Group riding is a favorite activity among many motorcycle riders. Whether you’re part of a riding club, a social event, a charity ride, or out for a leisurely cruise with friends, group riding can be a rewarding way to spend time doing what you love.
However, group riding has its own risks. This is especially true when you have a group with a wide mix of skill levels and riding experience. This can create unpredictable, stressful, and dangerous situations for not only other riders, but all drivers on the road. So be sure to never try to ride beyond your ability.
To help you stay safe while riding in a group, see the following safety tips.
Communicate first. Get together before your ride to outline the basics of your trip such as how far you’re going, how often and where you’ll stop, who the leader will be, and other considerations. Plus, make sure everyone has tools, a first-aid kit, a full tank of gas, is wearing a helmet, and has performed a basic maintenance check on their bike.
This is also the time to determine your line order. Put the most experience rider in the lead, with the least experienced rider lined up behind the leader. The lead rider will determine the pace, which should suit everyone in the group, as well as alert those behind of brake lights, objects in the road, traffic backups, and other perils.
Hand signals. It’s worth learning a dozen or so key hand signals to help you communicate while riding. This can help keep you safer on the road, ensure your group stays together, and give you greater peace of mind.
Ride in formation. There’s a sweet spot to group riding that should always be maintained. You want to be close enough to each other to make it easy for other motorists to see you. But you want to give each other enough space in front and back so you’re not tailgating, and enough on the side so you’re not in danger of swerving into another rider if you need to quickly avoid something on the road.
The most effective formation on the highway is to stagger your bikes. That means the leader is on the left side of the lane, the next rider is behind in the right side of the lane, the third rider is on the left side, and so on until the last rider. And once you’re in formation, be sure to stay there so everyone knows where the other riders are. Bear in mind you may need to be in a single-file formation on curvy roads, or roads with rough surfaces, so staggering is not always possible. But when it is, it’s the preferred method.
Stay in formation while passing. When passing other vehicles, do so one at a time, starting with the leader, and then return to your staggered formation.
Take your time. Unless you’re going for a short ride, be sure to plan plenty of rest stops. To make the most of them, try planning your breaks around scenic viewpoints or other points of interest along your route. Taking plenty of breaks also helps you stay alert, maintain proper concentration, and enjoy a more relaxing outing.