you're looking for an easy way to develop and improve your riding and gain
more experience, then riding in a group can seem like the ideal opportunity.
Many motorcyclists regularly ride in groups either on a long tour or just
a quick blast through some country roads. It can however, be a recipe
for disaster. Each year many motorcyclist are injured some seriously,
as a result of a group ride gone wrong.
The most common problem encountered by
group riders is getting separated, so many will take unnecessary risks
just to keep up with the pack. The key problem is that while the
rider at the front is setting a reasonable pace, the guy at the back has
to go well in to triple figures to keep with the group. Often as
a result of getting separated at traffic lights or simply not being able
to go for the same overtake that everyone else was able to manage.
There are however, some simple tips that can make your group ride a lot
safer and more enjoyable.
Group Riding Systems
There are a number of methods
that are used by bikers which range from cruising at 50 MPH in a huge pack
(hells angels style) to the marker system used by advanced riding groups
like the IAM. The method you choose to use, should allow group members
to ride at their own pace and arrive at the destination in one piece.
Follow the leader
One rider leads and sets the pace
the rider behind him keeps him in view and so on right down to the guy
at the back. This is often the default approach, but while it can
result in a closely bunched group, the riders at the back will have to
ride much faster than the leaders, just to keep up. This can cause
a chain reaction of increased speed and potentially dangerous riding, the
further down the group you go.
This is pretty simple, but rarely
practical. Basically every rider in the group is required to know
exactly where you are going and where and when all the rendezvous points
are. While it can work well, in the event of a brake down the group
could find themselves back tracking a long way to find a stranded rider.
It is also very easy to get separated and doesn't work for larger groups.
Watch my rear
A far better solution than the
previous two, each rider is responsible for the rider behind them, by ensuring
that they are always visible in their rear view mirror. In this case
it is the rider at the back who sets the pace and if the group gets separated,
the pace will slow to an eventual stop. This method works well, but
doesn't allow for overtakes and can go wrong if another bike not in the
group comes in to view and gets mistaken as part of the group. However,
with an agreed running order and careful rear observation this method works
well for small groups.
is popular with groups going on long rides and allows overtaking within
the group without upsetting the group. Understanding the system is
important, as every rider needs to do their part to avoid anyone getting
lost. One leader is responsible for navigating the route, at every
junction, the rider immediately behind, marks the junction. All other
riders pass the marker except the back marker who signals that he/she is
the last in the group. The marker than re-joins the group 2nd from
the back. This approach involves all the group and as the marker
gets rotated front to back. It also allows riders to overtake other
riders without confusing the group. The method works providing that
everyone makes clear, safe markings and doesn't forget they are in the
No.2 position, when it is their turn to mark. It can be difficult
to find the best place to mark, particularly right hand turns etc.
Often the safest place to stop is by the road sign itself and point in
the direction. This means everyone has plenty of time to prepare
for the turn. It is also vital that markers do not leave their post
until they are sure the back marker has come through. In the event
of a brake down the back marker mast stop and assist, the lead rider will
then eventually run out of markers and stop. This method can fail
if another biker (not in the group) stops next to a junction and leaves
before the back marker comes through (thus falsely directing some of the
Motorway exits and the hard shoulder are
dangerous places to stop (and illegal unless in an emergency). If
your ride includes sections of Motorways, you will need to regroup before
and after the ride. It is also useful to keep the motorway speed
down as well as encouraging everyone to stay together.
Making it work
you are going to assign any sort of leader or back marker role, its useful
if they are easily recognisable. Wearing a high visibility vest can
help as will exchanging mobile phone numbers before you set off.
Conversely, if you don't want to be back marker, then don't turn up on
a yellow gold wing. It also goes without saying, that the leader
should have a clear understanding of the route and the group should generally
keep in sight of everyone particularly on motorways, where it can be difficult
to mark exits.
Planning the group ride
Another common problem with group riding
is allowing the faster riders to enjoy their ride, without pushing the
slower riders to ride beyond their ability. Most fast bike riders
will agree that the real challenge of motorcycling is taking a corner well,
anyone can blast down a straight road flat out with little skill.
So by asking the faster riders to keep to the speed limits on the straights,
but allow corners to be fair game, you'll set a pace that should be within
the grasp of most riders. Apart from prolonging the life of everyone's
licence you'll also help to improve public perception of motorcyclist,
by refraining from the loony ‘head down wheel up’ behaviour, that we seem
to all get associated with.
If you're the unlucky one who's been tasked
with running a ride then you'll also be the one getting the blame if it
all goes wrong. Its important to get the planning done in advance,
so that when you're on the ride, you can relax in the knowledge that it's
all going well. This check list may help:
||Plan and agree rendezvous points and times
that can easily be made by all the group to allow for breaks and regrouping.
Consider the range of both the rider and bikes, so that the distance is
far less than the range of the thirstiest bike.
||Exchange mobile phone numbers of everyone
who has them and ensure that you switch yours on, when you stop.
||Give a briefing for the whole trip at
the start and a more detailed one for each leg of the journey.
||Tell people about any known hazards along
the way and the locations of service stations for fuel stops if required.
||If there is going to be a running order
ensure everyone knows where they are supposed to be and who is in front
||If you have new members or inexperienced
riders, it's handy to have them somewhere in the middle, until they get
a feel for the group.
It may also help to draw a small
map, with all the essential details and contact numbers.
If every rider could contact every
other rider via bike to bike radio, then the issue of getting lost or slowing
the pace would be so much easier. However at around £350
a shot, most groups aren't going to be able to afford such luxury.
Mobile phones are fine when you've stopped, but are not suitable for use
on the move. Therefore many groups use simple signals to communicate,
normally the headlight. As most riders, ride with dipped beams even
in daylight, it can be easy just to switch them off to indicated that you
want to stop. If your in a larger group, then this signal should
be relayed up the group until the leader finds a safe placed to stop.
This can avoid the need to flash and sound your horn, hoping to attract
attention, only to find they weren't looking behind at that particular
Group riding is a great experience,
not only can you learn from others, but its also a fantastic way of discovering
new roads and routes.