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Group Riding

1. YOUR RESPONSIBILITY:                             (Written by Southern Cruisers for Southern Cruisers)

The intent of this guideline is to give everyone information required to ride together safely. Please keep in mind that these guidelines are not intended to restrict your freedom, but instead, to help ensure that we all return home safely.

These guidelines cannot encompass every possible set of circumstances, and they are intended to serve as a basic guide for most situations. Each person is therefore expected to read, understand, and apply these guidelines, using their best judgment.

Please remember that YOU have the ultimate responsibility for YOUR safety, and always ride within your capabilities and that of your machines.

If you are new to group riding or are uncomfortable riding in a Southern Cruisers Ride, please let the Road Captain know.  Excessive following distance defeats the purpose of maintaining an equally spaced stagger formation.  If you are new to group riding or have a handicap (visual, etc.) and prefer/need to ride on the left or right side of the lane, let the Road Captain know in advance.  Also, make sure you line up in the proper position for where you need to be (odd-numbered bikes will ride on the left and even-numbered bikes will ride on the right).  If you need to switch with another bike, do so before the ride begins and explain to them why you are doing so.

While this guideline states that the Road Captain is in charge, it is the 1st Officer and / or the 2nd Officer of the Chapter that is overall in charge of their chapter & all functions concerning the chapter. This includes rides. All the officers should be intimately familiar with this guide and the safe riding practices.

It is also up to the individual rider to admit to his/her abilities.  The Road Captain must be aware of the riding experience of the people they are leading on a ride.

(Note: Ride Leader may be substituted with Road Captain)
(Yes, as you read through this, there are many things repeated, for emphasis)

2. ALL GROUP RIDER'S RESPONSIBILITIES:

  1. Will observe the objectives and guidelines in order to assure the safety and the welfare of every individual within the group, and any surrounding motorists or pedestrians.
  2. Will follow the instructions of the Road Captain in all situations, unless those instructions place the rider or any other individual in an unsafe situation.
  3. Will maintain their motorcycle and other equipment in a safe riding condition.
  4. Will ride with headlights on.
  5. Will ride with a "safety first" attitude. The safety of all individuals, whether or not they are a part of the group, is of paramount importance.
  6. Will ride with a helmet where the state law requires a helmet.
  7. Will not ride while under the influence of alcohol or drugs that may impair their riding ability. Use good judgment.

3. MEETING PLACE AND DEPARTURE TIME:

  1. Meeting place and departure times will be posted to the membership either by e-mail or phone preceding the scheduled event.
  2. Rider briefing should be held just prior to departure, to establish a schedule for gas and rest stops, inform the group of the intended route, provide other pertinent information and review the group riding guidelines including formations and procedures.
  3. Individuals should make every effort to arrive promptly at the scheduled meeting time and be completely prepared for the scheduled departure time. This includes a full tank of gas bathroom issues.

4. RIDING FORMATION AND INDIVIDUAL POSITIONS:

a.
The standard formation, under good conditions of road, traffic, and weather, will be a double row, staggered, in one traffic lane. The interval will be no less than one second between staggered riders,which will automatically make a 2 second interval between you and the bike directly in front of you.
b.
The Road Captain will be at the head of the group, and typically will ride just to the left of lane center. The Tail Gunner will ride at the rear of the formation.
c.
New members, guests, and any riders with little experience in group riding will be positioned at the front of the group, just behind the Road Captain.
d.
Each rider should maintain his or her starting line up position in the group until arrival at the destination. This allows each rider to become more familiar with the riding style and habits of those nearest him or her in the group, and is particularly important for the new or inexperienced riders.
e.
Under certain conditions the Road Captain will signal the group to form a single file formation. The signal is the left arm held overhead with one finger extended. Drop back to a safe following distance from the rider in front of you and move into a single file.
f.
It may be necessary to form smaller groups for safety due to surrounding conditions or local ordinances. There should be a temporary Road Captain to lead and a Tail Gunner to control the second part of the group.
g.
This may mean that the last rider of each group would become the Tail Gunner for that group. If possible, this rider should be another experienced Road Captain or Tail Gunner. If another Road Captain / Tail Gunner is not available, this rider should be briefed prior to the run as to his or her responsibilities in the event this situation should occur.
h.
It is recommended that trikes and bikes with sidecars be to the rear of the formation and ride single file at all times ahead of the Tail Gunner.

