Chapter Z2’s Group Riding Etiquette Review
Since we are entering the riding season, it is time we review some Group Riding Etiquette. We try to keep our rides in groups of no more than 7 bikes per group. On occasion, we do vary from this, but for the most part, it is best for traffic, so we ride in groups of 7. In each group, you have a “Road Captain” followed by five bikes then, we have the “Tail Gunner” or “Sweep.” Prior to each ride, the Road Captain will select his Sweep and host a brief ride summary. The summary will include a brief description for the route to the destination, planned rest/comfort stops, clarify who has communications via CB channel, the two-second rule to maintain a tight staggered grouping, and informing the group whom the Sweep will be for the ride.
KNOW YOUR ROLE
The leadership roles of the group ride fall to the Road Captain and the Sweep. The Road Captain will communicate the route, road hazards, upcoming traffic patterns, and lane changes. The Road Captain is always looking ahead and is concerned with the group’s safety by evaluating the road’s condition and hazards, traffic pattern, and maintaining a safe speed limit by determining the safest speed limit to travel. The Road Captain will communicate to the Sweep the need to change lanes. “I need the left lane as soon as it is safe.” The only one to answer this is the Sweep. “I have the left lane secured. Look left move left.” Or “I have secured the left lane after the Black pickup truck, after the pickup truck passes look left and move left.” Or even “It is unsafe to get the lane at this point standby I will let you know when I can get the lane.” It is the Road Captain’s job to maintain the group in a safe manner. If the group gets separated by a traffic signal, it is your decision on whether to continue on, pull over in a parking lot and wait, or to slow down and wait for the group to catch up. This decision is to be made on which is the safest for the group.
The interior group, The Riders
The interior of the group riders sometimes referred to as the “lemmings,” are the followers. Their job is to maintain a 2 second space between the rider in the same track of their lane. Remember a lane is made up of 3 tracks; left, center and right. When we ride in our staggered pattern we have the whole lane to maneuver in but we try to maintain the left and right track. If you are in the left track you need to try to maintain a 2 second distance between you and the bike in the left track in front of you, and a 1 second distance with the bike in the right track. You can avoid sling-shotting or rubber-banding when you are in the group by maintaining a 2 second cushion to keep the group tight and organized. Also remember, you need to ride your ride. If you need to maneuver into a curve, a turn, or avoidance of a road hazard you have the use of all three tracks of the lane. After the maneuver has been made you return to your track.
As a member of the interior group, maintain radio silence. Speak only when spoken to is a good mantra to use. Occasionally, you might have the need to express a thought on something, but keep the chatter to a minimum. You never know when the Road Captain will have to announce a hazard or safety concern for the entire group and can’t make the announcement because of the chatter.
Keep your same position in the group after a comfort stop, lunch, ice cream, or for stopping for gas, etc. Re-take the same position so you are aware of the bikes around you. If you plan to leave the group ride at anytime, announce that you are leaving the group. When arriving at a destination i.e. a parking lot stay in line, you park your bike when the bike in front of you has parked.
The Road Captain will try to choose a spot where the entire group can park together. If that is not possible the Road Captain can announce park on your own, if not stay together and stay in order. Parking like this looks like we all know what we are doing as a group. When we pull into a parking lot and 7-30 bikes go in 7-30 different directions it doesn’t give the impression that we are a unified group. Let’s stay together.
Being in the middle is the easiest part of the riding group. You are following and enjoining the ride while still focusing on riding your ride. But, WAIT; once you get separated at a stop light from the group and you are the first bike to get caught by the light, you now are the Road Captain until you rejoin the group. If you were lucky enough to be the last bike to make it through the light, you now are the Sweep until the group gets together again.
The Sweep is in charge of maintaining the group and being the eyes in the back of the head for the Road Captain. Sometimes you are the Shephard in keeping the group together in a tight formation, to keep the rubber banding to a minimum. The Sweep is an integral part of maintaining the safety of the group. In constant communication with the Road Captain at every intersection, making the announcement “We are all through the light and together,” or “we have two bikes caught by the light.”
In the event of a bike breaking down, the Sweep will stay with the bike and radio ahead to advise the Road Captain. In the event of a member going down, it is the Sweep’s job to make the announcement over the radio “BIKE DOWN, BIKE DOWN” and safely direct traffic away.
An attitude of Safety First is to be maintained on all of our group rides. Every rider has their role in safely operating their own bike as well as operating as a member of the group ride. It is your responsibility, and it is all our responsibility.
– Tony Sundt