The Rider Workshop | Riding In Groups
We’re into the riding season, and that means lot’s of group or charity rides are starting to fill up your Facebook news feeds. We want to make sure that riding in groups can be an easy transition for new riders who are attending their first event and those that aren’t always accustomed to riding with more than a few friends at a time.
As a new rider, you might not find yourself riding in groups at the beginning, but that doesn’t mean with some practice, and aligning yourself with the right type of riders you can’t be a pro. Most motorcycle riding is solo, but group riding can also be an important part of motorcycling, lending to a community, safety in numbers and altogether different riding experience. But as above, it’s definitely not intuitive. Even if you’ve been riding for years, riding in groups isn’t automatically part of your wheelhouse, so it’s wise to study up on how best to approach group riding. These are rules and suggestions, both of which you should be mindful of. This is by no means a complete list, but it will help you be better prepared for a safe and fun group ride.
Grab a drink, this will be a lengthy read!
Being excited about the day ahead is always great, but this doesn’t lead to preparedness. Having everything you need for the day’s ride including a full gas tank, safety gear, communications device, tools, map, valid motorcycle insurance, etc. At least one member of the group should have a full tool kit, a master map, and a first-aid kit with no exceptions. Nothing is worse than being out on the open road, and not having something you need.
Ride With Those You Know
A big portion of group motorcycle or charity rides is socialization. Keeping this in mind, make sure if you’re new to the scene that you’re attending these events with other riders that you might know. They should be those that share similar riding habits, maturity and have the skills you know and trust. With that being said, sometimes you’re a solo rider. There are many amazing riders out there that will ride with you during a large event, and make sure that you’re comfortable. When you first attend, socialize, let other riders know about you, that it’s your first ride, and you’re looking for a group to align with for the duration of the day. Use your judgment during these conversations, and if you feel like you might not be up to the skill level of another group of riders, or get an uneasy feeling, simply chat, and move onto the next grouping. A good pre-ride strategy is to join the groups Facebook or chat page and introduce yourself there, talking to some riders prior to the events gathering is a great ice breaker.
Here’s where you discuss vital things like group size, assigning a lead rider and a sweep rider, the route, planned stops, hand signals, and other important details.
It is probably wise to keep the group to no larger than seven, though larger isn’t out of the question. If your group is bigger, then create separate groups with their own lead and sweep positions.
*This typically already happens if you’re at a larger charity ride.*
Separate these groups with a few seconds gap. Regardless of how many sub-groups there are, it’s also smart to keep the number odd so when you stagger riders, the lead and sweep riders are in line and can see each other. These roles should also be held by experienced riders with communication devices. The less experienced rider should station behind the lead, with more experienced riders behind the least experienced. The lead acts as recon and initial communicator, and the sweep rider will manage the pace.
Stagger Formation Rules
A group ride without formation is an accident waiting to happen, regardless if you’re experienced or not. The structure is very important, as is maintaining order and space. Too much space will break you up, too little is dangerous. You might want to ride next to your buddy and have “deep conversations” but that’s just not realistic. Distraction, and following too close during a group ride can often lead to an accident.
The leaders should be positioned in the left portion of the lane with the next rider a few seconds back and staggered, and so forth. If a rider(s) drops out, the other riders will fill vacant positions by moving up to the next staggered position, rather than immediately ahead of them. This prevents unnecessary passing.
Know When To Ride Single File
Some situations arise, where it can be safer to ride single file, where it’s narrow or unwise to stagger. Turns should always be done single file, as well as on/off ramps, construction areas, narrow streets with cars parallel parked, narrow bridges and when passing slow vehicles. Return to staggered formation once you’re out of these areas. Keep in mind never to pass in order to get in single file formation.
The leader can’t just pass when the traffic in front of them is slow. They’ve got to know that there is enough room in front of that vehicle to accommodate the whole group safely. Once you pass (in order, single file), each rider shouldn’t extend the gap, preventing riders behind them from making it into the open zone and getting stuck behind the slow vehicle.
Take A Break
Riding solo takes energy and concentration, and group riding adds another dimension to it all. Know your stopping points and keep to them. It doesn’t matter if someone in the group wants to keep going, you all set up your rules prior to the day’s ride. Plus, it gives you time to rest and actually talk face-to-face, sharing the pleasures of the group ride and reducing fatigue at the same time.
Good luck with your group rides this upcoming season, and be sure to prepare yourself accordingly beforehand. Attending your first large group ride can be intimidating, and downright nerve-racking. Two things that really don’t have any place in motorcycle riding, so make sure you’re comfortable before taking one on.