5. SPEED, INTERVALS, AND DISTANCES:

  1. The Road Captain will attempt to establish and maintain a uniform speed; consistent with the ability of the least experienced rider, surrounding conditions, the posted speed limit, the bikes at the ride, and safe riding practices. They should establish before the ride the abilities of the people and the bikes themselves prior to departure. Especially concentrating on new riders, new members and visitors to the ride. The Road Captain should continually check his mirrors to insure the formation is in good shape.
  2. The Road Captains may choose to separate the group of inexperienced riders into a group of their own, consistent with expected or actual conditions. Making sure there is an acting, experienced Road Captain and Tail Gunner to guide them.
  3. All riders will make an effort to maintain the same speed to minimize the effect of irregular speeds on riders at the rear of the group.
  4. All riders will maintain a safe distance and lane positions between themselves and the rider directly ahead to be consistent with existing road, traffic, and weather conditions.

  5A. Minimum Safe Following Distances:

  1. Within the group, a safe distance is defined as a MINIMUM TWO SECOND DELAY between the rider, and the next rider directly ahead (ref. NOTE below). This means that there is a MINIMUM of a ONE SECOND DELAY between staggered riders. Whenever a single file formation is employed, a safe distance remains defined as a MINIMUM of a TWO SECOND DELAY between the rider, and the rider directly ahead. The riders should also realize that by creating a large gap in the formation, that cars will try to move in & split the formation, causing a dangerous situation. It also causes problems for the Road Captain when there are large gaps in the formation.
  2. Too many people get hung up with; "there must be only 2 seconds between bikes". This is a guideline for average highway riding. The gap should be determined by the speed and road conditions. The gap should be established before the ride for the sections of road to be traveled. The faster the speed, the more spacing there should be. With that said, we also do not want huge gaping gaps in the formation where other vehicles will attempt to break into the formation. The gap should be consistent throughout the formation.
  3. With respect to vehicles ahead of the group, a safe distance is defined as an ABSOLUTE MINIMUM of a THREE SECOND DELAY between the Road Captain, and any vehicle directly ahead of the group (ref. NOTE below). If a car pulls in front of the formation, make adjustments to keep a good distance.

    NOTE: It's important to keep in mind that a two second interval is a MINIMUM safe requirement in order to react in the event of a potentially hazardous condition, NOT TO STOP. In group riding, a one-second interval between STAGGERED riders is a policy consistent with the recommendations of most traffic and safety agencies. STAGGERED motorcycles are considered to be in a "virtual" lane of their own, that is that there is a two-second interval between motorcycles in a direct line. This group riding technique requires all participants to constantly ANTICIPATE an EMERGENCY.

  5B.  A safe lane position:

         Is defined as riding immediately to the right or left of lane center. This will keep the riders just off the center oil             stain, while maintaining the staggered formation, distance between riders and other obstacles, and providing                 necessary lane.

6. TRAFFIC LANES:

   a. The Road Captain will attempt to lead the group in a single lane when:

  1. The traffic flow appears to be most consistent with the speed of the group (using lane changes only when necessary to pass slower traffic or to avoid a hazardous condition); and to avoid blocking faster surrounding traffic.
  2. On highways with two lanes each direction, the group will normally travel in the number two lane, also known as the "SLOW" lane, (ref. Note below) allowing faster traffic to pass to left; except when passing slower traffic on the right.
  3. On highways with three or more lanes in each direction, the group will normally travel in the number two lane (See Picture) & (ref. Note below), keeping the right lane open for other vehicles entering and exiting the highway, and the left lane(s) for traffic to pass.

NOTE: Lanes are counted from left to right. The left lane is often referred to as the "FAST" or "PASSING" lane, and is counted as lane number one. Remaining traffic lanes are then counted up until the right most, or "SLOW" lane is counted.

traffic lanes

7. LANE CHANGES AND PASSING:

  1. On a multi-lane highway, the double row staggered formation will normally be maintained.
  2. The Road Captain will hold his or her position and signal for a lane change.
  3. All riders will hold their positions and pass the signal to the rear.
  4. The Tail Gunner will change lanes at the first safe opportunity, protecting the lane for the group, and allowing the Road Captain to see that the lane is clear and protected. The Road Captain should be aware of when the Tail Gunner has changed lanes by using his mirrors. Make a head check to insure no cars are beside the formation.
  5. The formation will change lanes using the "follow the leader" approach. The Road Captain will make a definite hand signal, indicating to the formation he is moving into the other lane & change lanes first followed by all other riders moving from the front to the rear of the group.

    NOTE: NOBODY, except the Tail Gunner, is to change lanes before the Road Captain. ALWAYS make a HEAD CHECK before you begin the lane change, and maintain safe distances. There are also times when there will be minimal traffic the Road Captain may signal a lane change and move over (after checking to make sure it's clear - see section e above).

