Group Riding and Safety

The purpose of riding in an organized group instead of an undisciplined pack is to provide the additional safety that a well-organized group inherently generates.

This comes from within the group and from the outside. When a group rides in an orderly fashion, people don't get in each others way, and the organization of the formation itself discourages cars from attempting to cut in. I have even seen trucks move to the far side of their lane to minimize wind blast when they see a well-ordered formation "single up" and move as far away from the truck as their lane allows.

Once riding rules have been adopted by a club, EVERYONE Riding with the SCRC is expected to follow them. Anyone violating the rules, and compromising everyone else's safety, will be warned, and if their actions continue, will no longer be welcome to ride with the club.

The following rules are compiled from a number of sources. Most clubs that ride in orderly formations follow similar rules. Details may vary from one club to another, sometimes because of the style of riding they do, or sometimes because there are a number of reasonable options, so they chose the one they prefer.

Remember that riding in a group does not mean you surrender any decision making when it comes to your own safety. Ride your own ride, and don't go any faster than you feel comfortable going.

* THERE WILL BE ABSOLUTELY NO ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION ON CHAPTER RIDES!!! *

One of the Road Captains or Officers will conduct a pre-ride meeting.  Along with an overview of the rules, special route information such as road construction, known hazards and other 'issues' will be discussed.  It's vital to pay attention during this meeting even if you are already familiar with the rules.

Safety: It is the immediate responsibility of the 1st Officer, 2nd Officer, Road Captains and Tail Gunners to assist in maintaining the safety of the group during chapter rides. Ride rules are implemented for one reason only, SAFETY. Riders not adhering to the ride rules, creating safety risks for the group while in formation, will be counseled and depending on the severity of their actions, may be removed from the chapter ride. Although the Officers, Road Captains, and Tail Gunners will do all they possibly can to assist with the safety of the group, it is ultimately the responsibility of each rider to insure their own personal safety.

Multi-chapter Rides: Whenever this chapter participates in Multi-chapter rides, we will make every attempt to stay together as a chapter. Each chapter is aware of their own chapters riding style and safety habits, and staying together is safer for all concerned.

Formation Riding:
Will be in a standard "staggered" formation. In staggered formation, the bikes form two columns, with the leader at the head of the left column, so he will be able to view all bikes in the formation in his/her rearview mirrors, and be able to see around vehicles the group approaches. The second bike will head the right column, and will ride approximately 1 second behind the leader (and in the opposite side of the lane). The other riders will position their bikes 2 seconds behind the bike directly in front of them, which puts them 1 second behind the diagonal bike. This formation allows each rider sufficient safety space, and discourages other vehicles from cutting into the line. The last rider, or Tail Gunner, may ride on whichever side of the lane he prefers. He will have to change sides during the ride, based on the situation at the moment.

Ride Leader: The Ride Leader must be aware of the length of the columns, and must gauge the passing of merges, highway entrances and exits, etc., to allow for maximum safety and keeping the group together. He must make sure that he leaves enough time/space for the formation to get into the appropriate lanes before exits, etc. All directions come from the Ride Leader. The Ride Leader makes all decisions regarding lane changes, stopping for breaks and fuel, closing of gaps, turning off at exits, any concerns of what lies ahead. No individual will assert himself independently without direction from the Ride Leader to do so. Road Captains may be Ride Leaders or Tail Gunners.

Road Captains: Road Captains are primarily responsible for the safety of the group. They should be able to ride well and be aware of safety issues related to the group as well as standard road rules. Road Captains should also be proficient in all group riding hand signals that our chapter uses. Some of the Road Captains duties include but are not limited to; the riding safety of the group, conducting pre-chapter ride safety briefings, and addressing those riders in the group that may be a safety risk to themselves or the group, during a chapter ride. On occasion, the Road Captains will meet with other chapter Officers to discuss safety related issues and other miscellaneous chapter business. If a person or persons, member or guest, are found to be unable or unwilling to ride according to the Chapter Riding Rules, the Road Captain has the complete authority to ask the person or persons to leave the ride.

