One of the greatest things about riding a motorcycle is the camaraderie found amongst those who love the open road. You find yourself making unexpected connections, new friends, and travel companions. Group rides can be for the purpose of a poker run, charity or fundraiser, traveling in a group to another destination, or a sightseeing trip. Whatever the purpose of the group ride, it can be overwhelming for those used to riding solo or with a partner. Here are some tips to making a group ride fun and safe for all.
Be prepared! Nothing ruins a day like not be well-prepped for it. Fill your gas tank! As always, give your bike a thorough inspection, making sure everything is in good working condition and that your tires are in good shape. Check the weather and be sure your gear is appropriate for the day. Have a charged up cell phone in case of separation and emergencies. At least one person in the group should be in possession of a First Aid kit and a tool kit for roadside repairs.
Organize and plan the route! This could be as simple as planning out a route in the parking lot beforehand with maps (both satellite and good old fashioned paper maps), or as detailed as having a designated rider do a dry run of the course a day or two prior. Planning eliminates confusion! Having a designated route lets everyone know where the ending point is, along with an estimated time of arrival. Also, consider the skill level of the group. If the goal is for everyone to stick together, then the leader should be riding at the skill level of the most inexperienced rider in the group. An advantage of someone traveling the route in advance allows everyone to be informed of current road conditions, such as potential lane closures. Discuss which hand signals will be used to communicate and ensure understanding. Make sure that everyone is on the same page before setting off on the ride!
Safety stops and checkpoints! Especially for longer rides, or for those that will include a number of novice and beginning riders, safety stops and checkpoints allow everyone to check in. Think of those field trips you took in school as a kid, where the teacher took attendance repeatedly throughout the day. Even as adults, this is a vital safety tip. Stops along the route can give riders who may have fallen a bit behind a chance to catch up, or for riders with concerns a chance to voice them. For beginners, this is a great time to evaluate how you’re feeling about the group ride. If you feel that you are venturing too far out of your comfort zone, this may be a good time to turn around and head back to the start. These pauses give all riders a chance to stop and stretch.
Stay in formation! The more experienced individuals should be positioned at the lead and end of the group. Consider having the less experienced riders placed behind the leader. This placement allows the leader to adjust the pace if necessary without leaving people “in the dust”, so to speak. Avoid side-by-side riding, as this takes away the space riders need to maneuver when necessary. There should be a two-second cushion while riding in a staggered formation, and a 3-to-5 second cushion when riding in a single-file formation. Keep in mind, single-file formation should be used when exiting or entering the highway, at toll booths, and roads with questionable surfaces or conditions. Single file is also the best option in sharp turns, on narrow roadways, and in situations of low visibility. Bikes with sidecars and trikes should be given the same amount of room as you would a car.
Consider a Buddy System, or Groups-Within-the-Group! As some groups can be very large, creating partners or sub-groups is an excellent option. These smaller groups can consist ideally of 5-7 riders, each with their own designated lead and tail. Navigating through busy streets is easier, and in the event that something goes wrong, it is only a small group pulling off as opposed to the entire entourage.
Remember the basics! Don’t forget your basic skills! You don’t want to find yourself fixating on the bike in front of you, or staring off into the horizon and coming too close to a fellow rider. Don’t ride out of your comfort zone, either. If you feel uncomfortable, speak up at a checkpoint. You may find yourself with the confidence to continue. Most of all, relax, have fun, and enjoy the ride!
Ride on, ladies, the road is callin’!
Posted by Jennifer Lynn Andersen on July 16, 2015