I do a lot of my riding on my own. A friend of mine just got a new motorcycle and this will be his first summer on the road. After he gets some parking lot practice and some slow side street practice he wants to ride with me on my daily adventures.
Should I ride behind him or in front to position myself for safety? I have a lot more experience and confidence on my bike, and I suspect he may be the type to make lots of those stereotypical beginner mistakes.
Please share your advice in the comment section below.
Send us your question at firstname.lastname@example.org and well post it here for WRN readers to answer.
Group Riding Etiquette: 10 Rules to Live By
The Value of a Riding Mentor
23 thoughts on Riding With a New Motorcyclist
When I was a new rider (13 years ago), my husband would always ride ahead of me. I preferred that only because I wouldn’t have to watch for him behind me, he was supposed to be watching me in his mirrors. But it would infuriate me because he would be riding so far ahead of me which left me feeling uncomfortable. I didn’t even have 1,000 miles of riding time, and I needed the reassurance that he was there. He’s a lone rider and will stay that way.With my girlfriends, one would ride behind me and one in front. I am a far better rider than my husband (who never took a course) and I can see the bad habits he has during his 40 years of riding and a few accidents. I don’t need to ride with him anymore. Sad to say, my riding girlfriends have all stopped riding.Any suggestions on how to find riding buddies? I don’t mind riding alone, but it would be nice to have company.
Yes, we actually do have some suggestions. Check out WRN’s article titled 9 Ways to Find a Motorcycle Riding Buddy.Good luck, and happy riding.
My husband and I have shared riding experiences with new riders. He will lead, the new rider or riders are in the middle, and I bring up the back. We have helped five people to become safer better riders in the last 10 years. Staying safe is important and sharing your knowledge is even better.
There’s one hard and fast rule when it comes to the position of new riders in a group and that is that there is no hard and fast rule on where new riders should ride in a group. Before setting out on a group ride the newbies, participants, and rider leaders should discuss where they would be most comfortable—behind experienced riders learning from them, in front of experienced riders setting their own pace, or elsewhere. No one rule fits everyone.
For everyone’s safety, new riders need ride in front on the right side of the lane with trailing rider behind and on left side of lane. In my lifetime of experience, too often I’ve been with a new or re-entry rider (on road after extended layoff) that have become distracted and not noticed what the lead rider was doing.In one instance, I had faith in a buddy who got back into riding and I was leading the way to our destination. With my beautiful girlfriend riding behind me on a passenger pillion pad (no sissy bar) I initiated right hand turn sequence, blinker, hand signal and slowing to cornering speed. I heard the squeal of tires and my “experienced” buddy slid past me with zero room to spare doing a good 30mph faster than us. I dare not imagine what could have happened. This was a tremendous life lesson.The perspective from behind allows the more advanced rider to evaluate the newer rider’s technique, situational awareness, reaction sequence and overall skill sets. Hopefully, the more advanced rider can relay accurate and proficient expertise.There are many advanced riding schools that cater to the newly licensed rider or those who could use refresher course—take your friend to one or suggest doing it with them. Even one learned lesson will make it worth it to the experienced rider. Plus, it will be fun to have the shared experience with your friend and you both can discuss your own take on the lessons provided.We want you on the road and with as much knowledge as you gain experience.
At first I used to ride behind my husband who, of course, was the experienced rider. It was too distracting for him. His eyes were not on the road or paying attention like he should. One day I stopped on a hill at a traffic light. I stalled my motorcycle at this busy intersection and my bike was leaning. I was stuck there. I could not move.My husband had continued on. By the time he realized I was not behind him I had already gingerly put my motorcycle on the ground. (I could not hold it any longer.) As the traffic piled up behind me. Two very nice gentlemen got out of their cars and helped me up right my motorcycle. They also gave me words of encouragement. From that day forward, I ride first. It is safer for my husband and now I am the “leader of the pack.”
