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I have done a bit of traveling by motorcycle while riding in a group and thought I would pass on some basic hints and tips.

Alcohol and motorcycles DON’T mix

If a member of the group decides to have a beer or three at one of the stops, and insists on doing so, be doubly careful. Put him or her at the back of the pack. Why? If they fuck up they will only hurt themselves, rather than take out two or three other bikes.

Do not ride with a group that is drinking while riding – this goes for passengers or pilots – I have been in a few close calls caused by those in front of me trying to pass a beer or two from one bike to the other while doing 60+ miles an hour – this is just plain foolish. If you can’t wait to have your drink at the end of the ride, then you should just stay home and have your beer or what ever in your living room instead of putting others at risk.

Know (exactly) where your going

Every member of the group should know exactly where the ride is going. Discuss it before you begin. If anyone is unclear, draw them a map, or write out a set of clear directions. This way if the group gets separated you can all meet up at the end or somewhere along the way.

Know the riding skills of those around you

Not everyone is an expert. And some who think they are – are not. Knowing the skills, strengths, and weaknesses of those around you can keep a ride from turning bad. For example, as a result of having been clipped by a tractor-trailer rig a few years back, I am “left side shy”. When I am riding on the left track, facing on coming traffic, I need a little extra room to the right when being passed by a tractor-trailer to be comfortable. I make sure those around me know this.

Give yourself and others wiggle room

Everyone makes mistakes. Most motorcycle safety courses tell us to ride in a staggered fashion, one bike in the left track of the lane, the next in the right track, with more than one car length between you and the bike in front of you, that way each rider has a full lane they can use if things get dicey – and they will. Someone’s attention will wander, or their bike will have a problem, or they will have to dodge a car that has inadvertently moved into the wrong lane. Give yourself and others room to make a mistake and recover. Yes, it looks cool to ride side by side, and under certain circumstances this is proper (funeral processions for example), but for general riding it is just plain foolish.

If you are the lead bike, you are responsible for those who follow you

If you are the lead bike, then you are responsible for those that follow you. This means you don’t pass that slow moving car, unless there is enough room for the group to pass as well. If you blow it, and only part of the group gets to pass the slow moving obstacle then you will have to pull over somewhere and wait for them.

Make sure that everyone fills up at each gas stop. Know the range (per fill-up) of each bike in the group. You will have to ask, don’t assume. The bike with the shortest range sets the distance you can ride between gas stops.

Stop at reasonable intervals – based on the weakest rider in the group. Maybe you have an iron butt, but it is unlikely that everyone in your group does.

Group rides are a blast

Enjoy them and the scenery and the fellowship and friendship they seem to inspire, but do it safely – that way everyone involved gets to do it again.

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