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On the subject of group rides

April 11, 2012

There’s this map of the U.S. showing average high temperatures for the month of March. It’s mostly bright red. The Pacific Northwest, OTOH, is bright blue. While most of the country has skipped spring and gone directly to summer, we here in the upper left corner are still trying to shake off winter. But warmth will come, we tell ourselves, as we prepare for group riding.

Alan Hearnshaw has posted a terrific article about group riding on This should be required reading, whether one is leading a group, or “Tail-End Charlie.”

He brings up an idea to which most of us probably haven’t given much thought: “Riders of widely varying abilities and experience levels (are) all riding the same ride.”

While I’ve always said riding in a group can ratchet up your skill level in a hurry, you shouldn’t ride so far beyond your comfort zone you make a serious mistake, with unpleasant consequences. (Of course, good ride leaders take into account their group’s relative skill level, and adjust the pace accordingly.)

He makes a lot of other good points, including not fixating on the bike directly in front of you. In racing, this was called not driving the other guy’s car; it’s not unusual at club events to see a novice racer follow a car in front straight off the track when that leading car’s driver misjudges a corner.

Likewise, race drivers are obligated to give their competitors “racing room.” On a scooter (or motorcycle, or bike), this means leaving room to maneuver, or slow down, if the group encounters an obstacle. In this case, you’re not racing.

If you’re going on a group ride this weekend, here’s hoping the weather gods smile on you. Ride safe! Favicon

  1. jprestonian permalink
    April 12, 2012 11:17 pm

    Thanks for the link, Orin. I’m weeks behind in preparing an “official” ride document for the folx, and this gives me a lot to work with (credited, of course, to all including you).

  2. Jack Riepe permalink
    April 14, 2012 11:05 am

    Dear Orin:

    I used to look at the long lines of Harley riders in both awe and a bit of jealousy when they’d pass by in columns of 50 or 60 riders. I wondered why my BMW club members never rode in groups like this. And then one day, I talked everyone into a group ride to Gettysburg. There were 50 or 60 bikes in a long, staggered formation, which was the recommended procedure.

    That ride was like getting a root canal. You had to concentrate on maintaining your position, which often meant trying to match the bike in front of you, which generally had cruise control. We often got hemmed in by trucks, and our average speed was about 70 mph. I swore I would never ride like that again. It was a real pain in the ass.

    For me, the perfect number for a ride is three, or two groups of two. Then you can get up on the highway and go like bloody hell if you like.

    The late safety guru, Larry Grotsky, thought the staggered ride approach was inferior to a nicely spaced single file…” And I think he is correct. He was killed by a deer strike.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

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