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Dangers of organised group motorcycle rides

Dangers of organised group rides numbers pass biker

Group riding with competent riders and good friends can be great fun, but riding in an unfamiliar pack can be fraught with danger as I recently discovered.

I am often asked to go on shop rides, charity events and club rides, but I turn down invitations if I fear there are too many “racers” or novices attending or the organisers aren’t very organised.

The problems are that there can be a mix of different skill levels, a variety of motorcycle styles and competencies, riders who want to race (especially if they know I’m a motoring journalist) and some organisers are not equipped to control dangerous situations.

The biggest problem is the mix of skill levels: You get some who are highly skilled, some who think they are highly skilled and those that have very few skills.

It’s not the novices that tend to cause the most problems, though.

While I ride with novices who have the right attitude, the most dangerous riders are those who exceed their abilities.

Dangers of organised group rides
Variety of different bikes and riders

Tips for group rides

But that shouldn’t put you off participating in group rides if you take the following precautionary measures:

  1. Check whether the organisers have the runs on the board. How often do they run? Have there been incidents before? Do they have enough escorts at the front, rear and within the group to control the ride? Do they have good communications? Is there a back-up vehicle for breakdowns and first-aid? Despite the potential dangers, some rides are organised well enough to mitigate most dangers.
  2. Talk with other riders when you are mustering and gauge their level of experience. How long have they been riding? Have they ridden with this group before? How long have they had this bike? Often a casual conversation will unearth some truths about their abilities.
  3. Ride toward the front of the group where the more experienced riders are. Sometimes there is a “racy” group just behind the leader. Best to stay just behind them. But don’t ride up the back with the novices trying desperately to keep up with a too-hot pace. Towards the front there is less likelihood of being caught up in someone else’s crash.
    Dangers of organised group rides
    Well-organised group ride

Caught out

Despite all these precautions you can still be caught out as I was recently on a group ride.

At one point, I took the lead for several reasons. I could see the pace was too hot for riders up the back, I wanted to get in front of some riders running wide on corners and I also wanted to get off the boring highway and take some more interesting back roads.

At one stage, I tucked in behind a couple of slow-moving vehicles as we approached a hill crest and a solid white line.

However, one of the other riders further back realised that it was “pass now or be stuck behind them for a while on double white lines and miss the wiggly fun bits”.

So he decided to overtake up the hill toward the blind crest.

All ended well, but had there been another vehicle coming the opposite direction, we might all have been scattered like bowling

Disaster strikes

Further on, a rider at the back of the pack wanted to join the front crew, so he passed several bikes in one hit.

I constantly scan my mirrors so I saw him coming from a long way back and had time to plan an escape strategy.

As we approached a corner, I slowed down to let him in front, but he realised he was fast running out of room and tucked back in behind me.

I heard the screech of brakes, braced myself for the shunt and hit the throttle to get out of his way.

Next time I saw him was on my left, sliding sideways across the grass until friction sent him into a high side and tumble.

Bike and rider were ok, but it could have ended in disaster for several riders.

So, riding up front or down the back still may not save you if you are riding in a group of unknown riders with mixed skills, motorcycle types and

Old bikes

We all love looking at old bikes, but riding with one or more in a pack can also have its problems.

They tend to break down and you can be stranded at the side of the road while the rider repairs his bike (they usually carry tool kits).

Otherwise, the group could be delayed hours while they await a tow vehicle. (Or you could be nasty bastards and just leave them at the side of the road on their own!)

Old bikes also tend to drop oil, which can be a hazard in a group ride. I’ve seen riders come down in an old bike’s oily discharge!

