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Safety tips - Guide to Group Riding

Guide to Group Riding
May 2004 by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation

MSF logo - Motorcycle Safety Foundation

Motorcycling is primarily a solo activity, but for many, riding as a group -- whether with friends on a Sunday morning ride or with an organized motorcycle rally -- is the epitome of the motorcycling experience.  Here are some tips to help ensure a fun and safe group ride:

Arrive prepared.  Arrive on time with a full gas tank.

Hold a riders' meeting.  Discuss things like the route, rest and fuel stops, and hand signals (see diagrams on next page).  Assign a lead and sweep (tail) rider.  Both should be experienced riders who are well-versed in group riding procedures.  The leader should assess everyone's riding skills and the group's riding style.

Keep the group to a manageable size, ideally five to seven riders.  If necessary, break the group into smaller sub-groups, each with a lead and sweep rider.

Ride prepared.  At least one rider in each group should pack a cell phone, first-aid kit, and full tool kit, so the group is prepared for any problem that they might encounter.

Ride in formation.  The staggered riding formation (see diagram below) allows a proper space cushion between motorcycles so that each rider has enough time and space to maneuver and to react to hazards.  The leader rides in the left third of the lane, while the next rider stays at least one second behind in the right third of the lane; the rest of the group follows the same pattern.  A single-file formation is preferred on a curvy road, under conditions of poor visibility or poor road surfaces, entering/leaving highways, or other situations where an increased space cushion or maneuvering room is needed.

Staggered riding formation

Avoid side-by-side formations, as they reduce the space cushion.  If you suddenly needed to swerve to avoid a hazard, you would not have room to do so.  You don't want handlebars to get entangled.

Periodically check the riders following in your rear view mirror.  If you see a rider falling behind, slow down so they may catch up.  If all the riders in the group use this technique, the group should be able to maintain a fairly steady speed without pressure to ride too fast to catch up.

If you're separated from the group, don't panic.  Your group should have a pre-planned procedure in place to re-group.  Don't break the law or ride beyond your skills to catch up.

For mechanical or medical problems, use a cellular phone to call for assistance as the situation warrants.

Communicate clearly with other riders by using the standard hand signals:

Hand signals

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