Motorcycle gathering

 

Last month  I posted Group Riding Guidelines and Tips – Part 1.  This time we continue with specific tips for the Ride Leader and Ride Sweep roles:

Ride Leader
Ride Sweep
Diatribe Against “Ride Your Own Ride”

 

Ride Leader  – If you have invited others to participate in a ride you are leading, then you are responsible for the group.   Leadership is about influencing others, to both aid them, as well as get their support in successfully completing a task.  In this case you are the Group Ride Leader, so your role is to aid the group and use your knowledge, skills, and social influence to get the group’s support in completing the ride successfully.  You cannot discharge your responsibility for your group by simply saying to everyone “Thanks for showing up, ride your own ride”!

  • Know the route
  • Know the distance and rough time estimate it will take to complete the route
  • Pre-ride the route a day or two before your ride, to check on road conditions
  • Know fuel stop, and break locations and rough mileage between each
  • When posting your ride for others, provide the following:
    • Meet up location (include exact address)
    • Meet up time (include a KSU time of when you plan to leave)
    • Ride distance and time frame (It may be best not to include a specific route in a public posting)
    • Expected “pace” of the ride (What type of riders you want to have join you:  Experts, newbies)
    • Any events or other notes (For example, stopping for lunch at “xx”, turn around split-off point at “xx”, gravel sections of “xx” miles on route, toll bridge crossings, etc…)
    • Gear requirements or expectations (Must have full leathers, no street shoes allowed, bikes must have “xx” fuel range, etc…)
  • You are responsible for your group, understand your group, and your skills (or lack thereof) as ride leader!  (You need to do everything possible to ensure you are comfortable and confident about maintaining responsibility for your group, and if you need to ask experienced riders for assistance:  Please do!)
    • Know your skills and limits as a ride leader
    • Know what skill level of a group you are comfortable leading
    • Know what size of a group you are comfortable leading
  • If the group that shows up is too large for your comfort level, split the group up, and assign a second group ride leader
  • Assign a “Sweep” for each group, and preferably someone you know well who is experienced and who knows the route
  • Have a pre-ride meeting, and poll the riders to understand riding skill levels and any bike, or rider, or gear limitations
  • Get an accurate head count of all riders, and agree on count with your “Sweep”
  • Adjust your route, stop frequency, fuel stops, and riding pace according to the group that has shown up
  • Periodically gauge your “pace” and adjust accordingly.  (If you are waiting a considerable time at stop points for your sweep, you are likely riding too fast for your group.  Slow down!)
  • Avoid excessive traffic filtering.  (Make it easy on your group, and minimize lane changes and passing, which tends to split the group up and cause anxiety among some members)
  • Stop at any turning or split points to regroup.  (Wait until you see your “Sweep” and confirm head count each time)
  • If an unsafe condition turns up on the ride, stop the group and address it as soon as possible. (Road rage driver – Call the cops if needed, unexpected road conditions – re-route or cancel the ride, rider shenanigans – ask the rider to stop or leave the ride, etc)
  • If an accident does occur on your ride, safely direct the bulk of the group to a safe location to stop and wait.  (Address the situation, and stay with the downed rider, coordinating with the “Sweep”.  Decide if the ride needs to be cancelled, or can continue.  Do not leave the downed rider alone, at least 1 group member must stay with the rider until their situation is “secured”)
  • Grab pictures of your group, note riding styles, jokes, scenery.  (Follow up on your ride post with some comments and post your photos.  Thank fellow riders for joining you, and express your pleasure or displeasure with your ride and the group)

After the ride is concluded, assess how it went, what could have been done to improve the ride, and make some notes for yourself for next time.  Being a good ride leader takes some skill and practice, and isn’t for everyone.  You may be an excellent and experienced rider, and know great routes, but still not be cut out to be a ride leader, and that’s ok.  You may enjoy the responsibility of the “Sweep” position, or sometimes simply a group ride member.  Understand your responsibilities in the group, and have fun!

 

Ride Sweep  – If you have volunteered to be the ride “Sweep” then: Thank You!  You have the most under appreciated role in a group ride, but arguably the most important.  As the “Sweep” you share the burden of responsibility with the ride leader for the safety of the group, and keeping tabs on all the group members.  To be a sweep, you should be an experienced group rider, know the area you will be riding, and follow the tips noted below.

