Motorbike Riding in Groups
Riding in a Group
A ride always has a leader / point / captain. In bigger or more organised rides there is also someone appointed to ride last in the group
Before the ride:
There are a few things that you must know and do before joining a group ride.
The most important thing is to contact the ride captain and ask him/her the maximum speed the ride is going to be to ensure that you will be riding within your capabilities. Also ensure that your bike is more or less equal in performance to the majority of the other bikes going along.Ascertain the distance of the ride, the type of roads you will be travelling and the type of restaurants you may stop off at. This will also ensure that you take sufficient money with you.
There could be a thousand reasons why you may get separated from the group. This could be a problem if you do not know the area and therefore take a road map along with you.
Arrive at the rendezvous point with a full tank of petrol, oil and tyres checked (or simply meet at a petrol station)
Introduce yourself to the captain and find out where and when he intends stopping for fuel along the route. This is important if your bike has a smaller tank which is information he needs to know.
During the ride:
Do not fiddle with your helmet, gloves, mirrors etc until the group is moving smoothly through straight unobstructed roadside. Accidents happen during the first few minutes before all the riders have settled.
Make sure that you are no further than three bikes from the front of the group. If the captain himself is inexperienced there could be a lot of ’concertina-type’ action at the end of the group which you do not want to be part of.
In a country that rides on the left hand side of the road the group should ride in the following formation in towns and when travelling under 100kph. This keeps the group together but maintains safe following distances. The captain (point) naturally rides up front while the last biker probably has special duties that vary from ride to ride, club to club.
Leading a Group Ride
Leading a ride of five other bikes is not easy and should only be undertaken when you are an experience rider. Here are some guide lines . . . and Yes, just one other motorbike and the points below apply, although to a lesser extent
Know your route. The bigger the group, the more critical this becomes. This includes distances between petrol stations, places to eat, turn offs, intersections, road signs, road works etc
Start the ride outside the town’s limits i.e. no robots! A petrol station with an ATM and a fast food outlet is an excellent venue to meet.
The group joining the ride must be fully informed of the route, distances, duration, type of roads, petrol stops and restaurant stops. Ascertain that everybody is in agreement with the planned ride.
The most important element of leading a ride pertains to the first three minutes after you pull away and the last three before you pull off the road. This period must be done smoothly and slowly to avoid a ’concertina-type ripple-action’ running down to line of bikes.
Only pull away when everybody in the group is kitted up, pillion passengers are seated and bikes running. Find a big gap in the traffic and smoothly pull away. Remain under 80kph until everybody has their positions. Slowly and smoothly gas it until you reach cruising speed. You have to think like a train driver with a string of clumsy and unresponsive carriages.
Minutes before you approach a rest or gas stop, begin to ease off the gas. Do not pass any other vehicles. If there is a vehicle in front of you, tuck in behind it. Allow the gaps between the riders to compact. Slow down a little more. The riders begin to catch-on that a stop is imminent. Indicate your intention to turn off early but by this time our flashing indicator light should be a mere formality.
Never do anything quickly, unexpectantly or that is unpredictable. The riders do not share one brain and communication ripples down very slowely as each rider catches on that something is about to happen. Example. If you miss a turn off, indicate that you are pulling off, ease off the gas and begin to look for a long, clear space where everybody can safely pull off and turn around with ample view of the road in both directions.
There are hand signals that are used by biking clubs which can make communication more instant
You have to collect all your riders together after you clear the limits of a small town because some may have been delayed. Therefore you have to travel slowely until the group is compacted again before beginning to gas it for cruising speed once more.
Over 100kph and on twisty roads the formation must become a straight line with one bike directly behind the other with the usual 2 sec following distance.
A lot of accidents occur at robots when one rider stops suddenly while the rider behind him wants to go through the intersection. Ask the ride captain what the robot policy for the ride is
If the rider in front of you pulls off, do not follow suit. Stick with the captain and allow the more experienced riders to follow the predetermined procedures (if any)
Watch your following distance especially at intersections. Do not go through an intersection until you are sure that the rider in front of you is not going to stop. If you have a crazy rider behind you consider going through the (almost) red robot rather than have him slam into the back of you when you try to stop.
Accelerate through and beyond a slow moving vehicle (or red robot) - do not ease off the gas once through as the guy behind you may still be gassing it and needs the space your speed is creating.
If the ride becomes more stressful than fun, gracefully drop out. These are your bones that are at stake!
As the leader, passing a slow moving vehicle is very different because you have to continue to gas it for at least three hundred meters beyond the vehicle. This allows enough space for all the other bikers to use once they clear the vehicle themselves.
Many groups use the system of ’keep up with the rider in front of you’. This is potentially fatal as the entire ride is dictated by the fastest and most talented motorcyclist. A better system is ’keep the rider behind you in your rear view mirror’. This way the entire convoy of motorcycles keeps together at a speed dictated by riders of average ability. Should a motorcycle break down, the group with quickly know that something is amiss.
If you have any ’wonnabe Rossis’ in your group tell them to ride ahead . . . on their own. Your intimate knowledge of the route will allow you to agree on a common meeting place up ahead.