by Nick Hill
Have you ever thought of attending an organized ride? If you’re anything like me you certainly enjoy riding with others more than riding by yourself. Maybe you have considered joining a motorcycle club or attending a charity ride or maybe even an active web forum that gets together for regular group rides. If you haven’t there are a few things you should consider before you do since riding in close proximity of other motorcyclists can be fun but also have serious consequences if not done properly.
Group rides are a great way to meet new people and make new friends. It can also take the enjoyment of riding to a new level. As a first time or inexperienced group rider you should be comfortable and confident controlling your motorcycle. If you are still developing basic operating skills, then a group ride is not the best place to work on those skills. You should look into formal a training course or someone to ride with you one on one.
When looking to join a group ride you should realistically access your own riding skill level. Determine if the route is within your abilities, whether a canyon or long distance ride. You will also want to check your motorcycles mechanical condition before hand and whether the gear you select is appropriate for the ride. Showing up for a canyon ride in a hoodie sweatshirt and running shoes would most likely earn you some less than welcoming words from the rest of the riders wearing full leathers and boots.
Once you have selected a ride and determined your motorcycle and gear is sufficient for the ride, you should follow these important etiquette rules.
Be on Time
Show up to the meet location on time (i.e.: early). Most group rides will list a meet up time and then a kick stands up (KSU) time. Kick stands up means everyone is geared up and ready to roll out. You should typically plan to be at the meet location a half hour before the KSU time. This will allow you time to meet many of the other riders, and them to meet you. Also, being there early will ensure you do not miss the group leader’s pre-ride brief. I will go into more detail on what the brief entails later.
Show up with a full tank of gas
Make sure you show up to the meet location with a full tank of gas. Often times group rides will meet at a gas station just for this purpose. Trust me when I tell you, you don’t want to be the one rider that shows up to a group ride needing gas. Good news though; if you followed the first rule you may have time to run and get gas before the ride begins.
Pay attention during the rider’s meeting
Now that you have had a chance to meet some of the other riders and you have a full tank of gas, it’s time for the lead rider’s brief. The ride leader will go over the route; this is usually posted up online before the ride, so you should familiarize yourself with the route before the day of the ride. The ride leader should also go over some simple hand signs, formation strategies and other safety measures. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you feel uncertain about something.
The group leader will explain the tone of the ride and try to determine the experienced riders from the non and will possibly organize two spate groups to ensure everyone is riding in their own comfort zones. Its important to be humble and smart while deciding which group you belong in. Don’t put others at risk just because you don’t want to be in the slower paced group.
Know who the sweepers are
The group leader will identify a sweeper for the group. The sweeper is usually a veteran rider that will remain at the rear of the group to ensure the group stays together and no one gets left behind. Try to be aware of the sweeper(s) at all times. On many occasions things can change during the ride and the sweepers are responsible for informing the group of these changes.
Ride in formation
If you have made it this far you are well on your way to a successful group ride. By now the group is out on the road and enjoying the ride. This is where it gets easy. Once you have found a comfortable position within the group all you need to do now is maintain your proper staggered spacing. This means keeping a two second gap between the rider directly ahead of you and a one second gap behind the rider on the opposing side.
A single-file formation is also preferred on a curvy road or when the visibility might be less than ideal. The signal for this should also be noted during the rider meeting. The important thing when riding in a group is to be smooth and predictable. Excessive or sudden movements will likely aggravate riders around you if not end up causing an accident.
Avoid riding side-by-side. If you suddenly need to swerve to avoid a road hazard you would not have room to do so.
Pay attention to the riders around you
Periodically check your mirrors and take note of who is around you. If you notice someone acting aggressive or invading your space you might want to give yourself a little distance from them in case of an incident. If you notice a rider falling back you may want to slightly adjust your speed to allow that rider to catch up without the need to race back to the group.
If you get separated from the group
What if the group gets split up? It is not unusual for groups to get split up by traffic lights, other vehicles or just personal speed preference. Whenever on a group ride it is customary to stop and regroup at any intersection. This way no rider is left wondering “Which way did they go?” Don’t break the law or ride above your head to catch up. The last thing you need is to bring unwanted attention to the others in the group.
What do you do when another rider gets pulled over? Standard procedure for most group rides is once the officer has identified which rider to pull over, only that rider pulls over. The rest of the group should continue on until the next exit/intersection. Once you stop even if the officer did not order you too, he has the right to ticket you for any illegal modifications he spots on your motorcycle so make sure it’s definitely you who he wants to stop.
If you have a loud exhaust system like I do, it might be a good idea to ride near the back of the pack. Riding next to someone for an extended period of time who has a deafening pipe is a form of torture. Personally my pipe is louder than most so I make sure I don’t care for the person I’m riding next to.
Don’t do it… Don’t be “that guy.” You’ll figure out real fast that stunt riding is NOT accepted on most group rides and will likely get you banned from future gatherings. Nobody cares how far you can wheelie and if you think they do make a video, post it on Youtube, and share the link.
Keep off the brakes
Try not to ride or tap your brakes without purpose while others are around you. I know it should be common sense however I always seem to be behind someone who has this problem. By doing so it causes others to be on high alert and slows down the riders behind you. By giving yourself enough space from the rider ahead should eliminate you from becoming an issue to those around you.
Many times lunch breakfast or dinner will be part of the ride. It’s important to the safety of you and everyone else to keep a clear mind. Nobody wants to ride next to someone who is under the influence. If you intake something that could affect your judgment or motor skills you won’t be invited back for future rides and you’ll be back to riding by yourself again.
If you follow these few and simple tips chances are you will thoroughly enjoy riding on a whole new level while making plenty of new friends. I have also listed a few active social sites that regularly get together and ride. Take a moment and sign up for a ride that suits you and prepare yourself for accordingly.
Special thanks to Don Martin and www.OCMoto.com for helping me with this article.