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Joining A Group
Never while it's moving

By: James R. Davis

I can well remember some 30+ years ago when I was riding solo down the Pacific Coast Highway in California and seeing a group of motorcyclists up ahead of me. I had never ridden in a group before and they seemed to be well disciplined and riding safely enough. I wondered what riding in a group would be like and then I found that I wanted to.

But how do you join a group that you don't know? Can you just catch up with them and get in line? Must you have the same kind of motorcycle they are riding? Will they get all bent out of shape if you join them without an invitation?

Many people reading these articles have been riding with groups for years and may not realize just how difficult it is for the newbie to get answers to simple questions like those above. So, this one is for them.

First, a brief discussion:

The group of motorcyclists you want to join have more in common than that they happen to be riding together at the moment. Their history as a group may be no more than an hour old, but it exists. They could, for example, have just met each other for the first time at a dealership and are participating in a dealer sponsored ride of some kind. They could all be members of an organization such as the G.W.R.R.A. or G.W.T.A. - or the Hells Angels. Whatever their history, and for however long it has existed, they have more in common than that they happen to be riding together.

As an 'outsider' you might well be welcome to join them, but you have no idea about that without some feedback from the group itself.

Now if you happen to have a C.B. radio on your bike and at least one of the members of the group also has one, and if you can happen to find the channel that other person is using, assuming his radio is on, you can simply hail the group, comment that they look 'good' and ask where they are going. It will become perfectly obvious to you in short order if the group might be willing to let you join them or not, given a successful radio exchange.

But the odds are that you do not have a C.B., or that nobody in the group does, or that you cannot reach anybody on the air, or that nobody responds to your attempts at a radio exchange. In short, you cannot draw too many conclusions from a failed attempt even if radios are available.

Besides the obvious facts that the group is riding together, that it has a destination, and that there is some (however brief) history that they share with each other, there remain some other realities that you should realize at this point:

  • The group may have one or more members in it who is(are) drunk or drugged.

  • The group may be out looking for trouble.

  • The group may just have experienced trouble with someone else trying to join them, uninvited or otherwise.

  • The group, despite appearances, may have no idea whatever how to ride safely as a group.

Thus, it makes very little sense to join an unfamiliar group, even if you do mange to make radio contact with them.

But since that is what you would like to do, consider doing it as follows:

  • Try to make radio contact with them if you can and ask where they are going. If it becomes clear that you would be welcome to join them, next find out where they plan to make their next stop. Using the radio, tell your contact that you would like to join them at that stop and will follow along until you all get there. Tag along behind the group, but NOT in formation. Stay behind their last bike with a distance at least THREE TIMES what the group is using. This, because most groups place special significance to the drag bike position and that rider has unique responsibilities (such as securing lanes.) In other words, follow the group to their next stop without actually joining them.

  • If you are unable to make radio contact with the group then you have no alternative but to attempt to join them at their next stop, wherever that happens to be. Do NOT join the group uninvited!!!!! Since the group has not yet made it clear that they are willing to have you join them you should not tag along as closely as described above. In this case you must not appear to the group or to others as if you are part of the group and just lagging a bit. Ride in a different lane if you can. Let a car or two get between you and the group. If there is only the group and you on the road, follow with at least FIVE TIMES the gap that is being used by the group between its members.

  • At the first stop is when you introduce yourself to the group. Park your motorcycle somewhere in sight of the others, but NOT as if you are already a part of the group. Make your approach to the first member of the group that appears willing to engage you. If there is a pecking order in the group and someone else decides whether or not someone can join them (almost always true), you will be told about it. In conversation find out about the group, its 'rules of the ride', and keep a careful eye out for signs of drugs or alcohol.

Then, have a good time, don't press your skill level to 'keep up', accept your prime directive ('NEVER HIT THE BIKE IN FRONT OF YOU'), and make some good friends.

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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