As a new rider I prefer riding behind the experienced rider. I find that it helps me learn new things as well as to remember some of the things that I learned in the rider’s course. I also don’t feel rushed, it’s just a more relaxing position for me.
In Quebec, new riders have to ride with a “buddy” for nine months while holding a restricted license.The law here is that the buddy rides in front of the rider that’s learning.
A new rider should ride behind more experienced riders, and if in a group in the back of the group with a tail end Charlie to make sure they’re alright.
My first thoughts were along the lines of Randy and Donna. Like Donna, I do not want to feel “watched” and did not want to ride with the only other rider I knew, a 30-year rider who lived a distance from me, until I’d gotten a fair amount of miles on my own tires. Most of the riding I did in my first three years was solo for that reason—to learn at my own pace without performance anxiety.When I rode with my friend for the first time, I had him take the lead for the first two days, then I took the lead because I did want the honest critique, especially if safety was at stake. He kept far enough behind me that I wondered what was wrong—then at the first stop he admitted he didn’t want me to feel pushed. On a recent ride, I led most of the way to our destination. So I would say in response to the question, do what makes the new rider most comfortable. The merit to the newbie leading—setting his/her own pace—will be negated if they are the type to feel anxious about their riding being evaluated by the trailing experienced rider.
In Quebec by law buddy riders ride in front, we have no choice. I am currently acting as a “buddy rider” for a new rider with a limited permit and although I thought it would be better to be behind he was told in his course (and later confirmed with the license bureau) that the experienced rider had to lead.
I prefer to ride behind, as to eliminate any confusion for someone who may be following in a cage. I can also keep distance between us and anyone following and provide necessary directives if necessary. It also provides opportunity for observation and topics for conversation around the campfire!
I’ve been riding for almost eight years, but as a new rider I was—and still am, for the most part—more comfortable following my husband. I will lead if I know how to get to where we’re going and he doesn’t. Otherwise, he has a better sense of direction. I also picked up good habits watching him when I was new. We ride in a safe, staggered formation, adjusting as needed for road conditions. We share and learn hand and foot signals.He checks his mirrors for me often, and if I have to pull over or stop for any reason, like the light changed quickly or I forgot to latch my saddlebag, he’ll either wait on the side of the road if he can still see me, or turn around and come back if he can’t. Most of the time he passes vehicles or pulls onto roads giving enough clearance for me to follow. If I don’t think I can make it, I’ve learned to wait and go when it’s safe for me. He doesn’t like to use them all the time, but for extra long trips, I convinced him to get Bluetooth headsets to communicate more easily.Lessons I’ve learned—Ride your own ride. Don’t take unnecessary risks to keep up, but realize you have a bike that accelerates faster than most cars. Sometimes you gotta pull up your big girl panties and pass that slow car! Keep your eyes ahead on the road and watch for potential hazards, often easier to see from the rear position. Even though the scenery is gorgeous, stay alert and watch where you’re going. On turns, turn your entire head, not just your eyes, to go where you need to be, just like in class. Minimize distractions and focus on the ride.We sometimes ride with a friend who is a newer and more tentative rider. She rides in the middle and I sweep. I’ve learned even more watching her and coaching her on tips and tricks.Have fun mentoring your friend. I bet you’ll get a lot out of it as well!
