Motorcycle group riding

Are you ready to hit the road with your bike and a few friends? Riding a motorcycle in a group is different from riding alone. More bikes can mean more safety concerns. However, if you and your friends take the proper precautions, motorcycle group riding can be a lot of fun. To prepare for your next trip, here are seven motorcycle safety tips for group riding.

1. Get a tune up on your bike

Before you leave on your motorcycle group ride, have a mechanic check your motorcycle over to make sure it can make the trip. Complete any maintenance needed weeks before the trip to ensure you have ample time to make repairs and test them out. Before you leave, check — or have your mechanic check — the following to make sure your bike's components are in safe working order:

  • Brakes
  • Spark plugs
  • Fluids and oil
  • Throttle cable
  • Engine air filter
  • Battery connections
  • Lights and turn signals
  • Tire pressure and treads
  • Nuts and bolts that need tightening

2. Have a route planned to ride

Determining your route beforehand ensures the group is on the same page and has a better idea of what to expect on the road. Before you go, figure out your:

  • Meeting point
  • Destination
  • Route with turn-by-turn directions
  • Planned stops for breaks and fuel

3. Create packing lists: essential, and in case of emergency

Essential items list

Aside from packing licenses, registration documents and proof of insurance, your group members should bring along a few helpful extras that can keep everyone safe and comfortable on the road or during an emergency. Each rider should bring:

  • Cash
  • Rain gear
  • A first aid kit
  • Snacks like protein bars
  • Any tools that came with their bike
  • A fully charged cell phone and charger

In case of emergency list

It's also helpful to designate specific drivers to carry extra supplies that anyone in the group can use during an urgent situation. These include:

  • Duct tape
  • Road flares
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Emergency communication beacon
  • Extra water, both for drinking and filling hoses on water-cooled bikes
  • Tire pressure gauge and compact tire pump

4. Meet before you leave

At your meeting point, get all of the riders together and go over the route and plan. If someone gets separated from the pack, be sure they know where to meet you along the way. During the meeting, go over motorcycle hand signals for group riding and make sure everyone is able to clearly communicate while driving.

You should also appoint a lead and sweep rider. The lead guides the group on the road, while the sweep rides at the end. Both are important positions during the ride. The leader sets the pace, and the sweep makes sure everyone stays together. Riders in both positions should be veteran riders. New riders should follow close to the leader. [1]

5. Ride in a staggered formation

If you're new to riding in a pack, you might not know that there are motorcycle group riding positions. It's motorcycle group riding safety protocol to ride in a staggered formation — most of the time.

In a staggered pattern, the first bike rides in the left third of the lane, and the next bike rides in the right third of the lane. By riding in this formation, you give each driver more of a chance to respond to road hazards and lessen the chances of taking out another motorcycle in a collision.[2]

There are instances where you'll fall into a single-file line. If you're traveling on a curvy road or if visibility drops, single file is best. Watch for hand signals from the lead rider to tell you when to go from staggered to single file.

Try to avoid side-by-side formations. The limited space between riders can create more safety problems.

6. Know how to pass cars as a group

Passing a car is more complicated with a string of bikes. It's important that everyone knows how to pass. The lead decides whether or not to pass. If a pass is called for, the proper motorcycle group riding etiquette is for the leader to go first, completes the pass and returns to his or her staggered riding position. The next rider follows suit. Riders pass one at a time and return to their positions after doing so.

Each rider should evaluate safety before passing. Use your mirrors, look around and pass when it's safe. Don't feel pressure to pass quickly just to catch up with the group. You're all headed to the same destination, and you can rejoin everyone there if needed.

7. Don't ride beyond your skills

Skill levels vary. Some riders have years of experience, while others are new to the open road. Some ride on country roads, and others love highway driving. Your skill level only matters if you try to exceed it. In other words, know your limits and don't push them.

Don't let pressure force you to drive outside of your ability, either. If you fall behind the pack, for example, don't feel pressure to hit the gas and catch up. If you encounter bad weather, don't feel the need to drive differently than you're comfortable with. If you're new to the group, don’t try to impress others by showboating. If you want acceptance, stay safe. It's that simple.

Group rides offer a great way to get to know other riders, see something new and experience riding in a unique way. To make sure the ride is enjoyable for everyone, make safety a priority. Don't forget to check your motorcycle insurance coverage, either. Nationwide can help you find the policy that's right for your needs, whether you ride solo or in a group.

[1] MSF's Guide to Group Riding. Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

[2] Group Riding: Safety in Numbers. DMV.

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