’t know you’re dehydrated when you’re riding but when you almost fall over after you get off the bike you’ll be amazed that you were riding like that. Don’t ask me how I know.

Stop and take pictures. It gives you a chance to check in with yourself to see if you are, indeed, dehydrated.

Ride at whatever pace you want to. Feel free to let people go around you by riding to the side and waving people around. The biggest thing that will get you into trouble is your ego. So you got stuck riding at night and the speed limit on the dark twisty road is 50 mph, but you can’t seem to do it? So don’t. Ride to the side, turn up your lights and let people go around you. Stop when you can and as early as you can. Choose a different hotel if you need to. Ride your own ride.

Everything sounds reasonable while sitting in bed in your pajamas. “Why yes, I can certainly ride an 800 mile day in the rain at 40 degrees!” Be reasonable and plan for less than you think you can handle, and then plan for even less than that. Especially for your first trip. You can’t control all the variables that might come up for your trip. Don’t make your over-optimism be part of creating a bad trip from the beginning. Again, ask me how I know...

Get your bike serviced before you go on any long trip. If you work on your own bike, I’d still suggest having someone else take a look at it. Learn how to fix a flat if you need to and carry some basic tools on your bike. Think through what would happen if your machine fails. And then don’t spaz about it. What would happen if your car died on the same trip? It’s not all that different. There are tow trucks and people that can help you pretty much everywhere.

If you’re really worried, look through your whole route and mark out possible places to stop. Where are hotels where you might feel comfortable? Where are 24 hour restaurants? Where are coffee shops? Who can you call to pick you up if you freak out? Is there someone you can have on call to come get you if you get too freaked out? Have them on call.

Still really freaked out? Do a BMW group ride (an inside joke between my partner and I based on how I ride... aka solo! See you tonight at our meeting spot!). Get a group of friends together and plan on going to the same place, but leave at different times so you’re riding solo. Plan on going the same route, maybe even plan on stopping at the same places for lunch or coffee. This will take longer as some folks will wait while people show up and others will have to wait while people leave but you’ll know there are people around you...sort of.

Take it at your own pace. Challenge yourself slowly and as you’re comfortable. Don’t let anyone push you into something that doesn’t feel right. Have a backup plan.

Jessica Dally/September 2015 - reprinted July 2017 from the archives of Puget Sound Rider

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