April 2015 Safety Message

from Mike Wascak, Road Captain

An article from American Motorcyclist Magazine

Whenever I think about riding somewhere, the first thing that comes to mind is with whom I want to share the experience. I may only want to ride with those who are excellent riders. I also might have certain friends in mind with whom I want to share the event. These are not necessarily the same people. How do I get all my friends on the same page?

Nobody wants to go through the meticulous planning of an event only to have the experience overshadowed by a rider that isn't very good at group riding.

A good group ride is more than having a cool bike and arriving at your destination together. It's about the whole group riding in harmony. The lead rider handles directions. The middle of the pack merges efficiently with traffic and communicates down the line. The sweep rider works to keep adjacent lanes clear so riders can navigate safely.

The first step to a safe group ride is a Rider Briefing. During this time, give an overview of the route and note any known hazards. Discuss road conditions, traffic, weather and wildlife. Cover expected speed and lane choice.

Talk about emergency situations. What should the group do in case of an emergency? Which bike has which tools? Where are the first-aid supplies?

If someone has trouble, the whole group should not stop; this isn't safe. A good rule is to have only the next rider in the group and the sweep rider stop. Riders unable to help should move on rather than create an additional hazard along the side of the road. That said, at least one additional rider should stay with the disabled rider until help arrives.

Additionally, discuss modes of communications within the group. Options include bike-to-bike radios, Bluetooth headsets, and hand and arm signals. Don't just assume everyone is on board with whatever you used on the last ride. If you're introducing a new mode of communication, practice it off of the bike.

Make sure you discuss what to do if the group splits up. Will you make an effort to re-group immediately, or will each group proceed to the day's planned destination after checking in?

Speaking of checking in, what is the preferred method? Is voicemail okay, or will you want to have an actual conversation?

Make sure all riders are aware of, and comfortable with, how many miles will be covered throughout each leg of the journey. Verify that everyone has the same expectations for scheduled breaks. Will you "gas and go" or will you take some time at planned stops? Not managing expectations can throw your trip into scheduling chaos.

Finally, ride legally. Insist that all riders have the proper license endorsement, that all bikes are legal and everyone has the required apparel (according to the laws of every state you will ride through) and be sure to discuss road etiquette. Explain that your group will not block intersections, interfere with traffic or act in any way that will invite attentions from the local authorities.

Group riding is one of the most fulfilling ways to spend time on two wheels, but bad group dynamics can also ruin an otherwise wonderful ride. Communication and forethought are your keys to success.