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Groups Of Two
Lead in the left or right track?

By: James R. Davis

You and your friend, or spouse, are out for a ride on your separate motorcycles. One of you is more experienced, one of you is more skilled - possibly the same person. Which of you takes the lead? Which track of the lane does that person ride in?

Let's start with a pair where one of them is essentially a newbie.

Contrary to advice I have offered elsewhere, your most experienced rider in this case belongs in the lead. This, because it is the lead biker's responsibility to establish speed, select travel lane, navigate, and encounter trouble first. The newbie is gaining experience and may well be 'pushed' over their head if required to take on the many responsibilities of group lead. And, the lead bike belongs in the left track of the lane because that is the position that provides most visibility (for oncoming drivers as well as the lead biker.)

In the case where the least experienced rider is not a newbie (meaning, this person has ridden in groups several times and is in complete control of their motorcycle when on the road), then either of the motorcycles may take the lead position. The least experienced rider may well wish to learn how to lead a group or the most experienced rider may wish to better assess the riding skills of the other rider, for example. The safety rationale that stipulates that the lead bike take the left track of the lane is persuasive most of the time. However, in the case of a person who may be an experienced rider but who has NO or very little experience riding in the lead, both riders can mutually agree that the lead will ride in the right track until that person has gained more experience. In this case you are trading the somewhat greater safety of lead bike in the left track with the greater safety to the lead bike of being farther away from oncoming traffic while they are learning to cope with all the other demands of being in the lead. This is the ONLY scenario I can think of where the lead bike can justify being in the right track.

In the case where BOTH riders are inexperienced (at riding lead) but are reasonably skilled riders, either can take the lead but it should be from the left track of the lane - AND group spacing should be doubled.

In the final case where both are inexperienced (at riding lead) and are relatively unskilled riders, then they are well advised NOT to ride as a group. If they intend to ride 'together' then they should do so in single file with twice the normal group spacing between them. This is a pair that should find an experienced lead bike to tutor them in group riding or otherwise obtain group riding experience while gaining riding skills before they ride as a group of two together.

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

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