Group Pre-ride Meeting

                Group riding can be a great way to meet fellow riders, learn new riding techniques and tips, learn new roads and routes, and just plain have fun on a motorcycle.  Motorcycles are an interesting hobby, as they are obviously a very solitary mode of transportation, however, much of the fun of riding comes from sharing the uniqueness of the experience with others who understand your passion.  In this article I’m going to go over some guidelines and tips for group riding, and while there are no hard and fast rules about riding in a group, there are some guidelines that can be followed to make it a better experience for everyone.  Whether you’re considering going on your first group ride, or an experienced group rider planning to lead your own ride, you should find something interesting in this article.

 

Guidelines:

We’ll start first with some general guidelines, and then offer specific tips tailored to your role and level of experience in group riding.

Group riding can be fun, educational, and a great way to meet fellow riders.  However, it can also be intimidating, confusing, and downright dangerous.  Here are some general guidelines that apply to everyone in the group ride, regardless of your experience level and role within the group:

  • Have a basic understanding of the route.  (If you get lost from the group, at least know how to get yourself back home.  These rides are often way out on back-roads, and it wouldn’t take much to get yourself lost after a couple of wrong turns and run out of fuel before finding your way back to civilization).
  • If you do get separated from the group, return to the likely split point and wait a considerate amount of time for the group to return.  (A good group will recognize a rider has gone missing and will retrace their path to locate the rider).
  • If you intentionally decide to leave the group ride, alert the “Sweep”.  (If there was no “sweep” designated, that’s a warning sign, but at least alert a couple other riders that you are bailing on the ride).
  • Fill up your tank before the ride.  (For the love of God, fill up before the ride!!!  Don’t make the entire group wait for your thoughtless ass while you go fill up.  Likewise, if you’re on a motard or other fuel range limited bike, alert the ride leader so they can plan fuel stops accordingly).
  • This is not a race, there will be no trophies handed out at a finish line, calm down!  (Yes, a big part of group riding with sport bikes is “sport” riding.  However, you should not be pushing your limits, or the limits of other riders on a group ride.  The rule of thumb is to ride at a max of 75% or 7/10’s of your ability level.  This leaves some reserve for handling the unexpected).
  • Consider dropping back in the pack if you are feeling uncomfortable, pressured, or anxious.  (Don’t drop back behind the “sweep”, but feel free to allow others to safely pass you, so you can get into your comfort zone.  Nobody wants to see someone wreck on a group ride, and a good group will wait for slower riders at any stops or turn offs).
  • If a rider in front of you goes off, find a safe spot to pull over and park your bike.  (Either assist the rider if you’re able, or stand in front of the accident and signal traffic to slow down.  If there are already enough people assisting, then get out of the way.  Have respect and don’t take photos unless requested.  Also it is common courtesy not to post about the event on public forums unless the rider clears you to do so).
  • If *you* go off the road while in a group ride, and are concerned nobody saw you, can’t easily get yourself back to the roadway, and are not clearly visible from the roadway… then consider throwing articles of gear up on the road.  (Preferably gloves, or something bright from your pockets, or your face shield.  Your helmet if you really have to.  Keep your jacket and boots, just in case you have an extended stay in your location).
  • Finally, leave a safe distance between yourself and other riders.  (If the group is riding in town or on a freeway, they will often ride in a “staggered formation”.  Once out in the twisties, you don’t not need to hold formation, simply allow ample room between riders in front and behind for sport riding, and unexpected events and emergency braking).

 

Hand Signals:

Let’s start with hand signals as presented by “okiegoon”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zKQv2dc-cM

(okay just kidding)

If you’re just starting out, you don’t really need to know hand signals, as there are other more important things to be concerned with.  However, if you would like to know some of the basics, the MSF provides some here:  http://msf-usa.org/downloads/group_ride.pdf

 

Continue reading:  Group Riding Guidelines and Tips – Part 2