Group Ride Guidelines
In an effort to develop a more enjoyable and safe group ride experience; the BMW Motorcycle Owners of Alabama has developed a “Group Ride Etiquette Guideline” for all riders. Observation of these guidelines will help ensure rider safety and maximum enjoyment for everyone.
For many of us our beginning riding experiences involved group riding. This may have been following a friend, parent or spouse around as they show us the ropes. Eventually, we ventured out on our own and developed our individual style of riding including good and bad habits. You may still primarily be a solo rider, but eventually you will find yourself riding with a group even if only occasionally. A group can be described as two or more riders.
When group riding, the dynamics of the ride can vary greatly depending on the experience of each rider and each rider’s riding style. Because of this each rider needs to shift frames of mind from their individual style to adapt to a group synergy.
The most important rider responsibility is SAFETY-SAFETY-SAFETY. Each rider assumes full responsibility for his/her safety and leaves that to no one else – EVER.
Ride within your skill level – Riders differ in skill level and each may experience a day when they are simply not at the top of their ability. Each rider is expected to ride within their ability on that day and never to make remarks about other riders who may be “slower” on that day, as that may intimidate the slower rider to ride beyond their safe limit.
- Inform the leader by the means provided to let them know you are participating.
- If you have a special need, such as stops at no greater than 90-minute intervals, inform the leader prior to the departure day so they can take that into account during planning.
- Arrive at the departure point in time to hear the first words of the rider’s meeting. (If you arrive just as others are leaving a restaurant to attend the rider’s meeting, forget the meal and immediately join in – do not expect the group to wait for you.)
- Pre-flight yourself and the bike before leaving home, making sure you have the appropriate gear, clothing, sun-glasses and so on.
- Arrive at the departure point ready to go - with a full tank of fuel, the proper tire pressure, an empty bladder and a full stomach! One of the most aggravating things is to constantly stop for fuel as each rider needs fuel or a bathroom break at different times because everyone did not start with a full tank and empty bladder.
- Tell the ride leader your fuel range. He needs to know when to plan his fuel stops.
- If you intend to leave the ride prior to the finish, inform the leader prior to the ride, then again just prior to departing. This prevents a time-wasting search for a “missing” rider that isn’t really missing. All early departures should occur at a rest stop or other place where communication between the rider leaving, the leader and the rider who has been behind the departing rider can occur safely.
Rider Responsibilities during the ride:
- Determine where you are most comfortable in the line of riders.
- Competition has NO place on group rides. Courtesy does!
- Safe Spacing – each rider should keep a safe distance from the rider ahead. The rule taught by the MSF is a good one – three seconds minimum spacing. Riding in a staggered formation is helpful from a sight and safety standpoint, but is not a substitute for appropriate spacing. If you need to overtake a rider, make certain the rider knows your intentions before doing so.
- Maintaining your staggered lane discipline gives the rider behind you a place to go if needed.
- Avoid riding in the middle of the lane. Taking the middle makes it difficult for those behind you to see what is happening ahead of you.
- Pass with a purpose. Roll on the throttle and quickly get around whatever you are passing. This may give the rider behind you an opportunity to also pass at this time. If you casually pass and prevent the following rider a chance to safely pass, you will begin separating the riding formation and eventually everyone will have to stop to regroup.
- Once you pass, move to the far right hand of the lane to give the following rider a place to go in case things get tight when they are passing. Practice this every time you pass whether there are others behind you or not or even if riding alone. This practice should become second nature to you.
- Point out obstacles on the road or animals alongside the road, either with a wave of the arm or with a wave of the leg.
- Staying Together - OPTION 1 - the bigger the group, the harder this is to do. A very simple concept works, no matter the size.
- When the route makes a turn, the second rider (behind leader) will stop at the turn.
- When all riders (except the “sweeper”) have passed, the stopped rider falls back in line in front of the sweeper. The sweeper will expect this so there should be no accidents.
- This rotating of riders this way at each stop insures that all riders make all turns.
- When riders get separated by cars or traffic lights do not stop, the leader will slow down until the group is re-organized. Remember, no turn will be made without a stopped rider at the turn.
- This is important because if one rider fails to comply, the ride is essentially over for those behind him/her.
- Staying Together - OPTION 2
- When the route turns from any street or numbered route, make certain the rider behind you is aware of the turn.
- If the rider is too far behind you at the turning point for you to be sure you’re seen, find a safe place to wait until that rider acknowledges the turn, then proceed.
