Some members have approached me, since I was the Head Road Captain with the Hog Chapter to state the Rules of the Road while riding in a group. With a mix of new riders it appears we all need to know the safety aspects when riding in a group. With the NEW YEAR here, and plenty of group rides on the horizon, the following is refresher explanation of the “Rules of the Road”. The lead Road Captain takes the responsibility of getting everyone to the destination safely, although each rider is responsible for their own riding ability and actions. The rear Road Captain, known as the tail gunner, also has directions to the destination. Should the group get separated to the point the lead bike in the trailing group can not get caught up, the tail R.C. will then take the lead to the destination. The rear R.C. will usually be in the middle of the lane which will enable him to see the lead R.C.’s signals. The rear R.C. also has their eyes on your tail light, brake light, and turn signals to make sure they are in working order. They will also watch for any lose items that may fall off your bike, especially your wallet. Should someone in the group become disabled with a mechanical problem or illness, the tail R.C will stop to render assistance. At that time the lead R.C. and remaining riders will find a safe place to pull over and wait for a reply from the tail R.C. to describe the problem. We will never leave a rider that has a problem. Should the rider elect to stay behind, the remaining bikes that stopped to help will rejoin the lead group. Cell phone numbers should be exchanged by the lead and tail R.C.’s prior to the start of any ride. Prior to the start of any ride the R.C.’s should do a bike count and break down the group to 8, 10 or 12 per group. Riding in a group of 20 plus bikes looks cool but not safe. Always gas up prior to a ride.
LANE CHANGES: are most critical when riding in a group. These take place when passing a vehicle, or getting ready to make a turn on a multi-lane highway. When passing on a four lane roadway or Interstate, the lead R.C. will alert the group by using their hand signal, and turn signals when it’s safe to pass. These signals are to be passed on through the entire group. The tail R.C. will then move to the passing lane (known as blocking the lane). The lead R.C.will acknowledge their move and bring the group to the passing lane. No one is expected to pass until the lead R.C. signals and makes their move and feels it’s safe to do so. The head R.C. will try to make this maneuver with the entire group intact, but that is not always possible when traffic is heavy in the passing lane. The same procedure applies to return to the inside lane. The lead R.C. should return to the right lane when the rear R.C. clears the passing vehicle. These procedures do not apply to a two lane highway. On a two lane highway which we travel most of time, the oncoming vehicle would have to be on the distant horizon for a safe pass. Keep in mind the Lead R.C. initiates the move, but that does not mean it’s safe for everyone to pass. You must use your own judgment when in a group. Just because the bike in front of you elects to pass does not mean that the coast is clear for you. The lead R.C. before passing on a two lane highway will check all traffic ahead and to the rear before they commit the group to the oncoming lane for the pass. The lead R.C. will quickly pass the signals back and initiate the move. All riders should do a head check to the rear, and of course the judgment call weather it’s safe to pass. Lane’s changes can safely be done by following these simple instructions.
STAGGERED RIDING FORMATION is very important. Here's how it works. The lead R.C. should be in the left 1/3 of the lane, and the second bike should be in the right 1/3 of the lane with the trailing bikes following the same left-right formation behind the lead. Each rider should leave enough room for the bike in front of them to make a maneuver right or left without them having to worry about hitting the front of the bike staggered to the rear of them. EXAMPLE: Should a rider have to swerve suddenly to avoid a hazard, they can move over to the opposite part of the lane next to them knowing no other rider is in that spot. Sometimes we tend to sneak up on the rider in front of us without realizing it. Should you need to inform the rider of a problem, be sure to make your presence know when approaching. Keep in mind the distance rule behind the bike in front of you is 2 seconds under 50 mph, and increases to 3 seconds over 50 mph. Always stay in line with the bike in front of you, and do not switch between the left and right side of the lane while in formation unless someone drops out. At that time cross over to maintain the proper formation. Staggered formation does not apply when approaching a signal light, or stop sign. At that time the group should keep tight. The lead R.C. should try to time the lights, if possible, by slowing down if it’s apparent the light is due to go red. At a stop sign the R.C. should try to be patient with the traffic and try to get the entire group through the intersection. What takes place some of the time is the coast is clear for him and maybe a few others, meanwhile the rest of the group is left sitting there waiting for the traffic to clear. Now they have to haul ass to get caught up with the lead R.C. No, the lead R.C. can not always take the entire group through the intersection, but patientence can help.
NIGHT TIME GROUP RIDING: When riding in a group, one of the rules to remember is to use only your low beam headlights, since high-beams can be blinding when looking in your rear view mirror. Only the lead rider, if need be should use the high beams. When riding in a group your concentration should be on the tail-lights and turn signals on the bikes in front of you. At times it is hard to see the riders hand signals, therefore it won’t hurt to exaggerate your signals. Passing is a problem at night, and should be done only if it is absolutely necessary. It is hard to judge vehicles to the rear only by their headlights and to determine their speed. Drivers can not deal with all those bikes passing other vehicles, especially in town. We are an accident soon to happen if we try to control the traffic flow. Needless to say we will continue to change lanes on a muti-lane roadway to make a left turn or position ourselves in a safe lane. Riders in the 1/3 left portion of the lane on a two lane roadway should be very conscious of the oncoming vehicles since they may tend to cross the center lane slightly. You might consider staying to the right about a foot off your normal position. Inside bikes beware. Wear clothing that can be seen at night like white Tee’s, reflective jacket. DOT LED rear lighting for braking, and Blue Hintensity halogen headlight bulb can be very effective. Riding at night can be a challenge to some, but these simple tips can help make it fun, and safe.
SIGNALS: These signals may not cover every communication need. The following include the most important. They are usually implemented by the lead R.C. Follow me: Arm extended straight up from the shoulder. Left turn: Arm extended straight out. Right turn: Left arm extended and horizontal at the elbow. Stop (slow down): Arm extended straight down, palm back. Single file: Arm and index finger extended straight up. Double file: Arm extended straight up with Ram Horn sign. Hazard in road: On the left side of the bike point to the object with the left arm. On the right side of the bike point to the object with your right foot since this keeps your hand on the throttle. Pull off road: Left arm as on position for right turn, but continually bending at the elbow to the shoulder. Turn signals: When accidentally left on, open and close fingers and thumb with left arm extended upward. Fuel: Point to tank. Stop, food, etc.: Thumb in mouth, he he….Road captain is lost: Both arms straight up!
With new members with little riding experience joining our group rides they need the support not only of the R.C.’s but all riders. Make them welcome and pass along any helpful tips to make them comfortable on our rides. They should be placed at the front of the group behind the lead R.C. and the sponsor of the ride. I am hoping these Rules of the Road guide lines do not intimidate any old or especially new members from riding with the group, but encourage you to join our club rides. In closing I am hoping you don’t think I made these rules up. They are an interpretation of the way they are. Your additional input is welcome. Group riding is simple, and fun if everyone concentrates on their responsibility of the Rules of Road. Nothing could be worse than to have a club ride, and have bikes go down due to an error by a rider. We all feel we are good riders, but it doesn’t hurt to review the rules once in awhile. What is most important is to think safety every time we sit on the saddle. Best wishes to all, have fun, ride safe, and be grateful you found the best Bike Club in Central Florida The DAYTONA 200 M/C
Racer Rich...........Feb. 2005