While many of us enjoy being alone on the road with our motorcycle, using the ride to clear your head and escape for a while, there are also many of us who enjoy a bit of company while out riding our bikes.
Riding with friends and family can open up new routes you haven’t previously considered, you could pick up some new skills from your fellow riders, and it’s a good opportunity to make new friends at any stops you make.
Before heading out on a group ride, there are some things to consider to make your trip both enjoyable and safe…
Have a pre-ride chat
It’s a good idea to agree a few things before setting off on your group ride. The route, fuel and rest stops, and hand signals to use while riding all need to be ironed out. A copy of the route should be available to every rider, just in case they get separated.
Nominate a lead rider and restrict the number of riders in your group
This should be the most experienced rider in your group. They can set a safe pace based on the other rider’s abilities. They will be the first to encounter traffic, so they should know how to respond to other road users, and safely guide the other members of your group through any situation you come across. The tail rider should ideally be a well experienced rider too. If a member of your group becomes separated, they can help catch up and navigate the traffic safely.
Slower riders will be best towards the front behind the lead rider, so they don’t get left behind and struggle to keep up. Danger arises from less experienced riders riding beyond their abilities.
It’s best to stick to no more than 5 riders in a group. Too many riders can become dangerous as the group has limited flexibility to move on the road and navigate road debris and traffic. If the group has more riders, consider breaking the whole group into sub-groups for more safety. Each group will have the lead and tail rider, as mentioned.
Ride in formation
The lead rider should position themselves in the right third of the lane, so they can see around the traffic ahead, while keeping an eye out for oncoming traffic and and road debris. The second rider takes the left third of the lane a couple of bike lengths back, the third rider takes the right again and so on, so you are in a staggered formation. On national speed limit roads, or twisty roads with limited visibility, you should ride in single file until the road widens and the speed limit lowers, then you can revert back to the staggered formation.
By riding in a staggered formation and not side by side, you have time and space to react to any obstacles you may encounter.
It’s inevitable while on your ride you will come across a slower moving vehicle. To safely pass it, do so one motorcycle at a time. The lead rider will go first, then the second will take up the position on the right third of the road to line up their move. It’s important for the rider that has overtaken to keep their speed up to allow a gap between them and the slow moving vehicle for the next rider to pull into. Don’t worry if the whole group cannot pass and keep together, reset your formation and wait until it’s safe to resume passing.
Have a plan if any group member gets separated
Don’t panic. You have the route from you pre-ride meeting, continue on your agreed route at your own pace. If there’s an experienced rider in the separated group, they should take up the lead. The group in the lead will continue on their route and slow down or stop if needed for the rest of you to catch up.
Use hand signals for communication
Sometimes Bluetooth connectivity can be unreliable, so have hand signals as a back up. Decide on which ones to use in your pre- ride chat. They can include turning signals, speed up, slow down, hazard, rest stop and fuel.
Everyone should feel comfortable in your group. The skill level of each rider needs to be taken into consideration, as some may want to ride faster than others. It may be worth splitting into smaller groups of different speeds to keep everyone comfortable and safe. We would recommend having a more experienced lead rider in the group with the least experience though. This can be rotated at the rest/fuel stops.
Loud exhausts are a good way of letting other road users you are there, but they can deafen your fellow riders if you’re in a group. Consider riding towards the back of the group if you have open pipes or a race muffler.
Trikes and sidecars may be in your group ride. Due to their width, these are best situated at the back of the group as they will take up two thirds of the lane and don’t have the same handling as a two wheeled bike. They could cause a problem in a sudden change of speed or lane position.