- If you are the following rider, signal the rider waiting for you to proceed as soon as you recognize a turn is being made.
- If separated by a traffic signal, the same concept applies. Slow down until the group behind catches up.
- If you need to stop unexpectedly, try to signal the rider behind you with a hand to alert him of the upcoming stop. Those sudden stops create panic for the ones following. In emergency situations you may not be able to signal before hand, but try when possible.
- When at stops take care of your business: that means fuel, get bike out of the way if you are not immediately leaving (it is inconsiderate of other customers for a group of bike to occupy all the fuel while the riders are just hanging around), change clothing, clean face shield, etc. Then talk if that is the purpose.
- Follow the leader and be ready to depart without holding up the group.
- Ride your own ride. Ultimately, you are the one responsible for your safety and comfort zone. Don’t let the ride leader or anyone else pressure you into riding outside your comfort zone. If you are still feeling pressure, then leave this group and ride your own ride.
- Remember you are also a ride leader. You are the leader for the person behind you.
- Common Courtesy. The least common thing on earth is common sense, followed by common courtesy. A good helping of both makes the ride safer and more enjoyable.
- Don’t forget to thank the ride leader(s) and “sweep” rider(s). It took some of those people’s valuable time and effort to plan and lead the ride.
Ride Leader Guidelines
Ride Notification: To ensure that participants know where to meet and what to expect, the following information is made available in advance of the ride:
- Ride Date and Alternate Rain Date
- Key Event Times including:
- The time to meet to eat, if applicable
- The Rider’s Meeting Time
- Departure Time
- Estimated Time of Return
- Location: (with specific enough details that riders not familiar with the departure area can easily locate the departure point.) An address or street and cross street is far more specific than naming a business on a street that may be ten miles long.
- The type of ride and anticipated pace. For instance, a back roads ride at moderate pace.
- Whether a stop will include a meal and, if possible, approximately what time.
- Where the ride will end.
- How to reach the leader with questions or information (telephone, email, cell, web site).
- The time at which the decision will be made in case of inclement weather and how participates will be notified (or how they reach the leader). Some of this information may not be available at the initial ride announcement, but can be made available in subsequent notices to riders.
Consider a map to hand out for other riders. Several map styles can be used and other, experienced leaders will be happy to demonstrate how easily they can be created. If you don’t have a means of copying maps, other riders will be happy to assist you.
Try to provide a rest stop approximately every 90 minutes.
Ride the route to familiarize your self with route land marks. This reduces the need for “turn arounds” and adds to the safety margin.
If other riders have agreed to ride as “Sweep” or to lead a small segment of the group, make certain they are familiar with the ride.
Arrive at the departure point early to answer questions other riders may have.
- Start the “Riders Meeting” at the designated time. (Starting on time is respectful of those who show up on time and by consistently starting on time, the group will learn that 08:00 is 08:00, not 08:10)
- Cover the appropriate route and safety information regardless of how many times it’s been heard before. Remind all riders of the system for keeping together and how it works.
- Start the Ride on Time – this is important, but more easily done than said! Invariably, something will come up at the last second that prevents a timely departure. SAFETY should always take precedence over timeliness. If a rider shows up after the “Rider’s Meeting”, it’s very difficult to tell that rider they can not participate. A quick review of the rider’s meeting may have to be accomplished. However, that rider should be instructed to take up the second-to-last rider’s slot, just in front of the designated “sweep” rider. This increases safety and provides a subtle penalty for being late!
- Keep the Group Together – the leader sets the pace and determines how easy or difficult it is to for others to keep up. The further back a rider is in the group, the more difficult it is to keep up. Setting a reasonable pace and waiting for the group to catch up whenever possible helps. Additionally, when leading a large group through traffic signals, the leader should watch ahead and adjust his/her speed to avoid proceeding through a light about to change from green to red. If the group is separated by changing traffic signals, the leader maintains a slower pace until the group is reassembled.
- Recovering From A Missed Turn – missed turns can create one of the most hazardous ride situations. U-turns and other means of getting back on track can jeopardize everyone’s safety. As the leader, go as far as necessary in the wrong direction to find a safe place for the entire group to get turned around safely. Remember, the long way is the best motorcyclist’s route anyway!
When you leave as a group of friends, you should return as friends. Following these Group ride Guidelines and being considerate of your fellow riders will go a long way to ensure you will enjoy the ride and return as friends. We all have to compromise a little for successful group riding. If not, let’s just call it what it is. We are not group-riding, but a group of individuals who happen to be headed in the same general direction.