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Group Ride Tips

The fine art of getting it right

The group ride. Ahhhh. What a concept. Everyone goes for a ride together and has an enjoyable day. But the more riders in a group, the more things can happen that will change the course of the day. There are a number of things you can do before and during the ride that will better your chances of having a smooth and seamless day on the road with friends.

Route Planning

If the plan is to go north on highway 9 and turn right on highway 20, drive for 20 miles east and have lunch then there's no need for a map. But if your plan is to get to the same restaurant using every tertiary road you can find, then a map or turn-by-turn directions are advised and should be provided to everyone on the ride. These types of maps can be created easily using software from companies like Microsoft, Delorme or MapSource.

With an intricate route, it's optimal to have two or more riders with the routes loaded into GPS's. This way if the front of the group gets too far ahead, the tail can rescue the lost souls in the middle.

If you are running a paid event such as a poker run or charity ride, it's a good idea to pre-ride the route no more than one week in advance to be certain the roads are open, the checkpoints you thought were there truly exist and you pick up on any last minute things that should be added to the ride notes for the event.

Stuff to Bring

At least one first aid kit, air pump and tire repair kit should be packed by a rider in the event they are needed during the day.

Whether you like it or not, it's recommended all riders wear protective gear � boots, gloves, pants and jacket with armor and a full face helmet to minimize injuries in the event of a crash. After all � if you crash, the burden of your extensive injuries fall on everyone else in the group until proper medical attention arrives. It's your friends who have to deal with the road rash all the way up your left arm if you opted for a t-shirt and leather vest over a protective riding coat.

Check Your Skill Sets � Slowbie Appears

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have I ever taken a state approved Motorcycle Safety Course?
  2. Am I aware of how to ride in a staggered formation within a group?
  3. Do I understand the concept of the 'Delayed Apex?'
  4. Do I know what it means to 'push right to go right?'
  5. Have I been riding a motorcycle more than 12 months?
  6. Do I ride my motorcycle more than 3,000 miles a year?

If you answered 'no' to any of these questions you are a candidate for being the weak rider in the group. The more questions you answered 'no' to, the weaker a link you will be. Sometimes known as 'Slowbie,' a rider without the proper skill sets will eventually surface and have less than suitable skills to be on a group ride. Slowbie usually appears after several tight, turns falling significantly behind the rider in front of them to the point where they separate the group into two - eventually by several minutes.

If you're Slowbie, you already know what the group is thinking. You're not having fun and neither are the riders behind you. If this happens several times during the ride, it's time to ask for directions to the nearest interstate, resign from the ride and head home to brush up on your skill sets. You may begin your skill upgrade by using the keywords and phrases from the five questions above to search the Internet. If you've never done so, take a State-approved motorcycle safety course and then hone your skills further by purchasing common-sense riding skills books such as David Hough's Proficient Motorcycling and riding with a plan on your own or with a riding partner until you've mastered your abilities beyond being a Slowbie.

If a Slowbie appears in your group and doesn't bail, someone needs to suck it up and gently ask them to bow out with an invitation to return when they've matched their skills a little more closely to that of the group.

Pods of Six

Large group rides can get messy quickly at a controlled intersection. Over the years we've found it to be much easier to break the group into pods of no more than six. This minimizes the hassle of trying to get a large group of riders through a controlled intersection and makes it easier for the lead to keep everyone together allowing him or her to concentrate more on the ride and less on the herding aspect.

The more skilled riders should go out together in the first pod, with the lesser skilled riders riding together in the second and later pods. Each pod leader needs a map if it's an articulate ride and the tail should have one just in case. Again � a loaded GPS would be the preferred option.

Each pod should run about 15 minutes behind the other, particularly just before meal time. Suppose you're a restaurant owner and all of the sudden 24 hungry motorcyclists show up on your doorstep. It would be easier if riders arrived six at a time about a quarter hour apart so you don't throw the kitchen and wait staff into a frenzy. And by the way � did anyone call ahead the day before to make sure the restaurant would be open and warn them about your groups arrival?

Beginning , Stopping and Ending

The best place to begin a ride isn't at a restaurant. It's at a gas station. This way everyone has a chance to fill up and be ready to roll with a full tank.

Depending on range, different people will need to gas up more than others. Everyone needs water and a refreshment along the way and everyone needs a restroom. The best place to stop? Not the biker friendly bar. No, again the gas station with a convenience store is the preferred stopping point for breaks. My timing wisdom on this is to ride for an hour, stop for 10 minutes, then ride for another hour before stopping again. This way we all get to do what we need to do throughout the day. Of course, if you're riding in the middle of nowhere, it may be more like 100 miles before there are services, so plan ahead.

When you stop, it may be a moment or two before you can communicate with another rider so be patient. Many of us wear earplugs on the road to save our hearing from loud wind turbulence and we need to get the helmet off and the plugs out before we can have a conversation.

And where's the best place to end the ride? Some say it's wherever the best pie is, others say the ice cream shop. For me the ride isn't over until I slip into my hot bath!

Patrick Thomas/Spring 07


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