You haven’t fully absorbed the enthralling experience of a motorcycle until you’ve toured with a group of riding buddies. Here is our LAMS Approved guide to riding in a group.
Choose a ride captain
The role of the honorable ride captain is to navigate the pack on the chosen route and relay information to all other riders in the group via signals. The ride captain is often the most experienced rider in the group and will always ride in the front of the pack. The captain is responsible for setting the speed of the group, the direction and formation of the pack. If you have a ride captain who accelerates through an intersection as the lights turn amber, then take a group vote and call for his or her sacking.
Choose a chaser
A chaser is the rider who follows at the rear of the pack. Again, choose an experienced rider who is confident on the bike as their job is to ensure that riders between the front and back of the group are kept together. The chaser needs to know the route just as well as the Ride Captain. If an incident occurs mid pack, then the chaser is the rider who stops and assists aid. Good communication is the key here. Every rider in the group should constantly check their mirrors to ensure the rider following is still following. If in doubt, find a safe spot to pull over and wait for following riders. The number one rule of group riding – “NEVER LEAVE A MAN OR WOMAN BEHIND!” or to put it more sincerely – “WE RIDE TOGETHER, WE DIE TOGETHER”
You’ll need to communicate while on the ride, so make sure everyone knows the signals. For example, if you want the rider behind you to overtake, then check your mirrors and move to the side of the kerb. Either wave the rider through by taking your foot off the peg and signal them to pass with your foot, or momentarily take your hand off the bars and pass them through with a waving motion. The ride captain should define the agreed set of signals for the group and ensure everyone understands the motions. Here are some common signals that should be agreed upon
- Hazard on the road ahead
- Fuel stop
- Pull over
- Slow down, red light camera
Plan the Route before the ride.
One of the most frustrating experiences when group riding is being lost. Being lost, usually starts with a series of U-Turns and an attempt by every rider to keep together at all costs no matter how dangerous a riding maneuver is. Number one rule is to pull over safely and wait for everyone to re-group and reassess the route with either a map or GPS on the phone. Planning the route well in advance is essential. Sending an email with the route mapped out in Google maps is a good idea so that everyone has copy of the route that they can reference too. If the route chosen involves several hundred kilometres, then make sure you have mapped out the agreed towns/suburbs that the route will pass through.
Don’t let your ambition outweigh your talent
This one is a no brainer. If you’re finding it difficult to keep up with the bike ahead of you then whatever you do, never, ever attempt to ride beyond your skill for the sake of keeping up with other riders. 9 times out of 10, this will end up in a bad way. Ride well within your capability because the best group rides are the ones where everyone makes it to the finishing line – usually a small town pub to share a few beers along with banter about riding experiences.
Mind the gap
Manage the gap between you and the rider in front of you. This is twice as important when your group is riding on roads that you are not familiar with. Often lesser experienced riders will fall into the trap of fixating on the brake light of the rider in front. Break this bad habit and draw back to your basic training by looking well through the turn and where you want to go. Keep a reasonable distance to the rider in front so that you have sufficient time to react in the case of a hazard ahead. If you follow too close to the rider in front, chances are you’ll follow them right into the hazard that you’re trying to avoid.
Yes it is cool to ride abreast to a fellow rider and help them adjust their mirrors, but its actually illegal and very dangerous. Riding abreast places you in the blind spot of a fellow rider and although you may think they can see you, often they can’t. The most safest bike formation is Staggered formation. In this formation, the lead bike rides in the left track of a lane, the next bike in the right track or slot, and the next bike in the left track, and so on. When riding in this formation you can easily make yourself visible to rider in front as they can see your grin in their mirrors. Also, in the event that the rider in front slams on the brakes, you’ll very likely miss rear-ending them because the staggered formation does not place you directly behind them rather to the side of them.
Passing other vehicles
This can be tricky especially on a power restricted motorcycle. Only pass if you know that your bike has the legs to get the job done. This is most important on single lane passes where you need to move into the lane of oncoming traffic. Remember that you are on a learner restricted licence so you need to be mindful of your speed. Be very cautious and do not commit to the pass just because your friend up ahead has done so. Wait patiently for the right time and be extra certain that you have ample space to pass. If there is a hill climb ahead, be conscience that your bike doesn’t have the full power of an unrestricted engine so leave the pass until you’re on the down hill. Look ahead for signs that indicate a corner, because it will be difficult to brake when you’re riding at overtaking speeds.