Group Riding Tips

Group Riding Tips is a collection of tips written by Ride Captain Coordinator Tom Clements on how BMMC conducts its’ Group Rides and is expanded information that can be found in the BMMC Group Riding Guide. These tips were originally presented at club monthly meetings by various BMMC Ride Captains with the first present on June 6, 2008 by Tom Clements.

Group Riding tips :

Group Riding Tip #1

Proper Spacing While Riding In A Group

Presented by Tom Clements, Ride Captain Coordinator, at the 6/6/08 Club Meeting

This is the first in a series of talks regarding Group Riding. For the upcoming BMMC breakfast meetings, you can expect to get a short message from me or another Ride Captain.

The BMMC Riders Guide pamphlet that was created in 2007 is a great document and I certainly hope that you have a copy, have read it, and have it available for reference. It covers so much ground, however, that it can be difficult to keep it all correctly in mind. Just as airline and corporate pilots must undergo refresher training regularly – Recurrent Training, it’s called – to be reminded of information they already know, so also may we benefit from being reminded of what’s contained within the Guide. You unlikely will be hearing much, if any, new information, but rather a revisiting and emphasizing of what you already know.

The topic for today is Spacing.

There are two formations for riding: Single File and Staggered. Most of the time, we utilize the staggered set-up, but single file is usually used for freeway on and off ramps as well as for riding through a series of tighter curves. In the staggered formation, the goal is to maintain a two-second interval on the rider in front of you, the one ahead in your third of the lane.

Divide the lane into thirds. The Lead rider should be in the left third of the lane, the second rider should be in the right third, the third in the left third, and so on, and no two-wheel motorcycle should be in the center. Trikes and sidecars should ride in the center, near the back of the group in front of the Sweep rider. As a side note, realize that the center of the lane tends to be in worse shape than the left and right thirds. Why? Less cleaning action by tire treads and more oil and other fluid leaks there.

The goal is to be two seconds behind the rider ahead of you in your section of the lane. Since we cover more ground in two seconds at faster speeds than at slower speeds, the distance varies from city to highway: Closer in town, further apart on the highway. Jim Whiting did some neat spreadsheet work and sent me a thorough break-down of exact distances based on various speeds and intervals. A neat, simple, rule-of-thumb emerges from this study: For a two-second interval, the speed (in MPH) and the spacing (in Yards) are identical! That is, at 30 mph, remain 30 yards behind. At 70 mph, aim for 70 yards. Enough of us are golfers and can visualize the difference between 100 yards and 50 yards from the fairway to the flagstick.

Here’s a pop quiz: What is the spacing distance when the speed is zero, when we are stopped? According to the rule, it’d be zero…we’d all be jammed up front tire to tailpipe. But think: When is it most likely to have a bike tip over? When stopped! What about that gravel or leaked antifreeze that your foot hits? Down you go! Does it make sense to be right beside another rider when there is this risk of dropping your bike and hitting your colleague as you fall? Of course not. So although it is very tempting to pull up along side each other at the stop light, lift the helmet visor and share some witty observation, it’s best to maintain a slight stagger even when stopped.

Although this rule-of-thumb that relates spacing distance to speed works well and is correct, the classic – probably better – method of adjusting spacing is by counting seconds: one-one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, etc. For this to work well, you need to have a very precise point for a reference, something that is clearly seen and can we closely correlated with the passing of the bike ahead. An obvious change in the road surface – maybe where some new pavement has been added over old – is the best visual reference for timing. Where a solid yellow line starts or stops is another good one. A distinct shadow from a telephone pole or saguaro works well. Where the bike passes the start or the end of a guard rail beside the road is good. The idea is to pick an obvious point as close to the bike as possible. When we start getting further from the bike and using a more nebulous point – a side road, a tree, a mail box – we start to lose timing accuracy.

Realize that a full two seconds should elapse between when the front tire of the rider ahead passes the point and when your front tire hits the point. So it’s “One one thousand, two one thousand, NOW!” as you get to the point.

