submitted to The Road Hawgs Newletter by Steve Stoke
  Group Riding: world wide social interactions. MOTORCYCLESThere are many advantages for motorcyclists who ride bikes in a group:
  • A group is usually more visible to other drivers than a solo rider
  • As a social experience you can actually pick the level of social interests by the groups direction, type of motorcycle and events they participate in. No other social interactive group can say that. Motorcycling world wide is now a huge industry for social actions.
  • Other vehicles can predict what a rider in a group will do because all members generally maintain fixed positions and fixed intervals between riders;
  • In case of a mechanical problem or an accident, help is available immediately to the rider. A member of the group may carry a cell-phone. Usually some riders in a group are trained in First Aid and CPR. They are often aware of safety information and accident management procedures that non-riders may not know — for example, not to remove the helmet of a downed rider unless breathing is inhibited, where to find particular medical information for a downed rider; how to manage an accident scene to prevent complications, etc.; and
  • It can be a lot more FUN!
  • It is a skill not available thru any other mode except experience.
  • Anyone can ride alone, not everyone can ride packs.
  • We are part of a huge life style that brings lots of opportunities in new relationships with other motor heads.
In addition, motorcyclists tend to learn a great deal from each other about their sport. Planned stops along the way offer a fine opportunity to socialize and to share valuable tips and techniques. Rules: Who Needs Them? The following guidelines for riding in a group are not gospel. There are situations in which they don’t apply. Some organizations may have different terms for these concepts, as well. These guidelines have been tested for many miles, however, in clubs whose members ride all brands and models of motorcycles, and they have sound safety rationales to support them. If you as a rider find yourself in a group which does not follow these guidelines, you can usually find someone who will explain what rules that organization follows, if any, or how they differ from what you learn here. At most responsible group rides, a riders meeting will be held prior to departure, in order to clarify what is expected of all the riders who are to participate. If you find yourself uncomfortable with the riding style of a group at any time, DROP OUT. Your safe arrival at your destination is far more important than conforming to rules you don’t like or don’t understand. People who ride in a group usually appreciate knowing what they are expected to do, and what to expect from others who are taking part in a hazardous sport in close proximity to them. Road Captains and those who frequently ride lead or drag are particularly urged to become familiar with these terms and guidelines in order to explain them to other riders who may show up for a scheduled ride without having any group riding experience. Some Common Group Riding Terms
  •  Pack: a number of motorcyclists who ride together, generally without maintaining fixed positions or distances between bikes. Packs are occasionally seen with 10-50 motorcyclists in a formation.
  • Group: a small number of motorcyclists who ride together maintaining a generally fixed distance between bikes and maintaining fixed positions within the formation (usually no more than six per group). On rides in which participation by a large number of motorcyclists occurs, it is common to have riders divided into several groups and to name them Group 1, Group 2, etc. This facilitates radio communication when several groups are listening to the same broadcasts and traffic coordination on the same CB channel.
  • Road Captain: a person who devises group riding rules or guidelines for a club or chapter of a motorcycling organization, who communicates these guidelines to the club, and who generally plans and lays out group rides. The Road Captain may or may not ride lead for a particular ride.
  • Lead Bike: a person who rides in the most forward position in a group and who relays information to all other riders in the group via hand signals and/or CB communications. The Lead Bike determines the groups direction, speed, choice of lane, and formation. He or she often must make quick navigation decisions in the face of road hazards, changes in road surface conditions, poor signage, construction and other obstacles while maintaining control of his or her bike and communicating to those following. It is the responsibility of the Lead Bike to select a Drag Bike with whom communications will be coordinated during a ride. If there are three groups on a ride, there will be three Lead Bikes. If at all possible, the Lead Bike should be equipped with a CB.
  • Drag Bike: a person who rides in the last position in a group and who relays information to the Lead Bike regarding the other riders in the group, traffic patterns, equipment problems, etc. he or she observes. The Drag Bike must secure a lane for the rest of the group during lane changes into faster traffic (move first to block oncoming traffic) and close the door (move to block passing traffic) when a lane is lost in a merging lane situation. Usually this is the most experienced rider in a group, for the Drag Bike is the rider who stops to assist a rider who has mechanical trouble, loses control, or drops out of a ride for some other reason. The Drag Bike should be prepared to render aid to a downed or disabled rider in a group while communicating the problem to the Lead Bike and others in the group. If at all possible, the Drag Bike should be equipped with a CB and, preferably, will have a co-rider who can assist with communications or traffic control if a serious problem arises. If there are three groups on a ride, there will be three Drag Bikes. The rider in this position is sometimes called the tail gunner.
  • Cage: any vehicle that is not a motorcycle, but particularly an automobile.
  • Four-wheeler: any vehicle that is not a motorcycle except an 18-wheeler, a hack or a trike.
  • Group Parking: a formation in which all bikes in a group follow the Lead Bike in single file into a parking lot, making a U-turn such that they can all line up next to each other in the space available with the rear of their bikes against the curb or edge of the lot, the front tires pointing outward.
