We all know that riding our scooters is fun! So much fun that sooner or later you will want to share the experience with other riders and go on a group ride. Group rides can build a sense of community and are a reminder that scooter culture is so much more than just sharing a love of tiny motorbikes, It really is about the people. Whether you are going out for a ride with a couple of friends or you are participating in a much larger event, always ride safely and politely. Before you jump into your first group scooter ride (or even if you are a veteran rally rider) there are a few things to know to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable time.
Arrive Ready to Ride
When going on a group ride make sure that you are prepared. Show up with a full tank of gas. Don’t be “that guy” who two miles into the ride forces everyone to stop at the first gas station because you started the ride running on fumes. Or worse yet, makes the whole group stop in the middle of nowhere because you ran out of gas. Speaking of a full tank, it's not a bad idea to show up with some food in your stomach too. Keep an eye on the weather and layer up or down before the ride starts. Nothing ruins the fun of a group ride faster than being too hot or too cold and not being able to pull over whenever you want to adjust. Also, make sure that you inspect your scoot for any mechanical problems to make sure its safe to enough to ride on a group ride. (But, you inspect your bike every time you ride… don’t you?)
Have a Pre-Ride Meeting
If you are hosting a group ride, always have a pre-ride meeting. It can be as simple as circling up and going over some of the basics before everyone mounts up. It’s a good idea to identify the ride leader, the sweep (more on that later) and go over a basic plan of any intended stops. Ask if there are any first-time group riders. (No, not so everyone can point and laugh) It is a good idea to keep novice riders in the middle of the pack. That way people can keep an eye out for them and help them have the best first group ride experience they can have.
Know How to Ride in Formation
There will be some formation riding required during every group ride. While there is safety in numbers (it’s easier for other drivers to see a big group of scooterists than one lone rider) a big pack of riders brings its own dangers. How do you keep from colliding with each other? Always ride in a Staggered formation. The ride leader should take up a position on the left side of the lane. The rider in the number two position should follow at least one second behind but use the right side of the lane. The third rider will use the left side of the lane and keep a two-second distance from rider number one.
Following this staggered formation on down the line to the last rider (Sweep) gives each rider a safety cushion to react to any road hazards that the group may encounter. The staggered formation should stay fluid and adjust to changes “on the fly” If a rider leaves the group other riders should fluidly switch positions to maintain the integrity of the staggered formation.
When you come to a stop sign or traffic light the formation can tighten up to a side by side to take up less space and make it easier to High Five one another because you are having so much fun on this group ride! When the group starts moving again, the rider on the left should always proceed through the intersection first.
Pass One at a Time
If the group needs to pass another vehicle on the road (Can’t that Prius go any faster?), Riders should pass one at a time and then return to their spot in formation. This allows each rider to have a clear view of the road while passing. The ride leader would pass safely and return to the left side of the lane, then the next rider would wait until it is safe to pass and the return to the right side one second behind the leader, and so on. The ride leader should maintain adequate enough speed to create space for the entire group to complete the passing maneuver.
Single File When Appropriate
When you head into the twisties it is OK to move to a single file formation. (What scooter ride is complete without some twisties?) Most riders will want to use the entire lane to execute proper (and fun) turns when the riding gets a little more technical. Make sure that you give a little more space between scooters as each riders ability to see around corners decreases. The group should also go single file when entering or exiting a highway or when roads are rough. Riding single file makes it easier to avoid potholes.
Know Your Hand Signals
Hand signals are the best way to communicate the movements of the whole group. The ride leader can signal turns, stops or other road hazards, keeping everyone informed reduces the risk of an accident caused by a surprised rider. Riders must pay attention to the signal given by the rider in front of them and relay it to the rider directly behind them. Here is a handy guide to some of the most used hand signals.
Ride Your Own Ride
When riding with a group remember to follow all of the same safety precautions that you would when you are riding alone. Sometimes a pack mentality can cause riders to race through red lights to keep from being left behind. Groups will naturally expand and compress due to various rider speeds and stoplights. The ride leaders should Shepard the group and use a marker system, usually, a rider stopped at any turns that are not obvious to point the way to go. The most important thing to remember is to ride your own ride. Don’t try to ride above your abilities just to keep up with the group. That is how accidents happen.
Have a Sweep
Every group ride should have a Sweep. The Sweep is a ride leader who rides at the back of the pack to make sure that nobody gets left behind. It’s a good idea for the Sweep to have radio communications with the ride leader so he can stop the ride if someone has a mishap or a mechanical breakdown. Sometimes on larger or longer rides, the job of the Sweep done can be by a support truck that is referred to as a Chase Vehicle.
Group Rides Are NOT the Time to Show Off!
Can you do a wheelie? That’s great! Can you carve turns in an S pattern up the highway? You are super cool! DON’T! Group rides are not the place for fooling around. You may be the best rider out there but you don’t need to prove it. All it takes is one slip up and you’ll ruin not only your day but potentially the riders around you too. Group rides are not the place to push your ability envelope.
By following (pun intended) a few simple guidelines you can make sure that your group riding experiences are fun and safe for everyone involved. Now get out there and ride!