Another crosscheck that the Sweep may do – or anyone else riding near the back of the group – can be easily done on a wide sweeping turn where all the bikes ahead may be seen. As the lead bike passes the point, start counting. For every second, another bike should pass that same reference. Since now we’re counting both lines in the group, a bike should pass the reference every second. If you are the seventh rider in the group, your count should be ending at six when you reach the point. (Six, not seven, since the first rider passed at time zero.)

Watching that even, tight formation of motorcycles sweep left and right around the gentle curves is, for most of us, a thing of beauty. Perhaps the best example of beautiful formation keeping are the displays put on by our military precision flight teams, the Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels, for example. Now, why do you suppose these teams work so hard at formation flying. Is it just for show? No, it is also for safety in combat. There is strength in numbers, there is safety in having a wingman to cover your six.

Not as dramatic, but in a similar light, there is safety in group riding when the group maintains consistent, tight, formation. Other vehicles are much less likely to pass part-way and dive into the group when no big gaps are apparent. The group is more visible as a coordinated entity when the speed and spacing are consistent.

Some days, it’s not to be. Sometimes, we are all going to find ourselves in a biorhythm funk. Our concentration just isn’t there. Our throttle control is all messed up. Maybe it’s obvious why, maybe it’s not, but the problem is there. What do to? Drop back.

When you see that you have dropped well back and the spacing has gone to pot, with a much larger than desired gap ahead of you, wave the next rider around…and the next, and the next, etc. You will gravitate to the back of the group, still ahead of the patient Sweep rider and still a part of the group. But now the pressure is off. You get to ride at the pace that is right for you right now. Later in the day, probably the biorhythms will improve and you’ll be back up in the pack.

Now listen up, this is important: Each group rider has both the authority and the duty to pass the rider who is allowing a big gap to develop, even when you are not signaled around! When a group gets all strung out, the fault is not with the rider immediately behind the gap alone. No, all of the riders – except the Sweep – behind that person are also at fault for not passing and reforming the proper spacing ahead of the lagging rider. Harsh? No! It’s for the safety of the group.

Finally, let’s suppose that it’s really not your day and you realize that you probably should be riding alone on this ride, not sharing in the group. Now what? Well, as you wave people by and gravitate to the rear, and now only the Sweep remains behind, go ahead and wave that person by but give the Thumbs-Up, “I’m OK,” signal so that they know you are making a personal decision to drop out on this leg. Yes, it would be even better to have done this at a previous gas/bio break where you can talk face-to-face, but if you missed that opportunity, an acceptable alternative is to do it as I’ve described.

 

 

 

Group Riding Tip #2

Passing While Riding In A Group

Presented by Tom Clements, Ride Captain Coordinator, at the 8/2/08 Club Meeting

This is the second in a series of talks regarding Group Riding. For the upcoming BMMC breakfast meetings, you can expect to get a short message from me or another Ride Captain.

The BMMC Riders Guide pamphlet that was created in 2007 is a great document and I certainly hope that you have a copy, have read it, and have it available for reference. It covers so much ground, however, that it can be difficult to keep it all correctly in mind. Just as airline and corporate pilots must undergo refresher training regularly – Recurrent Training, it’s called – to be reminded of information they already know, so also may we benefit from being reminded of what’s contained within the Guide. You unlikely will be hearing much, if any, new information, but rather a revisiting and emphasizing of what you already know.

The topic for today is passing:
Imagine that you are the Lead rider of a group comprised of ten motorcycles enjoying an outing toward Wickenburg on Highway 74, between I-17 and Highway 60. You come upon a slower vehicle ahead and decide to pass. Estimate – using a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a sure bet and 1 being an impossibility – how likely it is that all ten bikes will be able to pass this vehicle “together,” i.e., while retaining their routine 1-second/2-second group spacing intervals.

