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How to pass in a motorcycle pack

Dangers of organised group rides numbers pass biker

Riding in a group can be fun, but it also has its hazards, not the least being how to pass other vehicles on the road and whether you should pass other riders in your group.

These issues involve tactics, patience, safety and courtesy.

One of the great joys and advantages of riding a motorcycle is being able to quickly, efficiently and safely overtake slower vehicles.

Click here for our guide on safe overtaking manoeuvres, mainly as an individual rider.How to overtake traffic lane filtering passing pass

Pass one at a time

We only briefly touched on passing as a group.

Our main point is to pass one at a time.

Following riders do not have sufficient visibility to overtake at the same time as the first rider and it is not advisable to simply trust the lead rider’s judgement.

We also don’t believe you should trust the first rider who waves to indicate the coast is clear for others to pass. 

That may be courteous, but you should never put your safety in the hands of someone else.

Even if you know and trust the rider, their judgement on speed and distance could be impaired.

Circumstances may also change as they pass. For example, a roo could stray on to the road or the vehicle that has been passed may indicate a turn.

Each passing rider should make their own judgement, based on what they can actually see.

But they should also allow a little more time to overtake as returning to the traffic queue after passing could take longer because the bike in front can cause a bit of an obstruction.

After passing

That is why it is important that each bike that overtakes should assume another rider may follow.

Don’t look for them in the mirrors when passing. Keep your eyes ahead on the job and wait until you have rejoined the queue of traffic to check your mirrors.

Allow plenty of room for following riders to join the queue in front of the vehicle they just passed, even if that means keeping up the passing pace for a few more seconds.

Overtaking overtake

Graphic supplied by the Motorcycle Legal Foundation

There is differing advice on where the overtaking rider should position themselves when they rejoin the traffic queue.

Some say they should move to the left passenger wheel track to give the following rider room.

However, we believe a lead rider should always stay closest to the centre line and “own” the lane to prevent other vehicles squeezing alongside.

Whatever you believe, make sure everyone in your group is on board with the strategy.

Passing within a groupGroup riding

As for passing other riders in a group, this is something that should be worked out and agreed to before heading off.

If it’s a group that has been formed by a social media invitation, there will likely be riders in the pack who you don’t know nor trust.

In that case, we suggest no passing.

However, egos usually get in the way and riders will try to fight their way up to the front.

Some say it’s safer up the front where you get away from the less experienced riders.

But you may also end up among riders who are too fast for you and tease you out of your comfort zone.

Group riding pass

Be aware of your surrounding riders and treat them all with an equal dose of courtesy and suspicion.

If you are in a group of friends, make some rules about passing that overtone can agree to.

We recommend that you use your mirrors to observe approaching riders and give them a wave past with your hand or boot.

Passing riders should signal their intention to pass with a courteous double-toot on the horn.

Courtesy, patience and a few agreed tactics can go a long way to ensuring your group rides safely.

  1. My two bobs’ worth. In my 49 years of riding, I have always passed groups of motorcycles as a one-job-lot. They usually travel fairly slowly because they stay in groups according to the slowest common denominator, so I just wait for a good spot to do the lot of them –usually a straight or at least a section of road with good clear vision – then I whizz by quickly, giving them as wide a berth as possible to avoid startling anyone, and waving cheery hellos as I do so. I’ve never had problems with this method.
    I’d imagine that passing them one by one is much more likely to piss off at least one dickhead in the group – because, let’s face it, most groups contain at least one dickhead, even if everyone else in the group is a totally OK person.

    1. Hi Jamie,
      Good advice, but it depends on the size of the group.
      I’ve ridden in groups from 3 to more than 300 and the circumstances vary according to size.
      Most rides are on twisting roads where there is never enough room for more than one rider at a time to safely pass.
      You’re right about those “dickheads” in the group. They grow in number the more riders you have, too!

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