We’ve all seen it: a group of motorcycles gracefully wending their way down a highway or country road, but do you know just how much practice, coordination and planning go into group riding?
Cruising along a nice open road or even getting to that road via the freeway, riding solo is usually how we do it. But part of the reason that we ride is for the camaraderie of other riders who know the joys of the experiences we have out on the road.
Unfortunately, many riders are woefully unequipped to ride in a group. Simply calling a few of your buddies and taking to the open road can cause all kinds of unforeseen problems. There are many variants within any group and with motorcyclists these include skill levels, experience and types of bikes.
Before heading out with a group of riders, the first thing you should do is hold a meeting to discuss location, road conditions, skill levels, destination, stops and what to do should a rider become separated or lost. A rider with a good skill level should be chosen as a leader and there should be another skilled rider near the back of the pack to watch those less experienced in case they need assistance.
Remember that motorcycle club that you saw riding in a tight formation down the road? Well, clubs, whether they are the Hells Angels or the Disciples Christian Motorcycle Club, have a strict formation that they adhere to when riding in a group. Riders always maintain a staggered formation meaning that two riders are alongside one another in the lane, but one is a bit forward, the other behind. Depending on the number of members, it will usually go something like this:
Road Captain and President
Sgt. at Arms and Vice President
Patch Holders in groups of two
Prospects in groups of two
Friends of the club in groups of two
Some clubs have Assistant Road Captains who fall behind the other riders.
You can see that this group can potentially be very large, but remember that these riders are at an expert level. Ideally, your group should not exceed ten riders and while you are not likely to have an Executive Board with a President, Vice President, etc., one position that warrants looking into is that of the Road Captain.
The role of the Road Captain in a motorcycle club is that of “leader of the pack”. The responsibilities of this position include mapping the route to be taken, where the group will stop and when, riding in the lead position and enforcing group riding rules and formation. The Road Captain is usually a very experienced rider and he sets the pace of the ride and makes on-the-road decisions such as when to pass a vehicle or avoid an obstacle. The Road Captain communicates these instructions to the rest of the group through hand signals, which are universal in the motorcycle riding world.
You can see the importance of having a competent leader for your group ride, so choose someone who can handle the job well.
Once you have chosen your lead rider, you’ll need to place the others in formation according to skill. Behind the leader should come the least experienced riders who can then be followed by more skillful ones.
All riders should arrive prepared meaning cell phones fully charged and tanks full of gas. Riders should have inspected their bikes beforehand and checked tire pressure, oil levels, etc. beforehand. Someone should also carry a first aid kit and some basic tools should a rider need a quick and easy repair.
Be sure that you don’t have any show-offs or rogue riders in your group that can endanger the rest if they decide to zoom out of formation on their own. Should it be necessary for the group to pass, it should be done in single file. Also, be sure and take plenty of breaks, especially if your pack is new to riding in a group and/or you have some less experienced riders.
There are several experienced riders at EagleRider Newport Beach who can help you plan your group ride, rent you or your friends some motorcycles and give you plenty of helpful tips and pointers to make sure your ride is safe, comfortable and most of all fun!