Even if you’ve been riding for years, group riding may not come natural to you. During our first half a dozen or so Random Rides we experienced issues including:
- Riders down
- Group separation
- Loose groups / excessive distance between the lead rider and the last ride.
- Riders not knowing the route
- Lead rider takes turn off without knowledge of the group
To ensure the safety of ALL riders, Random Rides employs basic techniques that all riders must be aware of. With practice, you’ll learn to keep the group tight and be aware of the riders around you at all times ensuring a much safer riding environment and knowing that someone else is looking out for you.
Here are some basic tips on how prepare yourself to ride in a group of any size.
Arrive Ready to Ride
It is important that you arrive to the designated meeting point on time and ready to ride.
This means that you should have everything prepared the day before including a full tank of fuel, tyre pressures checked, fluids checked, your riding gear ready to throw on and an understanding of where we are headed.
It is also recommended that you start the bike the day before the ride to ensure your battery hasn’t gone flat between rides and you’ll have an opportunity to rectify this. It is recommended that you get yourself a battery tender, or a battery charger in the event of a flat battery.
Each ride has a nominated departure and arrival time for its numerous stops. This will ensure that we arrive at our lunch destination on time and in accordance with any table bookings. All riders should be at the designated meeting point at least 15mins prior to departure and be ‘Ready to Ride’.
Riders should have a contact number for the Ride captain to advise of any delays or mishaps on the way tot he designated meeting point.
Hold a Pre-Ride Meeting
Prior to the group’s departure, the Ride Captain will gather all riders and conduct a safety briefing to discuss the following:
- Advise roles (Ride Captain, Lead Rider, Sweep Rider)
- Summarise the Ride Itinerary
- Provide detail of the next leg (including Distance and ETA)
- Fuel status of all riders?
Keeping it tight
To ensure that the group remains tight and the distance between the lead rider and the sweep rider is kept to a minimum, each rider in the group will play a significant role.
- Must know the route intimately, and/or use a GPS device.
- If available, use headset communications to the sweep rider. Alternatively, ensure they have the sweep rider’s mobile phone number saved in their mobile contact list.
- Maintain the speed limit
- Monitor proximity to the 2nd rider and maintain a safe and tight distance.
- Communicate to the 2nd rider when ‘direction & fall back’ is required.
- Stop at all major turn offs or nominated points to ensure the group is regathered before a major turn.
- Note: the leader rider can change during different legs.
- Maintain a visual of the lead rider at all times and maintain a safe and tight distance as per the conditions at the time.
- Maintain a visual of the rider behind at all times. Look in your mirror and slow or pull over in the event that rider becomes unsighted.
- Be alert to instruction from the lead rider to ‘direct and fall back’ if required.
Pack Riders (3rd to second last riders)
- Maintain a visual sighting at all times of the rider ahead and the rider behind and maintain a safe and tight distance as per the conditions. Look in your mirror and slow or wait in the event that rider becomes unsighted.
- Always maintains a position at the rear of the group.
- Ensures slower riders are maintaining their speed limit, depending on licence restrictions.
- Maintain a visual sighting at all times of the riders ahead.
- Be able to contact the lead rider using headset or mobile phone comms where required.
A group ride without formation is an accident waiting to happen. Structure is very important, as is maintaining order and space. Too much space and the group is at risk of breaking up. Too little space can be dangerous.
When possible, riders should maintain a staggered format. The leader should be positioned in the left side of the lane with the following riders staggered to the right and left and so on. This is useful on highways when a constant speed is maintained or when riding in built up/high traffic areas.
Avoid riding next to other riders. Can someone confirm if this is legal/illegal in NSW by commenting below?
When in sweeping country/coastal roads and the pace increases, the group should form a single file. It’s actually safer to ride single file in situations where the road narrows, or when turn off’s and off ramps are encountered.
‘Direct & Fall Back’ procedure
At times, the lead rider may engage the ‘Direct & Fall Back procedure’. This is done when the lead rider cannot see the whole pack along a long stretch of road, or ahead of an expected turn off. If the group is tight, there will be no need to deploy this manoeuvre.
However, in the event that the group becomes spread apart and/or a turn-off is approaching, the lead rider will signal to the second rider to pull over and direct the pack as advised.
