In groups

Riding with others can be great fun...

... but it does have its downsides. Advantages include road presence and having others around if anything goes wrong. On the flip side are things like frustration and cluttered vision. Preparation and good group riding etiquette can help swing the balance the right way.

Preparation

It’s important to understand the differences imposed by group riding. And equally important to get together and plan ahead.

The guiding principles for group riding.

  • Allow more time for a journey than when riding solo; you’ll have to ride at the slowest riders pace, take time to gather together, and rest and fuel stops will take longer
  • Agree the destination, route, next stop, cruising pace and riding order beforehand
  • Re-assess all of the above at rest-points as you go
  • Make sure everyone knows an agreed set of hand signals
  • Choose a leader and tail-ender willing to wear high-visibility vests
  • In a really large group, have an experienced rider mid-pack wearing a high-visibility vest
  • Agree to maintain a certain pace.

 

It’s essential to map out your route so no-one gets lost and you make the most of your riding hours. Programming it into a Sat Nav can work well but it’s always useful to have a map as well:

  • Laminated maps are tough and waterproof, making them ideal for touring. Learn how to read the various lines, symbols and colours
  • Never read a map while riding. At low speeds, a passenger can sometimes read a map for you and give directions. Otherwise, stop to get your bearings.

 

Given it’s hard to understand a mate yelling through his helmet into the wind, you might like to agree on a set of hand signals to communicate:

TO SHOW THIS DO THIS
Point out a road hazard Extend left or right leg, as appropriate, at 45 degrees
Re-fuel  Raise your left forearm vertically, upper arm horizontal
Stop for a toilet break Extend your left arm down at 45 degrees
Stop for a drink or bite to eat  Lower your left forearm vertically, upper arm horizontal
Note speedo reading for later Rest your left hand on top of your helmet

On road

 

1. Tempo

  • Put the slowest rider near the front so they won't be left behind
  • Set a speed that suits the slowest rider in the group, so no one feels pressured into going faster than they want
  • Make the fastest rider the tail-ender because they'll have the least trouble keeping up.

2. Overtaking

  • Only overtake another rider on a straight section of road, signaling your intention with your horn or headlight
  • If there is a lot of overtaking your leader should reduce the pace or the group will become too strung out.

3. Stagger

  • On straights, ride in a staggered patter with one rider to one side of the lane, the next rider to the other, and so on. This gives riders better visibility.

4. Gaps

  • Maintain a minimum two-second gap from the riders ahead of and behind you, even when riding in a staggered pattern. Don’t get caught up in a herd mentality.

 5. Single file

  • Change back to single-file (and increase following distances if necessary) when hazards are encountered, or when cornering
  • Space out in single file if travelling slower than general traffic so other vehicles can overtake each rider safely.

 6. Intersections

  • Stop in a staggered pattern at intersections. It makes collisions less likely should anyone balk or remain stopped.

 7. Watch for animals

  • Be wary of startled animals, as the first rider past may cause one to run out into your path.

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