I personally find group riding frustrating. The social activity is fine but having to formulate a strategy that can accommodate all riders involved will restrict the performance aspect of riding. Discipline is required and avoiding the pressures put upon you is difficult. One such issue is riding to the weakest person, of course that is if anyone has bothered to find out!
Our worry is especially towards those motorcyclists that go for a ride in a group with the wrong motivation. Quite a few of the situations my colleagues and I have to deal with are where a selection of riders decides to travel at inappropriate speed and a challenge ensues to keep up. Many such occurrences involve people choosing to ride together dictated by the type of bike with little consideration to the riders ability. Sometimes just leaving an event or engaging with bikers unknown to you can influence the wrong behaviour.
I would say that be honest with yourself and don’t be dictated to. Show the strength of character to ride to what makes sense to you. Further road management training will help develop a constructed and safe ride as then everyone will ride according to the level of risk involved and not their personal ambition.
The following are bullet points for consideration:
- Have you got the correct motivation?
- Have you got the correct attitude to risk taking?
- Is the ride planned properly – do you know where you are going and how to get a message to the others if you get separated
- Are you aware of peer pressure and the problems it can cause?
- Do you concentrate on following rather than your own observations & planning?
- Do you ride too fast with the group?
- Do you ride too close together within the group?
- Do you have near misses?
- Hand on heart, can you always stop safely in the distance you can see to be clear on your own side of the road?
- Do you ride in a type of formation – no, not like the Red Arrows – is this the safest way or does it sometimes compromise your view and stopping distance?
- Do you try to keep up even when this is out of your comfort zone?
- Are you glad when the riding part stops or anxious when it is about to start?
The list could probably go on but there are simple, common sense things that you can do to address some of the risks associated with group riding. Here is some advice to consider:
- Plan – your route out, return route, fuel stops and comfort breaks
- Have some simple rules that everyone must follow. Two important ones are – ‘No overtaking in the group without invitation’ and ‘Ride to the rider behind’
- Have a ride order – Leader and tail end sweeper need to be experienced with knowledge of the route and a mobile phone apiece.
- Some groups use marker systems but there is something to be said for keeping things simple.
- Brief the group on the simple rules for the ride, ride order, route to be taken, location of comfort breaks and mobile phone numbers of others in the group. Ensure everyone is comfortable with the plan and that someone takes responsibility for checking riders off at stopping points and the end of the ride. If you intend to leave the group before expected, let another member who is continuing know what’s happening.
- Always ride to your own capabilities ensuring you have an adequate stopping distance from the vehicle in front even if it is staggered to one side or other. “Only a fool breaks the two second rule”. This is at least doubled in wet weather.
- Keep observations keen, use your own judgement and plan manoeuvres for yourself
- Wear the best safety kit that you can afford and cater for the weather. Cold and wet adversely affects concentration.
This is just a little common sense advice. Following it will likely take the pressure off at least some of the members of your group even if you are unaware they needed it.
Well organised group rides with defined rules are likely to be safer for everyone.
REMEMBER FAIL TO PREPARE IS PREPARE TO FAIL!
Paul Cheshire – North Wales BikeSafe