Group Touring

Motorcycle Group Touring

Riding in a group is very different from riding by yourself. Though the rules of the road are the same, the procedure and etiquette are not.

Speaking From Experience

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been riding for a long time and I have organized, planned, lead, and managed group tours with the HOG Chapter for several years. We have training manuals and conduct training for group rides on a regular basis. No matter how much you plan and prepare, you can almost always count on something going wrong. No matter if it’s a wrong turn, construction or accident detours, motorcycle breakdowns, or weather, the objective is to get the group to the destination safely. The riders that assist with the tour, like the Leader and Sweep and the helpers (Road Captains) in between, take a lot of responsibility and put a great deal of work into a group tour, so following these procedures and etiquette will make their job much easier.

Riding in a Group

  1. Pre-Ride Meeting
    1. When conducting this meeting you will explain where you’re going, the route you’re taking and stops you’re making. Procedures to be followed such as stagger riding positions, spacing, passing procedures, hand signals, etc., will also be discussed. The person conducting the meeting will advise the group of the person in charge of the ride and who will be assisting. It is very important to be sure all attending riders are clear and comfortable with all the procedures and etiquette. If possible they should provide printed maps and directions in case the group gets separated.
  2. TCLOCK (Tires and Wheels, Control Levers, Lights and Battery, Oil Levels, Chassis, and  Kickstand)
    1. This is the Acronym for the physical safety check that should be performed on motorcycles that will be in operation during the ride. (link-http://frederickhog.org/tips/tclock.htm).
    2. If your are operating a motorcycle you should be doing this regularly and especially when going on a long tour.
    3. It is the motorcycle operators responsibility to be sure the motorcycle is up to date with scheduled service and it is in safe operating condition.
    4. If a motorcycle is not safe and will create a hazard to themselves, their passenger or to other group members, they may be asked to join another ride after the motorcycle has been repaired.
  3. Who’s Leading and Who’s Sweeping
    1. The leader of the group should be trained and experienced for this position as he/she will set the pace, be the eyes for the group, and make decisions and modifications to the ride for the safety of the whole group. He/she will also try to keep the group together and provide hand signals to be passed back to the rest of the group.
    2. The Sweep should also be trained and experienced as they are responsible for keeping a watchful eye over the group for issues such as safety, reckless behavior, and to assist if there is a breakdown.
    3. With large groups there may be Mid Group riders that are designated to assist with breakdowns, directions, and safety issues also.
  4. Tools, Med Kits, and Supplies

    1. I would recommend that Every rider who operates a motorcycle should always carry these items with them.
    2. In the chapter I ride with, we require Road Captains to carry these items as part of their responsibility for their position in case somebody is in need.
    3. Some groups ride with other cars or trucks called “chase vehicles” that carry tools and supplies for riders.
  5. Rules of the Road
    1. Just because you’re riding in a group it does not mean you can disregard the rules of the road. Stop at stop signs and red lights and obey speed limits.
    2. The Leader, the Mids, and the Sweep will try to keep the group together by slowing down, pulling over or communication with the group.
    3. Covered in the Pre-Ride Meeting, there is a procedure if you do get split from the group, which is usually communicated via radio, cell phone, text, or visible stop locations.
  6. Hand Signals
    1. These should be covered in the Pre-Ride Meeting to make riders aware of the procedures to be followed will on the ride.
    2. Here is a link to a website that has animated hand signal instructions: https://www.motorcyclelegalfoundation.com/motorcycle-hand-signals-chart/
    3. It is important to pass the signals back to the riders behind you as soon as possible.
  7. Fuel, Food, and Restroom Stops
    1. This is also covered during the Pre-Ride Meeting as part of the route you will be taking.
    2. Usually the Leader will pull through a gas station or parking lot to keep everybody moving and them all off the road for safety. Follow the Leader and don’t stop, pull into a gas pump or park until all riders are safely off the road.
    3. Unless this is a planned lunch stop, these stops are usually a quick stop, so you can get back into formation and get back on the road to keep time schedules.
  8. Riding Positions

    1. This will be covered during the Pre-Ride Meeting also and should be followed in order to keep the group safe and keep it together.
    2. There are three ways to position in a group, Side by Side, Single File, and Stagger.
    3. The safest group positioning is stagger with at least 2 seconds following the rider directly in front of you, 1 second from the rider diagonal from you.
    4. Single file positioning is usually used when riding a lot of curves (twisties), narrow roads or bridges, and when there a pedestrians or bicyclists on the side of the road.
  9. Communication
    1. Fortunately we live in a technology world and communication has become a whole lot easier.
    2. CB Radios and Cell phones are easy to use on a lot of motorcycles these days with the ability to connect with Bluetooth headsets and microphones or the old fashioned wired solutions.
    3. If none of the methods above are available, there is always hand signals.
  10. Post Ride Meeting
    1. I recommend having a meeting with everybody after the ride to
      1. Advise of dinner or other event plans.
      2. Discuss meeting times and locations for the rest of the tour.
      3. It is also a good way of getting feedback from the group as to how they felt the ride went and get any suggestions or comments they may have.

Wrap Up

Touring with a group of people that share the same interest in motorcycles and have the same passion for the brotherhood and sisterhood is only fully appreciated if you ALL get to the destination safe and alive. Group Touring is fun and exciting but if we don’t follow the group procedures and etiquette we are putting the group, the tour and the people around us at risk.

One last thing, there are other motorists on the road with us that may get aggravated with a group of motorcycles and become aggressive toward us, but you have to remember, they are bigger and heavier and they will win. They may need to get to an approaching exit, they may need to change lanes, they may want to pass us…be courteous, be patient and give them the right of way because it’s not worth the fight!

Short Shot

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3 Replies to “Group Touring”

  1. I think this is an amazing idea, as you said however much you plan something will go wrong or you will forget something so this is great for thos who want to go touring. How about if you do an electronic check list for the users or members ? Just an idea that popped to head.

  2. This is a very comprehensive and well thought through plan. Always expect the plan to fail, then you’ll be fine and you won’t panic either! Every motorcyclist in a group should be well versed in this. Although I’m not a motorcycle enthusiast, I’ve been planning to go on a road trip with some friends and this is a great post for some risk management.

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