GROUP RIDES? No thanks, and here’s why.
While working with the Sheriff’s Office Motor Unit, I’ve had to participate in countless group rides. In every one of these rides, there was at least one crash and usually more than one. Some were serious involving several motorcycles with both riders and passengers requiring medical attention. Others were just fender benders, but of course, on a motorcycle, a rider is almost always going to have some kind of injury.
Consequently, now that I’m retired from full time duty, I tend to avoid large group rides. In fact, call me picky, but I only ride with people whose skill level, or lack of skill, I’m aware of. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not telling you to avoid group rides, I know it’s a big part of the motorcycle scene so here’s a few things to look out for.
Number one has to be the accordion or bungee effect. That’s when the riders up front take off at a normal pace and have to make a left or right turn from a stop. The riders 10 or 12 bikes behind have to accelerate rather quickly to catch up to the lead riders. Once those riders catch up to the pack, they have to brake. The riders behind them have to brake really hard to avoid crashing into them. If these riders are only looking at the bike directly in front of them and not looking as far ahead as possible, a crash will happen.
Also, be aware that brand new riders love to participate in group rides. I once had to escort a group with only 12 bikes on a short 20 mile ride to a memorial. I spoke with the group before we started and informed them of the route we would take. When I mentioned that we’d be on the Interstate for five miles, a look of horror came over the faces of several of the riders. I then found out that five of the 12 riders were newbies with less than 500 miles of on the road experience. What’s more, all five had passengers. Needless to say, I changed the route. The message here is be aware that many of the people in front of you and behind you may have no clue how to ride, let alone stop quickly.
Another thing to be aware of, cagers hate group rides. They’ll try to cut into the group anytime there’s even the slightest gap. The reason they cut in is because they want to turn onto an intersecting road. That means not only will the cager cut you off, but he’ll most likely stop short in order to make that turn.
If your group doesn’t have a police escort blocking intersections, don’t have someone in the group block the intersections. It’s illegal and dangerous. I’ve had angry riders pull right past me while I attempted to block an intersection with lights and sirens blaring. So, the chances of all the drivers obeying some bearded, helmet-less guy on a chopper are pretty darn slim.
The safest thing to do on an unescorted group ride is to break up into groups of four or six riders. Make sure everyone knows the final destination and the route you’ll be traveling on. Discuss ahead of time whether or not riders will pull over if part of the group gets caught at a red light. If everyone knows where to go and what road to take, there’s really no reason to pull over for a few riders caught at a red light.
If everyone wants to arrive at the final destination at the same time, you can meet at a location a few blocks from the final destination. It’s a lot easier to keep a large group together for a few blocks rather than 20 or 30 miles.
For more information on group rides as well as plenty of tips, tricks and techniques, check out my new DVD, Surviving the Mean Streets 2.