One of the first is Safety. If there is a mishap along the way, and I have had my share, you have somebody you can rely on to help you back up, call for help, explain to you where you are and what your name is, etc. (thanks again Rex). I made it a habit to always have somebody along when taking off in the dirt, whether it be rompin' through the woods or on a Motocross track. I crash far too often in those environments to not have somebody around. It's just what I do. I crash, I get up and try not to do it again.
Another is being able to share the whole experience with others both during the ride and after. To benchrace at the end of the day over drinks and a good cigar is not something to be brushed off lightly. I try to attend as many rallies as I can, that involve beautiful roads, new places and friends that I only get to see a couple times every year.
Of course on the other end of that "riding with others" is the testosterone fest that can go on. I see that happen far too often on the street. It might happen in the dirt, but usually, everybody is crashing anyway, so it's hard to tell. I am older now and have used up most of my testosterone. When you don't have much left, you tend to ration it out more carefully.
I swore off riding with large groups a few years back because of my last ride with a large group. The group numbered somewhere around 25 - 30 and had the full mix of bikes, abilities and experience and ended with more than a few broken bones, broken bikes and lots of locals in their freshly pressed uniforms showing up. This same expericence had happened to me before, but something finally clicked in my brain that day and I realized that this was not conducive to my whole plan of not donating any more of my paychecks to the local doctors. That cured me. Now, I stick to groups of 5 - 6 riders that I know.
Now for the other 25 percent of the time. A couple of years back, I decided that I have donated my fair share to the local Orthopedic Surgeons and sold all bikes with knobbies on them. I was not trying to cut off the local doctors completely, but merely cut back on that part of my spending.
Now I try to keep it on the pavement. In the past few years, I have discovered traveling farther than my usual 200 to 300 mile days and have been wandering a little more and attended rallies in other states. Of course, this had me showing up at a rally or two alone, due to the other 4 or 5 guys bailing at the last minute after talking me in to going.
I have to admit that riding alone has its own advantages. There are the obvious ones, such as stopping when you feel like it, riding as slow or fast as you want, detours on a whim, etc., but there is also one that I had forgotten about.
I was reminded of this last one when returning home from a 1,200 mile trip that ended up with the last 300 miles in the rain. I think a friend of mine put it best when I was trying to explain it to him after that trip. He thought it was "that whole Cowboy spirit". Back when a guy would saddle his horse and mosey across the country in search of "who knows what". Riding solo is more different than most “pack riders” would realize.
Riding alone adds to the sense of adventure. If you break down, run out of gas or get lost, there is nobody there to back you up. You have to rely completely on yourself.
You also get to think. I do not listen to music or have my phone wired to my helmet, instead, I choose earplugs. Most people would be surprised how many brain cells are active when you ride across this country only hearing the muted exhaust of your own trusty steed. In today’s world of constant communication with everything and everybody, silence can be golden.
Got something to figure out? Burned out at work? Throw a change of clothes in a bag, strap it to your bike and leave in a general direction. Everything will become very clear. It might take a few hundred miles or maybe a few thousand, but you will know when it happens.
When you return and people ask you why you are smiling and remark that you seem different, then you can try to explain this to them.