Group Riding 101
If you're going to ride with a group, whether it's a formal club or just a few friends, you need to understand the rules, customs, and courtesies of team riding.
Riding with an experienced group can offer a greater level of safety by increasing your visibility to other traffic and giving you "extra eyes" to watch your back, but the key word here is "experienced". Many groups hit the road like SOBs (Swarms Of Bees), cutting into fast-moving traffic and darting wildly from lane to lane. Unless your affairs are all in order, that's dumb.
GOOD RIDING PRACTICES
- Arrive at the group rendezvous with a full tank. It'll keep you from holding up the group and embarrassing yourself.
- Listen carefully when the Road Captain (ride leader) discusses routes, planned stops, etc. If you'll need to stop for gas, to take medicine, or for any other reason before a planned stop, tell the Road Captain and Tailgunner up front and find out when/where you can meet up with the group again.
- Follow the Road Captain's instructions re: where you should ride within the group. In many groups, new riders (those not experienced in GROUP riding) are initially placed at the back with the Tailgunner to make sure they arrive at the end destination. This allows the new rider to practice and develop his/her skills without holding up the rest of the group. Once new riders are able to keep up, corner smoothly, etc., they'll be able to ride in various other positions.
- Once you get underway, don't clown around by zigzagging in your lane, tailgating the rider in front of you, moving in and out of the formation, etc. You'll endanger yourself and others.
- Avoid public displays of temper (like screaming obscenities or flipping off people in cars) if you expect to be invited back. In some groups that might be acceptable behavior, but not in the Steel Stampede MRC.
- Pass back all hand signals initiated by the Road Captain, and be prepared to initiate a "single file" signal yourself if your travel lane becomes unsafe or uncomfortable (bad road surface, crumbling shoulder, narrow lanes, etc). Traditionally this has been a judgment call left to Road Captains, but in our club each individual member has the authority to make that call.
- Don't suddenly split off from the group for personal reasons (i.e. to take a picture or make a casual phone call) unless you've told the Road Captain and Tailgunner up front that you plan to do that, or unless it's for a mechanical or medical problem. If you do choose to leave unexpectedly, wave the others on, making it clear that you aren't in need of assistance. Otherwise you're apt to inconvenience the whole group, or at least the Tailgunner, by making them stop and turn around to check on you.
- Gas up when everyone else does so you'll be on the same general gas-stop schedule. Making the group stop 50 miles after THEY all got gas but you didn't because you "didn't need it yet" will not make you a popular guest.
Also see our Ten Commandments of Group Riding.