Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Art of Safe Riding - Group Riding

Remember, you cannot enjoy tomorrow's ride unless you live through today's. And it is the responsibility of each person in the group to ensure that everyone does just that. Safety is of paramount importance and the most significant commandment being 'Thou shalt not hit the bike in front of you'. Riding at a safe distance means following the '2 second rule'. Each bike follows the one in front separated by a distance it would cover in 2 seconds at that speed and under the road conditions the group is riding in.

For example, in rain either the whole group slows down or the individual riders increase their separation to compensate for increased braking distances need in the wet. The average rider takes almost 1 full second to recognize and then to react to an UNEXPECTED threat. (About 1/2 second if the threat is anticipated.) The '2-second Rule', in other words, provides 1 full second of distance between bikes in order to provide sufficient time for following bikers to recognize and react to unexpected threats. So, if all the riders in the group have roughly similar skill levels, no matter what the rider in front does, the one following should be able to avoid hitting him. Since gravity either aids or detracts from the ability of your brakes to stop your bike based on whether you are on an incline or a decline, following distances must be significantly increased to maintain the safety margin if you are riding downhill - and the steeper the slope, the wider those distances should be.

Also, the distances between bikes should be nearly doubled when riding twisty roads. Remember, The '2-second rule' means that, in staggered formation, there is a ONE second spacing between each bike, thus a TWO second spacing between bikes in the same track. A larger gap usually results in a group that is spread so far out that it introduces new safety problems - like it encourages other vehicles to dart into the gaps between bikes. To avoid undue inadvertent spread-out, the group can adopt these measures.

Lead bikes should change speed more gradually. All bikes in a group can react to changes in speed of bikes that are farther ahead of them than just the one immediately ahead. The members of a group should not crank their throttles up to excessive speeds just to keep the group spacing 'correct'.

A good group leader does NOT accelerate within 15 seconds of entering a curve (assuming he has to then slow down before actually entering that curve. Remember, fast in and slow out of a turn!) The '1-second between bikes' rule should be abandoned whenever the group is riding on twisty roads - it makes sense only when traveling in a straight line on open highway.

Never allow a group to become larger than SIX bikes if even one of the riders is inexperienced with group riding. Never larger than EIGHT bikes even if all are familiar with the riding habits of each other.

Here are some of the hand signals to be used by a group on the road:

1. These T-hands imply 'I need help'. For someone stranded by the road-side, maybe with some mechanical failure or even a puncture, this sign indicates the need for help.

2. This thumbs up is the universal okay sign. For the group, when this comes from the leader, it is a signal to get moving. 'Everything is okay. Lets go.'

3. The pointing finger is used for just what it is. To point the way we are supposed to be heading. Used at intersections, forks in the road and possible diversion points to indicate the road to take.

4. The thumbs down says I need to stop for some reason right now. Get behind me, move to the side of the road and stop behind me when I do. A vigorous up and down 'thumbs down' means I need to stop immediately (I got a wasp trapped in my helmet!!).

5. The universal 'looking good' sign. Used as an expression of appreciation that could be for anything (a well executed maneuver, a great stretch of twisty road, beautiful scenery, the bike running well etc. etc.)

Being in a group means some new responsibilities and behaviors apply. You ride at the speed the group rides, you stay in the lanes chosen by the lead bike, You stop when and where the group stops. When riding in a group there is certainly some team work going on, but each and every person in that group is expected to 'ride their own ride'. Some in the group have more stamina, some have better night vision, some have better navigation skills, some have better familiarity with the surroundings, some are better diplomats and so each 'specialist' has his own role to play at the appropriate time. Strategic decisions (destination) remain the leader's responsibility while tactical decisions (how) might well come from the members.

Note: At the least the leaders should keep their headlight on for easy visibility.
Note: Group riding also means stopping at roadsides where there is a lot shoulder space availaible.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Custom Search