One of the best things that motorcycling brings us is our sense of independence. The ability to slip on your helmet, drop the bike into gear, and leave the “real world” behind for a few hours (or days) at the twist of a throttle is one of the greatest parts about getting your boots in the wind. But every now and then, its great to get together with a couple of your closest friends and ignite the back-roads with the sounds of exploding fuel is just what you need for a taste of “community” in your rides. And while riding in large groups is an awesome feeling, there are some differences from normal riding which you should know.
Photo: Elliot Gauer
The Lean Angle crew does most of our group rides leading a larger group of riders in the Baltimore area. Through these group rides we get the experience of riding with every kind of rider and bike from white-collar Harley riders to college students on sport-bikes and everything in between, and with experience just as broad. So we wanted to put together some pointers and tips for large group rides.
- Designate leadership. This mean just have someone in front to lead the route. In addition to the lead navigator, you should appoint a blocker, sweeper, and possible extra relay persons depending on the group size. The navigator’s job is obviously to lead the group, but the others jobs are equally important. The blocker should ride in the front of the group, and their job is to pull out and stop traffic on larger rides to ensure he group doesn’t get split up by traffic. Once everyone makes the turn, it is helpful for everyone to ride single-file until he get back to the front of the group. The sweeper’s job is to ride last, making sure to stop with anyone who has issues during the ride, mechanical or otherwise. The sweeper and navigator should establish known signals to let each other know when the whole group has arrived at a way point and have each others phone numbers in case the group gets split up. If the group is large, relay riders can be appointed to relay the hand signals if the navigator and sweeper are out of eyesight. It goes without saying, that all appointed riders should have more experience on bikes and in groups to shoulder the extra responsibility.
- Have a pre-ride meeting. The leaders of the ride should have a pre-ride meeting to establish a route-plan and touch on any other issues with the group. Some items group leaders may want to touch on is a show of hands between who has ridden in groups and who has not, or how much riding experience the riders have. Optimally you want the less experienced riders near the back of the pack. The leaders should go over a rough route-guidance for the group. If an exact route is planned, providing the names of various target roads/ towns/ landmarks can be substituted. Leaders should establish who needs fuel and who does not. Ideally, everyone will show up ready to go, but inevitably, someone will need gas. Riders with special needs/ considerations should be vocalized during the meeting. If someone needs to break off at a specific time/ location, be sure the navigator and sweeper are aware so as not to alarm the group. Some final tips for your pre-ride meeting are to carry a tire gauge and have everyone check pressures before you head out, as well as going over the common motorcycle riding hand signals.
- Ride for the group. Riding hard and fast can be fun, especially for those of you riding sport-bikes, but large groups are certainly not the time for daring turns and high speeds. The added number of bikes so close together increases the variables in the riding environment ten-fold. he navigator should ride at a pace allowing everyone to keep-up, but still moderate enough to enjoy the ride. They should also stop and wait for signals from their sweeper that the entire group is together before making any turns, route changes. group riders should be encouraged to ride at their own pace and not be encouraged to keep up with anyone riding above their own abilities. The Pace is a good rule of thumb to follow, as well as keeping a 2 second follow distance from the rider in front of you, If you find yourself being pushed to go faster, you should move further towards the back of the pack. It also goes without saying that the increased number of bikes an decreased amount of space means that you should leave your stunts at home. While a pack of bikes doing wheelies may seem like a cool idea, some riders may not be comfortable with a bike coming at them in their mirror with the front wheel in the air.
- Enjoy the ride. Group rides should be enjoyable, sociable and scenic. Take a break every now and then to socialize and discuss. Possibly stop for a quick hot-dog and Gatorade, or pullover to take in a scenic overlook and discuss a set of technical turns coming up. Just don’t stop on the side of the road in a farmer’s corn field, you run extra risk of passing cars, and they tend to not enjoy you standing on their un-grown corn, Just take our word on that one. Swap names, stories, even Facebook info so you can share pictures/ videos from the ride.
Group riding is a great experience. There’s something relaxing about the experience of riding with a dozen friends who all have the same thing in common. There are always entertaining stories to share, views to take in and memories to be made. As long as you are prepared for the added variables and factors of large groups, everyone will have a great time. So make a post, make a few calls, pick a destination and go with group of buddies. If you’re in the Baltimore area, give Lean Angle a shout, we’d love to ride with you! Until then keep it shiny side up and remember, when life throws a curve, lean into it.