Ride Your Own Ride?!

A phrase that motorcyclists hear quite often in reference to group riding: “Ride Your Own Ride”. What does it mean? How do you do it when you are riding in a group?

Obviously the group dynamic prohibits a rider from completely riding his own ride.  If each member of a group were to ride his own pace in his chosen lane position and for that matter to his own destination, there wouldn’t be much of a group involved in the ride at all!  They’d be scattered all over, some on back roads and some on highways, some cruising merrily along while others attempt to break salt flat records, and they’d probably never even come into contact at all over the course of the day.

OK, let’s suppose that a group has decided on a common route and destination… we still have a disorganized, inconsistent, and I daresay dangerous combination of riding styles, all attempting to share the same roads at the same time.  Riders pass each other haphazardly, ride up next to each other in the same lane (whether the person ahead is comfortable with that or not), leave giant gaps in the formation, and even perform stunts (a la “Look ma, no hands!”) in close proximity to other riders.  This is the exact scenario I have found at many “open” events.  That is not to say that the typical rider lacks riding skills or has reckless disregard for others, but more likely that they’re not experienced in safe group riding practices.

As a new rider I was reminded to ride my own ride during the safety instructions at the beginning of practically every chapter ride. I often wondered what exactly it was supposed to mean.  After all, each rider must hold his own position in the pack, follow the pace and directions of the road captain and all other riders in front of him, and pass back signals as directed.  While riding sweep and near the back of the group, I have witnessed the beauty of a group of twenty plus bikes cruising along the asphalt in a perfectly harmonious formation… like a symphony of rolling thunder.  However, holding the good of the group in high priority certainly does not seem to facilitate any of the individual riders doing their own thing.  And yet the near constant reminder to “ride your own ride”.

After nearly 25,000 miles in the saddle, the vast majority of it ridden in groups ranging from four to thirty and more motorcycles, I have deduced my own meaning for this seemingly incomprehensible phrase.  Even when following strictly regimented practices of group riding, motorcyclists must remember that they are not sheep obliviously following a shepherd; they are ultimately responsible for their own individual bikes.  Do not run a red light for fear that the forward part of the group will leave you behind.  Stop at intersections and check traffic for yourself instead of just rolling blindly right on through.  Watch for pot holes, road kill, and other hazards for yourself instead of relying on a signal to be passed back.  If you need more space or perceive it appropriate to go single-file when it has not been designated by the group leader, feel free to signal your intentions to the other riders in the pack and then do it.  Do not out-ride your skill level just to keep up with the rest of the group.  Trust that the ride leaders and road captains will do their job and make sure that your needs are met by pulling over at a safe location to allow you to catch up, adjusting the group pace to compensate for lesser skill level of newer riders, and so on.  Do not assign responsibility to them for your carelessness and naive indifference to your own riding safety.

So does ride your own ride mean you are free to do whatever you feel like? Definitely not!  Does it mean to take responsibility for yourself as well as deferring to the safety of the rest of the group? Absolutely!  When each rider pays diligent attention to the latter you have the makings of a successful group ride!  On the contrary, the former creates nothing but a bunch of individuals riding in a cluster.