Motorcyclists often face negative stereotypes, especially when they are riding in large groups. But what many people don’t know is that these groups of bikers are often riding or rallying for a cause. Unlike any other group of motorists, biker groups organize and participate in rallies every spring and summer across the country to raise money for veterans groups, Crime Stoppers, breast cancer research, the homeless, organ donations, and many other local charities. If you are a biker planning to join one of these important rides, we offer tips to ride safely in a group.
How to Ride in a Group Without Risking Your Safety
Whether you are heading to Bike Week in Myrtle Beach with a group of friends or raising money for Purple Heart by riding with fellow veterans to a rally in New York or Florida, make sure you and your group are prepared for the ride with these tips from the Motorcycle Safety Association:
Hold a planning meeting. Discuss the route, planned stops, and hand signals with the group well ahead of the departure date. Assign experienced riders to be the lead and sweep riders and make sure they are aware of the skill level of all the riders in the group.
Keep the group small. An ideal riding group consists of five to seven riders, but if your group is larger than this, sub-divide into smaller groups with a lead and sweep rider for each group. Separate the sub-groups on the highway by a few seconds.
Be prepared. All riders should arrive with a full tank of gas and at least one rider should carry a first aid kit and a full tool kit. All riders should have cell phones and mobile chargers.
Ride in formation. A staggered formation leaves each rider with a cushion that allows time to react to hazards and stop if necessary. Riders should allow a one-second following distance. When riding on curvy back roads, in conditions of poor visibility, or when entering or exiting a highway, a single file formation with two seconds between riders is safer.
Avoid lane sharing. Riding side-by-side in a highway lane does not allow for maneuvering around unexpected hazards as it reduces the space cushion around each rider.
Check for other riders in your rear-view mirror. Periodically check the following distance of the rider behind you and slow down to allow stragglers to catch up. If every group member does this, the formation should be able to maintain a steady speed and not lose any riders.
Don’t panic if you are separated. Your group should have a plan in place if a rider gets separated so that no one has to speed or pass a car illegally in order to catch up.
Use hand signals. Using pre-planned hand signals for changing formation to a single file line, taking a bathroom break, indicating a hazard in the roadway, speeding up or slowing down, and any other necessary action will help keep the group together and avoid using cell phones while riding.
Stay in formation. If a rider leaves the middle of a staggered formation, the remaining riders should crisscross to fill in the gap rather than passing one another in the lane.
The key to safe group riding is communication—both ahead of the trip and during the ride with hand signals and planned rest stops. When a group ride is well coordinated, it is a pleasant experience for the riders involved as well as other motorists on the road. Avoiding erratic or unexpected riding will prevent motorists from taking their frustrations out on you as you make your way to your destination.
Use Good Manners Along the Way
One reason for the bad reputation biker groups have is that many motorists have witnessed or experienced aggressive riding, obstructive parking at rest stops and restaurants, and loud or obnoxious behavior by bikers. Don’t add to the stereotype by being a “bad boy” rider. Adhere to parking rules, obey traffic laws, tip waitresses well, and be courteous to others as you ride in a group or descend upon a town for a rally or bike week.
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