Are You Ready to Ride in A Group?
April is an amazing time of year here in the Pittsburgh Area. One day it’s raining, one day it’s snowing, and one day the sun is shining. Okay, I’m kidding. The sun never seems to shine in Pittsburgh. It will soon though, and we need to be prepared.
Sitting here in my office at Hot Metal Harley-Davidson, reminiscing about that last nice day we had a week ago where I actually got to ride my bike into work, I’m shuffling through paperwork on upcoming charity rides. These type of rides are fun. I remember when I started riding, I couldn’t wait to go with a group of riders and share the experience of the open road.
Motorcycling is primarily a solo activity, but for many, riding as a group – whether with friends on a Sunday morning ride or with an organized motorcycle rally – is the epitome of the motorcycling experience. Are we ready for that after sitting on the sidelines for the last 5 or 6 months?
I thought it would be a good time to get with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and look into what it takes to ride safe in a group setting. Here’s what I found:
- Arrive prepared. Arrive on time with a full gas tank. I can't tell you how many times I've kicked off a ride and there was at least one rider that needed to run across the street to Get Go to top off his tank.
- Hold a riders’ meeting. Discuss things like the route, rest and fuel stops, and hand signals Assign a lead and sweep (tail) rider. Both should be experienced riders who are well-versed in group riding procedures. The leader should be aware of each rider's skill level before the ride and monitor the riders during the ride.
- Keep the group to a manageable size, ideally five to seven riders. If necessary, break the group into smaller sub-groups, separated by a few seconds, each with a lead and sweep rider.
- Ride prepared. At least one rider in each group should a first-aid kit and full tool kit, and all riders should carry a cell phone, so the group is prepared for any problem that they might encounter.
- Ride in formation. The staggered riding formation allows a proper space cushion between motorcycles so that each rider has enough time and space to maneuver and to react to hazards. The leader rides in the left third of the lane, while the next rider stays at least one second behind in the right third of the lane; the rest of the group follows the same pattern.
- A single-file formation with a minimum 2-second following distance is preferred on a curvy road, under conditions of poor visibility or poor road surfaces, entering/leaving highways, or other situations where an increased space cushion or maneuvering room is needed.
- Avoid side-by-side formations, as they reduce the space cushion. If you suddenly needed to swerve to avoid a hazard, you would not have room to do so. You don’t want handlebars to get entangled.
- Periodically check the riders following using your rear view mirrors. Slow down if you see a rider falling behind, so they may catch up. If all the riders in the group use this procedure, the group should be able to maintain a fairly steady speed without pressure to ride too fast to catch up.
- Don't panic if you’re separated from the group. Your group should have a pre-planned procedure in place to regroup. Don’t break the law or ride beyond your skills to catch up.
- For mechanical or medical problems, use a cell phone to call for assistance as the situation warrants. If a rider leaves during the ride, the rest of the group should re-form the staggered formation by criss-crossing into the next vacant position. Although it would seem more efficient for the column directly behind the missing rider to move up, the MSF does not recommend it because passing another rider within a lane can be risky.
Whether you are out with a couple of friends, your local HOG chapter or on a charity ride, utilizing these tips will keep you safer on the road as we ease our way back into riding season. If you would like to ride with the Mon Valley Hog Chapter you can click here for more information!