Riding the Open Road With Your Crew
We must go on record and admit, here at Road Dirt we’re not always fans of large group rides. even well-organized benefit rides. They all support worthy causes, to be sure, but riding amongst total strangers, in often massive entourages, in pretty tight formation, can elicit more than a few “butt-pucker” moments while on the ride. On recent benefit ride, our editor Rob found himself behind two guys who were on-off the throttle, changing lane position frequently, and clearly focused on being seen as much as seeing. The only downside to an otherwise wonderful ride, but not an insignificant one.
Our friends at Law Tigers recently shared a succinct but very practical guide to planning and implementing great group rides, and we thought sharing it would be helpful. At the end, please leave any suggestions, insights and experiences you’ve had with group rides. We’d love to read your thoughts on the subject!
Although it’s sometimes thought of as a solo activity, motorcycle riding is far from it. There is a strong sense of community, great camaraderie, and a large contingency of group functions that are built into biker culture. The simplest form of this is going on group rides – if the thrill of the open road is great to enjoy by yourself, sharing and relating the experience of an exhilarating ride is sure to be amplified if you bring your friends along.
With any form of ride, safety should be the first and foremost concern. An accident or breakdown is one of the few ways to turn a trip into a bummer, so we’ve compiled our top seven tips on safe motorcycle group riding so that you can focus on all the awesome elements of getting your group together for a cruise.
Prior to Departure
1. Keep Your Group Size Reasonable
Safety in numbers is not necessarily applicable to group motorcycle rides once you reach a certain point. You should stay within the 5-9 range of people for larger group rides, and the maximum number is always contingent on the road size and conditions. Make sure that the most experienced rider is consulted well before you finalize your group so that they can help determine what an appropriate group size is.
2. Choose a Trip Leader
We brought up the most experienced rider for a reason; they typically will be a good candidate for a trip leader. This doesn’t have to be the case, but you should select a rider who you can trust (both their skills and judgment) to be capable of directing members, assessing the road or traffic conditions, and being accountable for a number of different variables along the way. Each group ride doesn’t need to have the same leader, but we’ve found that if you find someone who is competent and willing, consistency is a great policy here.
3. Have a Pre-Trip Protocol
As soon as you have your full group assembled or the majority of you reach a starting point, it’s time to have a meeting.
This will allow you to go over your route, potential stops, talk about the roads and weather, and address any other group dynamics that need to be clarified for the type of motorcycle ride you’re on. Similarly, this is when everyone should inspect their own bikes for mechanical safety, fluid levels, and any other components that need to be checked. Don’t be afraid to hold members of your group accountable if they are flippant about any of these measures.
During the Ride
4. Bring Supplies, Be Prepared
This could apply to both before and during your ride, but either way, it is imperative that there are proper supplies with you for the common impediments your group could run into. This includes a first aid kid (hopefully carried by someone proficient in CPR and other layman medical practices), smartphones, water, snacks, and other supplies that will help in the event of a collision, separation, or inclement weather. This checklist will vary depending on your location and group size, so make sure to talk over your necessities each ride.
5. Use Hand Signals
Because vocal discussion is not often possible in a group ride, your whole team should know and use hand signals in order to communicate about what is going on. Even a basic set of motorcycle hand signals can go a long way, so make sure that this is built into your group ride and used actively.
6. Ride In Designated Formations
Blocked vision, blind spots, and other visual impediments are extremely dangerous to motorcycle groups. Because of this, you should ride in a formation that allows you to be seen by cars in multiple lanes on straight highways. This could include having your group leader placed in the middle of the pack and just out a bit from your line so they can see ahead and be seen from the rear.
Similarly, when you are going around a curve, your ride leader should let everyone know to space a couple of seconds apart and ride in a single-file line. Then, as they assume the lead of the pack, they can signal sharp curves, traffic, debris, and other danger on the road. Most of all, avoid riding side-to-side as it denies riders the ability to move carefully in multiple directions.
7. Pass Other Vehicles Safely
When passing a non-group vehicle on your ride, you are going to want to do so respectfully and safely. The first thing to do is get over into the left third of the lane you are in so that it is easiest to see, hop out of the lane, and overtake the vehicle.
Additionally, the ride leader should go first to make sure that the oncoming traffic or road conditions are safe. Signal as you make it around the car, and the next rider should pass. Going one-by-one with proper spacing is the only way to pass safely. There’s nothing wrong with waiting for the right opportunity if some members have passed and then the timing if no longer safe. Your teammates should be willing to wait so you can catch up when it is safe.
Sound advice from our friends at Law Tigers. These folks ride with us, and represent us. We thank them for the permission to share these helpful pointers. Obviously, some of these are out of your control in a large benefit ride that you didn’t plan, but so much is applicable to a wide variety of group ride situations. Apply prudently.
For more on what the good folks at Law Tigers are all about, visit them here:
For their Blog site, with more helpful riding articles, click here:
*Photos by Harley-Davidson and American Motorcyclist Association
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Any information about riding and riding safety is always appreciated..thankyou
Thank you William, we think so too.
Best to you,
I ride with a small group every year for our annual autumn ride and we only have two rules: 1) each year one person plans the route and leads the ride, and 2) each rider is responsible for making sure the person behind him makes the turn, waiting as long as necessary to be *sure* he’s seen. Works for us.
Good pair of rules. Would love to hear about your autumn ride, once completed.