  6. There are times it will not be possible for the entire group to change lanes as above. When this situation arises, the Road Captain will signal for a turn, and signal the group with one finger extended into the air. This indicates that changing lanes as a group is not possible. The Road Captain will then change lanes when safe to do so. Everyone signals, head checks, and changes lanes front to back, as individuals, when safe to do so. Should the group become separated, regroup when it is safe to do so. Please use known good safety practices, INCLUDING HEAD CHECKS.
  7. On a two-lane road with two-way traffic (one lane each way), a single file formation should be used when passing other vehicles. The Road Captain should also maintain a steady speed after the slow moving vehicle has been passed allowing the individual riders room to move back into formation ahead of the passed vehicle.
  8. If for any reason the group becomes separated, merge safely back into the formation, returning to your original position, using known good safety practices. Don't feel it's necessary to break the world land speed record in trying to catch up. The Road Captain will be aware and adjust accordingly once they are clear of the passed vehicle.

    NOTE: Be certain the road is clear, and always make a HEAD CHECK immediately prior to initiating any maneuver that may cause you to cross other road users. The Road Captain, your mirror, or what you saw just a second ago are no substitutes for your own eyes and good judgment and common sense! Please remember that YOU, and ONLY YOU, are RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR SAFETY. Also, when dealing with our four wheeled friends, you will never win a contest against them. It won't do any good to be "Dead Right".

8. GAS, FOOD, REST STOPS, AND TOLLS:

  1. If necessary, due to the length of the trip, gas, food, and rest stops should be discussed and scheduled prior to departure. These scheduled stops should be adhered to as much as possible, depending on varying conditions as the trip progresses.
  2. Deviation from the scheduled stops may be required due to varying weather, traffic, and bladder conditions (availability of gas, rider fatigue, and other unforeseen circumstances).
  3. Gas and rest stops should be limited to no more than ten to fifteen minutes, depending on the size of the group. Remember the last rider in the group waits the longest, therefore has the shortest rest period.
  4. If toll stops are included, money should be collected in advance. If available, a riding couple should be positioned in the number two slot. As the group approaches the tollbooth, the Road Captain will allow this bike to assume the lead position in order to exchange the toll. The Road Captain will assume the lead as soon as it is safe to do so. If a riding couple is not available, it then becomes the Road Captain's responsibility to pay at the tollbooth.

    NOTE: Remember to avoid the center of the lane when nearing or passing through a tollbooth. They are usually extremely slick.

9. UNSCHEDULED OR EMERGENCY STOPS:

  1. Unscheduled stops for gas, restroom, or rider fatigue can lead to confusion in the group, and confusion can lead to accidents. The Road Captain should be informed that a stop is necessary in order to lead the group in an organized fashion to the next convenient and safe place to stop.
  2. Any rider with an equipment problem should inform one of the Officers / Road Captain / or Tail Gunner as quickly, and as safely as possible.
  3. When the Road Captain is informed, he or she will stop the group at the earliest possible moment, when and where, it is safe.
  4. If the rider must pull over immediately, ONLY the Tail Gunner or assigned formation mechanic will accompany that rider to a stop. If there is an assigned mechanic, they should be at the rear of the formation. The Road Captain should be informed if he or she is not aware of this situation. Once the Road Captain is informed, he or she will pull the group over as soon as it is safe to do so.
  5. Any rider observing a problem with another rider's equipment should inform that rider as quickly and safely as possible. If it appears that a stop is necessary, the Road Captain should also be notified.
  6. The Road Captain should use good judgment and common sense when choosing a spot to pull over. Try to avoid an area with hazards to motorcycles, such as broken glass, trash, loose sand, gravel, and fresh asphalt.

11. HAND SIGNALS:

  1. At all times, standard hand signals will be used for: changing the formation to a single row and back to double staggered, all turns, lane changes, slowing, and stopping. Turn signal lights will also be used at all times.
  2. All signals will be relayed to the rear of the group to allow all riders to take appropriate precautionary measures, and be aware of changes in speed and direction. Once the hand signal is given and the person sees in their mirror that it is being passed on, they may return to gripping their handlebars with both hands. The only one that needs to "hold" the hand signal is the Tail Gunner until he / she reaches the spot of the maneuver, based on following traffic.
  3. Hand signals will be used at all times, to point out road hazards to following riders by pointing.
  4. Left arm held high, one finger extended overhead indicates single file, and extended following distance.
  5. Left arm held high, one finger extended over head, followed by the Road Captain signaling and changing lanes indicates:
    1. The Road Captain will move as an individual, to whatever maneuver or position is required.
    2. The group will follow as individuals, in a "follow the leader" approach, signaling and following the Road Captain as appropriate and safe.
  6. Left arm held high with two fingers extended overhead indicates the standard staggered formation.
  7. Left arm held low & to the side - palm facing backwards, indicates slow and or stop.
  8. Other signals may be used as required:
Hazard in road

Single file

Staggered file

Stop

Follow me    Come along side    Pull off    Speed up
Comfort stop    Food stop    Need gas

  • Footnotes:


    A. LEAVING EARLY: Any SCRC member that needs to leave the ride early, please notify the Road Captain AND the Tail Gunner where you plan on leaving the group.  If possible be at the rear of the formation (ahead of the Tail Gunner) prior to leaving the group.  Any bikes following should move up into the standard group riding positions.

