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How to make group riding safer

Group riding is what makes the summer for some people, while for others it’s a confusing mess of rules and egos. Whichever side you’re on – here’s how you can make it safer.

WITH the weather (slowly) perking up, heading out with your mates for a ride is on a lot of people’s agendas. But could you all do it a bit more safely?

Can riding in a group be dangerous?

Simple answer is yes – riding a motorcycle is considered a dangerous pastime. Multiplying the number of bikes can increase the risk. But that’s not the whole story. If you’re with a group of friends, they should know some information about you to give to the emergency services. Group rides also mean there’s more chance one of the riders will spot you if you go down and help notify first responders to your location and also the events that led to you being there.

How can I make group riding safer?

While the thought of grabbing a load of folk you speak to on Twitter and heading off for the North Coast 500 may sound like the Instagram story the world needs - in reality, it could be a bad idea.

Without knowing the other riders in the group there is a fair chance that Billy Big Bollocks (not his real name) will try and assert himself as the alpha of the group. If Crazy Kev normally rides at the front, the chances of these two pushing each other beyond their normal limits are dangerously high.

If you aren’t familiar with each other, some riders might not be familiar with the route you plan to ride, the pace you normally keep, how you handle junctions if you get strung out and all the other pieces of etiquette that takes a bunch of mates years to commit to memory.

If you’re riding with new people it’s a good idea to speak to the riders before you set off, just to get an idea of how they like to do things.

Anything else I can do?

It sounds simple but ride to your own pace. Accidents are far more likely to occur when a rider is chasing a group of much faster and more knowledgeable riders. Sometimes keeping these riders in the centre of the pack is the best idea but not squashed in. you have to let them have some space to ride on their on patch of road. Then you can have the fastest at the front and some more experienced participants at the rear of the group to mop up.

There is school of thought that the slowest should always go at the back which I don’t really subscribe to. While it means you aren’t being pushed on by other riders, it does mean you are the one that has to generally push on the most with overtakes, especially as you will inevitably miss a few and try to make up ground. And again, it’s the time when you’re pushing on in this way that an error could occur.

Can we overtake within the group?

This is something to sort out before the ride but, if done correctly and on a clear road with good visibility, there is no reason why not. The main thing to remember is to allow the other rider enough space, time and warning that you’re coming past. Sit in clear space off the right-hand rear quarter of the bike so that you can see the rider’s face in their rear-view mirror. Stick on an indicator early and leave it on for a moment before moving and once you’ve done your own checks move out and make progress leaving a healthy gap. For the most part the rider you are overtaking should see you and move to the left or stick out their right leg, signalling for you to pass by.

As a less confident rider, there is nothing that makes you want to hang up you leathers and not go out with a group like some absolute dickhead with a super-loud end-can, hitting the rev limiter as he skims your fairing with his knee slider. There really is no need, and the only thing it’ll get you is a kick in the bollocks at the next coffee stop!

What can I do if there is a crash?

Firstly: Ride as safely as you can. You can bet your bottom dollar that should a member of your group go down – or worse a couple of people have a tangle – and the plod arrives to take statements from the motorists at the scene. Doris in her Daewoo is going to tell them you were all travelling at a bazillion miles per hour and doing rolling burnouts on here bonnet. I big group of flash looking bikes that are all polished to perfection grab attention like nothing else on the road. And to Doris and her mates, a chilled ride on a Sunday probably does seem like she’s trapped on the Mountain Mile on Mad Sunday!

The next most important thing to do is warn the other people. If the crash is in front of you: Hazard lights on and park your bike safely – if you can, and it’s safe to do so, parking at a slight angle with the hazard lights flashing can be used as a warning sign to other people. If you see the incident in your mirrors you can still help and warn the oncoming motorists. Once you have parked up standing down the road from the incident and letting the road users know what’s going on is a very good idea.

Then you need to do a quick assessment of the rider(s) involved and if needed, get onto the emergency services. Give them as much info about the riders as you can – Consciousness, ABC checks, age, weight, medical problems, allergies, any visible injuries – a good emergency call handler will gather this info from you.

What is the ‘Second Man Drop’ system, and is it worth using?

The second man drop is a method commonly adopted by trails and green-lane users and is an excellent method if you are using B-roads and single carriageways for a few reasons.

Here’s how it works:

  • Group arrives at a junction
  • Lead rider takes the turn – they generally stay at the head of the pack
  • The second rider stops and notifies the group of the direction
  • When the last rider comes past the second rider, they wave to notify they are the last rider
  • The second rider joins the group as the last placed rider

The method works much better on quieter country routes and is obviously not suitable on trunk roads, dual-carriageways or busy routes but it does work – if everyone follows the rules!

It’s also a good way of rotating the pack of riders and allowing everyone a shot at being the last rider and riding mid-pack. It also means that no rider gets left behind so nobody has that feeling that they need to desperately chase the rest of the pack to keep up!

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