The Edge of Disaster
Directorate of Analysis and Prevention
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Novosel, Alabama
Group motorcycle rides can be one of the most enjoyable — or terrifying — ways to ride. Groups vary in size and purpose and usually consist of three or more motorcycles to upward of 100! Sometimes, the rides occur by chance or are organized to support an event or cause. Others are planned to raise awareness for a national observance such as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Regardless of the reason, there are some basic areas of concern the group leader, ride captain and riders should address prior to the ride.
Have you ever ridden in a group ride?
If you have, you know that although it is a fun way to experience riding, it takes a different approach from solo riding. In an impromptu group ride scenario, you must consider many factors to arrive at your destination without incident. What type of motorcycles are present? What is the experience level of other riders? Who is the ride captain? What type of formation and what is the interval? Hand signals? Breakdown procedures? Rest stops?
As you can see, a group ride generates many questions. If the group has logged many miles together, the pre-ride brief is delivered by the road captain, and any questions or issues the riders have are addressed and resolved before the ride begins. Remember that the dynamics of the ride change constantly due to the proximity of other riders. Factors such as possible road hazards, including road surface conditions, can affect the ride and the ability of other riders to hold lane position and speed as well as pass hand signals as required.
How do I gain experience?
Practice. For those that ride often in groups, think back to your first time participating in a group ride. You probably don’t remember much about the ride other than the motorcycle immediately to your front and hopefully the one behind you. Start out with small groups of three to five riders. Check the weather forecast! Assign a road captain — usually the most experienced rider who should discuss the route, hand signals, rest stops, breakdown procedures and any other information pertinent to the ride. Start out with short rides, about 40 miles or so round trip. Talk about the ride after you’re done and discuss what went well and what needs work.
Are there any other considerations?
The short answer is “yes,” but there are far too many to discuss here. Motorcycle riding is unpredictable, so it is important to be prepared for any emergency. I would like to mention weather again and highly recommend you conduct a forecast check days before the ride, the day of the ride and during the ride at stops, if possible. I have been on more than one ride where weather has cut it short, but with today’s technology, it is easier to remain aware of current conditions.
For more information on group rides and motorcycle safety in general, visit the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center’s PMV-2 page at https://safety.army.mil/OFF-DUTY/PMV-2-Motorcycles. Ride safe, ride long!