Group Riding: Safety in Numbers
Although motorcycle riding is primarily a solitary activity, many experienced riders enjoy traveling with friends. When you find someone else who shares your passion for this hobby, there's no greater excitement than a weekend road trip with your buddies.
Before you hit the road, everyone who will be in your group should hold a brief meeting to discuss the important details of your trip. For example:
- What route will you take?
- What rest stops are along the way?
- Who will lead the group? Ideally, the lead rider should be an experienced motorcycle operator who is very familiar with the route you are traveling.
- Who will be the tail rider? Ideally, the tail rider should be an experienced motorcycle operator who has a cell phone to call for help if necessary.
- What will you do if someone becomes separated from the group?
Generally, experts recommend that you limit your motorcycle riding group to between five and seven riders. In a larger group, it's too difficult to keep track of everyone. If you must travel with a larger crowd, divide yourselves into two or more smaller groups.
It's a good idea to assign someone in your group to carry a first-aid kit, cell phone, and basic tools. Motorcycle riding can be unpredictable, so it's important to be prepared for any emergency situation.
On the day of your trip, fill up your gas tank and inspect your bike for any mechanical problems. Your motorcycle should be in good running condition before any group riding experience.
When riding in a group, you should always follow the same safety procedures you'd use when traveling alone. However, the close proximity of other riders does add to the risk of operating a motorcycle. To stay safe in a group riding situation, remember the following tips:
- Use a staggered riding formation to provide a sufficient space cushion between group members. Each rider must have enough space and time to react to any hazards that you might encounter.
- If you're traveling on a curvy road or visibility is poor, ride in a single-file formation.
- Side-by-side formations should be avoided whenever possible. If you're traveling in this manner, you may not be able to swerve if you encounter an obstacle in your path.
- Riders one the same track should have a distance between them of at least 2 seconds.
- If your group must merge with another group at some point in the trip, let the first group lead.
- Motorcycle operators carrying passengers should ride on the right whenever possible. Novice riders shouldn't carry passengers at all.
- If someone in the group is riding a motorcycle with a sidecar, have him/her ride at the rear or front of the group.
As you're riding, periodically check your review mirror to make sure the person behind you isn't falling behind. If necessary, slow down to allow him/her to catch up. Don't allow anyone to get separated from the group.
Ideally, your group should include people with similar skill levels and riding styles. But, if you are traveling with both new and experienced motorcycle operators, keep the novice riders in the middle of the group to prevent them from falling behind.
Under no circumstances should you mix alcohol and motorcycle riding. Do not allow anyone who has been drinking to travel in your group. A single unsafe rider puts everyone at risk.
Using Hand Signals to Communicate
When traveling with a group of motorcycle riders, hand signals are the best way to communicate. Using hand signals appropriately keeps everyone informed of the group's plans and reduces the risk of an accident caused by a surprised rider. Here are a few of the most popular:
- To signal that you need to stop for fuel, place your arm out to the side and point to the tank with your finger extended.
- To signal that you need to stop for refreshments, keep your fingers closed and point to your mouth.
- To signal that you need a rest stop, extend your forearm, keep your fist clenched, and make a short up and down motion.
- To signal that there is a hazard in the roadway, point with your right foot or your left hand.
- To indicate that you wish to have another rider follow you, keep your arm extended straight up from the shoulder and keep your palm forward.
- To indicate the need to speed up, keep your arm extended straight out with your palm facing up.
- To indicate the need to slow down, keep your arm extended straight out with your palm facing down.
To learn more about the hand signals used in group riding, download the group riding pamphlet from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website.