I know experienced riders who prefer to lead a new rider, and some who prefer to follow. Honestly, there are pros and cons to both. I usually followed an experienced rider while I was learning, and I did learn a lot by watching him. I also learned how to follow a bike, which is a skill in and of itself. I learned how to “read” the reactions of his bike, along with watching the road myself, and it helped me predict what was coming in terms of road condition, terrain, etc.The disadvantage is that if the beginner gets stuck somehow, or needs something, you can’t always play catch up to the leader to get help. If it were me, I would alternate between leading and following. You can give a lot of feedback to the new rider by watching them from the mirror as well as watching them ride in front of you.Begin with a safe distance between bikes. Figure out how good the beginner is at panic stops, but leave extra distance. Instruct the beginner on how much distance to keep, and when it is ok for them to roll up beside you if they need to. (At stops, etc.) Remind them to never cross your rear tire if they are behind you, unless they pull completely forward until you see them. This minimizes your exposure to sideswipe accidents.Get hand signals sorted out before you get on the bike, check in to see how much gas the newbie’s bike has, and get them in the habit of filling up before a ride. If you know how to do a quick tech check, do it on that bike and yours (tire pressure, oil, etc.) It may save you a lot of grief later in the ride, and you will be teaching the newbie good habits.Remember that riding isn’t just about keeping a bike upright—it is about taking care of it mechanically, checking tires, brakes, etc. for wear, about being able to lead and follow equally well, and about falling in love with the feeling that no other vehicle can give you.
Great tips, Karan! Thank you.
First I would ask him if he has a preference. If not, I would say let him ride in front and set the pace at first. Although he may find it helpful, too, to spend some time following to note your experienced rider skills and imitate you. Well, as you can see there are advantages to both. Usually in a group ride the less experienced riders stay at the front so they don’t get dropped.
My wife learned to ride about five years ago. Since we had ridden two up for more than 30 years we decided I would lead making sure to take it easy, after all I didn’t want her to get out of her comfort zone. After she became more comfortable on her bike—1,000 miles or so— I had her take the lead. She was more comfortable and I knew she wouldn’t take herself out of her comfort zone. I always made sure to not make her feel like I’m crowding her. Now some 25,000 miles later she is still leading and I’m loving every mile.
That’s fantastic Randy. My wish is for all riders to have such a caring, thoughtful partner!
You might just ask your friend which he would prefer. I don’t like being “watched” while I’m learning a new skill. I also don’t want to worry about where we’re going or missing a turn so I have always preferred riding in back. But I also know a lot of riders want the newbie to ride in front so they can keep an eye on them. A good compromise if they feel more comfortable riding in the rear is to have intercoms. That way they can ride where they’re most comfortable but can ask for help if they get in trouble.
The best advice I can give is both. Depending on situation he can follow you and mimic or copy what you do to learn with enough space for him to make an emergency stop or swerve (first thing to learn for a new rider). Also when the situation changes follow him to protect him from the back. Never ride beyond his capability or speed. The more you ride together the quicker you will be able to see which situation demands which. It is a little like new rider copying old rider and then change situations so old rider can watch and give advice to new rider in front.
l would suggest letting the new rider ride in front of you. Let him choose the route and ride at the speed he feels comfortable and in control. When you stop for a break, you can make suggestions to help improve his skills.
A new rider should ride behind an experienced rider, for a number of reasons:1) So the new rider can watch and learn2) To ensure the new rider doesn’t take a curve too fast or blow through a stop sign3) So the new rider will not feel like he/she needs to ride faster or better just because a seasoned rider is following behind (intimidation)I started out following my hubby or other riders in our group. I learned a lot from watching more experienced riders. When my daughter got her endorsement and we went for a ride, I led, my daughter was in the middle and Hubby was behind her. She felt very comfortable starting out this way. A year later, she rides wherever she wants all by herself!
Both. For a very new rider you might want to go in front and show him something specific, like how to make a U-turn for example. But most of the time if you are out riding in the country you should let him go first so that you can watch him and he can go the speed that he feels most comfortable. It’s very important that a new rider does not feel pushed to go faster or do something that he does not really feel comfortable with. Stop frequently and give him pointers and most of all, give him encouragement. New riders are scared of everything and need to feel that they are making progress.Safety is most important. Always give him safety tips as he is learning to ride. One example is not to jump out at a green light, but always look left and right before entering any intersection—even if you have the right-of-way. Also, it is a fine line between looking around and being aware of your surroundings, but keeping your eyes focused on the road.