No matter how long you have been riding, riding in a group can be a lot of fun. At the same time for some, it can be a little intimidating. Don’t miss out on the excitement and camaraderie of group riding just because you have never done it before. I will try and give you some basic information on group riding so hopefully, it may ease your fears. There are a few components to group riding but basically, it is made up of 3 main components. The leader, the sweeper (or tail-gunner), and the participants.
Let’s Start With The Leader
Any group ride has to have a leader. The leader is the one that either puts the ride together or was asked to lead by the ride organizer. Depending on the type of group you ride with, the organizer/leader is also known as the Road Captain. They usually have some knowledge about the route they are going to travel or are at least good with directions…lol. They will usually hold a brief meeting before the ride to go over the route, and itinerary and take questions.
When I organized rides, I always had a pre-ride meeting with all attending riders. We went over where we would be riding, safety hazards that you might incur along the way, gas stops, food stops, photo ops, and who would be leading and sweeping. I also handed out pre-printed material with routes, maps, and emergency contact info. I always ended with a Q&A session to make sure there were no questions and everyone was on the same page.
Once the meeting is over, the leader will set up in front. If communications are to be used, they will be tested at this point. I have a CB on my bike and was usually able to find someone else in the group who also had a CB. I feel this is the best way to lead and sweep a group ride. If no one else has had a CB, you can also use hand signals.
The best thing you can do as a participant in a group ride is to be on time!!! There is nothing more frustrating than having to wait for someone to show up. Not to mention, now you put extra stress on the organizer because he/she must now make a decision on how long to wait to begin the ride. He/she will be left wondering if you decided not to go, had an accident or breakdown along the way, or if you just plain overslept. As cold as it sounds, unless previously notified someone was running late, I always tried to leave as close to KSU (kick stands up) time as possible. Make sure unless you are meeting for breakfast you have eaten and also have a full tank of gas to start. In other words, be ready to ride!!!
Other things you should do are try to familiarize yourself with common hand signals and riding formations. Ask questions if you are not sure of something. Make sure you get the leaders or one of the leader’s contact information in case you need to leave the ride before it’s complete for an emergency. It is just a courtesy to shoot a quick text if you bail. The leader/organizer won’t see it until they stop but at least when they stop they will know what happened. If you know ahead of time you will be leaving early, notify the leader or organizer at the beginning of the ride and let them know at what point you will be leaving the ride.
Know Before You Go
Before the ride begins, make sure you know the formation the group will ride in. We always used a staggered formation as I feel it’s safest. Be considerate. Don’t cut in and out of lanes, hot dog, or perform any dangerous actions while riding. Remember your not riding alone and your actions will not only affect you, but they will also affect everyone else around you. You are there to have fun, not to be a hot dog. Everyone participating in the ride should have everyone’s back. Try and remember, everyone would like to get home safe. We all have families.
Sweeper or Tail Gunner
Last but certainly not least is the sweeper or what some call the tail gunner. They are essentially the eyes of the leader. They are the last rider in the formation. If you are riding inappropriately, are experiencing mechanical issues, need to pull over for any reason, or god forbid go down (have an accident), they will signal the leader. They will also initiate lane changes when signaled by the leader to do so. They are basically there to watch out for everyone’s safety.
So you see, if everyone does what they are supposed to, group riding can be a lot of fun. The big thing to remember is to always ride safely. Different groups/clubs might call the positions different names, but the responsibility for the positions remains the same. Now get out there and ride!!!
Did I leave anything out? Do you agree with the above content? Let me know in the comment section below
Disclaimer: Motorcycle riding is dangerous. Your riding experiences are yours and yours alone. The content below is meant to be a general introduction to group riding. Please always use caution, wear the proper gear, and take approved safety training courses before engaging in a ride. This site is not intended as a training site.
Ride Often/Ride Safe