Rider Safety Tips
There are a number of factors that come into play when planning or participating in a group ride. Here are some suggestions for making your rides safe and successful.
Planning the Ride
- It’s always a good idea to prepare a map of the route with all the stops indicated. If some bikes become separated from the group, they can “catch up” at the next stop.
- If you’re not out for a scenic ride, plan the most direct route to an event or activity. Highways offer the following advantages:
- All traffic is moving in one direction
- No cross-traffic or traffic lights to split up your group
- If you’re out for a scenic ride, be sure traffic conditions will allow it. For example, is there a county fair or car show in the area that day to complicate the ride?
- Plan stops to avoid gravel lots and awkward turns. No one likes gravel, and in a group, it’s even less fun.
- Plan gas stops at least every 90miles, so folks with smaller tanks can fill up and stay with the group.
- If have a large group stopping at a restaurant, call the restaurant far enough in advance to allow them to prepare for a large group.
- If you expect a particularly large group and it’s possible to get a police escort or traffic control at the start/end of a ride or along the route, great! Otherwise, it is a good idea to at least inform the police department of your plans and perhaps drop off a map. Never block traffic yourself; it’s extremely dangerous and may be against the law!
Leading the Ride
- Choose and maintain a comfortable pace within the speed limit. Keep in mind that people at the end of the group may have to drive a little faster to keep up there are gaps in the group. Remember, it is also dangerous to drive too slowly. Drivers in vehicles behind the group may became impatient and recklessly try to get around the group
- Know the route well enough so that you can give the group plenty of notice that you are approaching a turn. Always signal your intention to turn or change lanes. If you find yourself at an intersection too quickly for the entire group to make the turn safely, continue until you locate a place where the entire group can execute safely.
Participating in a Ride
- Drinking alcohol and driving never mix. This is especially true when participating in a group ride.
- Always ride in staggered formation (explained below); it gives you an extra margin for safety.
- Make sure your vehicle is in good operating condition. For example, a bad tire could cause a disastrous accident on a group ride
- Being too hot or too cold can also affect how alert you are as a driver. Be sure to pack appropriate protective clothing, such as a long-sleeve cotton shirt (for protection from the sun), helmet, eye protection, leather jacket, gloves, etc.
- Always ride with your headlight on; it’s a law in many areas. Cars have enough trouble “noticing” motorcycles; riders should do everything possible to help them out.
- A group of motorcycles is not considered a single vehicle. Be courteous and allow cars to enter and exit the highway and change lanes. Generally speaking, a car will not want to ride in the middle of a group of motorcycles and will get away from the group as quickly as possible.
- Familiarize yourself with the route and scheduled stops.
- Arrive to participate in a group ride on time, and with a full tank of gas.
- Ride with a partner. In the event someone needs to pull over for an unscheduled stop, the partner should also stop in case assistance is needed.
- It’s unsafe for a large group to stop on the side of the road. If someone needs to pull over, the remainder of the group should continue to the next stop. At that time, the group can decide to wait for the missing members or to send two riders back to assist. If the group has a standing policy to wait for a specified period of time, say half an hour, the members left behind will be aware that they can catch up. Again, all riders should have a map of the route so they can reach their destination on their own if need be.
- Hand signals should be simple, easy to learn and be kept to a bare minimum.
- Either the rider or passenger can reply the signal. As soon as you see a signal, you should give the same signal so the rider behind you can see it.
- When the phrase “1/3 of the lane” is used, it is referring to riding in the right or left track of the lane.
- These hand signals will not always be used by every group you ride with. The signals assembled on the next page are offered as suggestions only.
- Click here for the Group Riding Hand Signals.
- The lead motorcycle should be in the left 1/3 of line, the second Motorcycle should be in the right 1/3 of the lane, one second behind the first rider, and so on. This is only a guideline, ride within your comfort zone and never feel pressured to ride too tight.
- Leave enough room between each Motorcycle so that any rider can maneuver to the right or left without hitting anyone else.
- Always stay in line with the bike in front of you. Do not switch between the left and right side of the lane.
- Click here for a diagram explaining Staggered Formation Riding.
