THE SLOW RIDER
Not sure I ever posted this one. Some thoughts I posted when a local sport bike club was having a rash (pun intended) of accidents:
- Know who you are riding with. It’s always best to have experience with your riding buddies. Know their pace, lines, etc. If you don’t know a new rider in the group, spend the first couple miles getting to know them.
- Riding together is not racing. People being competitive and showing off is bound to end in an accident. If the people you are riding with are not focused on being safe and enjoying the road together, don’t ride with them. You can all go to the track to settle who is the fastest rider!
- Check the Bike. It’s one thing to take yourself out but another to take your buddies with you! Always do a basic inspection of your ride and your buddies ride. Make this a habit. Don’t run up to the bike and hop on, walk around it.
- Communication. Always get the communication down. Whether its basic hand signals or a blue tooth bike to bike setup, take some time to be sure everyone is getting the plan. Don’t tie it up with the trash talk because that makes critical communications difficult. If not everyone in your group has bike to bike, be sure the first and last rider do as they control the ride and are most responsible for everyone’s safety.
- Ride in formation. This is the part a lot of people have problems with but safe riding in a group is about discipline. Keep a safe distance (“safe” varies with speed) and stagger your location behind the rider you are following. The stagger gives you extra time should something happen to the rider in front of you. Besides, nothing is more awesome than a group of riders moving smartly down the road in formation so tight it would make a Blue Angel pilot blush.
- Following. Ever ride with a group on the same roads you normally drag a knee on and feel no confidence? Well turns out there is a technique to following: That rushed feeling comes from watching the rider in front of you instead of the road. You should look through the turn just as you do when riding alone. When you look at the road you are reacting as the rider in front of you does, not after them. You’ll be able to monitor the rider in front of you with peripheral vision. Also, learn to read gestures. People usually sit up to brake. They also tuck down to get on it. They lean before turning too. Try to learn the rider’s habits you are following. Stay focused and keep up. You will be surprised how losing focus for a few seconds can let the group disappear around the bend. Then you find yourself riding dangerously fast to catchup.
- Leading. Personally, I don’t have a lead rider mentality. The leader has a lot of responsibilities and is most directly responsible for keeping things safe. The first concern for the lead rider is navigation. Not only do you have to find a fun route, it also has to fit the type of bikes in the group. Sport bikes don’t like long stretches of highway like HD’s do. Next is pace. The lead rider must set a safe pace, accounting for weather, rider experience, keeping things fun and not losing anyone. Then there is the role of lookout for the group. You must warn of road conditions (gravel or sand) and spot cops early enough to get the group slowed down. There is also the fuel and bladder breaks. When I ride lead in a group I set my fuel warning on the GPS to the smallest tank in the group. Don’t think Garmin has a bladder warning! A lot to do and good lead riders just have a certain personality where they like commanding the troops and getting them all home safely.
- Tail Gunner (TG). This is my preferred position. The first and last rider in the group should actually be the most experienced riders. The TG is in a sense the mother hen, making sure everyone in the group is keeping up and riding safely. The TG should know the route also, as they will assist if someone gets behind or must stop for equipment issues. The TG also assists the group pace by communicating with the lead (assuming you have bike to bike). If the group is so big that the blue tooth gets out of range you need to split the group up. It’s usually really not that much fun to ride in a group of 20+ bikes. Keep it to less than 10 or so.