Riding with othersRiding alone you've only got yourself to worry about. You can position yourself on the road for maximum visibility, accelerate and brake as hard as you like, overtake when you feel like it, etc.
When riding in a group, because each bike in the group is as flexible and manoeuvrable as your own, you have to make allowances for the possibility of unpredictable actions by other members of the group. You also have to guard against losing concentration yourself when following the bike in front.
Know your riding matesRiding in groups is not only fun but if done correctly you and your fellow riders can reduce the chances of accidents by increasing your visibility and reducing your chances of being hit by other vehicles. Unfortunately, not only is riding in groups, safely and smoothly, an acquired skill but it is a fact of life that riders (especially young men) tend to get somewhat reckless and ride above their skill level when the testosterone starts flowing. In such circumstances dangerous situations can quickly develop. If you are new to a riding group, be especially wary if that group has no rules for the people in it to follow. Moreover it is important to know and trust the people you riding with. In this regard, try to keep the group to a manageable size, ideally 5-7 riders.
Suggestions for riding in groupsWhile it is not necessary to ride like pensioners on a caravan club trip, on a group ride it is important to agree upon and stick to certain riding procedures and etiquette. If you have any say in the management or organization of a ride, try to get everyone to agree to some rules. If you can't get universal agreement, at least try to set an example and look after yourself (and others insofar as it's possible). Here are a few examples:
- At slow speed, ride in a staggered formation with the front rider adopting a riding position that he/she would choose if riding alone. This allows the group to stay more closely bunched together in traffic. At higher speeds try to leave a big gap behind the rider in front of you and watch out for the rider behind you. If he/she is right on your tail, then you have to take special care, especially when it comes to changing your road position. If riding in a staggered formation, leave a minimum of 1 second gap between bikes. If riding in single file, leave a minimum of 2 seconds gap.
- When pulling up at a stop sign or set of traffic lights assume that another rider will pull up next to you and do not suddenly change your lane position. Stopping side-by-side at lights helps keep the group together in traffic.
- When a rider pulls over to the side of the road for any reason - either pull up behind or alongside him/her on the RIGHT side. If you have to overshoot and pull up in front you were obviously following too close behind! When pulling off the road, NEVER pull up on the left of a rider in front of you unless that rider signals you to do so.
- NEVER, EVER overtake on the left side (unless you are in a different lane).
- Never change lane position, pull off the road, or perform a U-turn without making a "head check" first.
- Try to ride without using the brakes whenever possible. Consider that every time you dab the brakes, the rider behind has to react to it. He/she might then brake too, and so it ripples back through the group. If you constantly dab for comfort reasons, the rider behind may eventually start to ignore your brake light. Riding without unnecessary use of brakes makes one look further ahead, forces appropriate gear selection, and makes for overall smooth riding.
- Allow faster riders to overtake by slowing down and pulling over to the left when safe to do so. If a following rider is filling your mirror then chances are he is aggressive or patronising "squid" trying to push you. Do not allow yourself to be pushed into a dangerous situation.
- Don't "tailgate" slower riders while waiting for an opportunity to overtake. This will unnerve and distract them. Keep a minimum 2 second gap (but preferably more) between you and the bike in front of you. Be equally considerate to drivers of other vehicles that you are waiting to overtake. To a car driver, a motorcycle's headlamp looming in the mirrors can appear quite menacing and may be a distraction from the road ahead - putting everybody in danger. What is more, you don't want them telling their passengers "Look at that idiot on my tail!"
- As a following rider, make it a rule never to pass a vehicle before the rider in front of you has completed overtaking it. If you do, there will come a time when there is insufficient time and space for the leading rider to successfully overtake and thus he/she may need to filter back in. In this case a following rider may find him/herself either running into the back of the leading bike, or, with no-where to go. Should you, as the rider in front, see someone in this predicament, then move right to the left so as to give that rider a space to fit into next to you.
- Ride with your headlights on. On bright sunny days, with your HIGH BEAM on. This is so you can more easily keep an eye on the rider behind you and not need to reduce your pace for fear that they have fallen behind.
- Ride for yourself. Do not keep looking in your mirrors to see what the rider behind you is doing. If you find this happening - refer to item 7 above. As a point of interest, most track day organisers require rear vision mirrors to be either removed, folded back or taped up to ensure riders keep their attention to the front.
- Wait at junctions (in a visible and safe position) so that the next rider know where to turn. This ensures that the group stays together and no-one gets lost.
- If you need to leave part way through the ride PLEASE TELL SOMEONE so that people don't waste time waiting for and looking for you.
- In the event of someone having an accident, pull over SOMEWHERE SAFE and then go and render aid. (By the way - LEARN FIRST AID!)
- Be punctual in arriving at the ride start point. Being late is disrespectful to all the others in the group. Be on time with a full tank of petrol and be ready to roll as soon as the signal is given.
- Finally, don't rush yourself. If for example, you are returning from the gent's/ladies room and you find the group leaving without you, don't panic and rush. If you do, this is when you may forget to do up your helmet, struggle to put on your gloves, pull away without looking and generally fumble whatever you're trying to do. Rushing is just not the worth the risk. Remember to "make haste slowly".
Communication signalsLike World War 1 pilots, motorcyclists have to communicate by hand signals. Various signals can be used to communicate with other riders or pillions and, although they will not cover every eventuality, they should eliminate a lot of puzzled looks. Remember that for signals to be understood they must be seen so always make sure the rider you are signalling can see you. If you are riding behind the rider you wish to signal use your horn or flash your high beam to attract his/her attention. Pillions can tap the rider on the shoulder.
Acknowledge that you have understood a signal someone has made to you by nodding your head or flashing your high beam. Signals below can be made with either the left or right arm (or leg) depending which side can best be used safely in a particular situation. Note that hand signals are primarily for use by riders communicating with other riders. Pillions may be better off using tactile signals (as agreed to with the rider) that do not require the rider to take his/her head off the road.