I’ll bet you came up with a pretty low number, right? It’s unlikely that all members of the group can get around this vehicle together, one right after the other. Almost certainly an approaching vehicle will appear in the opposite lane and/or a solid yellow line will appear in the right lane and/or a vehicle coming on like a bat out of hell – trying to pass the entire group in one mad rush – will suddenly loom up in your mirror and these types of occurrences will cause the next rider in the group to delay his or her pass.

It is the recognition of this likelihood that requires passing during a group ride to be an individual action, not a group action. When the rider ahead of you makes the pass – preceded, of course, by a turn signal, a head check, and a hand signal – this is your indication to momentarily assume the lead position: Switch from the right third of the lane to the left third of the lane. In this position, now it is time to assess whether or not it is appropriate for you, also, to make your pass. If it looks good ahead and behind – no oncoming cars, no solid yellow line in your lane, the vehicle you are following not about to turn, no vehicle passing you by surprise – then you, too, can do the turn signal, head check, and hand signal prerequisites and make your own pass, followed by resuming the proper spacing interval and stagger on the riders ahead.

There is an impact on the group that remains behind you when passing correctly. Namely, all riders following the “passer” will need to switch lane thirds every time a pass takes place! When Rider A in the left third of the lane passes, now the next person, Rider B, needs to slide over from the right third to the left third as he or she assumes the temporary lead position. Following riders must also switch lanes to retain the staggered formation. Unless this re-stagger is accomplished, safety is compromised due to the fact that Rider C now has only a one-second interval behind Rider B, both of whom are in the left third of the lane.

Obviously, this re-staggering would not need to occur if Rider B remained in the right third of the lane and made his/her pass from there. But how can that be?! There is no way – unless one has a strong death-wish! – that a pass can be properly evaluated and executed when riding in any position other than as close to the centerline as safety allows.

Some of you may be thinking that all of this re-staggering, this switching of lane thirds whenever anyone passes, is an unnecessary pain and difficult to do. Au contraire! It’s fun! It’s neat to watch, too! Plus, there are a maximum of ten bikes to consider! Due to the nature of staggered formation riding, no one is riding beside you so switching from outer to inner lane third, or vice versa, to re-stagger is easy: Just make a quick head check and do it! There’s no need for turn signal nor hand signal.

Let’s suppose, just for discussion purposes, that there really is a long, straight, stretch with no oncoming or passing traffic for miles and miles and no solid yellow line on your side. A bird’s eye view – imagining that the right road edge represents the ground surface – would show the group of motorcycles looking like a snake slithering over a log in its path. Both the front end and the tail end of the snake would be flat against the ground with just one section at a time humped up over the log.

Since the probability of all group members getting around without some delay is small, it is incumbent upon the Leader to maintain a pace that allows the group to re-form once all are past the slower vehicle. For the Leader to make his/her pass and then to slow to a crawl is not a bright idea! That’s a good way to incite road rage in the fellow who just got passed and who now must slow down due to the crazy motorcyclists in front of him! No, instead, the Leader needs to keep up a pace slightly faster than the passed vehicle – 5 mph or so – but not so fast that the tail end of the group needs to work too hard to re-join.

Also, make darn sure that at the end of your own pass you do not dive back into the right lane too soon! Not only does this tend to aggravate the person who was just passed but also it leaves too little room for the rider behind you who may, correctly, have made his/her own pass right after yours and is in the passing lane at the same time as you, two seconds behind. To avoid “Dive Bombing” back in too soon, wait until you can see the entire front end of the vehicle in your right mirror (without moving your head too much), then repeat the turn signal, head check, and hand signal before pulling back in.

(Hint: When your left hand returns to the handle bar grip after completing the hand signal, that is an excellent time to cancel the turn signal.)

By the way, if ever you are caught in a situation wherein you need to return to the right lane sooner than you anticipated – one of those “Oh S**t! moments – and hence cannot leave enough room for the rider behind you, the safe procedure is to drift into the right third of the lane, regardless of the stagger ahead, to leave more room for the following rider to get safely back into the right lane. Only when all are safely out of the passing lane can the necessary shifting be done to re-establish the proper spacing and stagger.

