When a person first starts riding in groups with other individuals they find themselves bombarded with new terms, and wholly new techniques of riding. Where as, there are certain dynamics of how the group operates in the environment of traffic there is also particular skills required of a rider within the environment of the group. Each rider will have multiple decisions to make on whether to even ride in a group, and as to where in the group the rider wishes to be. There are special techniques that can be used by a rider to insure a safer, saner, and more enjoyable group riding experience.
Choosing an appropriate slot in a group is very important for your own needs. Riders who like the to ride the fog-line should be put in the right third of the lane in a second or fourth position. Remembering with the standard formation of following two-second and staggered one-second, the second and forth rider will be towards the fog-line. Riders who often ride alone may prefer the first, last, or center position because it allows the rider to operate in the left third of the lane where most riders operate when riding alone. It seems that in most groups the same people lead a group and a kind of random sorting process fills in the blanks behind them. This works for some groups, but by its very randomness some individuals may feel put-upon in having to give up their favored position. The easy cure for the anxiety of group-riding is communication; a pre-ride meeting explaining where every one is going and the group dynamics. Communication is of primary importance, and as a group ride is actually a team affair communication reduces the risk factors attributed to riding in groups.
Motorcycling has inherent risk as an activity. Different individuals assign varied assessments of risk to the activity of riding in groups. What for one individual is a peculiar idiosyncrasy can become for another a devilish problem. Group riding may not be the best activity for every individual and coordinators of group activities can insure that riders who wish to participate in social activities are not expelled through a reluctance to group-ride. Providing reluctant group-riders with options such as following the group at an appropriate distance, or maps to the destination allows many to enjoy the camaraderie, while not being forced into an uncomfortable situation. Every one should be allowed to participate whether they wish to group ride or not. It is understandable why a person may not wish to operate the half-a-ton machine in close proximity with others at speed. Group riding and acting as part of the team give us a special sense of friendship, and each individual is responsible for deciding if they should or want to group-ride.
Using cruise-controls in tight group riding situations can cause every one in the group grief. This includes the first bike in line. No cruise-control made can modulate a throttle as well as a human being. I watched a group of Wings on Highway 101 in California expand and contract in length several times oscillating. As I watched from my position behind the group of eleven bikes I could see about half the riders fiddling with cruise-controls trying to lock in an appropriate speed. It never worked. The effect is something like an accordion as the group changes length constantly. This happens in all groups, but is exacerbated with the use of cruise-controls. When riders are going to be on a long journey covering many open miles of road the group should consider expanding to single file formation with several seconds in between each bike. This open formation will be less stressful and fatiguing.
Stress for a rider in a group takes on two forms. There is the internal stresses involved with the person, and the external stresses of the environment. The internal stresses of fatigue, thirst, soreness, hunger, and concentration are alleviated by proper body maintenance and conservative riding. If these stresses are not taken care of they lead to the external problems of riding mistakes. The external stresses such as weather, traffic, and other riders are hard to ameliorate because they are beyond the control of the rider. These external stresses can accentuate the internal stresses to the point that riders make grievous mistakes that normally would not have occurred. Each rider knows their own limit and needs to ride as conservatively as possible to stay within those limits. The leaders of a group need to listen to how the other riders talk, and watch how they ride. Mental acuity will deteriorate long before the physical signs start to show. If a rider is having trouble keeping his lane path, making corners, or any other physical skill you have an emergency don’t wait for the accident. Not every Gold Wing rider has an iron butt that can sit through a full tank of gas before stopping. When designing group rides plan on stopping often and for extended periods of time. Group riding never is or will be the fastest way to move a group of people long distances.
The poor rider and co-rider sitting on the bike with only half as much space as the single rider has per person do have one extended advantage. Four eyes. Very few animals can look in two directions at once. A team on a Gold Wing can though. With instant communication between the rider and co-rider they are capable of interpreting and assessing the dangers ahead, and processing that data. If only the riders listened. Riders need to listen to that person on the back seat. Rely on their ability to read road-signs that pass by to fast to see. The co-rider is not operating the motorcycle dividing time between shifting, braking, accelerating, swerving, and all the other tasks riders do almost by habit. The co-rider can watch other riders, divide their attention to many places, and still be aware of the bike. The best thing for the rider to do is listen to that person sitting behind them divulge information on what is going on. Co-riders can also help in group communication detailing destinations and detours. Riders listen to your co-rider, and co-riders take an active role in the operation of the motorcycle your on.
There are no specific rules for group-riding. The very individualism that turns us toward motorcycling seems to fight the idea of rules. Whereas we join a group of people who ride the same bike we still are individualists at heart. Every group sets out to attain the same goal and uses a variety of way to attain it. If a particular technique works for your specific group use it. If you see another technique that seems to work for another group steal it and use as your own. Always be sure to communicate between each other and attempt to insure you operate with the least amount of risk possible. Communication when you get to the destination is also very important. Remember to debrief at journeys end so that everyone is better prepared for the next ride. If leaders listen to the riders of their groups then the fun factor will increase. Group riding shows the skill of our riders, and displays the motorcycles at their best. The sight of several groups of Gold Wings traveling down the road acting as a team moving through traffic with liquid grace is a wonderful sight. The best sight of all is the smiling faces of the riders and co-riders.