Tail Gunner:
The Tail Gunner serves as the eyes of the Ride Leader. He watches the formation, and informs the Ride Leader of any potential problems within the group. He watches other vehicles, and informs the Ride Leader (and anyone else with radios) of hazardous conditions approaching from the rear, such as vehicles trying to cut into the formation and trucks passing with potentially dangerous wind blasts. He will watch for merging lanes, and will move into a merging lane (or stay in a merging lane just vacated by the group) in order to "close the door" on other vehicles that may otherwise find themselves trying to merge into the formation. At the Ride Leaders request, the Tail Gunner changes lanes before the formation, to secure the lane so the formation can move into it.

New Riders:
The position of new (inexperienced with GROUP riding) riders within the group is significant. New riders should be positioned as close to the front as possible. This idea varies from chapter to chapter, where some chapters may have the newer riders placed in the rear of the group.

Lane Changes: All lane changing starts with a radio request from the Ride Leader to the Tail Gunner. The Tail Gunner will (when it is safe to do so) move into the requested lane and will inform the Ride Leader when the lane is clear.

At this point, the Ride Leader has three options:
  1. Simple Lane Change: This is an ordinary lane change, and can be used in most situations. After the Tail Gunner has secured the new lane, the Ride Leader will put on his directional signal as an indication that he is about to order a lane change. As each rider sees the directional signal, he also turns his on, so the riders following him get the signal. The leader then initiates the change. All other riders change lanes too. The important concept is that NO ONE moves until the bike in front of him has started moving.
  2. Block Lane Change: This can be used interchangeably with the Simple Lane Change. It requires a little more work, but it is well worth the effort. Its quite impressive to watch, and gives the riders a tremendous feeling of"togetherness". This sounds a little complicated, but is actually very simple to do. After the Tail Gunner has secured the new lane, the Ride Leader will put on his directional signal as an indication that he is about to order a lane change. As each rider sees the directional signal, he also turns his on, so the riders following him get the signal. The leader then raises his left arm straight up. Each rider repeats this signal. Then, as the leader lowers his arm to point to the lane into which he is moving, he actually initiates the change. All other riders lower their arms at the same time and change lanes too. This allows the entire formation to move from one lane to another as a single block.
  3. Rear Fill-in: This is sometimes necessary if a long enough gap cannot be maintained in the new lane, for example when trying to move from the right lane to the center and vehicles from the left lane keep cutting into the opening. After the Tail Gunner has secured the new lane, the leader (usually at the suggestion of the Tail Gunner) will call for the group to fill in the space from the rear. He signals this by raising his hand to shoulder height and "pushing" it towards the new lane. All riders repeat the signal, and the last bikes move into the space in the new lane ahead of the Tail Gunner, then the next-to-last bikes move in ahead of those, and so on until the Ride Leader finally moves into the space ahead of the entire formation.
Emergencies:
In the unlikely event of an emergency condition, the Ride Leader will make every attempt to move the formation to the shoulder in an orderly manner. If a bike breaks down, let the rider move to the right. DO NOT STOP. The Tail Gunner will stop with the problem bike. The Ride Leader will lead the group to a safe stopping place.

Hand Signals:
Each rider (and passenger) should duplicate all hand signals given by the rider in front of him, so that the signals get passed all the way to the back of the formation. The following signals are used in addition to the standard (right turn, left turn slow /stop) hand signals
  • Single File: When conditions warrant single file (narrow road, anticipated wind-blast from trucks, obstruction, pedestrians, etc.) the Ride Leader will raise his left hand straight up, holding up just his index finger. All other riders will repeat this, and the two columns will merge into one.
  • Staggered Formation: After singling up, when single file is no longer necessary, the Ride Leader will raise his left hand with thumb and pinky out, other fingers closed,
    rotating his wrist back and forth (indicating left, right, left, right). All other riders will repeat this and resume staggered formation.
  • Tighten Formation: When the Ride Leader feels that the formation should be tighter (bikes closer together) (usually after being informed by the Tail Gunner), he raises his left hand with fingers spread wide and repeatedly closes them into a fist. All other riders repeat this and close up all unnecessary space in the formation.
  • Road Hazard: This is the one signal that can be initiated by ANYONE. Anyone seeing a hazardous condition on the road surface (road kill, oil, gravel, significant pot hole, etc.) will point at it.
    All following riders will repeat this, and all riders will avoid the hazard.
Additional Resources:
Please take some time and check out these additional resources.  Understand that all chapters and clubs are different and may use hand signals or maneuvers that differ from our own.   Please feel free to contact a Road Captain or chapter officer with any questions. All links will open in a new window.