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Riding Safely in a Group

Riding a motorcycle solo can be a very therapeutic experience. All the stress of work or thoughts about the week just drift away mile after mile. But riding your motorcycle in a group can be an even more exhilarating experience.

Whether you’re headed out for a weekend road trip or just a fun day ride to your favorite lunch spot, there is nothing quite like spending the day on two wheels with a group of friends. Here are a few tips for riding in a group.

Communication is Key

    Before you start your engines it’s a good idea to discuss everyone’s riding style and experience. If there are different riding levels mixed in the group then you want to take note of that. If the group has both very experienced riders and beginners, it would be smart to make sure that all the riders are good with riding at beginner level pace. If not, we suggest splitting the group up so that everyone can enjoy their experience. It’s easy to set meet-up destinations along the way and regroup when you get there.

    We live in a state in which lane-splitting is legal, definitely double check to ensure all riders are ok with it. Not everyone is comfortable with this so it’s a good idea to ask.

    Checking everyone’s gas tank size is another key point. Whoever has smallest gas tank determines how many miles until you stop for gas.

Establish a leader

    The next step would be to establish the lead rider, as well as who plans on riding sweep. Having experienced riders at the front and rear helps to keep the group together and keep everyone safe.

    If you have Bluetooth communication devices that’s even better, as it makes the navigation so much easier and allows you to chat between the lead and sweep rider.

    The lead rider has a very important job. Not only does he set the pace for the group, but is in charge of navigation, choosing the correct lanes and signaling throughout the ride. Even if your turn signals and tail lights are perfectly functioning we still recommend using hand signals to alert the group when you are turning or slowing down. If you’re the lead rider, one of the things to remember is that you have to set aside the way you normally ride on your own and make sure you’re riding for the group. Stay safe and don’t make any sudden moves that can put the other riders in danger.

Establish a Sweep

    Riding sweep is just as important as riding lead. It’s ideal if both the sweep rider and the lead rider know the directions to the destination and can easily navigate in case some riders get separated from the group.

Keep your Distance

    One of the biggest tips we can recommend is that you keep your distance between riders. While you may see groups of riders riding very close together out on the road that doesn’t mean that’s how you should be riding, especially if you’re riding with a new group. Two bike lengths distance between you and the rider in front of you and a staggered formation gives everyone the space they need.

Keep your Pace

    Riding at your own pace is always important. If the group is riding faster than you’re comfortable with do not try and keep up. If you fall behind don’t worry about it. Lets face it, we all have cell phones with Google Maps so you’ll be able to find your way if you get left behind. Riding above your skill level or outside of your comfort zone puts the whole group at risk. It is much easier to just hold your line and stay at the speed you like riding.

Riding in a group is not for everyone. Some people like to ride motorcycles for the independence and freedom. If you like to ride fast and make quick maneuvers then riding in a group is not for you. You can just meet your group at the destination, that way you can ride the way you want to and not put anyone else in danger.

Being able to experience your favorite roads and destinations with a group will create fast friends and provide you with incredible memories that will last a lifetime. So grab some friends and saddle up!

MSF - Motorcycle Safety School

The MSF Basic Rider Course is designed for beginning riders of all ages. More than 7 million motorcyclists nationwide have graduated from a Rider Course since1974. Eight to ten hours of classroom-style instruction prepares you for ten hours of hands-on riding exercises in a controlled, off-street environment – typically, a paved parking lot. Motorcycles and helmets are provided free of charge for your use during the course. In the classroom, you’ll learn about the different types of motorcycles, layout and operation of the basic controls, and how to become a safer, more responsible rider. You’ll then move to the riding range where your MSF certified Rider Coach will guide you through the basic skills of straight-line riding, stopping, shifting, and turning, gradually progressing to swerving and emergency braking.

The Basic Rider Course teaches the basic mental and physical skills needed for riding. Here in California, this course provides a waiver of the DMV riding licensing test.

