The staggered riding formation...
The staggered riding formation assures each rider will have an unobstructed view and gives each rider enough room to react to hazards in the road.
Few things in life are as rewarding as throwing a leg over your motorcycle and taking off down your favorite stretch of pavement. There is just something to be said for that connection you find between you, your bike and the road, and it’s as if nothing else really matters. Perhaps the only more rewarding thing is being able to share that experience with your riding buddies. Hence it’s typical to spot three or four friends out riding together, slicing through the canyons in formation en route to their favorite destination. Truth be told though, group riding presents a number of additional variables, all of which you should consider before you and your buddies throw your helmets on and take off on a spur-of-the-moment ride.
Here at Sport Rider, we have been blessed over the years with a number of opportunities to participate in group rides — whether they are for multi-bike tests, tire tests or model launches — and with each, we have been able to get acquainted with each other’s riding habits and skills. Thanks to those hundreds of rides together, we have been fortunate enough to build our trust in each other and we are now almost able to predict what the rider in front will do when we come up to a hazard. That’s extremely important too, because trust amongst the riders within your group is absolutely a requirement. Being certain the rider in front of you won’t make an abrupt lane change or maneuver will allow you to focus more on you and your riding. So before anything, make sure you are comfortable with the buddies you ride with, and make sure you trust them.
Aside from trust, communication is another important aspect of group riding, and it will be required both on and off the bike. Prior to each ride, as a group, you and your buddies need to discuss what route you are to take, what stops you plan to make (this could include gas stops or just stops to get off the bike and stretch) and the hand signals you will use (more on that later). Making sure everyone is on the same page prior to embarking on your ride will take away much of the confusion when you are out on the road and it will also guarantee that everyone knows what to do should they get separated from the group.
By lifting your foot off the...
By lifting your foot off the peg and pointing to a hazard in the road, you can warn the riders behind you who may have not seen the obstruction. Each rider should make sure to point to the hazard so that even the last rider is aware that something is ahead.
Since there are so many variables out on the road, including traffic and stop lights, getting separated is a strong possibility too. That is why prior to heading out, discuss what you will do if one or two guys get caught at a light or begin to fall behind in traffic. Will you pull off the road at the next break or continue on to the next predetermined stop and wait for them there? Of course, preparing yourself for every curve ball that can be thrown your group’s way is impossible, but covering as many bases as possible will take out much of the confusion if/when something does go wrong.
When riding in a group, things can and will go wrong too. Fortunately, there are a number of group riding practices that will enable your group to have a good, safe day out on the road. Of the important things to remember when riding in a group is the staggered riding formation. In a staggered formation, the lead rider will ride in the left third of the lane, while the following rider will ride in the right third of the lane and so on. In riding in this formation, each rider in the group will not only have better visibility of the road ahead of them, but they will also have room to the side of them in case they need to react to a hazard in the road.
When the road tightens up,...
When the road tightens up, a single file formation is best as it gives each rider enough room to use the proper line through the corners.
According to MSF protocol, desired distance between you and the rider in front of you should be two seconds, while the gap to the rider off to your side should be one second. When the road tightens, a single-file formation is ideal, as it will give each rider a little extra room to use the proper line through the corners. Also important to remember is that when in a single-file formation, be sure to leave enough room in between you and the next rider so that your visibility isn’t impaired. If you are too close, you may be unable to see a hazard up ahead and by the time the rider in front swerves around it and you see it, you will have little time to react.
Riding in a staggered formation or in a single-file formation requires there be a lead rider and a chase rider and deciding who will be designated for what position should be done well before your group begins the ride. Best practice is to have the most skilled rider or rider with the most knowledge of the roads ahead in lead position and a rider with equal skills in the back. Both positions do however come with a certain amount of responsibility.
As the lead rider, your primary concern is with maintaining a safe, steady pace that the rest of the group can follow. You should be fully aware of each rider’s skill level, so that you do not begin riding to a point where they cannot keep up. In addition, it is important to understand the situation you and your group are in; if you are on a busy road or freeway, understand that some of the lane changes you are able to make may not be so easy for those behind you. As such, try to keep lane changes to a minimum and try to make necessary lane changes (for instance, to get off the freeway) in advance so each rider has ample time to move over. Conversely, the chase rider should ensure that everyone is riding within their limits to keep the group’s pace, and that anyone falling behind — for whatever reason — is looked after.
Spur-of-the-moment group rides...
Spur-of-the-moment group rides are great, but it’s still important to discuss the route you plan to take and stops you plan to make so that everyone is on the same page and knows where to head if they fall behind.
Unless each of the riders in your group has an intercom system that allows an open line of communication, hand signals are a great way to communicate on the road. The MSF website (www.msf-usa.org
) is a great place for you and your buddies to find some of the important signals, which include hand gestures to signal when a hazard is in the road or when you’re ready to pull to the side of the road. Perhaps the most employed signal for group riding is the one that warns of hazards in the road. By taking your foot off the footpeg and sticking it out on the side of the hazard, you are effectively alerting the riders behind, who may not see the hazard, to keep their eyes open. Again, make sure and discuss the different signals that you will use on the ride prior to departure, that way everyone is aware of what is going on out on the road.
What it all comes down to is the fact that riding with a group of buddies is about having fun. Never in any case should a group ride turn into a competition, because out on the road, it really doesn’t matter who is fastest. So leave your egos at home, enjoy your time with your buddies and make sure and stop every once in a while to share a story or two. After all, there are few more things enjoyable than hanging around your bikes mid-ride and sharing a laugh. sr
Never in any case should a group ride turn into a competition.