The Safety Zone
Riding Together – Safely!
Ahhh, summer in Florida! The peak of riding season! The high country tourists are barely visible, no major special events to congest the roadways and typically little liquid sunshine. With group riding, comes a real commitment to safety. When you ride as part of a group of riders, your actions can affect many other riders, typically, those BEHIND you! To help make the best of your rides this summer, let’s take a few moments and review the dos and don’ts of group riding.
Pre-Ride Prep & Arrival:
When getting ready to meet the group for a ride, prepare you and your bike for the ride. Fuel up, do your T-CLOCK inspection (Tires, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis and Kickstand), pack items you’ll need, and arrive a little early. Be sure you are mentally and physically prepared for the ride as well. Plan to arrive early at the meeting location. The Road Captains are very punctual and depart EXACTLY at the appointed time. If you are new to group riding, or if you are riding a new bike, make this known to the Road Captain. He or she will make accommodations for you to have a special place in the ride formation. If you have any concern about the mechanical functioning of your bike, make this known to the Road Captain as well.
The Chapter offers both a Road Captain Course and Parking Lot Practice (PLP) on a regular basis. Whether or not you ever plan to actually lead a ride, these programs are invaluable and will teach you how to effectively navigate virtually any situation you may encounter on the road. Check the calendar for the next PLP and Road Captain program and please try to fit it into your schedule – you won’t be sorry!
Staggered Formation – The bikes form two columns, with the Road Captain at the head of the left column. The second bike will head the right column, and will ride approximately one (1) second behind the leader at a diagonal (in the opposite side of the lane). The other riders will position their bikes NO CLOSER THAN two (2) seconds behind the bike directly in front of them, or one (1) second behind the diagonal bike. This formation gives each rider sufficient space, and discourages other vehicles from cutting in. The last rider, or Tail Gunner, may ride on whichever side of the lane he or she prefers.
Gap in Formation – If a void is created by a rider leaving the formation, we will wait until a stop to fill that gap — otherwise, just continue to ride leaving the hole unfilled.
Tail Gunner – Serves as the eyes of the Road Captain and assists with lane changes. He watches the formation, and informs the Road Captain of any potential problems within the group or of hazardous conditions approaching from the rear, such as vehicles trying to cut into the formation. Also assists with lane changes by moving over to block the new lane to allow the group to move over safely.
Lane Changes – The lane change starts with a hand signal from the Road Captain to the Tail Gunner. The Tail Gunner will, when it is safe to do so, move into the requested lane and signal to the Road Captain that the lane is clear. The Road Captain will then move into the new lane and each rider will then follow the rider in front into the new lane.
Splitting from the Group – Don’t suddenly split off from the group for personal reasons (i.e. to take a picture or make a casual phone call) unless you’ve told the Road Captain up front that you plan to do that, or unless it’s for a mechanical or medical problem. If you do choose to leave unexpectedly, wave the others on, making it clear that you aren’t in need of assistance.
Ride Termination – The ride officially ends at the destination. If you would like to ride back with other riders, try to make these arrangements before leaving for the ride.
Lights – When riding with the group, all riders except the Tail Gunner should turn OFF their light trees. This will allow the Road Captain to more easily see the last bike in the group.
Hand Signals – Pass back all hand signals initiated by the Road Captain, and be prepared to initiate a “single file” signal yourself if your travel lane becomes unsafe or uncomfortable (bad road surface, crumbling shoulder, narrow lanes, etc). Traditionally this has been a judgment call left to Road Captains, but in our chapter each individual member has the authority to make that call.