Posted: 17 Nov 2013
There’s no denying that riding in a group of two, three or more people can be lots of fun – but there are obvious challenges too. We’ve pulled together some handy hints and tips to make sure your ride-out with friends remains as fun (and safe) as it can be.
1. Be prepared
When you arrive at your meeting point, be sure to fill your tank… and empty your bladder! This means you can all start your trip together and get as far as possible without needing to stop. It’s also vital that everyone knows the route, including any scheduled stops – particularly if it’s going to be a long ride – in case anyone gets separated (more below). You should also take time to discuss riding formations (more below) and overtaking manoeuvres before you set off.
Anyone who has ridden in a group before knows how difficult it can be to communicate with the other riders in pack, unless you’re all carrying intercom systems. Make sure everyone knows a set of basic hand signals before you set off. Knowing how to communicate things like ‘rest break’, ‘bike problems’, ‘road debris’ and ‘direction changes’ etc. can be valuable to know when other forms of communication are impossible.
3. Stay together
No matter how prepared your group may be, there are things that can prevent riders staying together – particularly if you’re riding in larger groups. It could be that only a few riders in the group make it through a traffic signal before it changes, or not all riders can pass a vehicle safely. So what do you do if you get separated?
When approaching a traffic signal that is about to change, the leader of the group could slow down and let the light change before the rest of the groups arrives, although this should only be done if there is enough space and time and it is safe to do so. Alternatively when passing slower traffic, the leader can wait until there is enough room for all riders to pass, and then make sure there is enough room behind once passed.
Another popular technique to ensure no-one is left behind is the ‘drop off technique’. This is where the rider in second place (behind the leader) marks every corner when the group is meant to turn. Once the final rider (designated back marker) is through, they re-join the ride-out. Everyone who is riding in second place takes a turn at this but the back marker and leader remain the same to avoid confusion.
“Staggered formation” or "checkerboard" can provide a number of safety benefits for riders in a group. Firstly, it means the group is more compact, so rather than riding in a long single line, riders stagger themselves at the left then right side of the lane. This formation also gives the riders in the group more space to manoeuvre and avoid debris or potholes. However, note that there are some situations when it is safer for the group to use the single file formation. These include, corners and when passing slower vehicles.
5. Remember other road users
Whether you’re riding in a group of three or a group of 13, spare a thought for other road users. If you’re heading out on a large (organised) charity ride for example, speak with your local authorities to ensure they’re aware of your plans – sometimes they’ll put traffic measures in place to minimise disruption to other road users. Regardless of the size of your group, just be polite and don’t give into the temptation to ride like you’re part of a gang.