Group riding provides not only a social aspect to motorcycle riding, but also the security of fellow travelers. Whether you’ve found a group of trustworthy motorcyclists that fit your riding style or you’re still searching for a posse to ride with, acquaint yourself with these procedures for group riding.
Everyone should become familiarized with the route before the trip; that way, if someone is separated from the group, they won’t become lost or have to rush to catch up. In fact, the leader should go over the route, set up rest and fuel stops, as well as organize the formation and plan for the case of separation beforehand. All riders should also be prepared for the ride with a full tank of gas and a well-maintained bike to lessen the chances of suffering from an on-the-road vehicle breakdown. In addition, the group should be equipped with a cell phone, first-aid kit, and full tool kit.
Formations are mandatory in motorcycle group riding, and they must adapt to traffic and other conditions throughout the trip. Riders in a formation usually maintain two bike lengths between the other bikes. The leader heads the formation, followed by the less experienced riders near the front-middle of the formation and the experienced riders composing the rear of the group to maintain the formation’s order. The leader is usually the most familiar with the route, and is responsible for communicating and navigating hazards through hand signals. At times, a sweeper will be assigned to bring up the rear and monitor the group.
A staggered formation is the best way to keep the ranks close and still maintain a safe distance from other riders. The leader rides on the left side of the lane, while the second rider stays one second behind him in the right lane, and so forth beyond him or her. Riders should pass vehicles one rider at a time in a staggered formation as well, starting with the leader who makes room for the next rider to fall into formation. This ensures the safety of all the motorcyclists.
Single file-formation is best when riding curves, turning, or entering or exiting a highway. Groups are usually kept small — four or five motorcyclists at the most — and larger groups are usually divided into smaller clusters so riding formations aren’t easily separated by traffic or red lights.
Hand signals are the main form of communication when riding in a group because it’s the easiest way to “talk” to others when dealing with multiple riders and the noise of the bikes and outdoors. These signals are communicated by the leader and passed down the formation. The leader should familiarize all riders with the hand signals to be used during the ride to avoid the chance of miscommunication:
- Start Engines — Finger is rotated in a circular motion from an arm bent 90 degrees vertically at the elbow.
- Left Turn — The left arm is extended out horizontally.
- Right Turn — The left arm is bent at the elbow 90 degrees upwards.
- Hazard Left — The left arm is extended out at a 45 degree angle and points toward the hazard.
- Hazard Right — The right arm is extended out at a 45 degree angle and points toward the hazard.
- Single File — The left hand is positioned over the helmet with the fingers pointed upward.
- Staggered Formation — The left arm is extended upward at a 45 degree angle with the index and pinkie fingers extended.
- Tighten Up — The left arm is raised and the raised hand is repeatedly opened and closed.
- Speed Up — The left arm is raised up and down with the index finger extended upward.
- Slow Down — The left arm is extended downward at a 45 degree angle and the hand is moved up and down.
- Stop — The left arm is extended at a 45 degree angle downward with the palm of the hand facing the rear.