Group Ride

 

This is the final part of the 3 part series on Group Riding Guidelines and Tips.  The first two parts are here:

Group Riding Guidelines and Tips – Part 1
Group Riding Guidelines and Tips – Part 2

This time we finish up with specific tips for the various group member levels of experience.   Please feel free to comment and share your own tips!

Newbie Group Member
Intermediate Group Member
Experienced Group Member

 

Ride Group Member – You may think that as a ride group member you don’t have any responsibilities to be worried about, but this is not so.  When you ride solo, you only have to be responsible for yourself, but when you’re riding in a group you have several additional responsibilities, and these may change depending upon your level of riding experience and group experience.

 

Newbie Group Member – As a newbie, you have the least amount of shared responsibility, but unfortunately have the greatest risk of problems in a group ride.  Pay attention to the below tips and suggestions to minimize your risk, and enhance your understanding of being a newbie group member on a ride:

Before the ride…

  • You should be very comfortable with your bike, and riding in general before doing a “group ride”.  (I can’t give you “x number of miles”, or “x months” of experience, because everyone is different.  However, please understand that the first couple of group rides will create a lot of additional inputs for you, and can easily overwhelm a new rider who is still spending a large portion of their focus on simply “riding their motorcycle through the turns”)
    • The exception to this would be an established newbie tailored group ride.  Where the ride leader is respected in the community and has established successful group rides specifically tailored for newbies.  (These can be a good resource to jump start your group riding skills, and riding skills in general, as these are often tailored to helping new riders gain these skills)
  • Select the appropriate group ride to join.  (Read the posting, or talk to other forum/group members to determine if the ride will be “newbie appropriate”.  Avoid a ride that lists pace as:  Fast, Intermediate, or even “speed limit on the straights, faster in the corners”.  You want your first 2-3 group rides to be specifically “newbie friendly”).
  • Know the fuel range of your motorcycle.
  • Wear appropriate gear and supplies for the ride and weather.  (As much protection as you can afford, hearing protection, and water and/or snacks if needed for a longer ride)
  • Prep your bike ahead of time.  (Check brakes, lights, tire pressure, and fill up fuel before you arrive)
  • Arrive at the meeting location a little early.  (It can be intimidating meeting new people, and even more so with all of the added inputs of motorcycle riding.  Arrive early and push yourself to meet at least the Ride Leader, and 1 or 2 other riders.  Let them know you are a newer rider and/or new to group riding, so they know to keep an eye on you).
  • Keep an eye on how the Ride Leader interacts with the group, the “Sweep”, and what the group size is.  (Is the ride leader confident?  Are they talking to fellow riders as they show up?  Have they designated a “Sweep”?  If the group appears to be larger than about 10 riders, are they splitting the group up?)
  • If you’re not feeling comfortable with any of what you observe before KSU (Kick Stands Up), feel free to let the Ride Leader and/or Sweep know that you actually have to take off and won’t be able to make this ride.  (Everyone would much rather see you come back on a future ride when you’re more comfortable with the setup, than force yourself to stick with a group you don’t trust).

During the ride…

  • Don’t worry!  Stay calm!  (It’s easy to get anxious, especially when the group is just getting ready to go.  Take your time, double check all your gear:  Ear plugs in?  Strapped your chin strap on your helmet?  Zipped up all your pockets?)
  • Don’t worry about your position in the group yet.  (Simply filter in to the line and follow the group out of the parking lot, ensuring only that you are not the last rider – as that position is reserved for the sweep)
  • Don’t worry about getting left behind at stop signs, or traffic lights.  (The group is watching out for you.  Take your time at 4-way stops, and obey normal traffic laws…the group will wait)
  • Once you get out of the main traffic areas and into some back roads, focus mostly on your riding..but keep an eye on the rider behind you.  (You aren’t expected to be too responsible for the group as a newbie, but the one thing you are responsible for, is knowing which rider is behind you, and that they are still there)
    • If you lose track of the rider behind you, slow down and see if they catch up.  (If they don’t catch up, pull over at a safe location and wait.  If after a couple of minutes they haven’t caught up, or if a different rider comes up, alert them to circle back and ride back to the general location where you last saw the original rider. Find a safe spot to stop at that location and try to signal other group riders.  This behavior helps fellow riders know that someone is no longer with the group, and ultimately the ride Sweep will show up and take charge of the situation).
  • If you do find yourself in a situation where a group member has had an accident, stay out of the way, and only assist when specifically asked to, or if nobody else is present to provide assistance.  (There are often special considerations to be aware of when addressing a motorcycle accident, from traffic control, to group safety, to all of the specifics involved with helping an injured rider.  You are not expected to have this experience yet, and will best serve the group by staying out of the way in most cases).
  • “Ride Your Own Ride” 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. (However, there is an important kernel of sincere intent in this statement, and that is this:  Ultimately, we are all responsible for ourselves and our own actions.  This means, that you should not get caught up in trying to “race” other group members, or worry about being “too slow” for the group, nor trying to tell others how they should be riding.  You as a Newbie Group Member should focus on your ride, skills improvement, and enjoyment of the ride itself).
  • If the rider behind you is riding too close, find a safe spot to slide to the right side of your lane, and invite them to safely pass on your left to go in front.
  • If the rider in front of you is going much slower than you would like to go, only pass them if they signal you to do so.  (Otherwise wait until the next pit stop, and then take a position in front of that rider when you start going again).
  • On the topic of passing, never trust another rider signaling you that it is clear to make a vehicle pass.  Similarly, please do not attempt to signal other riders that it is clear to pass another vehicle.  (Often there will be times when passing cars and trucks on the back roads is required to maintain the pace of the group.  Some of these vehicle passess may be performed in no passing zones, or in questionably safe areas for passing.  Ultimately it is up to each rider to determine if and when they want to pass that vehicle.  -Remember the group will wait for you, ride how you feel comfortable-)
  • At break points, take the opportunity to speak with other riders.  (Realize that the Ride Leader and Sweep may be busy discussing aspects of the ride, but otherwise you should take the opportunities to mingle with your fellow riders, and have fun).

