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Everything to Know About Motorcycle Group Riding


Riding doesn't have to be a lone activity. Sure, there's the thrill of independence and the romantic appeal of nothing but you, your bike, and the road. And sometimes you need to just get out there and ride to clear your head. But often times, it's even more fun in a group.

We've recommended before that one of the best things for a new rider to do is to join a riding group. You can bond with truly like-minded people and you will improve your skills faster in a group environment. Riders are some of the coolest people (but you already know that) and they're all happy to share knowledge.

But that said, there are still etiquette to follow when on a group ride (don't be a douchebag, for one), or you won't be invited back to the next one. If you're a novice rider or just new to riding groups, we've got you covered, so you won't be making a fool out of yourself on the next ride.

Here is everything you can expect from a group ride and tips to make it a success.

First things first: come prepared

Hopefully, this is something we shouldn't even have to say, but hey you never know. I've been in group rides before where people obviously didn't prep, and it really brings down the entire group. This means come with a full tank, full tire pressure, a cell phone, and your wallet. No one wants to have to make an unexpected stop just because you forgot to fill up.

And of course, don't be late. No one wants to stand around waiting for that one rider who can't keep track of time either.

Group ride meeting 

Before the ride starts, there should be a meeting to go over the general expectations of the ride, including: the route, how long to ride for, where the break points will be, and what to do if someone gets behind or lost.

It's especially important to decide on a meeting spot (or spots if it's a long ride) if riders get separated. Sometimes, even the best of plans and formations (see below) can still lose riders, which can happen during turning, passing, or if not everyone makes it through a traffic light. And when that happens, the person may panic and feel the need to ride faster, going beyond their ability, in order to catch up. But if there's a designed meeting spot for such situations, then they can go at their own pace, knowing that the others will be there waiting.

The meeting should also go over hand signals to be used, such as when to ride in single file and when to slow down/speed up, and to point out obstacles on the road. See Motorcycle Safety Foundation's guide to hand signals here.

Roles within the group

Every group ride should decide on:

Someone in front (the leader): this person needs to access situations and make decisions for the entire group (such as do you all pass a vehicle or go through a light?).
Someone bringing up the rear (the sweeper): this person sets the pace and keeps an eye out on the entire group. If someone falls behind, the sweeper is responsible for making sure they get caught up.

Both of these should be someone with experience in group riding and good judgment. A communication device, such as Sena's wireless communicators, between the leader and sweeper can be extremely helpful .

Everyone else should have their place in between the two. If you're a new rider, you should go right behind the leader, so those with more experience can watch out for you from behind.

Size of the group

We recommend to keep the group as intimate as possible, because the more riders there are, the more problems it can cause. A good number is 4-6 riders.

If the group is larger, it's a good idea to split fast and slow riders into separate groups, each with their own leader and sweeper. This way, the smaller groups diminish risk of accidents and everyone can ride with others close to their preferred riding speed. Though keep in mind that the slow group would still need an experienced leader and sweeper.

The formation

We know... talking about a "formation" sounds so stuffy. After all, this is supposed to be a fun ride with your buddies, not the army. But trust us, this is important.

So now that you have decided on the leader, sweeper, and your relative position, you need to work out a formation. This part can get tricky. The staggered formation is best for the safety of everyone in the group, with each rider 2 seconds behind the one in front. It keeps your group compact (which means less chance for a car to try to merge in and break you apart) and also gives each rider enough buffer space around them.

Stick to your place!

Once you have a formation figured out and your place in it, don't break it!

This means not riding like a dick. Group riding is supposed to be a fun social experience to build camaraderie. Not a competition with your fellow riders. Don't be that rider who decides to show off and speed up to pass others.

Also be sure to keep the proper distance between you and the rider in front (in other words, don't tailgate!). This is so there's enough cushion space for the other rider to swerve if there's an obstacle. Don't slide into another rider's zone, as this may cause them to panic and run off the lane. And also, don't make sudden brakes without warning, which can cause the rider behind you to plow into you.

Basically, respect your fellow riders' space, and don't do anything stupid that will get you pulled over.

Passing

Speaking of passing, this is one of the trickiest things to maneuver in a group.

It's important to pass in order (in a single file) and once you have passed the vehicle, to return to your spot in the formation. Once you have passed the car, continue riding at speed (don't slow down) so there is enough room for the bike behind you to also pass and get into the lane. One of the most common mistakes I see is riders who pass a car and slow down, which will leave the next rider stranded in the other lane, with no room to get in. This is especially dangerous when passing on a 2-lane road with the threat of oncoming traffic.

Lastly, listen to your gut

Group riding is about fun and building friendships, but as always, safety comes first (you're probably sick of hearing us say that). So if at any point, you don't feel comfortable with the situation, it's okay to get out of the group and go solo (moto -ing).

Maybe the group is riding faster than you're comfortable with and others are saying that you're slowing them down. Don't feel pressured to go beyond your ability to keep up. Or if it's the other way around and someone else in the group is riding like an ass, give him a wide berth and/or remove yourself from the group.

In any case, if it's not feeling right, don't think you have to stick out the ride.

Conclusion

We highly recommend trying a group ride (bikers groups on Facebook or Meetup are great places to find one in your city) if you haven't yet. There's a lot that can be learned from other riders. It's a great experience that will allow you to build strong friendship and make you feel more connected to your local riding community. We hope you understand a little more now about what to expect on a group ride. To put it simply, be careful, don't ride like an asshole, listen to your gut, and have fun!

By Daniel Relich

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