Riding in a group can be a lot of fun. It builds friendships and gives you a meaningful purpose as a biker if you’re riding for a charity or a cause. But you will need to learn how to ride in formations and take on a responsibility.
In this article, we look at what you should know when riding in a group on your motorcycles.
We will discuss the following:
- Pitching for the ride
- Don’t show up empty
- Meaningful tips
Pitching for the ride
If you’re riding with some friends or people you know, its best to let them know when you leave home or if you’re on your way. This is just common courtesy, letting them know, so they have an idea of how long they have to wait or if they need to hurry up.
Also, let them know as soon as possible if you can’t make it. We all have family and work responsibilities. There is nothing as frustrating as taking a day off or planning things differently; only to find out half an hour before the meet-up it’s cancelled, or Jimmy got sick last night.
In a public meet-up, you won’t necessarily have to let anyone know that you’re attending unless the event has T-shirts or badges or anything else that needs to be ordered.
Think about it, as an event planner; you don’t want 2000 badges, with the year 2020, sitting in boxes for the next ten years because only 3000 people showed up for the event. So make that little effort and send a text or email.
Don’t show up empty
This one is kinda obvious, but let me say it anyway; fill up before the meet-up or event. We would always get together at fuel stations, but once in a while someone gets too carried away in conversations and forgets to fill up.
You’ll feel really dumb if you run out of fuel on the road and people have to stop and help you. Besides filling your bike, check your oil, lube your chain, put air into your tires and make sure you have a bit of cash on hand in case the group decides to turn off for lunch or a drink next to the road (this happens often).
Riding in the wrong formation can get you killed. There are three basic formations that you have to know; single-file, staggered and two-by-two. Knowing the formations is just as valuable as knowing when to fall into these formations.
The single-file formation (blue) makes your bike part of traffic, which isn’t really what we want, but sometimes it’s necessary; for example, tight corners. If you are in a staggered formation and you’re coming up to tight corners, slightly fall back so that you have a wider piece of the road to use and a bigger cushion (distance between riders measured in seconds) between yourself and the rider in front of you.
The staggered formation (green) is the norm and most used formation in groups. This allows the group to be as compact as possible without forfeiting a safe cushion between riders.
Basically, it’s two single file formations in one lane with the outer line 1 or 1.5 seconds behind the other formation. If you viewed the formation from the top and drew a line between each rider, it would look like a zigzag pattern.
In countries where they drive on the right, like the US, the first rider or lead rider will be on the left side of the lane, and in countries where they drive on the left, like the UK, the leading rider will be on the right.
This is so that the lead rider can see oncoming vehicles from the opposing direction.
Two-by-two formation (orange) is strictly for low speeds and is usually only used in public events where the traffic authorities leap-frog between intersections (they keep the road open so that the group can maintain a constant speed).
This formation is straight forward, two riders next to each other in the same lane. This formation is compact but also very risky because motorcyclists have little or no room to swerve out for potholes or debris.
In motorcycle groups, you will usually get two or more riders with a responsibility towards the whole group. We’ll cover the two most essential duties, namely, the lead-rider and the sweeper.
These duties also go by other names; the lead-rider would be a Road Captain in many motorcycle clubs. But it doesn’t really matter what you call them; their primary responsibilities stay the same.
The lead-rider will be right up at the front leading the group. This person will have to make sure that the road is safe, especially at intersections and when passing other vehicles.
This rider will most likely be one of the most experienced in riding-groups and also someone who understands the level of skill that the riders have in that specific group.
The sweeper will be right at the back and will be communicating in some way with the lead-rider. This rider will need to have basic first-aid knowledge and a first-aid kit (everyone is supposed to have one btw).
If something happens to a rider on the road, the sweeper will have to notify the lead-rider and assist the troubled rider. If you are a new rider and can’t keep up with the rest of the group, don’t think you’re in the sweeper’s way.
He or she is supposed to be behind you, keep the pace that you can do, the sweeper will let the lead-rider know in some way to slow down or split the group into two groups if necessary.
If you are leaving the group earlier than expected at some stage, make sure you at least let the sweeper know. For the rest of the riders it’s straightforward, enjoy it, help out where you can and don’t put other riders in a dangerous position.
- When riding in a group, try not to focus only on the rider in front of you. Keep an eye out for what is happening on the road ahead.
- Read the occasion. Don’t showboat at a fallen rider’s funeral, show your respects and save your ego for another day. The former rider’s family is going to be there, and they wouldn’t appreciate you acting like a dog at a time of mourning.
- Relax a bit; there is no reason to stiffen up. Chat with the people around you, ask them things like how long they have been riding, and if they have some tips. As long as you aren’t a wise-ass, other bikers will tend to like you regardless of who you are. So don’t be afraid to introduce yourself.
Overall, make sure you have a bit more experience than just the parking lot, so you don’t cause an accident, and try to have fun. That’s why we all started riding motorcycles in the first place.
Featured image by demonios_s1000rr on Instagram.
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