  1. With big groups this is a problem. One solution is to split the group into experienced and newbies and send the experienced off 5 minutes earlier. You do need two leaders however

  2. As someone who for many years has participated in and organised numerous group rides, a few thoughts come to mind. The first thing I would say to those thinking about participating in a group ride is leave your ego behind.
    On countless occasions I have seen riders riding way beyond their ability simply because they think that they will be seen as slow or they can’t bear the thought of someone else being quicker than them. Nothing ruins a ride and puts yourself or others in danger more than people riding above their ability. There will always be someone quicker than you. Learn to let quicker riders pass. You and them will enjoy the ride so much more.
    The second thing I would say good group rides should cater for a variation in skills and paces. If you feel under pressure because you are struggling to keep up on your cruiser with the sports bike group.,then find another group, or at least find a group that will cater for different types of riders on different types of bikes.
    A group ride should always have a structure, to help ensure everyone stays safe and no one gets lost or is left behind. Corner marking, a lead rider and tail end rider are all great strategies which have been used very successfully for many years. These types of arrangements are not set in stone and can Be varied according to the type and size of the group.
    Group rides are not for everyone, however for a large number of us, they are a great way to meet other like minded riders and maybe discover some great new destinations.

  3. Unfortunately too many dickheads who need an audience to show off in front of. The last one I made a mistake in going to had five offs. Nne near fatal. Double lines. Crest, corner. How stupid do you have to be?
    These are usually billed as social rides with some taking their kids pillion. I straight out won’t go anymore.

  4. I have been riding for over 43 years and the best place to be is obey the 3 second rule it has saved me many times.
    Simple but it works
    Phil T

  5. I was once the bunny who came a cropper on a group ride but it was not due to trying to keep up to the racers or exceeding my abilities, it was due to too much confidence in my bike and the road design and so taking my attention away from the road and looking at the scenery. I was traveling at the limit of 110 saw a sign for a bend that said 75 so basically ignored it and went through the bend without really slowing all would have been fine but I was looking at the devastation of the Ash Wedensday fires so I didn’t fully see the bend turn into a double crested 60 k bend which was bad enough but there was a dip just where I had to lean the bike further so I lost traction but managed to get it upright and hit the brakes to wash off most of my speed when I entered the gravel but still I kept it from going down until I hit the ruts left by a fire truck and lost it. But except for a fractured finger and a twisted knee and a damaged fairing no harm was done and I finished the ride with just a bit more than my pride bruised.
    The moral is no matter how good you are pay attention and never get too confident.

  6. Here’s your problem: you guys are all riding on the wrong side of the road!

    Seriously, I’ve done a lot of group riding and it’s a lot of fun, but in our club we test each rider before he or she can join a ride. We also have strong leadership that wouldn’t tolerate that sh*t you mention. If people want to risk their lives by being idiots, they can ride elsewhere, as far as I’m concerned.

  7. I’ve been taking groups of up to 30 bikes (too many, but generally around 20) for several years on club rides. We have few rules but do structure our rides, so that everyone knows the corner marking procedure and who the lead bike and tail ender are. Everyone knows the route I set and the re-group spots and coffee/lunch stops. As the leader, I have to set a pace fast enough to be entertaining, which means that slower riders will get left behind. We do have regular regroups, which give the slower riders a chance to catch up and take the pressure off them trying to maintain a pace outside their comfort zone. As Robert points out, having seperate groups means having extra leaders and since our club rides are held each fortnight, this is too hard to make happen.
    Really, the responsibility for safety lies with every individual and if we start to plan with safety as the first priority, we should be giving up riding straight away! We ride for the fun, the thrill, the camaraderie – for all sorts of reasons. The safety aspect simply keeps us coming back for more and protects those around us. How many times have you ridden hard through a twisty section of favourite road, grinning under the helmet as each line is nailed perfectly? Only afterwards does the realization set in that it might not have been the safest thing you’ve ever done. In the years I have been taking rides or taking part in my own club rides, there have been only 4 accidents with minor injuries, all caused by rider error. I agree with the sentiment of the article and believe it’s the responsibility of the ride leader to make sure it is well organized. The bigger the group, the greater the potential for disaster!

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