  • B.  BLOCKING.  Remember, the cars on the road have the right of way and blocking is considered illegal. The Southern Cruisers Riding Club does not approve of the use of blocking, it is illegal in most States.  If there is a need to block traffic, it should only be done with prior arrangements with the local law enforcement officials.   It may take a few extra moments to wait for the traffic to clear.  This will keep the formation together and safer.  If the formation does get split up – refer to the section on rejoining the formation.

    C.  STOPS AT TRAFFIC LIGHTS.  Keep your bike in first gear and ready to move when the light turns green, unless you know that it will be an extremely long red light and need to give your hand a rest.  The few seconds' delay for shifting from neutral to first gear can cause the group to be split because not everyone is able to make it through a turn signal. 

    D.  INTERSTATE/HIGHWAYS. When approaching the interstate or a limited access highway, you should gradually increase your speed while on the entrance ramp as you see that you'll be able to merge on to the interstate.  Depending upon the size of the group, the Tail Gunner may not be able to move over and protect the lane for the entire group.  COMMON SENSE AND GOOD JUDGMENT WILL NEED TO BE USED TO DETERMINE IF YOU WILL BE ABLE TO MERGE SAFELY.  Do not assume that since the Road Captain and several bikes have merged on to the highway that it will be safe.  If the group is separated, regroup when it is safe to do so.

    E.  EXITING INTERSTATES/HIGHWAYS.  When you are leaving the interstate or highway, try to maintain a speed that will allow all of the bikes to exit without being on the interstate and having to ride at an extremely low speed.  Move fully on to the exit ramp or turning lane as quickly as possible.  To properly protect the group, the Tail Gunner cannot move over until every bike is safely on the exit ramp or in the turning lane.

    F.  TUNNELS.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is a favorite place to ride for many local and out of state riders. Numerous tunnels exist on the parkway. Some are over 1/4 mile long. There is no lighting in Parkway tunnels. Cars are required to turn on lights, but some don’t. On a motorcycle, the instant of going from sunlight to darkness is disorienting. Your eyes are not used to the dark. The first thing you do is instinctively brake a little. The eyes of car drivers as well do not adjust to darkness instantly. They may not even see the yellow line on the road in a tunnel. In addition, bicyclists may be encountered in tunnels as well. WHEN APPROACHING TUNNELS, SLOW FAR AHEAD OF TIME, ALLOW MORE SPACE BETWEEN RIDERS, GET INTO SINGLE FILE AND STAY AWAY FROM THE YELLOW LINE. You may encounter one tunnel after another so maintain this safe riding posture as long as you are in "Tunnel areas" of the parkway.

    G.  CURVES.  Many roads in the mountain are switchbacks, with non-stop sharp curves. You are riding along at 40 mph, come into the curve and you are down to 15. With a tight curve, riders behind you cannot see that you braked, or have little room to brake and slow, so it is easy to get bunched up.  ALWAYS STAY IN SINGLE FILE, MAINTAIN GREATER SPACING BETWEEN RIDERS AND PAY ATTENTION.  A group of H.O.G riders were riding on the parkway. The lead bike missed a sharp curve, left the parkway and went over the side of the mountain and fell 60 feet, resulting in a rider's death and a critically injured passenger. Riders in the group said that it appeared the rider, while entering a sharp curve, looked away for a second and then missed the curve. Many areas on the parkway and other mountain roads are like riding on the edge of a cliff - you miss your turn and you are airborne without a parachute!  It’s not the fall -it’s that sudden stop at the end that’ll get ya. 

    Also be aware that after heavy rains on these kinds of roads in the mountains, that sand and mud will be washed down onto the road and can make the curves and corners very dangerous.

    There are many opinions on curves. A lot depends on how sharp the curve is. 

    This, IMO, is one of the many reasons to ride in a good even staggered formation. This allows riders to be able to shift in the lane to take a curve better. Several groups have established signals to spread out the gap and this works well before going into curves to allow more freedom for the individual riders to have more space to work with. If the Road Captain sees that the curve may be a little sharp for the group, he/she can anticipate by signaling to slow down before going into the curve.

    If there are sharp curves, I would recommend single file spaced at least 3-4 seconds apart. This gives the rider the option to use as much of the road as they want and also allows for people slowing down when going into sharp corners.

    This Guideline has been compiled using several sources from the Internet and past experience leading group rides. I want to thank all those that reviewed this and offered their suggestions. Remember this is a GUIDELINE, not a RULEBOOK.

    Greg "Dragon" Love
    North Carolina State Officer
    Cape Fear Chapter
    Southern Cruisers Riding Club

    Version III 17 - OCT-2001