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Group Riding - Roles and Form
Our way

By: James R. Davis

In my more than 40 years of riding I can honestly say that only a handful of negative experiences have occurred while I have ridden in groups. Very soon after the first instance of unsafe practices around me which seems to be generally tolerated by the others in the group I announce that I 'must' leave, and do so. This happened most recently about a year ago when my passenger (Elaine) and I joined a ride in Houston hosted by a group we had not ridden with before and found that it was a free-for-all in terms of style and lack of discipline. At the first rest stop we announced that we had to leave (politely) and then left.

Similarly, we have joined a group ride with a local chapter of the GWRRA and left it half-way to the destination after experiencing 90 MPH curves which were apparently 'normal' for them, regardless of the unknown skill levels of everyone in the group. (This is extremely unlike the riding habits of any other GWRRA chapter we have ridden with either before or since.)

Perhaps it's just pride in how we do things in our group rides - or simply that we don't want to 'own' any responsibility for the loss of or injury to anybody that rides with us. And because of this we know that there are plenty of people that would find our style of group riding to be too 'confining' or of insufficient 'excitement' for them. But we are proud of the way we handle group rides and want to share 'our way' with the readers here.

The vast majority of our rides are planned by Elaine (as Road Captain) and I ride drag. (Nobody has ever complained that we fail to husband our flock.) It seems to us that our 'job' is to do everything possible to make the experience on the roads as safe and pleasant for everybody in the group so long as they are together. When the group splits apart at the end of a ride our responsibilities end, of course, but even then it is not unusual to place a phone call or two when we get to our places to insure that everyone made it to their homes safely - particularly in bad weather or if someone had mechanical problems along the ride (in which case one or both of us might even escort that bike all the way to their home.)

We ride to the level of the least experienced/skilled in the group. We insist on discipline and hand signals being relayed and pit stops about every 75 miles.

We believe that you cannot enjoy tomorrow's ride unless you live through today's. And we believe it is the responsibility of each person in the group to insure that everyone does just that.

Nobody is allowed to leave the group without the drag bike knowing about it and, in the case of relatively inexperienced riders, offering to ride escort for them. Nobody other than the person designated by our road captain is ALLOWED to ride 'last' for any reason whatever. Among other things, this insures that we never lose anyone or leave a straggler unintentionally at a rest stop. Most importantly, this insures that the Road Captain has eyes at the rear of the pack and can be kept appraised about how the group is doing (speed-wise, cornering ability, etc.) in order to make adjustments in behalf of the group.

I confess that there have been a couple of the women that have felt that we do not travel as fast as they would like - and they have left us. Good for all concerned. But never in the middle of a ride!

The Houston chapter of the Lone Star Ladies has been called the 'Cook and Sew' group by some of the other women's riding groups in town who prefer going icehouse to icehouse. We think that is a compliment.

Prior to any ride we host a "rider's meeting" during which we:

  • Review where we are going and what route we will be taking

  • Describe how we handle lane changing and what to do if the group splits apart

  • Specify which channel on the CB we will be using and that we ALL WILL USE hand-signals as well

  • Demonstrate and explain each hand-signal we use

  • Determine the riding experience of everyone that is new to the group

  • Assign (to new people only) 'SLOT' positions that they are to ride in until the drag bike is satisfied with their abilities to handle their bikes

  • Invite all the riders to do a 'walk around' their bikes to insure all is in order and then to take a quick look at the bikes on either side of them for the same reason

As a result, there is no doubt who the Road Captain is and what her expectations are of the group. Authority is established and 'agreed to' by virtue of the participants getting into staggered formation.

Granted, our style of group riding and our practices are not for everyone, but those that join us are well cared for, and know it.

Copyright 1992 - 2024 by The Master Strategy Group, all rights reserved.

(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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