Single File Riding
- All motorcycles ride in a single line, two seconds behind one another, in either the right or left third of the lane.
This is only a guideline, ride within your comfort zone and never feel pressured to ride too tight.
- The lead rider determines on which side of the lane the group will ride.
Passing should always be undertaken one motorcycle at a time, in staggered formation. Remember, passing at any time can be hazardous. Use common sense.
Passing Other Vehicles
- Pre-pass position: Be far enough behind the vehicle you are passing to see clearly down the road to do an “oncoming traffic check”.
- Signal. If you have a passenger, he or she should signal as well.
- Check your mirrors and then turn your head to check your blind spot and ensure that no one is passing you.
- Accelerate and change lanes. Remember, legally, you can’t exceed the speed limit.
- When returning to your lane, signal and make a mirror check and head check to be sure there is space between you and all other vehicles. Return to your lane and turn off your blinker.
After Making the Pass
- The lead rider makes the lane change, going to the right track, until he/she can clearly see that the other riders have made their lane changes. Keep the Group Together
- Plan – The leader should look ahead for changes and signal early so “the word gets back” in plenty of time. Start lane changes early to permit everyone to complete the change.
- Put Beginning Up Front – Place inexperienced riders behind the leader, where more experienced riders can watch them.
- Follow Those Behind – Let the tail ender set the pace. Use your mirrors to keep an eye on the person behind. If a rider falls behind, everyone should slow down a little to stay with the tail ender.
- Know the Route – Make sure everyone knows the route. Then, if someone is separated they won’t have to hurry to keep form getting lost or taking a wrong turn.
- Know your skills.Take a beginning or experienced safety course from a recognized training center. The more you know, the better rider you become!
- Know the rules of the road and respect other road users. Don’t forget, riding is a privilege. Get yourself and your motorcycle properly licensed; get insurance if required. Know the limits of your skills, your motorcycle, and the road conditions so you don’t ride over your head.
- Ride with the right gear. A helmet, eye protection, sturdy jacket, pants boots, and gloves are your best defense against accident injury. It can happen to you!
- Ride aware. A car turning across your path is the most frequent accident. Seventy-five percent of motorcycle accidents involve collisions with other vehicles, the majority caused by the other driver. Intersections can be bad spots, so slow down and be prepared to react. We repeat: It can happen to you!
- Ride to survive. Be seen and not hit. You are not as big as a Mack truck, but you can attract attention. Wear bright clothing, use your headlight and bright colored fairings, select a lane and position within a lane to be seen, avoid rapid lane changes, keep looking around – you don’t need surprises!
- Ride straight. Alcohol and other drugs do not let you think clearly or make sound judgments. Up to 45% of all fatal motorcycle accident in the U.S. involve alcohol.
- Keep a safe bike. Know your owner’s manual, follow recommended service schedules, and have repairs made by an authorized dealer. Always check your bike’s tires, suspension and controls before riding.
- Share a safe ride. Company is nice. Some company weighs 100 pounds/45 Kg; other company weighs more. All weight affects handling. Having someone on the back is a big responsibility. Instruct them on proper riding technique and protective gear.
Now, take responsibility for your riding, learn more … and go enjoy yourself.
Other Tips for Touring
- Always carry your HOG Touring Handbook.
- When in a tight curve, the rider on the outside of the curve should give room to the rider on the inside. This prevents excessive crowding if the curve is too tight.
- Use the buddy system when riding. If buddy has trouble and must pull out of the group, pull off the road with him or her and offer any assistance you can.
- Keep a safe distance behind the bike in front of you. Know the stopping distance of your motorcycle.
- Try to maintain a constant speed. Don’t “rubber band,” or speed up and slow down.
- Be aware of openings as you ride so that you will have some place to maneuver in case of an emergency. Also, be aware of the riders around you, especially the one to your side, and give each other as much room as possible.
- Always try to keep the pack tight without crowding each other. Stay close through interested. Remember that some riders in the group may not know where they are going and could end up “leading” the remainder of the pack.
- Never ride in someone’s blind spot.
- Remember, you’re not safe from lightning on your bike.
Ride safe and keep the shiny side up!