  • Discuss the route with the ride leader, and ensure you are comfortable with it
  • Get an idea of the fuel stop, and break locations from the ride leader
  • You are basically the “safety officer” for your group.  Understand your group, and the skills/experience level of the riders!
  • If the group that shows up is too large for your comfort level, split the group up and only sweep for one group
  • Ensure the ride leader has a pre-ride meeting, and polls the riders to understand riding skill levels and any bike, or rider, or gear limitations
  • Get an accurate head count of all riders, and agree on count with your group leader
  • Suggest slower/newer riders stay at the back of the group with you as the “Sweep”
  • Try to get a quick head count at each stop and at any turning or split points
  • If you see any unsafe conditions or appear to be missing someone from a head count, signal the group leader and address it immediately
  • If an accident does occur, you as the “Sweep” are most likely to be a first responder.  Safely stop and park your bike. (Address the situation, and stay with the downed rider, assess if medical attention is needed, and if so call 911.  Do not leave the downed rider!  If you are unable to call 911 from the location, assign a fellow rider to leave the group and let them find a way to make the call.  If possible, assign a fellow rider to move debris, or flag traffic for safety.  When the group leader returns, brief them on the situation and help decide if the ride needs to be cancelled, or can continue.  Do not leave the downed rider alone, at least 1 group member must stay with the rider until their situation is “secured”)
  • Grab pictures of the group, note riding styles, jokes, scenery.  (Follow up on the ride post with some comments and post your photos.  Thank fellow riders for joining you, and express your pleasure or displeasure with the ride and the group)

After the ride is concluded, assess how it went, what could have been done to improve the ride, and make some notes for yourself for next time.   As an experienced rider volunteering for sweep duty, you are likely going to be riding at a slower pace than you normally would, and have the added responsibility of keeping your group safe.  Being a good ride sweep takes some skill, practice, and level of tolerance that isn’t for everyone.  You may enjoy the responsibility of the Ride Leader position, or sometimes simply a group ride member.  Understand your responsibilities in the group, and have fun!

 

Diatribe Against “Ride Your Own Ride” –  This is a phrase you will hear often in group rides – and is a pet peeve of mine, as this phrase is often used by individuals when they are trying to shrug off their responsibility for group members.  The idea is that they are not responsible for you or what happens to you, because you are supposed to “Ride Your Own Ride”: (Ride at your own pace, don’t let the group make you uncomfortable, don’t try to compete with other riders, don’t get spooked by what other riders do, don’t worry about keeping up with the group).  While that’s a great idea in theory, saying “Ride Your Own Ride” to those riders who it is most directed to (new riders/new group riders), is akin to saying something like “Chicks dig confidence, so just be more confident dude”.  It’s a trite, meaningless saying that has no context for new riders or new group riders, and if you really intend to make this meaningful and not have it just be a cop-out, then you need to put some more thought into it.

If you are riding with your experienced buddies that you’ve ridden with before, then sure, you can toss out the “Ride Your Own Ride” quip, because everyone knows what it infers.  In this group, with this level of experience, nobody needs it broken down for them.  Unfortunately this is not normally the case, and I have to wonder if these group ride leaders aren’t missing the point of a group ride:  To share in the motorcycling experience, to trust that others are watching out for you, as you are for them, and understanding that there is a shared responsibility among all the group members to make sure everyone has fun and gets home safe.

Instead of telling newer group riders to “Ride Your Own Ride”, why not simply take an extra moment to make the following clear for them (and everyone else):

  1. Thanks for joining our ride.  We are all going to do our best to watch out for each other
  2. We’re all here to enjoy the ride, share in our comradery and have some fun, but also need to watch out for ourselves
  3. Ultimately, we are all responsible for ourselves and our own actions
  4. Don’t be a tool  (No stunting, no racing, no shenanigans that might put others in danger)
  5. Don’t let yourself feel pressured to ride outside of your comfort zone
  6. If you’re not feeling it, and need to bail, we totally understand.  Let the Leader or Sweep know, and we’ll catch you next time
  7. Chicks dig men who care for others
  8. Chicks dig men who support their community of interest
  9. Chicks dig men who take responsibility
  10. Chicks dig men who make it home safe…

 

Continue reading:  Group Riding Guidelines and Tips – Part 3