Spring is here and the sound of motorcycles are in our ears. Now is a great time to review riding etiquette while group rides are being planned. Sometimes it's nice to be a part of something big, but mob mentality can ruin an otherwise good time. Here are a few points I can review and also some tips for staying safe when riding in a group.
Motorcycle Group Riding Can Have its Dangers
Chaotic Riders can cause lots of trouble and endanger the entire group. Often the larger the group, the more mob mentality can spring up. Once one rider is showing off, more riders will also participate in the activity. I’ve ridden in groups where riders were popping wheelies in fast-moving traffic, almost wiping out. This could have taken out quite a few riders or caused a collision with other vehicles. Injury and death is inevitable once too many riders act up. This is probably one of the main reasons I’m not a fan of big group rides with riders I’m not familiar with. There’s always that one jerk losing control and ruining the ride.
Miscommunication is another factor in creating confusion and potential danger. For example, if nobody knows there is a turn-off, and a leader suddenly exits, there could be some wild maneuvers taking place to try and stay with the group. Also, when riding with strangers, you may not know their behaviors and expectations while on the ride. It’s a real drag to be stuck with an entire group of riders who don’t know where they are or where they're going to meet.
Non-riders and locals can become very angry with giant groups of motorcyclists. When moving through traffic, some drivers become extremely erratic and can cause problems. Especially when the group is moving like a parade. Keeping your group behaved while moving through towns and traffic will help prevent some of the road rage.
How To Avoid Dangerous Motorcycle Group Riding Situations
1. Have a pre-ride meeting.
This is the time to lay down the law. Whoever organized the ride should communicate rider etiquette, where breaks and meet-ups will occur, and other ways to organize the event. Nobody should be scratching their head wondering what’s to be expected, and nobody will even think about being a dare-devil. This is also a good time to go over hand signals, in case anyone forgot, or never knew.
2. Ride in Staggered Formation.
Another good thing to remind your group is to ride in staggered formation. Riding staggered prevents a potential pile-up should there be any abrupt stops or hazards in the road. It's a standard way to ride in a group, but sometimes people forget.
3. Decide who is the Leader and the Sweeper.
Usually having a seasoned rider as the leader is most helpful. Also having a seasoned rider as the sweeper is a good way to go. The sweeper is the one at the end looking out for those who have a stalled bike, or other issues. The sweeper should be able to assist when there's an issue. Sometimes a ride vehicle can be used, like a truck that can tow a broken-down bike.
4. Break up a group that is very large.
Having smaller groups of 5-7 is helpful when riding in a gigantic group of motorcyclists. Each group can have its own leader and sweeper, making the ride more manageable when going through stop lights and traffic.
5. Come prepared to ride.
Make sure your gas tank is full, your bike is maintained, and you have the appropriate riding gear for the weather and other situations that may occur. You’d be surprised how many times someone “breaks down” and it’s because they don’t have enough gas or their battery is old. I hope I didn’t just jinx myself, ha.
6. Look out for your new riders.
Make sure a new rider has the ability to take the group ride. If not, suggest that they get a little more experience and come next time. If they're able, put them towards the front of a group. The leader will notice when a newbie is falling behind and slow it down. That way new riders aren’t riding beyond their experience to keep up. Another strategy that works in small group rides is to put the new rider before the sweeper. Tell them not to keep up and to ride at their own pace. The sweeper will help them with any issues, and the leader will wait at the next turn for the newbie to catch up. That way everyone is riding at the pace they want to ride.
I hope you all have a great riding season this year and will have many stories to tell.