The lead rider will indicate to the 2nd rider using a hand signal that he is about to make a left or right turn at the next turn. If he can see the whole group, he will not give a hand signal to engage the procedure, rather he will simply indicate early so that all following riders can also indicate to advise the following riders of the next turn.
The rider who has pulled over to direct, will not reengage the group until the sweep rider has signaled him/her back in and ahead of the sweep rider.
The 3rd rider will advance to the 2nd position and be ready to engage the procedure again once signaled by the lead rider.
Note: the lead rider may also decide to pull over himself allowing the group to regather before the turn is made.
When we ride through twists and turns, the more experienced riders may prefer to pass those less experienced riders. As our bikes and skill levels are all different, there is no shame to ride in a comfortable and safe manner. To do this, be prepared to wave a rider past when he is tailing you through the twisties.
There may be particular roads where the more experienced riders wish to go ahead of the lead rider. Whilst this is not encouraged, advise the lead rider in advance if possible or signal that you wish to go ahead. Do this only if you know the route and be prepared to pull over at some point to re-engage the group safely. However, this is not encouraged on group rides.
Ride to YOUR ability.
Under NO circumstances should you feel pressured to keep up with the rider ahead.
Remember, it is the rider ahead’s responsibility to maintain a visual on you and you on the person behind so you won’t get lost along the way.
When following a rider through the twists and turns, assess each bend yourself and don’t rely on the line the rider ahead has taken. Look ahead past the corner to determine a safe speed and make your own entry and exit line.
There is a separate section in Hints & Tips that talks about cornering techniques.
The rides are planned in such a way to ensure we avoid rider fatigue. If you need to pull over for any reason, feel free to do so. You should alert the rider ahead of your intention with a high-beam flash or sound of your horn. Once the rider acknowledges you, you can pull over. If the guidelines above are maintained, the rider ahead will pull over. This should occur up the chain to the lead rider and the whole group will be maintained.
At each nominated stop, be aware of your fuel level. If not sure how far it is to the next stop, ask the lead rider or someone else who understands the route. If you need fuel, advise the Ride Captain or the Lead Rider. The lead rider should check that everyone has sufficient fuel to get to the following destination. If not, he will make arrangements for a fuel stop at the next available opportunity.
Keep hydrated. Be sure to take on fluids at each stop and take a bathroom break where possible. It might be a little embarrassing if you need to stop the group for a leak along the way, or even worse……
This is especially the case after our lunch/refreshment stops.
I have seen this happen a few times and on one occasion, a fellow rider’s front end was nearly taken off by another rider without the knowledge of that rider. This can be avoided by following a simple parking technique.
The lead rider will seek out an appropriate parking location/s for the group and will allow ample room for more than one bike to fit. In some circumstances, we will park ‘rear to kerb’ along a street, and in this situation you should always look to reverse angle your bike to the kerb. Of course this is dependant on the slope of the road and ease of parking in this situation.
But most importantly, you must pull over and off the road and wait for the rider ahead to complete his parking manoeuvre. Once he/she is in, you can edge out onto the road (checking that is safe to do so) before reversing your bike into its spot alongside the rider ahead. In this situation, do not ride ahead while other riders are nestling into their parking spots. Any rider may pop their nose out without notice while you are advancing past the group. If you have no choice but to move ahead, just take a wide berth and be careful when others are parking their motorcycles.
Learner Riders and other less experienced riders.
Those less experienced riders, including Learner riders and those who have recently acquired their P plates are welcome to join Random Rides. The more you participate in a group ride, the quicker the more experienced riders will gauge your ability and skill level.
Feel free to ask a fellow rider for any riding tips.
You may be required to participate in the ‘Direct and Fall Back’ procedure but only if confident to do so. If you are not confident, stay in the middle of the pack rather than back towards the rear.
Placing inexperienced riders at the back of the pack may result in these riders running at a pace completely outside of their skill level or comfort zone and may create unnecessary gaps in the group. Learner riders and less experienced riders are asked to maintain a position towards the front of the group whilst maintaining the speed limit at all times.
In summary and most importantly, ride to your ability and have fun. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I am not an expert rider, but I’d like to be an expert in ensuring everyone’s safety. Your feedback & comments are important to me. If you are not sure about something, please ask as it will likely be too late when we are out on the road.
Live to Ride….Ride to Live!