Group Riding: It’s Either Heaven or Hell

Apr 12, 2019 View Comments by

Riding in a group on motorcycles

Riding in a group can be an exhilarating experience. It can also be about as fun as getting a root canal. It really just depends on the group you’re in as to which experience you’ll have.

As they say, one bad apple can spoil the bunch. And you don’t want to be that apple, do you? Of course not! So, here are a few etiquette and safety tips for riding in a group.

Be a Boy (or Girl) Scout

It’s all about preparation. The Scout motto, BE PREPARED, fits just about any situation. In terms of group riding, preparation can truly make or break your ride. How do you prepare for a group ride? Just a few simple things can ensure all riders in the group enjoy the experience:

  1. Come with a full tank. It’s so obvious, yet some riders still show up to a group ride with a quarter tank. No one in the group wants to have to make an unplanned stop or wait around for you to fill up your gas tank. This can and should be done before you meet up with the group. And when one person fills up later in the day, everybody should.
  2. Go to the restroom before you meet up with the group. Just as you should fill your gas tank, empty yours, before the ride.
  3. Make sure your bike is ready to roll. For the greater good of the group, do a quick check the night before or the morning before your ride, to ensure everything on your bike is in working order. Nothing puts a damper on a group ride like someone whose bike has an issue that could have been fixed beforehand. Of course you shouldn’t wait to see if you need new tires the night before the ride. Regular maintenance aside, this is a last-minute inspection.
  4. Pre-load the route(s) onto your phone or GPS unit or have a map with you for the ride. Even better? Have everyone follow the same route with an app like our RoadRUNNER Rides app, which features 600-plus tours, or something similar. At the very least, make sure every rider in the group knows the general route, where the lunch spot is, and how long the ride will be.
  5. Bring water. Don’t underestimate the importance of hydration.

Be Organized and Follow the Leader

You may think all you need to do for a group motorcycle ride is hop on your bike and go. This is a sure-fire way of making your group lose that “loving feeling.”

  1. Hold a meeting. You don’t have to sit at a round table like King Arthur and the knights of Camelot (though that might be cool), or go all Wall Street, but you do need to have a serious discussion about the planned ride.
  2. Establish a Leader – Road Captain. Almost every group scenario is going to be more successful with a leader. Motorcycle group rides are no different. Pick one. They should be knowledgeable about the route and planned stops, and should preferably be one of the more experienced and responsible riders that have previous group riding experience. If this is the first group ride for everyone in your group, Godspeed. No, seriously, still pick a leader, and go over the plan and route.
  3. Not All Rules Were Meant to Be Broken. Everyone should be prepared to follow the rules of the road, you know, the law. It’s safer and can prevent unnecessary problems and situations. Make sure everyone in the group knows the common hand signals and the dos and don’ts of group riding. Some examples are:
  • No passing within the group
  • Staggered riding on straights
  • Stay on the correct line through the curves
  • No passing unless it’s safe and legal to do so
  • Avoid side-by-side riding
  • Least experienced and slower riders should be at the front of the group
  • Break into smaller groups to make things more manageable. This will also help traffic around you by allowing other vehicles to pass the group more easily, and make it safer for your group.
  • Don’t fixate on the bike in front of you. Make sure you’re looking through the curves and stay alert to potential road hazards.
  • You are responsible for the rider behind you (more on this later)

Sweep Up Your Mess. Okay, hopefully, your group ride isn’t a mess! But to keep it that way, you need a sweeper. Luckily, this isn’t that dirty of a job—and someone has to do it.

  1. If you lose sight of the rider behind you, stop at the next turn and wait until the rider comes into view and sees you. Once you know they’ve spotted you, ride on. If everyone does this like they should, no one will be left behind or get lost, and the ride will progress smoothly. If a rider loses the rest of the group due to not waiting at a turn, this rider pays the first round in the evening. Rules are rules!
  2. High and low beams. The sweeper should turn on his or her high beams so the guide can spot them easily. Everyone else in the group should be using their low beams. Be sure to bring this up in your pre-ride meeting.

Motorcycle touring in groups

Play Nice With Others and Take Breaks

This should go without saying, but if you are riding in a group, this is no time to act like you’re the Lone Ranger or pretend you’re Evel Knievel. Common sense goes a long way here.

  1. Avoid aggressive riding behaviors. The last thing you want or need is for yours or a rider in your group to trigger road rage from other vehicles on the road. This can turn ugly for the entire group, as well as other drivers. Be courteous and forgiving of other people on the road. This will help everyone in your group have a better experience.
  2. Don’t push the group too hard. Make sure the group takes breaks every 60-90 minutes. This gives everyone a chance to stretch their legs, hydrate, and take care of any personal needs.  
  3. You’re not alone – Just because you’re riding in a group doesn’t give you special permission to block traffic or run red lights, and it doesn’t call for riding so close together that other motorists can’t merge if needed. 

While even the most seasoned riders may experience challenges when riding in a group, following these guidelines can help ensure the ride is a fun experience for everyone. And if you know proper group etiquette, at the very least, you won’t be the bad apple in the group.

For more on group riding, check out Bill Dragoo’s “Pack Mentality” article and James T. Parks’ Group Ride Touring Tip. See you on the road!


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