 After the Ride…

Follow up on the ride post with some comments and express your pleasure or displeasure with the ride and the group.   Assess how your experience was on the group ride and make some notes for yourself for next time.  After 3-5 different group rides, you will have a good understanding of how they go, what you want to look for, and what you want to avoid.

 

Intermediate Group Member – As an Intermediate group member, you have some shared responsibility over other members of the group, but ultimately aren’t expected to do too much.  Below are a few tips for Intermediate group members:

Before the ride…

  • Select the appropriate group ride to join.  (Read the posting, or talk to other forum/group members to determine what the “pace” of the ride will be.  As an intermediate rider, it can be hard to know where you fit.  The best suggestion is to avoid rides that are listed as “Spirited”, as these are often very quick paced riders, and the expectation is that all riders in the group are experienced).
  • Know the fuel range of your motorcycle.
  • Wear appropriate gear and supplies for the ride and weather.  (As much protection as you can afford, hearing protection, and water and/or snacks if needed for a longer ride)
  • Prep your bike ahead of time.  (Check brakes, lights, tire pressure, and fill up fuel before you arrive)
  • Arrive at the meeting location well before the “KSU time”.  (It can be aggravating for the Ride Leader to have a bunch of members show up at the last minute, and not know the plan.  This also gives you some time to meet new riders and get a feel for the group).
  • Keep an eye out for anyone that looks like a problem.  Either a new rider, who may be uncomfortable, or a squid rider who doesn’t understand group dynamics, and is likely to cause a problem for the group.  (If you don’t feel good about the group, feel free to bail on the ride before KSU by just letting the ride leader or sweep know that you’re out.  Otherwise if you stay, continue to keep an eye on any potential problem areas during the ride, and if need be, talk to the ride leader and sweep about it so they can address it).

During the ride…

  • Be aware of your position in the group, and what skill level of rider is in front of and behind you.  (If you are following a more experienced rider, be aware that they may be able to dip into corners faster than you can comfortably follow.  Similarly, if you know a new rider is behind you, be careful not to lull them into taking a tight or decreasing radius corner too fast for what you think their skill level may be.  Help keep the new riders safe and having fun).
  • Keep an eye on the rider behind you.  (All riders are responsible for knowing which rider is behind them, and that they are still there as the group progresses through the twisties)
    • If you lose track of the rider behind you, slow down and see if they catch up.  (If they don’t catch up, pull over at a safe location and wait.  If after a couple of minutes they haven’t caught up, or if a different rider comes up, alert them to circle back and ride back to the general location where you last saw the original rider. Find a safe spot to stop at that location and try to signal other group riders.  This behavior helps fellow riders know that someone is no longer with the group, and ultimately the ride Sweep will show up and take charge of the situation).
  • If you do find yourself in a situation where a group member has had an accident, stay out of the way, and only assist when specifically asked to, or if nobody else is present to provide assistance.  (There are often special considerations to be aware of when addressing a motorcycle accident, from traffic control, to group safety, to all of the specifics involved with helping an injured rider.  You may not have this experience yet, and will best serve the group by staying out of the way in these cases).
  • If the rider in front of you is going much slower than you would like to go, only pass them if they signal you to do so.  (Otherwise wait until the next break, and then take a position in front of that rider when you start going again.  Passing a new rider who isn’t expecting a pass can spook them and cause an accident).
  • While out sport riding in the twisties, it is important not to spend too much focus on the rider in front of you.  (It can be easy to fall into this sort of trance of following the taillight and “line” of the rider in front of you, which leads to both riding too closely, as well as causing a serious problem if they blow their line.  Be sure you have at least 2-3 seconds worth of space between you and the rider in front of you, which will enable you to choose your own lines through corners, and have plenty of room for emergency braking).
  • Please do not attempt to signal other riders that it is clear to pass another vehicle.  (Even though you have good intentions, you may not understand the passing ability or comfort level of the rider behind you, or how quickly or slowly they may attempt such a pass, so just let them decide for themselves.  Ultimately it is up to each rider to determine if and when they want to pass that vehicle).
  • At break points, take the opportunity to speak with other riders.  (Realize that the Ride Leader and Sweep may be busy discussing aspects of the ride, but otherwise you should take the opportunities to mingle with your fellow riders, grab some photos and have fun).

