What You Need To Know Before A Group Ride

Tip #191 from the pages of The Total Motorcycling Manual

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Want to be the Leader of the Pack, or at least a member? Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be on your way to being a respectable participant in a group ride.

BE ON TIME AND BE READY If the group has to wait, then your ride may be over before it begins. Be there on time with a full tank and an empty bladder.

HAVE A PLAN Who's the group leader? Who's the navigator? Who's riding sweep? Does everyone have a list of everyone's cell phone numbers? Where will you stop for gas? What do you do if someone gets a flat? Who has the tools? The first-aid gear? Does everyone know the route? What to do if you're split up at a red light? Do you all wait, slow down, or keep going?

RIDE THE PACE Group rides are a social commitment. If you can't keep up, drop out. If the group rides too slowly for your taste, ride with someone else. If you're a laggard or a speed demon, the ride will be miserable for you and the others too. Don't tailgate, either—no one likes a rider crawling up their tailpipe.

RIDE STAGGERED OR SINGLE-FILE On winding canyon roads, single-file riding is the smartest way. In town or on the highway, a staggered formation gives everyone room to maneuver. Riding side-by-side looks cool, but it's nowhere near as safe.

DON'T DAWDLE At gas or bathroom stops, get in and out quickly. Don't remove your helmet. Stay with your bike. Line up single-file at the pump, fill up, and roll your bike clear to let the next rider in.

SIGNAL YOUR INTENT If you're going to slow down or change lanes, let the other riders around you know what you're going to do.

CLOSE UP THE GROUP A number-one annoyance. Maintain some distance from the riders around you, but too much is as bad (and more common) than too little. A two-second rule—neither faster or slower—is probably right for most riding. In the dirt, riders string out on 30-second intervals to let the dust settle. When you come to a fork in the trail, wait until you can let the rider behind you know which trail to ride down.

IF A RIDER GOES DOWN Park your bike safely out of the road, and don't stand around in the middle of the road yourself. You don't want to get hurt, too.