  • Parade formation: a formation in which all the motorcyclists in a group ride two abreast and only done in such a situation as a parade.
  • Single file: a formation in which all the motorcyclists in a group ride in one track of a lane.
  • Slot: any position within a group of riders in the right track of a lane, farthest from oncoming traffic.
  • Staggered formation: a formation of motorcyclists in a group in which the Lead Bike rides in the left track of a lane, the next bike in the right track or slot, and the next bike in the left track, and so on. Bikes in a group generally maintain a minimum interval of two seconds travel time between bikes in the same track, and one second travel time between each bike in the group. In a staggered formation, a rider still commands and may ride in the entire width of his lane as needed. Group riders may also ride single file or two abreast. The Drag Bike may ride in the left or right track depending on the number of bikes in the group. It is preferable for the Drag Bike to ride in the left track, so as to have the same visibility line as the Lead Bike.
  • Station keeping: maintaining a fixed position and interval within a group of riders but not riding as Lead Bike or Drag Bike. Riders without a CB usually ride as station keepers in the middle of a group. Positions within a group are initially assigned by the Lead Bike based on the experience level of the rider, particularly his or her group riding experience.
  • Track: the zone of a lane in which a rider maintains his position in a group. A lane of traffic is divided into five zones: the left track is the second zone from the left, the middle of the lane (generally not used) is the third zone, and the right track is the fourth zone from the left. Two zones on the sides of a lane serve as margins. A rider may vary his path of travel from his normal track as is required by a road hazard or by an incursion into the groups lane by other vehicles.
  • Two abreast: a formation in which the members of a group ride adjacent to each other in pairs, used when riding in parade formation. Used after stopping at signs and traffic signals so that riders can get through an intersection quickly and together if possible. When departing from a stop, the rider in the left track normally pulls out before the rider on the right, returning to a staggered formation.
Road Captains Job: Preparing for a Group Ride When a number of motorcyclists are invited for a group ride, the riders and their co-riders gather at the appointed time and place, often without knowing their specific destination or route from that point on. The Road Captain for that ride will have a route in mind and will usually have pre-ridden the route within the past week in order to look for construction and road surface problems and other situations which might affect the safety of those who are to participate. The Road Captain will appoint or volunteer experienced riders to serve as Lead Bike, depending on the total number of bikes and the number of groups required. Each Lead Bike will then select a person to ride as Drag Bike for that group. The other riders will determine which group they are going to ride in, and if there is an inexperienced rider along, will usually ask the Lead Bike to make suggestions on group positioning. The Lead Bike should determine roughly the experience level of each rider in his or her group before departing, putting the rider with the least experience in group riding immediately in front of the Drag Bike in the slot position. If the last open position before the Drag Bike is not a slot, the least experienced rider should be in the last slot position available, away from oncoming traffic. The Road Captain will usually provide a Route Memo or will have copies of maps or directions to give the members of the group (this should be supplied to the Lead Bikes if not to all riders), and will have a rough idea of times and distances to be traveled, suggestions for rest stops, food and gas, etc. The Road Captain will hand out emergency medical information forms and release of liability forms for sponsored rides, to be filled in and signed. He or she will then conduct a short riders meeting to establish that each group has a designated Lead and Drag Bike, to review group riding guidelines briefly, to alert the riders of potential hazards, to discuss communications within and between the groups, to review hand signals if there are riders without CBs, and to answer any questions about the ride. The Road Captain may or may not lead a group himself, and in fact may not accompany the riders at all once the ride is underway. If there are several groups of riders, the Road Captain expects all Lead Bikes to follow the route which has been laid out and not to initiate changes in the route except in an emergency. In case of problems that require emergency personnel or re-tracing a route to find a disabled rider or part of a group which has gotten lost, it is much easier to locate the person(s) sought if all groups follow the same path to their common destination. It is not unusual for groups of riders to be separated by several miles and to find themselves out of CB range from other groups during a long trip or in heavy traffic. It is also not unusual for groups to break up briefly in traffic, requiring a station-keeping rider to serve as Lead Bike or Drag Bike for a fragment of a group, for a short time. Riders Job: Preparing for a Group Ride Riders are expected to arrive on time at the departure point with a full tank of gas, in proper attire for the conditions, and physically ready to ride (potty stop made, medications packed if needed, sober and alert). Motorcycle endorsements and insurance should be up to date, and the bike should be in street-legal condition. The Road Captain may ask a rider not to join a group ride if these basic conditions are not met (for example, if a rider is drunk or a bike is mechanically unfit to ride). The bottom line in all this: Many people [male and female] have pre-conceived ideas about riding in a group simply because ” no one can tell me how to ride” type attitudes.  This thinking could not be further from the truth.  You always ride your own bike regardless of in group or not. What is offered in joining a group of riders is you can actually pick your own social comfort level by the type of group, type of bike they prefer and the events they placate. The movie days of the Sixties made for great film but also did a lot of damage to our industry.  We want you to live and enjoy this industry.  We hope you decide to try this. You would be surprised at the wide variety of persons you will met from every walk of life.