Most riders describe riding a motorcycle to be a highly intimate experience, a bonding of sorts. At the other end of a rider’s bond can be anything he/she chooses: the vehicle itself, swirling thoughts of the mind, God’s open wilderness or even the free spirit within…
But when you ride in a group, in perfect synchronisation and on a largely intuitive wavelength, dynamics transform. As much as we believe motorbike riding to be a solo undertaking, there is nothing that pleases us more than sharing our happy moments. This is simple human nature that often manifests in all walks of life. That ‘Ahhhh!’ moment of innate satisfaction…
To conduct safe and enjoyable group riding trips however, there are a few (some obvious, others not so much…) tips to keep in mind. Here are the most important ones beginning with trip planning and moving to actual on-the- road, group etiquette:
1) Meet, Plan, Discuss
They say half the fun is in the planning stage. We say preparation is about safety. So avoid group rides that are spontaneous unless it’s a regularly done thing among that lot. But if it’s a new group or an old group with some new folks, meet everyone and get familiar. Take a call on how many riders are going to be included in the ride. A group too big, especially with inexperienced riders can get messy and frustrating for the rest. Ideally, 5 to 7 riders make one decent riding pack. The better riders lead from the front and tail at the back, while the green (behind the ears, that is) lot stick around in the centre of the formation. If your group happens to be a huge one, break it up into smaller groups and pace them at good 5 minutes slots apart.
2) Roads, Routes and Rules
Don’t forget to discuss the route, pit stops (these are important for re-grouping in case of on route mishaps or separation), and some basic hand signals that everyone gets. Please discuss these signals beforehand and make sure everyone understands. There is usually not much time for clarifications when the whole group shoots off onto an off-road trail and the one who misunderstands misses the exit. Speaking of which, choose roads that suit everyone’s riding ability and interest levels.
3) Safety and Comfort
Sometimes riding in a group gives a false sense of confidence and security that should not lead to neglect of safety precautions. Even if Vaune Phan is riding half a metre behind you, your gear needs to be in place at all times! This means helmet, jacket, gloves and boots. Make sure all these fit snugly but comfortably. If you lack some gear and are depending on someone else to lend you that component, try it on a day earlier if you can, just in case the helmet doesn’t fit you as well as it fits the owner.
4) Form, Space and Precaution
Other safety precautions include riding in a neat formation without taking over the entire road, maintaining a single file when necessary, and keeping an eye out for one another for tell tale signs of distress. Maintain a 2 second cushion, front and back and always protect side cushioning for room to manoeuvre.
If it’s a bigger group size, decide on a buddy system for unprecedented stops. Or else an entire gang of 26 may feel obliged to halt at the side of a highway for one untied shoelace!
5) First Aid and Communication
Many riders feel constricted carrying a cell phone on their journeys. But in a group, mobile phones can save a whole lot of time spent in wondering or worrying, especially when someone is lost, left behind, has left the group behind or worse… Also keep medical or first aid kits with two people instead of one – We speak through experience. ‘Nuff said!
For an official group riding document from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation click here.
Gobikerz wishes you all Happy Pack Trails! And do tell us about your group riding experiences… We’d love to know!