Top Tips for Riding in a Group

Solo riding is great, riding with a buddy is cool, but when you start building the numbers up, that’s when potential headaches can start. Make no mistake, riding in a group is demanding. It takes planning and discipline, but get it right, and a long snake of bikes is something to behold.

There are all kinds of reasons for group rides; I’ve personally ridden in groups for funerals, charity runs, club ride-outs and touring. The best people to ride with, in a group are those that you know, but this obviously not always possible.

When that happens, such as a charity run, you have a high number of bikers all of differing skills and experience. All you can do then, is ride to the best of your ability, by keeping it safe and steady and a decent gap, and hope everyone else does the same.


Riding in a Group: Ground Rules

The majority of rules for riding in a convoy are common sense and apply to all, whether the trip has been planned in advance or is spur of the moment. But for the purpose of this article I’m going to assume your group journey is scheduled, you know the riders and all can access group information beforehand.

Let’s suppose you have chosen a destination and you know who is going. The next thing to do is establish some ground rules. Everyone needs the basic information in advance of the ride.

This Intel includes, rendezvous point and starting time; it’s always a good idea to tell everyone you’re leaving 30 minutes before you intend to, as someone will always turn up late.

Riding in a Group: Route Planning

All riders need to know the destination and what they’re doing when they get there. And if the group isn’t meeting up at a gas station, remind everyone to be gassed up beforehand and be ready to rock.

At the route planning stage, you can also decide if you’re taking highways or the scenic route. And depending on the length of journey and the type of bikes in the group, you need to factor in gas and food stops.

With the basic logistics of the journey sorted, you have to decide on a front-runner and a tail end Charlie. If it’s a large group, you may choose outriders to stop traffic at intersections and roundabouts (if you’re in Europe).

The guy out in front is not the one with the loudest bike, just as the rider at the back isn’t the one with the fastest bike.  These are two positions of responsibility and those that fill the positions need specific skills. Whoever you choose, everyone in the group needs both their numbers in their cell.

Riding in a Group: Lead Rider

Some clubs that go on regular ride-outs elect a run captain. He, or she for that matter, will lead the ride, knowing that their actions have a knock-on effect up and down the line and must ride accordingly. Leading riders will constantly be scanning the road ahead and calculating their maneuvers to take into account the length of the group.

They will know when to go through stoplights, when to overtake and when to stop to let others catch up. They will also keep a pace that allows everyone to stay in formation and know what to do if they don’t.

Some motorcyclists suggest an entire gesticulating vocabulary of elaborate hand and leg signals to alert the group to anything from ‘state trooper hiding in the bush,’ to armadillo in the road.’ In theory, they may sound like an excellent idea, but in reality, all they do is keep car drivers amused. All you need are three: slow down, speed up and stop.

Riding in a Group: Tail End Charlie

Riding at the back is not the fun job it sounds either. Tail enders are there in case anyone breaks down, crashes or encounters a problem that’s going to separate them from the group. They need cell phone contact with the biker at the front and make decisions on whether to stop and help, or head up the line and pull everyone over.

Ok, so you know where you’re going and when. You also know who’s at the front and back. Now all you have to do is arrive in one piece.  Safe arrival is easier said than done unless you follow some basic principles.

Riding in a Group: Staggered Formation

The foremost of which is, ride in a staggered formation. This style gives you that critical stopping distance. You should always ride with enough of a gap between you and the vehicle in front to make sure you can stop. But this is even more important in a group.

Riding in a staggered formation also allows you to move into the gap at your side if needed too, something that’s not possible when riding in pairs.  At some time during the ride, particularly if overtaking, you will need to ride in single file. This style of formation demands extra vigilance, and the need to maintain a decent gap.

Don’t be hypnotized by the rider in front or distracted by those behind. Be aware of both, but keep looking further up the line for brake lights and checking in your mirror in case anyone’s fallen behind.

So to recap-

  • If possible ride with people you know
  • Plan the route
  • Establish stops and breakdown procedures
  • Make sure everyone is up to speed
  • Choose a lead and tail end rider carefully
  • Ride in a staggered formation
  • Keep your distance
  • Park responsibly

Riding in a group is challenging, it requires more concentration than riding solo. It also requires more discipline. Otherwise, it can unravel into a disorganized and potentially dangerous mess.

Be aware that you’ll also get tired faster and stop accordingly. And finally, when you eventually reach your destination, don’t park in one big unruly clump, blocking in other vehicles. It doesn’t take a great deal for the locals to think the cast of Mad Max II has just rolled into town. Enjoy.