Here is a List of the 14 Hands-on Riding Exercises in the Course:

  1. Motorcycle Familiarization

    • Review T-CLOCS pre-ride inspection

    • Identify location and operation of important controls and major parts

    • Review mounting/dismounting procedures

    • Review elements of good posture

  2. Using the Friction Zone

    • Become skilled in using the clutch friction zone for control

  3. Starting & Stopping Drill

    • Coordinate the friction zone, throttle, and brakes to control the motorcycle

    • Start out and stop with precision and control

  4. Shifting & Stopping

    • Shift gears and stop smoothly

  5. Basic Skill Practice

    • Refine low-speed maneuvering skills

    • Refine throttle use and brake manipulation for corners

  6. Pressing to Initiate and Adjust Lean

    • Understand the maneuvering elements needed for negotiating curves

    • Experience the effects of handgrip pressure and handlebar movement to initiate and adjust lean

  7. Stopping More Quickly & Tight Turns from a Stop

    • Develop a feel for progressive braking pressure to stop more quickly without skidding

    • Practice making a sharp turn from a stop

  8. Stopping Distance Demonstration

    • Observe a demonstration of the reaction/braking parts of total stopping distance

    • To understand effects of speed on braking distance

    • To relate the results to intersection strategies

  9. Limited-Space Maneuvers

    • Refine maneuvering skills to allow turns in limited spaces

    • Learn the counterweighting technique

  10. Stopping in a Curve

    • Learn to maintain control while stopping in a curve

    • Understand traction management

  11. Curve Judgment

    • Improve skills for negotiating multiple curves

    • Understand the "search-setup-smooth" strategy

  12. Multiple Curves & Lane Changes

    • Practice negotiating curves and lane changes

    • Understand safety margins and gap selection

  13. Crossing an Obstacle & Swerving

    • Learn techniques for crossing over obstacles

    • Execute a basic swerve

    • Practice turning from a stop

    • Refine slow-speed weaves

  14. Skill Practice

    • Capstone exercise that combines a variety of maneuvers

  15. Skill Test

    • To assess basic skills using a cone weave, normal stop, turning from a stop, U-turn, quick stop, obstacle swerve, and cornering maneuver.

    • To demonstrate basic motorcycle control skills and ability to avoid an obstacle

    • To demonstrate ability to use the proper technique to negotiate a curve

The course concludes with a classroom knowledge test and hands-on riding skill evaluation. Once your Rider Coach hands you the course-completion card, you'll be happy knowing that you’ve gone the extra mile to develop your own safe riding techniques.

One more benefit is that most insurance companies provide a discount on your insurance. Be sure to ask your agent.

New Rider Tips

We have the pleasure of meeting many new riders I think everyone will answer this question a little differently but I would like to share my thoughts on this with you.

Everyone's journey to two wheels starts differently. Everyone will tell you something different and really you just need to see what is going to work best for you. One thing most everyone agrees with is that you ALWAYS wear proper gear because at some point you will fall. We all do, that’s part of the fun!

In my opinion, if you are thinking of learning to ride, I would recommend taking a motorcycle safety / training course! This is a great learning experience, they have great instructors and small, easy to ride bikes. A lot of people that take these courses have never even sat on a motorcycle so don’t be intimidated!

If you passed the motorcycle training course you are ready for the road according to the law (in California). Check in with yourself again. Do you consider yourself to be a confident driver when you’re in a car? That is usually a good indicator of what type of motorcyclist you will be. The number one most important question to ask yourself is this: does the thrill outweigh the fear? If you are scared shitless every time you hop on your bike then you should NOT ride motorcycles. If you get more and more confident every time you ride and you love it more and more, then you are on the right track. Push yourself, but not too hard. You do not want to be a liability on the road! You will end up out of your comfort zone probably several times as we all do. You just need to broaden your comfort zone a bit more each time!

Riding a motorcycle is dangerous no matter what way you look at it. Having respect for that is crucial. Aside from just learning to ride your bike is the “other people on the road aspect”…. that is a whole other thing that you need to decide if you are comfortable with. A lot of moto accidents are caused by collisions with cars and you need to be aware of how to ride in a way that is defensive while also being respectful to other people on the road. This is NOT for everyone and if you love riding but are not comfortable on the road with all the other cars then stick to dirt and have the absolute time of you life on beautiful mountain trails and open desert roads. I have been riding for many years and I still have “O Shit” moments, but I am not scared. I have found myself in scary situations but I am 90%-95% confident on any roads. It is important for everyone to get to that point at their own pace.

Make sure that you get on a motorcycle for the right reasons. Some people will tell you to just fuckin’ go for it and figure it out as you ride. To each their own! This might totally work for you as well, but I say; take is slow and enjoy the ride!

Packing your bike for a trip

The primary goal when packing for a multi day riding trip is to not be killed by all the bullshit you strap to your motorcycle. Here’s a couple tips that might make things safer and more convenient for you and the people following behind you.

