Mad or Nomad are a husband and wife team who knew that they wanted to see the world. Having travelled for months at a time, they soon realised that was not enough, and so made plans to up their game.
Having both ridden bikes for over ten years, and Andy previously working as a professional motorcycle journalist, travelling on bikes was a no-brainer.
On the 1st of January 2018, Andy and Alissa waved good-bye to their jobs, house, friends & family, sold all their worldly possessions (apart from their trusty 2010 Yamaha XT660R) and set off to explore the world, meet new people and discover another way of living.
You can follow Andy and Alissa’s exploits at www.madornomad.com, or read their travel tips in a new six-part series, here on BikeSocial.
There’ll be plenty of times where you’ll be completely alone… are you cool with that?
This is a big decision and there are a lot of misconceptions out there about these three styles of travelling. Whichever one you choose will alter your trip and make it completely different in so many ways. So, it’s not a choice that should be made lightly. The tricky part is deciding what suits you best and what you want out of your trip. Here’s our experiences, thoughts on ‘what they say’ and top tips from the last 10 years of riding solo, two-up and in groups around the world to help you choose what’s right for you. Good luck!
Hey guys! I’m looking for some friends… guys?…
Flick through most adventure bike magazines or browse the web and you’ll see a dusty lonely rider, straddling his bike and gazing out into the abyss. Of course, behind him is his mate taking a photograph – but for some reason people like to make it look like they’re alone. More adventurous perhaps? Anyway, not that many people truly travel alone or alone for very long… but when they do, it’s just them, their bike and the world. You’ll be open to everything and everyone and it’s a completely different take on travelling with a pillion or a group of mates.
"It’s lonelier and more dangerous to go solo, you need to be tough, resilient, and get yourself out of any situation."
Nah. Despite what they say, you don’t need to be an adventure motorcycling God to ride round-the-world solo and it’s nowhere near as difficult or as lonely as it’s made out to be.
Travelling alone means you’re far more likely to make new friends and have a more authentic experience with locals. You’ll appear less intimidating and more approachable than a group of burly biker mates and actually end up meeting more people. On the trips we’ve undertaken as solo travellers, we definitely ended up meeting more people and spending far more time with locals and fellow solo travellers.
Solo, two-up and group riding all have their pros and cons… what really matters is that you’re happy on the road
Every decision is yours, where you go, what you do, where you eat, when you stop, so you’ll quickly learn to be self-reliant. That means during those times where you have to stand your ground with corrupt cops, or if you’re broken down or lost and there’s nobody around, you’ll have to rely on yourself and that will make you ‘tougher’ in the long run.
Don’t worry about the lonely aspect. You’re bound to meet loads of fellow bike travellers who you can hook up with. There are almost too many out there! We’ve travelled with riders who set off solo and are constantly travelling with other people they meet along the way.
Braking down or getting lost on your own isn’t as big a deal as you might think. Wherever you are, locals will eventually turn up. So, if you can’t fix it, just relax, wait a while and your bike will be on the back of someone’s truck before you know it.
Travelling with a pillion means sharing one of the best experiences of your life with a partner
Travelling with a pillion can be brilliant fun. You’re sharing an incredible life experience with a partner or friend instead of boring them to death with GoPro footage and a million phone pics when you get home. You’re out there as a team, together, and that’s a very special thing for a lot of people.
"Going with a pillion is harder, you can’t go off-road, it limits where you can go and it’s uncomfortable."
This is a really common reaction to travelling two-up. It’s not harder, comfort can be fixed, you can ride wherever you like and there’s no limit to what you can do… apart from riding on a motocross course - obviously.
There will be a lot more extra weight on your motorcycle with a pillion and their gear. But that just means you need to pack lighter and smarter. It also means you can’t opt for a light single-cylinder as the frame might not be strong enough to hold it. Weight does affect your off-road ability, but not enough to inhibit your trip. It all depends on how serious you are about off-roading. If you want to keep up with Toby Price then this may not be for you.
But you can still tackle off-road routes with a pillion, you’ll just need to adapt your riding, take it easier and improve your skill level.
We travelled with a two-up couple in their late sixties, who were riding a 1000cc V-Strom through the depths of Mongolia and the Wakhan Corridor – places solo riders struggle and avoid. It can be done!
You’ll share the good and the bad… and most importantly, will have someone to help you pick up the bike
Everything is halved. From a monetary point of view, you’re splitting petrol, food, accommodation, freighting, customs, shipping, repairs and so on. It also means you’re sharing tricky situations, which are less threatening when there’s two people. Stress and worries are halved too, one person can wait with the motorbike and gear while the other goes into a shop or in search of help in case of a breakdown. Two heads are better than one with decision making and jobs are divided up too, like cooking and setting up camp.
Taking a dry run before the big trip is an absolute must. Your luggage needs to be well thought out and so does your riding style. Lots of little things come into play when you ride two-up long distance.
Check out BikeSocial’s Top 6 Tips for Touring with a Pillion here for advice on riding style, bike adjustments and making life more comfortable for your passenger.
Don’t worry about off-roading, just take your time and your skill will improve massively with practice
You can travel in a group in two ways, either with a group of friends who you’ve set off with or by joining an organised group tour. Travelling in a group can be the ultimate trip and some of the most fun you can have on two wheels if it’s with a close group of friends. And an organised tour is an excellent way of seeing a new country with zero stress. In both situations, you have a team to rely on in difficult situations and are less likely to feel threatened, bribed or worry about issues you face on the road.
"Travelling in a group can take the personal experience out of overland motorcycle travel. It’s more of a riding holiday than a real travel experience and you all just end up fighting".
There are elements of the above which need to be taken into consideration if you’re riding with friends. You will need to take your group’s wants and needs into account and agree on the type of trip you want before you set off, which is crucial. If you’re joining an organised tour, then this isn’t a problem as everyone has singed up for a prearranged itinerary.
As for authentic experiences, it’s true that you’re more likely to get invited into a local’s home for tea as a solo traveller compared to a bigger group. But that just means that you need to work harder at being approachable and perhaps carry small gifts. And it doesn’t need to be a riding holiday, you can still maintain the essence of travel if that’s what your collective group wants. It totally depends on what you’re all after.
You’ll get to see amazing with things with your friends and probably feel braver to push yourself further
Travelling in a group can be more fun because you’re sharing the experiences with people who share the same passion. Your friends will be there to help in tough situations, you can share burdens, get towed if your bike brakes down and are more likely to fix mechanical faults. In both types of group riding, a lot of stress is removed because the planning has to be tighter. It’s likely that you’ll have more of an itinerary and more people to help figure out logistical and paperwork problems. But most importantly, the camaraderie and fun of riding with close buddies is something that everyone should experience.
I’ve ridden with organised groups who had fall outs because people got annoyed and frustrated at others stopping for the millionth toilet break, selfie, or samosa. And that’s natural, so an easy fix is to split up and meet at a designated point at the end of the day.
When riding with friends, it’s very important that it’s crystal clear from the outset what you all want to get from the trip. It could be that some want to spend lots of time with locals and immerse in foreign cultures, others might crave tough off-road routes, some might have higher or lower budgets than others and so on. There isn’t a fix if these issues crop up on the road. Instead, this should all be sorted and agreed upon before leaving. You need to know the people you’re travelling with well, agree budgets, types of riding and make sure you gel together. A good idea is to take a practice run in your home country to make sure it works.
Riding with mates will be a completely different trip to travelling alone or with a partner. All of them are fun in their own way.