Doing the group thing

Throttle Therapy: There’s magic in motorcycling when riding in groups

I’ve done it with a group of students, I’ve done it with hundreds, and I’ve done it with just one other.

Group riding, done well, can be a beautiful thing.

Creating a group

Who goes where matters. A lot. The most experienced riders need to be strategically positioned at the front (“Lead”) and the back (“Tailgunner” or “Sweep”) of the group. Experienced is not necessarily defined by mileage but by a mature understanding of their own limits, and the limits of their motorcycle.

Further, like most great leaders, they need to be primarily concerned about the people in the group and less so on their own grandiosity.

Why? Because the least experienced riders need  their guidance, not their ego.

To best serve them, those with less experience need to be tucked in between the middle and end of the group. Should a less experienced rider run into difficulties on the road, they can pull over and be seen (and assisted) by the experienced tail gunner — without affecting the whole.

Before the ride, be sure everyone knows where the pit stops are. They will be defined by the need of the least experience rider. Same with fuel stops. They will be defined by the group’s smallest gas tank.

Personally, I find groups between five and eight to be most manageable. Should there be more riders (like some fundraising rides have hundreds of participants), I’d still recommend taking the initiative to define the group of riders you want to travel with.

This way, if a traffic control nuisance (like a traffic light or a logging truck) splits up the group, then the small group can pull aside where it is safe and legal to do so, and re-convene at its convenience.

Communicating

At the Vancouver Island Safety Council, we had three signals, all using the horn.

One honk for regular usage; two for signal lights left on after executing a turn; and, three to indicate the group needed to pull over where it was safe and legal to do so.

Four, if you count the “thumbs up” signal we’d all give before heading off.

Since standard horns have limited reach, you may need to adjust your communication signals according to the size and needs of your group.

Staggering

Understanding staggered formation is a column in and of itself. For the purposes of this column, let me just say that shifting from a staggered double lane ride to a single formation ride is usually determined by the rider ahead of you.

And if the rider ahead of you falls out of formation, your job is not to “correct” them; instead, you try to figure out the reason, and if there is none, fall in formation with them. Safety comes from staggered formation, not from singular one-upmanship.

Packing

  • Your bike’s tool kit
  • Emergency first aid kit
  • Rain gear
  • Cell phone
  • A bottle of water
  • A tank of gas

Dos and don’ts

  • Do ensure your bike is mechanically sound.
  • Do position yourself one second behind the rider staggered ahead of you.
  • Don’t ride side by side. Ever.
  • Do your own shoulder checks whenever changing lanes, lane position, turning, stopping or starting.
  • Do ultimately think for yourself. Even in a group, the bottom line is you must ride your own ride, and think for yourself.
  • Do fill your tank.
  • Do empty your bladder before you go.

Doing it

If you want to experience a group ride, there are several co-ordinated rides still to come this summer.

July 21

Inaugural Canadian Women’s Ride Day

This ride is organized and hosted by West Coast ROAR to “support, encourage and empower one another.” It starts at 2490 Trans Canada Highway, Mill Bay, at 10:30 a.m. Registration at 9:30 a.m. Fee is $10 and includes a drink and a hotdog. $20 if you want the t-shirt.

Men are invited to attend the post-ride events on location. “Look, 100 Sexy Beautiful Women on bikes….Good God guys, don’t miss this one!” writes Greer Stewart, one of the ROAR owners ,about this event.

August 4/5

The Memorial Road Ride

Promoted by Sooke’s Kenco, our neighbourhood motorcycle shop, this ride happens on Sunday/Monday August 4/5. It’s a ride presented through the Victoria Motorcycle Club, and is described as “A fun, scenic, road ride. Everyone welcome, overnighting in Port Alberni staying at the Best Western-Barclay Hotel.”

To sign up, go to the Sooke Legion on Eustace Road at 9 a.m. on the morning of the ride. It costs $10.00 per bike (excluding accommodation and meals of course), and breakfast will be served at $5 a head. For more information, call Ken at 250-642-3924.

Sunday, Aug 25

The Miltary Police National Motorcycle Relay Ride is on it’s fifth year of doing a coast-to-coast fund-raising ride for underprivileged children. At this point, it’s too late to ride up for the Newfoundland departure, but you can probably still get in on the Vancouver Island leg. On Sunday, Aug 25 they are doing a 6 hour ride from Comox to Victoria, meeting up at CFB. For location and confirmation of dates, visit mpnmrr.ca.

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