A 23-year-old Private assigned to Fort Irwin, California, died in a PMV-2 mishap 4 June 2022 in Placentia, California, at 1258 local. The Soldier was riding his motorcycle with a group along Highway 57 when he was ejected from his bike after another rider clipped his rear tire. He was medically evacuated to the local hospital where he was later pronounced dead. The Soldier was wearing full personal protective equipment and had completed the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic RiderCourse. Reportedly, speed, alcohol or drugs were not factors in the mishap, which is still under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.
Since 2017, the Army has lost an average of 25 Soldiers a year to off-duty PMV-2 mishaps. This mishap was the 18th off-duty PMV-2 fatality of FY22.
Motorcycle riding gives you an exhilarating feeling of being in the open air with the wind over your body. While riding alone is sometimes the goal, one of the best experiences you can have on a motorcycle is to ride in a group of close friends or family. Together, you can enjoy the scenery from the open road and arrive safely to your destination with a few suggested guidelines.Motorcycle Group Riding Safety Tips
Consider the following safety precautions prior to departing on your motorcycle group-riding adventure.Conduct a Pre-Ride Meeting
Preparation, before you leave your starting point, will allow the group to understand how to get to your final destination or to any stopping point along the way. Getting there safely is the primary goal, so deciding who leads the group is a key factor in the safety of the group. The leader should know the route the group will follow, and that leader should be able to explain it to all group members, show it on a map, and/or describe directions for the route.
It’s always advisable to provide each member with directions and/or a visual map of the route in case anyone is separated for any reason. Another point to be considered is if there are any tolls along the route. Either the leader should carry the toll amount for the whole group to reduce stops at the booth, or each member should be prepared to quickly pay the toll and get back on the road.Decide on the Leader
The leader of the riding group should be one of the most, if not the most, experienced riders in the group. They will be the first person to encounter other traffic in the oncoming direction. They should know how to respond to other drivers on the road and be prepared to guide the other riding members safely through any situation the group comes across on their journey. The tail rider, or the last in the group, also needs to be more experienced. They could be separated by traffic conditions, and they can help any other members safely catch up and navigate traffic safely without losing other members of the group.Restrict the Number of Group Members
Groups should stay to a maximum of five to seven riders for safety. Larger groups can easily bunch up on the road and become an obstacle unto themselves. Five would be a good number if the group was less experienced, and seven would be better if the group was more experienced. More riders do not necessarily mean there is more safety, and having too many riders can become dangerous as the group has limited flexibility to move on the road and navigate road debris and traffic. If the group has more riders than these numbers, consider breaking the whole group into sub-groups for more safety. Each group will have the lead and tail rider as mentioned above.Ride Prepared
Safety is a primary concern for the journey. Someone in the group should carry a first-aid kit and a tool kit. Preference is that the same rider does not carry both in case they are separated from the group for any reason. The person carrying the first-aid kit should know first-aid (and preferably CPR) in order to treat any basic medical condition that could occur. Beyond those two items, every rider should carry a cellphone in case something comes up during the ride.Motorcycle Group Riding Protocol
Now that you’re prepped and ready to hit the road, consider the following safety guidelines to ensure the smoothest group ride.Ride in a Staggered Formation
During the ride, the group will encounter straight and curvy sections of road. In the straight section, the lead rider should take a position in the left third of the riding lane. This will give them the best ability to see around traffic ahead of the group and to monitor oncoming traffic or debris. The next or second rider will ride approximately one second behind the leader and in the right third of the lane. The third rider continues the trend riding in the left third of the lane one second behind the second rider and two seconds behind the leader. The riders behind that continue the pattern until the group is complete and staggered accordingly.
In a curvy section of road, each member should ride in a single-file line approximately two seconds apart. The spacing and lane position can be adjusted accordingly for safety, but this should give each member time to adjust to any other traffic and changing conditions. One thing to note is that riding side by side should never be done, as it doesn’t allow either rider the option to move carefully within the lane to avoid other traffic or road debris. There will be too much opportunity for the riders to contact each other. In conditions with limited visibility or other constraints, consider which of the formations (staggered or single file) will provide the safest condition for the riders and choose it accordingly.Pass Vehicles Safely (Overtaking)
There will come a time when one needs to pass a vehicle traveling in the lane in front of them. To safely pass the vehicle, do so one motorcycle at a time. Obviously, the leader will go first, but each rider successive will need to position themselves in the left third of the lane prior to starting the overtaking maneuver. Riders behind the one making the pass will need to adjust their lane position to keep a proper following distance and in the correct pattern in case the passing opportunity dries up.
If a portion of the group is only able to make the pass, the remaining riders need to adjust their position to assume the correct riding pattern until the next passing opportunity presents itself. As each member passes the vehicle in question, they do need to keep their speed up and allow a gap to form behind them and the vehicle they passed. This gap is necessary for the next rider to safely pass and rejoin the lane with a safe distance to the vehicle.What to do When You Get Separated
Being separated in a group ride will happen occasionally. It may occur in heavy traffic with other motorists or in an urban setting with traffic lights. The first thing to remember is not to panic. In your pre-journey meeting, you already discussed the route everyone will follow. Continue on the same route as discussed, and if there is an experienced rider in the now sub-group, they should lead until the main group is formed back together. At that time, they can take their original place in the main group. The lead sub-group should also continue on the same course as agreed upon and slow down or stop as needed until the latter group can rejoin them.Be Mindful of All Skill Levels of Riders
Every group will have differing rider abilities. The key is to keep each rider comfortable and safe, so having the least experience toward the middle of the pack is recommended. This position will allow them a visual guide from riders in the front to indicate oncoming items of note (like traffic and road conditions). More experienced riders behind them will also be able to keep aggressive drivers from disturbing them from the rear. The lead and tail riders should have the most experience, as they can adjust to traffic the best and protect the other riders from traffic and road debris. Your most novice riders should also determine when and where to take breaks.Use Hand Signals
All members of the group should know the basic hand signals used while group riding. Communicating through signals during a ride (when voice discussion is not possible) will allow each member to stay in sync with what is happening around them. These signals should be a quick discussion point and possibly a show-and-tell during the pre-ride meeting. Ensure all riders know the signals and their meanings.Group Riding Etiquette
As mentioned, the skill level of each rider needs to be a consideration within the group and each rider should feel comfortable with the speed that the group will ride during the travel. Some riders will want to ride faster than others are comfortable with. If that is the case, consider splitting into different speed groups to keep everyone comfortable and safe. Feeling pressured and guilt by not wanting to ride at a speed faster than you’re comfortable with is a heavy burden to carry. Choose to ride with those with the same approximate speed in mind as you have.
Loud exhausts are great to keep others aware of your presence in traffic, but deafening your riding partners over the course of a long ride isn’t a nice thing to do. If you have open pipes or a race muffler, consider riding toward or at the back of the group.
Motorcycling doesn’t just contain two-wheeled motorcycles. Trikes and sidecars are still popular options, and due to their width, they should always ride at the back of the group. They are wide enough to take up two-thirds of the lane and don’t handle with the same nimbleness as a two-wheeled motorcycle. That differential in handling can create a problem in a sudden change of speed or adjustment needed within the lane.Wrap Up
Group riding brings an added level of adventure to motorcycling, and with safe and thought-out practices, the journey together will only get better year after year. Each ride as a group will change with the scenery, and any addition or subtraction of group members will add new dynamics to the ride. Just keep all the basics in mind, and you’ll enjoy motorcycling as long as you want to.Tips provided by the Motorcycle Legal Foundation