Posted on June 23, 2022 at 8:00 AM by The Biker Lawyers
A Guide to Safe Motorcycle Team Riding
One of the best things about being a motorcyclist is the camaraderie of the community. It’s why we go to bike nights, rallies, blessing of the bikes, benefit rides, bike shows, and other great motorcycle events. Now that riding season is in full swing, we figured it’s a good time to share a guide to help keep riders safe when organizing and participating in rides to these events.
There’s a big difference between Mass Riding and Team Riding.
Motorcycle riding is dangerous by nature. Riding in a group is different than flying solo. It's all about organization and safety. The most important part of a successful team ride is following the rules of the road. When you ride in a group, you may find the ride very well executed and enjoyable for all, or you may find yourself in the middle of a chaotic mess. It all depends on the type of group ride you are participating in.
The Difference between Team Riding and Mass Riding
Mass riding is typically very loosely organized with designated start and stop point(s) but very little organization during the ride.
Team riding has a structured and accepted set of rules of the road. Team rides are well organized, planned, and conducted by a group of riders who are actively working together to make the ride as safe as possible, more relaxing, and an overall more enjoyable experience.
Team Riding Responsibilities
All riders should plan to arrive on time with a full tank of fuel and bathroom breaks previously executed. Their bikes should be in good riding condition (See this free guide), and saddlebags equipped with a First Aid Kit, emergency contact info, and a cell phone.
As a team rider, you should ride your own ride. Make sure to communicate any change in position, follow safe spacing, follow the Lead and Drag rider's instruction, and communicate any issues or concerns.
What are Team Ride Road Captains and why are they important?
Motorcycle group ride event organization and insuring safety is typically the responsibility of select members of the crew known as Road Captains. There is a Lead Road Captain (with one pre-designated alternate), a Middle Road Captain who rides in the middle of the group, and a Drag Road Captain who follows behind the rest.
A Drag Road Captain never leaves a rider behind. If someone breaks down, the Rear Road Captain will stay with that rider until arrangements are made to get the rider and bike taken care of. While this happens, there will be a temporary new Rear Captain
Being designated a Road Captain is both a responsibility and privilege. They need to be able to make quick decisions, execute on them safely, and be a great communicator.
Road Captains should be experienced riders who have a strong understanding of the dynamics of Team Riding.
The Lead Road Captain Roles and Responsibilities
The Lead Road Captain is the leader who sets up and oversees the ride and understands how to assist in leading a team ride safely. Their primary responsibility is to take full accountability for the ride. This person needs to be acutely aware of oncoming traffic, traffic from side roads, anticipating traffic signals, be aware of road hazards, and have a plan for where to safely pull over if weather changes abruptly.
Anyone can lead a group of riders, but the Lead Road Captain (LRC) manages the group.
Before the ride, LRC responsibilities include planning the route, gas stops, and rest and food breaks every 80 to 100 miles. The LRC organizes sleeping accommodations for the crew if the ride is overnight, and checks for construction, detours, weather, etc. the night before the ride.
For the day of the ride, the LRC will be the one to cancel (reschedule) the ride if weather conditions make the route unsafe. They should plan on arriving at the designated departing area early to conduct a pre-ride briefing.
The pre-ride briefing should include a reminder of planned stops, demonstration of some primary hand signals, and introduction (and positioning) of other Road Captains.
9 Primary motorcycle riding hand signals for a team ride
- Single file- arm and index finger extended straight up
- Staggered formation- Arm extended straight up with the first and fourth fingers extended (forming the "metal horns")
- Hazard on road- Point immediately to the side of the road the hazard is on. This can be done with a hand or by extending a leg.
- Follow me- Arm extended straight from shoulder with palm facing forward.
- Left turn – Left arm extended straight out to the left, with the entire arm horizontal to the ground.
- Right turn - Left arm extended straight out to the left, with the forearm extended up, forming an “L” shape.
- Stop- Arm extended down, palm facing back
- Slow down- Arm extended straight out from shoulder, moving down repeatedly.
- All good (I'm ok)- Tap on helmet or head with open hand, palm down.
While most motorcycles have working turn signals and brake lights, using hand signals in conjunction with the signals on the motorcycle helps insure that everybody knows that a turn, reduction in speed, or stop are about to happen. Being able to see the rider behind you making these signals is reassurance that the intended maneuver can be done safely.
The LRC should position bikes as they arrive and do an overall safety check. Remember that a single bike with defects or safety issues can endanger the group as a whole.
The LRC should request that new riders ride near or in the front.
Good Lead Road Captain best practices:
- LRC should print out and provide route details and maps as needed
- LRC should make sure to carry a stocked first aid kit and safety flares
- LRC should appoint an alternate LRC in case something prevents them from leading the ride.
The LRC should make sure to ride at a safe speed. The LRC should be mindful of the least experienced rider, especially when negotiating curves. When approaching an intersection with a stop, they should remember that all group members will need to make that stop as well. It's important to keep an eye on the group using mirrors and start slow to help keep the group together.
Should the group be separated while going through towns, plan to safely pull over and wait for the rest to regroup on the other side of town. In this case, there will be a new temporary Lead and Drag until the whole team can be together again.
Lead by example and observe all traffic laws. If an unsafe situation occurs because of the actions of a rider in the group, the LRC should plan to pull the responsible rider aside at the first scheduled stop and attempt to resolve the situation.
In the event of an accident, the LRC should work with the other RCs to ensure continued safety. This includes someone directing traffic, administering first-aid as needed, and calling 911. At this point, the ride should be terminated.
Team Riding: When to ride Single File
When a road curves or winds, is narrow or has no shoulder, or has other hazards present a single file line is best. This should also be used in the case of passing a semi in either direction or approaching a blind hill.
Team Riding: When to ride Staggered
Generally, this is preferred and is a very safe way to ride as it allows time and space to react to changes quickly.
Final tips for safe team riding
Make sure to wear proper safety gear. Leave the tennis shoes, flip-flops, and shorts at home. Instead, consider a helmet, gloves, a jacket and or vest, boots, long pants, and be sure to carry a medical information sheet in your saddle bag. It's also a good idea to keep an extra bottle or two of water.
Again, safe motorcycle team riding starts with individual safety.
Below is an infographic with 6 simple steps to riding safely.