The discussion thus far began from the assumption that we were on Highway 74 heading west to Highway 60: A two-lane road most of the way. What about when the group is on a divided highway or freeway with at least two, if not more, lanes going in the same direction? Should we still pass individually?

Should we? Yes. Must we? No.

On a big freeway, it is difficult to resist the urge to swing out into the lane to your left when the bike ahead does so if there isn’t a vehicle in sight behind in that lane for miles. Is this a really bad act to take? Is it horrible for the group to, nearly simultaneously, swing into the adjacent lane and then, as a group, pass the slower car ahead?

No, it’s not horrible, not unsafe, not “bad.” It’s not illegal if there are no vehicles being blocked by your action. But what is the advantage of doing it? I really don’t see any. On the other hand, the disadvantage of doing it is the danger of negative transfer, of practicing bad habits that will not be safe and proper when on two-lane roads.

The bottom line? No BMMC Ride Captain should get upset when group riders swing out early for a pass on a multiple-lane road…so long as they don’t do it as a blocking maneuver for a vehicle behind them in that lane. But if the RC observes the same thing on a two-lane road, then the offending rider(s) will likely be hearing from the Lead or Sweep at the next stop.

To summarize…

When riding in a group, make every pass your own, individual, action.

 

 

 

Group Riding Tip #3

Gas/Bio Breaks During Group Rides

Presented by Chuck Knight, Ride Captain, at the 9/6/08 Club Meeting

The topic for this month are the Gas/Bio Stops that occur during Group Rides. Although this topic is rather mundane – compared to the ones we’ve had on Spacing and Passing – nevertheless it comes into play on every ride and how well or how poorly the stop is handled certainly plays a role in determining the overall enjoyment – or lack thereof! – that the riders experience.

Listen up, you Ride Captains! When you do the pre-ride, make a valiant effort to pick fuel stops that have the amenities we like to see: (1) Pay-at-the-Pump, using credit cards as well as debit cards; (2) Plenty of pumps and islands; (3) A sizable parking area for regrouping the bikes after the fueling is complete; (4) Easy entrance and exit, preferably on the right side of the road; and, maybe most important of all (!) (5) Restroom facilities that offer both Men and Women options, with multiple stalls for each.

Yes, sometimes, getting all four of these desirables together in one place – a place that lends itself to the distance and timing constraints of the ride – is a really big challenge and may in fact be impossible. Still, please examine all possibilities before admitting defeat. If you have to settle for less-than-optimum, put the major emphasis on the restrooms…we can always take more time at the limited pumps, but doing the legs-clinched restroom two-step shuffle can be agonizing.

Speaking of the pumps…How many of you normally share a pump between two bikes? This can be a time-saver and very convenient. Decide before the ride who will be your fueling partner and then the two of you should stop at the same pump, positioned in such a way that the hose can reach both tanks. Take turns: You use your credit card the first time – for the total bill for both bikes – and he or she uses their card at the next stop. While one of the partners is fueling, the other can be sprinting for the restroom line, right?

Pick a “fueling friend” with a bike that uses the same octane rating as your bike and, ideally, one that gets similar mileage. If the mileage is much different, work out some payment differential, as needed. We realize that not everyone will have a fueling partner and that’s fine, but do consider doing this time-saver if it is convenient for you.

Some bikes have much longer distance-to-empty ranges than others, don’t they? For you Iron Butt guys, we know it can be aggravating to top up the tank at every stop. (If you just can’t bring yourself to do it, we still love ya man, and you’re always welcome!) But consider this: Won’t you look like the star you think you are when some poor “little-tanker” runs dry and you can now be the hero by siphoning from your tank to his? Remember, when you choose to ride in a Group, the procedures are different than when you ride alone. When you’re out there by yourself and feel like going 250 miles or more between fill-ups, have at it. But now, we’d sure like to see all members of the group top up at each stop. Like I said…the gas you have just may be very welcomed by those who have not!

