Through the course of any riding season, we have one or
two incidents that cause us to take pause and say thank
you to the Riding Gods. Rider skill aside, whatever you
prefer to call it, fate, luck or someone keeping a
watchful eye over us, these close calls cause us to
reflect and slow down a bit.
Over the last few years Ive had more than a few
occasions to say thank you, above and beyond the obvious
mishap with Carol. We had a driver in a Blazer fall
asleep just ahead of us drifting across all three lanes
of I-70 heading for the ditch. Hitting the sound barrier
wall and then careening back across the three lanes of
traffic slamming into the center median guardrail. Cars
going in all directions to miss the Blazer, we're in the
middle and very vulnerable.
Maybe its another rider going down or a near miss as
you are cut off by a merging car. Maybe its a brake
test as they pull out in front of you when you reach the
intersection. Unfortunately there are far too many of
Not too many years ago, Carol and I found ourselves in a
very dangerous situation, riding in a hard rain on a two
lane country road in the left track and cresting a blind
hill. Just at the point we can see over the top of the
hill, we are surprised with a pickup pulling a trailer
crossing the center line. Better than ½ way into our
lane and coming deeper, we have no where to go. Left we
hit the trailer, right we hit the truck. I have no idea
if he was asleep or just swinging wide to turn into a
farm. All I know for sure, when we hit the shoulder it
was firm gravel and wide enough to allow us to miss him.
With a quick nod of thanks to our Angel we continued on.
Hopefully we learn a few valuable lessens from our daily
riding and were able to develop our skills over the
years without too much pain. To this day, every blind
hill I crest, you will see me move right. You dont need
to tell me twice!
also think most of the long time riders develop
something else over the years. As we approach the
intersection or watch the car in the other lane, you get
this tingle and we have an idea of what hes going to do
before he does. Maybe we just key in on certain signals
that most people miss. Call it a sixth sense if you will
or maybe its an Angel whispering in our ear. Whatever
it is that occurs, we listen and soon realize how close
we were to disaster.
Knowing the dangers we face while riding alone, the
question I have today is simple. Is group riding more,
or less dangerous than riding alone? If its more
dangerous, do the benefits of group riding out weigh the
Obviously the simple answer for us is this, the benefits
out way the danger because we do it on a regular basis.
Considering the number of bikes we ride with on a
regular basis, (July Event aside) I am surprised that we
have never had a major incident. I can recall only three
mishaps, Blacktop Cowboy, Dom, and Carol. Knocking on
wood and many thanks to those that watch over; we have
never had an incident that someone has gotten hurt. Do
you know what I find hilarious in all this? The GIRL is
the only one to come back for more!
think that group riding inherently or just by its
nature, if not done properly can be more dangerous.
There is the group mentality telling you to ride faster
and keep up even above your comfort and skill level.
There is the issue of an inexperienced rider within the
group causing unsafe situations. Youre rolling along,
fat dumb and happy with the VTX smile and all of a
sudden the group stops or turns. By the time you realize
what the group is doing; you scramble out of your happy
place and cut off other bikes or worse yet cars to
negotiate the stop.
great example of this happened on the Spring Fling in
Farmington. Not really sure where the hotel was we pull
over to discuss it. After making a plan, the group
leaving the parking lot, lines up at the exit and going
across a four lane road. A car slows to allow the bikes
out or so we thought. The first two pull out without
incident but the car had no intention of sitting any
longer yet the rest of the group is pulling out
following the leader. Cars in the other lane approaching
to fast, slam on the brakes and before you know it were
playing pin the bumper on the bikers. We were fortunate
no one got hit.
With all the negative examples we can site about group
riding, I actually believe it to be safer than riding
alone. Youre more visible as a group; you also have the
exhaust factor. More pipes make more noise, therefore
they hear you coming. You have the protection factor in
a group. If you break down or run into trouble there is
someone with you able and willing to help. I also
believe the average rider riding in a group has a better
skill set and it makes those with skill a better rider.
Group riding can be fun and very safe if done correctly.
So, how do we do it correctly? Funny you should ask, I
just happen to have some information on that subject.
Here are some group riding guidelines, safety tips and
ideas to help make every group ride safe and fun. We
probably know most of them but it never hurts to review
the principals. If nothing else, it may open discussions
allowing us to share our ideas and experiences. And that
my friends, is always a good idea.
Each rider is responsible for making sure their
motorcycle is mechanically sound. Before you meet up
with the group, make sure you've got plenty of fuel in
the tank, and you've taken care of all those
maintenance issues. You don't want to be the reason
for stopping the group for something mechanical you
could have prevented.
When planning the route consider the stamina and
experience of the riders as well as the limits of the
motorcycles. Have regular stops scheduled to keep
Organize the ride by either standing around in a
parking lot with a pre-ride briefing or for longer
rides, maybe a meeting to hand out maps and cell phone
numbers. Each rider should know the route and plan.
Cover hand signals in your ride briefing so you can
communicate while on the ride.
If it's a larger group, in your ride briefing
establish a buddy system among the riders and a plan
to handle mishaps. Establish who should stop and help
and who should keep moving to the next pull off. That
way, if something goes wrong, you don't have
motorcycles sitting on the side of a busy road with
the possibility of making the situation much worse.
Riding in a group never means you give up your
decision making process when it comes to safety. As we
say, ride at your own pace and comfort level. If the
group is riding faster than you are comfortable with,
fall back and motion the bikes behind around you. You
may reach the destination a few seconds behind the
others, but you will get there, and that's what's
important. Keep in mind, it's all about fun.
If youre Riding as a Group and trying to stay
together, your most experienced riders should lead and
sweep the ride, putting the less experienced riders
directly behind the leader. This allows the leader to
keep any eye on these riders and to adjust the pace
accordingly. I know I know, we dont do this, we
ride with the most experienced taking off with a
blistering girly pace and the less experienced to fend
for themselves. Not that we try to lose them, we do
wait down the road, way down the road. We do
appreciate a brisk pace. Again, if the goal of the
ride is to keep the group together, the leader should
only ride at the pace of the least experienced rider.
While riding, don't fixate on the motorcycle in front.
Remember your basic training; look well through the
turn to where you want to go. A major learning
opportunity from our 2008 July Event.
As visibility decreases or you run into road hazards,
cars in a pull off or a bicycle type hazard, move the
group to a single file formation.
At intersections where you've come to a stop, tighten
the formation to side-by-side to take up less space.
At double turn lanes, use both lanes. This helps get
the group through the light. As the light turns green,
or when traffic opens up, the bike on the left
proceeds through first.
If possible, make sure there is ample parking at your
scheduled stops for your size group. When parking, get
the group off the roadway as quickly as possible.
For whatever reason, if you decide to leave the group
ride, make sure the leader knows your plan. Dont
leave them wondering what happened to you.
These are just a few guidelines I put together. If
youre looking for more group riding information you can
find several links on our Event Page or Favorite Links
Page. You can also do a search, there are plenty of
articles out there.
There is nothing
better than riding with a group of bikes out the highway
or through the twisties.
Group riding to me
is an opportunity to share the open road and wonderful
scenery with other like-minded people.
Until we ride again