 After the Ride…

Follow up on the ride post with some comments and express your pleasure or displeasure with the ride and the group.   Assess how your experience was on the group ride and make some notes for yourself for next time.

 

Experienced Group Member – As an experienced group member, you should be sharing responsibility over other members of the group with the ride leader and ride sweep.  Depending on the number of riders that show up for the ride, you should be prepared to volunteer as a secondary group leader or secondary sweep, in case the ride leader decides to split into multiple groups.  Below are a few tips for experienced group members:

Before the ride…

  • Select the appropriate group ride to join.  (Most likely, you already know many of the other riders in the area, and likely have a small group of friends that you typically ride with.  In this case however, you would be joining a publicly posted group ride, so be sure you have an idea for what the group ride will be, and if it is going to be a route/pace/distance/size that you want).
  • Arrive at the meeting location well before the “KSU time”.  (Meet the ride leader and get a feel for the group.  Be prepared to volunteer for sweep if you are inclined, or secondary group leader, if the ride leader needs to split a large group up).
  • Keep an eye out for anyone that looks like a problem.  Either a new rider, who may be uncomfortable, or a “squid” rider who doesn’t understand group dynamics, and is likely to cause a problem for the group.  (If you don’t feel good about the group, explain to the ride leader specifically why you don’t feel good about it, and point out individuals if need be.  The ride leader should appreciate the input and insight of truly experienced fellow riders.  As an experienced group member, you should feel free to talk with other members of the group, and offer opinions or insight, but please be careful not to undermine the ride leader).

During the ride…

  • Keep an eye on the rider behind you.  (All riders are responsible for knowing which rider is behind them, and that they are still there as the group progresses through the twisties)
    • If you lose track of the rider behind you, slow down and see if they catch up.  (If they don’t catch up, pull over at a safe location and wait.  If after a couple of minutes they haven’t caught up, or if a different rider comes up, alert them to circle back and ride back to the general location where you last saw the original rider. Find a safe spot to stop at that location and try to signal other group riders.  This behavior helps fellow riders know that someone is no longer with the group, and ultimately the ride Sweep will show up and you can help them ascertain the situation).
  • If you do find yourself in a situation where a group member has had an accident, provide as much assistance to the ride leader and sweep as they request.  If you are a first responder, you likely have a decent level of experience of how to handle the situation, so be sure to direct others as appropriate until the sweep and/or ride leader show up to take charge.  While the ride leader and sweep are taking charge of the downed rider, look for where you can help, whether directing traffic, or keeping the group members herded up and out of the way.  If you have specific experience with medical training, or motorcycle mechanics, or towing options, or knowledge of the area, offer that assistance to the ride leader and sweep…they will appreciate the help).
  • Please do not attempt to signal other riders that it is clear to pass another vehicle.  (Even though you have good intentions, you may not understand the passing ability or comfort level of the rider behind you, or how quickly or slowly they may attempt such a pass, so just let them decide for themselves.  Ultimately it is up to each rider to determine if and when they want to pass that vehicle).
  • At break points, take the opportunity to speak with other riders.  Feel free to share your knowledge and opinion with fellow riders (taking care not to come off as a know it all), but generally your experience is appreciated.  Remember what it was like for you being new to group riding, and help welcome newer riders to the group, and share in their excitement of the experience.  (If you saw things during the ride that you’re concerned about, take this opportunity to share it with the Ride Leader and Sweep as appropriate, so they have a chance to address it during the ride.  Grab some photos and have fun).

 After the Ride…

Follow up on the ride post with some comments.  If you have specific feedback for anyone on the ride, consider if it may be more appropriate to send them in an email, or private forum message, rather than posting publicly.  While your experienced opinion is often appreciated, it is easy to undermine the credibility and respect of ride organizers by expressing those opinions publicly.

Understand that we all have our unique perspective of events, and you may not understand the entire picture, or the particular reasoning behind a decision.  Take the mature path as an experienced group member, and don’t publicly bash other riders.  Assess how your experience was on the group ride and make some notes for yourself for next time.  Consider leading more group rides yourself and taking more opportunities to ride the sweep position for others.  Gaining experience in these roles often helps us develop a true appreciation and level of respect for those that do it frequently.

 group ride pit stop panorama

Have fun riding new roads, meeting new people, and enjoying the experiences of motorcycle group riding!