We’re on a Group Ride, not a Group Stop. Sure, there’ll always be a little time during these stops to share observations, joke, kibitz, and visit, but let’s not overdo it. Each Group Leader and Sweep should agree on a target time for being back on the road and make sure the Group members know what to expect. “No Surprises,” remember? Please, you RCs, as the bikes stop at the pumps, remind your people of when you expect them to be back in the saddle, ready to continue. No stop should be more than 20 minutes and usually 10 to 15 is about right.

Now, if all the members of any group agree on a longer rest, fine. Just make sure everyone gets in on that communication so that some poor devil doesn’t have to sit in the saddle in the sun for ten minutes wondering why the others are so slow.

In other words, be courteous. Consider the comfort of your other BMMC family members and act accordingly.

 

 

 

Group Riding Tip #4

Hand Signal While Riding In A Group

Presented by John Logsdon, Ride Captain, at the 10/4/08 Club Meeting

The topic for this month are the common hand signals typically initiated by the Lead and passed back through the group to the Sweep. Most of these are well-known and rather intuitive and some are utilized much more than others. You will find these signals in your BMMC Riders Guide and/or Ride Captain Guide, but here is a quick reminder.

Since the right hand is devoted to the throttle and front brake – as well as to one end of the handlebar, of course – all signals are made by the left hand only. Let’s review them:

Start your engines. The left hand is raised high, index finger pointing up, and the arm is used to move the hand in a circle…mimicking the rotation of the engine’s crankshaft that is about to occur.

Stop your engines. This is one that is used rarely, since it is usually obvious when it’s time to shutdown. It’s the old hand-across-the-throat, “Cut It!” signal.

Left Turn; Right Turn. The left arm either gets extended fully out to the left (for left turns), or bent upward 90º at the elbow (for right turns). Finger position doesn’t matter much.

Ready to Ride. When you are all set to go, give the thumb-up signal to the Lead.

Slow Down; Speed Up. As a courtesy to those behind, let them know when your speed is going to change markedly. The left arm goes out, palm down, and you make a few downward strokes to indicate slowing. Vice versa, palm up and upward strokes indicate that you are accelerating. Almost identically, but in a for and aft direction instead of up and down, come the…

Pass me; Don’t pass me. Wave the rider around you to let them know that you are dropping back and want to be passed. On the other hand, maybe the gap you are allowing to develop will be only temporary – as you try to program a new channel on your radio! – so you prefer that the following rider not pass, even though he/she is probably thinking about it. In that case, “shooing” them back with the palm facing backward is the signal.

Staggered Spacing; Single-file Spacing. Staggered, remember, is the BMMC standard and all riders should start in that formation without being reminded. When the road gets curvy and it’s best to utilize the whole lane, not just your third of it, the signal is one finger over the head, with the hand moving fore and aft to indicate the single file format. When it is time to stagger again – and this is one that is often so obvious the signal is somewhat unnecessary – now take two fingers and wag them side-to-side over the head.

Turn off your turn signal. Oh, we’ve all needed this one at times, haven’t we?! Take the thumb and index finger and “blink” them together to indicate the boo-boo. Here’s a clever idea: To decrease the times one forgets to cancel their turn signal, a good idea is to make it a habit to always cancel them when the left hand finishes the turn hand signal and returns to the grip.

Hazards on the Road. By pointing down at the road with the left hand, index finger extended, you are indicating that something potentially dangerous is on the road. Since no signal utilizes the right hand, this left point can be used to indicate a hazard on either side of the rider! However, sometimes it makes sense to try to direct attention to the right side. Although this is not an “official” signal, two methods are commonly used and accepted: (1) Point with the right foot, or (2) curve the left arm so that you are pointing over your head to the right. The foot technique is preferable if the hazard is on the road whereas the over-the-head point is preferred if you are trying to draw attention to something beside the road, such as bicyclists or a temporarily parked car. (And if you have cruise control or a throttle lock and don’t need to keep the right hand on the handlebar right now, no law says you cannot point with that hand!)