If your gear feels loose, it is. You should be able to grab anything strapped to your bike and give it a decent tug. If it easily moves around, that’s what it’s going to do once you hit the road. Use high quality straps, and avoid bungees for anything major or heavy. There’s nothing wrong with deploying more straps than you need. They may come in handy later anyway. Think of the amount of air pushing on all that gear as you blast down the highway for hours at a time. Make sure all zippers and closures are tight, and face them away from the wind if possible. Recheck your load at every stop. Tighten down straps, look for loose ends dangling near the tire, etc. Your wheels and chain are hungry. More than one chopper hero has gone down when their shit got caught in the back sprocket. Make sure any loose ends on straps are tied up tight and can not rub against any of the spinning bits. Use the buddy system and always keep an eye on your riding partner’s gear, and make sure they are watching yours. If you see something getting loose or close to the wheel, lopsided, etc, wave ‘em over so they can fix it. That small hassle is way better than a big one if the offending gear gets wrapped around your chain at 80mph. Distribute the load as low and evenly as possible. Keep the heavy stuff like tools down low as possible to avoid changing the dynamic of the bike. Heavy stuff up high always tries to work it’s downward or off to one side, so pack it low and symmetrical. If you put all the weight on one side, it’ll all be hanging off in an hour. Put some stuff up on the bars/risers where you can see it, but not too much or it’ll affect the way the bike handles. Don’t put so much up there that you have a hard time seeing over/around it. That may sound dumb, but we see it all the time. Doh! Reduce your kit. One of the best pre-flight measures you can take is to spread out all your gear on the floor or workbench before loading it. Then put about half of it back where you got it. The less you bring, the better your chances of keeping it all together. Share the load with your buddies if you are riding with friends. Chances are a group of four riders doesn’t need four individual stoves, so divvy up stuff like that instead of bringing more than the group needs.

2. Levels of Storage

Being able to access what you need with the least amount of hassle on the road is a skill that takes a little forethought. Dividing it all up into levels of storage reduces the chance of losing something or digging to the bottom of an otherwise nicely packed bag. Here’s the way I do it:

A) Immediate : This is the stuff you can grab without opening anything. It’s what you should keep clipped on the outside of your bag or on yourself: wallet, registration paperwork, multi-tool, pocket knife, sunscreen, phone, flash light, sun glasses and clears, shop rag or bandana, smokes, lighter. I usually wear a vest on a trip, not so much for fashion (I’m helpless in that department anyway) but so I can have all this crap on me and not sitting on any of it. No one wants to wait on you to get your credit card out of the bottom of a giant duffel at every gas stop and every time you dig into that gear there is a chance you’ll hurry through it and leave something undone.

B) Ready: You need to get at stuff like tools, oil, spare gas, and a water bottle with very little effort. So this stuff goes in outside pockets or top layers of your bag. I usually include a towel, trunks and flip flops in this category when weather looks nice. If there’s half a chance of rain or drastic weather changes, I’ll have rain gear and extra layers ready to go and easy to get to in a hurry. Likewise, if you start out early in the morning and need to shed layers in a couple hours, think ahead about where that stuff is going to go. I like to roll up a flannel or jacket and clip it to the front of my handlebar bag so I can open two buckles and unroll what I need.

C) Buried: You really only need your tent, sleeping bag, food, cooking kit or change of clothes at the end of the day. This stuff can be buried a little deeper and harder to get to since you shouldn’t need it in an emergency or on the side of the road.

3. Adapt your Bike for Carrying Stuff

Build or buy a strong sissy bar and strap an appropriate amount of stuff to it. I’ve witnessed dudes putting a heavy gas can on a sissy built out of 1/2 rod and end up wearing it all a few hundred miles later when the thing gives out. Buy some decent throw over saddlebags and make sure they have mounts that keep ‘em out of the rear wheel. If you have a stock-ish bike, there are usually lots of aftermarket racks available. You need to carry at least basic tools so buy a decent tool bag that won’t give out from the weight. Don’t strap to things that get hot or have sharp edges. The best way to sort your kit is to go on the longest multi-day trip you can afford and camp along the way. By the morning of about day four you will be donating junk you didn’t really need and you will have figured out what things belong in each level of storage. Don’t be afraid to watch some weathered road dog pack their kit in the morning, you might learn a trick or two. Remember, the tighter your gear is, the more time you have to enjoy the trip. Being thoughtful about how you pack not only keeps you safe, it keeps you from earning the “Yard Sale” nickname.

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