Tips for your first Motorcycle Group Riding Experience
by Anne DT
Group rides are always good fun. You meet a bunch of new people, see some new places and my favorite part; check out some farkles on other riders’ bikes when you stop for coffee!
For new riders a motorcycle group ride can be a bit intimidating at first, so we have put some tips together to help beginners out.
First off, start small. Go for a few rides with a couple of friends the first few times just to get the feel of riding in a staggered formation and giving yourself enough space.
When you go on your first group ride take your time and get there a few minutes early. Make sure you are ready to ride for a couple of hours before the first stop. Wear proper clothes and gear so you do not have to stop to make adjustments. Fill up the gas & stomach, and remember to empty your bladder!
The Leader will go over the route before you head out on the road, so everyone knows where they will be going. He will mention a few stops that will be made along the way such as gas stations, coffee and ice cream shops. Make a mental note of these stops, so you can always catch up with the group in case you miss them at a stop light or a turn.
Most often the Leader will also go over a few hand signals. It is rare that the group will have a motorcycle intercom system to communicate to each other with, but hand signals work fine. Some of the universal hand signals are: pointing to your gas tank means you need gas, pointing to your mouth means you need something to eat and pointing to the ground means watch out for debris or a pothole.
A common newbie mistake is leaving a signal on. Other riders will extend their left arm out and open and close their hand to advise you that you left your signal on. If you don’t notice this hand signal when your signal was accidentally left on, expect to be honked at first, and teased over coffee later.
Once you are out on the road you will be riding in a staggered formation. Never ride beside another rider but allow yourself some space in case of potholes, swerving cars etc. Follow the rider in front of you with a two second distance and the rider in front of you (but in the opposite lane position) with a one second distance. An easy way to know if you are following at the right distance is to look at the mirror of the motorcycle in front of you. If you can’t see the rider’s face in the motorcycle adjust your following distance. Also while the staggered 2 second rule works well in the straights, when in the twisties it is important to have each rider be able to use the entire width of the road, just as he would when riding alone. Therefore when in the twisty road sections, open up the staggered formation, until you return to less technical roads.
Group rides are not the time to show off the wheelie you just learned. Obey the rules of the road, don’t pass other riders and be predictable by using signals. Failure to obey basic courtesy will often mean you will not be invited future group rides in the future. If you find the rider ahead of you is going slower than you like, give them space and wait until a break to change the riding order. Don’t pressure a rider in front by tailgating, you are in a group environment and safety trumps personal speed desires. If you don’t like this, then ride alone.
If someone notices an obstacle on the road they will point it out. If it is safe for you to pass the signal on to the riders behind you then go ahead and point it out.
Always remember to ride at your own pace. It is OK to take a turn a bit slower. The main thing is to get to your destination in a safe way and of course have some fun getting there. If you can’t negotiate the corner as fast as the rider in front of you without risking running wide, slow down. Check your ego, and stay safe, you will earn far more respect of your riding peers doing this, than overextending yourself and ending up in a ditch or worse. Always, the most important thing to remember is ride your own ride.