Something wonderful happens when you share something you love with others, and riding motorcycles is no exception. Group riding increases the fun factor in motorcycling, but beware, it adds to the risk factor, too. So if you’re going to ride in groups, try these 10 tips to make your group ride a safe and happy one.
1) Be prepared
Make sure everything—you, your gear and your motorcycle—are all ready to roll before heading out to the ride. Are you rested? Are you fed? Are you drug and alcohol-free? Did you pack rain gear? Layered clothing for temperature changes? Retro-reflective gear for night riding? Have you given your bike a solid pre-ride inspection in the following areas?
This acronym, TCLOCS, helps to remember the six components of a motorcycle to check before heading out on ride.
T – Tires and Wheels
C – Controls
L – Lights and Electric
O – Oil, Gas and other Fluids
C – Chassis (the bikes frame)
S – Side Stand
2) Have a pre-ride meeting
Even if youre only riding with one or two other riders, put your heads together before the ride to discuss stops, signals, skill levels and speed. Large groups should be divided into smaller ones (five to seven riders at most). Employ the buddy system. Exchange cell phone numbers and agree on designated meeting places in case anyone gets separated from the pack.
3) Learn the riders “sign language”
Hand signals will surely be used by riders in your group. For a complete guide to the most commonly used signals, use the MSF Guide to Group Riding, which can be accessed at the link at the end of this article.
4) Stay in formation
Staggered riding is preferred when riding with others to provide maximum space cushion for each rider in the group without hogging the road. The lead rider always takes the left third of the lane, with the second rider one-second behind in the right third of the lane. The third rider rides two seconds behind the lead rider, and so on.
Single file is best whenever more space cushioning is needed, particularly on curves, highway ramps, poor roads and under bad weather conditions. Riders stop side by side at intersections, but should always move out one at a time, in tight formation, not side by side. Side-by-side riding reduces your space cushion and limits your ability to respond to unexpected hazards.
5) Placement in the pack
The two strongest riders should be placed at the front and rear of the group. The lead rider sets the pace and the tail (sweep) rider brings up the rear. Inexperienced riders should be up front, right behind the leader, allowing the leader to keep tabs and set the pace accordingly.
6) Pull out the stops
Take planned stops on the route, and allow everyone to rest. Even if the first riders to the rest stop have been waiting fifteen minutes for the last riders to arrive, the last riders still need significant break time. Dont cut anyone short!
Park tightly, one at a time, in an orderly fashion. Consider pulling through parking spaces in parking lots to make it easier for the group to pull out. For rather large groups, pre-planned parking may be necessary.
8) Must-have items
At least one rider in the group must carry a cell phone, a first aid kit and a tool kit. Ideally, every rider should have basic emergency equipment just in case. Dont forget your license, current vehicle registration and proof of insurance, too. And if you ride helmet-less in your home state with no helmet law, you should bring a helmet to wear when crossing state lanes.
9) What will you do when?
What if you get too far behind or separated from the group? No need to push yourself to catch up. Thats what cell phones and pre-determined meeting places are for!
What if alcohol becomes involved? Its best to discuss rules regarding drinking and riding before you take off. Remember, when one group member rides under the influence, he or she compromises the safety of the entire ride.
10) Ride your own ride
Group riding can be a real treat, but it can also be a real threat. If you feel pressured beyond your personal ability, skill or comfort level for too long, your ride will suffer. Be choosy about your riding buddies. Its important to have fun, but only you can ride your own ride.
About the Author:
Susan Rzepka Orion is a certified MSF RiderCoach and Rider’s Edge Instructor who loves to ride, write, and help others who want to do the same. You can find her on the road on her BMW F 650 GS or on the Web at WritingWays.com.