Riding in Groups

Group Rides: Plan, Review & Enjoy

With the riding season in full swing, it's time to book reasons to get out on the open road. Whether you and fellow riders are participating in a fun or charity ride, or setting out for a distant destination, a little planning with them goes a long way.

Charity rides are better organized than ever before. Thunder Promotions, an affiliate of this magazine, is a service that works behind the scenes with ride organizers. It takes seasoned bikers to understand safety measures and what bikers might want or need as part of a ride. We remember rides that are well-organized. They take us through beautiful country, away from traffic and road construction.

Apart from these events, remember the basics of responsible group riding and be prepared to share these basics with your group. Both new and longtime riders need reminders. If you're the leader, assess everyone's riding skills in advance and think through how that will translate on the road.

Group leaders or planners can do other things to ensure a well-planned, memorable experience.
Some essentials include pre-riding the route a few days before the ride. This helps you know whether you'll encounter construction, detours or big local festivals. You can track rest stops and gauge some of the subtle qualities that turn a good ride into a great one, like launching from a well-marked, low-traffic meeting point. Gas stops should be done at stations where the parking lot is large enough to accommodate your entire party. If you plan on stopping for lunch, touch base with the owner ahead of time. Your group will receive a warmer greeting, a discounted or special menu and the owner usually will designate a special parking area for bikes, as well as group seating.

A good pre-ride removes the hallmarks of a poorly organized ride, such as one that starts with
complicated transitions from congested parking lots to freeways, or through stop lights that cause the group to separate. Left turns at controlled and uncontrolled intersections are also common causes for unnecessary gaps in the group. Green arrows are short and oncoming traffic can be relentless. Stay away from malls, busy grocery stores and car dealerships.

If the group lead foresees weather to be a challenge, it's good to remind the group what should be packed. Riders new to a group will need to know your hand signals or be reminded of universal signals learned in their classroom training. Riding formation is important to overall safety and should be staggered. Side-by-side riding is generally not recommended. The ride planners must be at the front and the end of the group. This way if someone breaks down or part of the group gets separated there is someone with them who knows the route.

With all the hazards and variables on our roads today, every rider should consider going back to
school. Courses that improve your motorcycle skills and handling knowledge are available through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Motorcycle Safety Center, as well as Harley Davidson. Your group can even attend workshops that specifically address group riding and street riding and advances everyone's skill levels.

Riding seasons in Minnesota and Wisconsin got an early start this year with our unseasonably warm spring. Accidents and fatalities are up so far this year too. You and your group or club's commitment to safety gives greater confidence to new riders and sets an example.