Stop. To augment the brake light, left arm down, palm rearward, indicates you are slowing to a stop.

Time for a Pit Stop. We hope BMMC rides are always planned so that the eyeballs don’t ever reach the floating stage long before the next gas/bio break is encountered. However, if you need to “encourage” the group to stop very soon, pointing at the gas tank – Or are we pointing at the bladder? Oh well, they’re pretty close together – is the signal saying “Now!”

 

To make them more visible, don’t be timid with all of the signals. Be dramatic! Make them as big as you can! Also, realize that a side benefit of proper hand signals is that other vehicles on the road, not just the bikers in your group, are better informed of what is occurring and hence they are less likely to pull a stupid stunt in their surprise.

 

 

 

Group Riding Tip #5

Entering/Exiting Freeways While Riding In A Group

Presented by Tom Clements, Ride Captain Coordinator, at the 11/1/08 Club Meeting

This is the fifth in a series of talks regarding Group Riding. For the upcoming BMMC breakfast meetings, you can expect to get a short message from me or another Ride Captain.

The BMMC Riders Guide pamphlet that was created in 2007 is a great document and I certainly hope that you have a copy, have read it, and have it available for reference. It covers so much ground, however, that it can be difficult to keep it all correctly in mind. Just as airline and corporate pilots must undergo refresher training regularly – Recurrent Training, it’s called – to be reminded of information they already know, so also may we benefit from being reminded of what’s contained within the Guide. You unlikely will be hearing much, if any, new information, but rather a revisiting and emphasizing of what you already know.

The topic for today is Entering & Exiting Freeways.
Single file, not staggered, is the desired formation as we enter a freeway. This allows each and every motorcycle to have additional maneuvering room and to “claim” their rightful place in the flow of traffic they are entering. This claiming act is best done from the left third of the lane, so that a car or truck is not subtly encouraged to encroach into the motorcycle’s spot…which can happen if the motorcycle is timidly remaining in the right lane third.

Just as passing is an individual act, even when riding in a group, likewise merging with the traffic flow must also be an individual act. Just because the guy or gal ahead is sliding over from the on ramp into the normal traffic lane, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is safe for you to do it also! Instead, make sure that you are using your mirrors and your swiveling head to ensure it is safe for you to merge into traffic. When it is – signaling your intention both with your bike signal and your hand signal – then go ahead and get into the traffic flow.

Remember that in single file riding, as is being done here, the desired spacing interval is two-seconds. Thus, the group will be strung out nearly twice as far now than when riding in staggered formation. That is one reason why it is so important for the Lead to accelerate more slowly than if he/she were riding alone and to keep the final speed down a bit until all group members are on the freeway, together in the same lane, in staggered formation once again. Only then should the lead pick up the pace to the safe limit.

Exiting a freeway is also a single-file maneuver. As the Lead signals the upcoming turnoff, it’s time to fall back into a two-second spacing interval from that bike that was just one second ahead in the other lane third a moment ago. As before, all should drift into the left lane third to better stake your claim on the crossroad you are preparing to enter. Usually – not always, but most of the time – the off ramp will be sufficiently long that the slowing and repositioning may be done while on the off ramp, not while still in the flow of traffic on the freeway.

If a full stop needs to be made, before turning onto the crossroad, each rider is making his/her own, individual, choice as to when it’s safe to continue onto the new road. Once again, the Lead needs to be mindful of the reality that the group will stretch out during this exiting maneuver, and keep the pace down long enough for the group to reform in staggered formation.

Simple? Sure. But this is just one of the little things that, when better understood and followed by all group members, makes the group riding experience just that much more safe and fun.

 

 

 

Group Riding Tip #6

New Procedure — Forming The Groups for a Group Ride

Presented by Tom Clements, Ride Captain Coordinator, at the 12/6/08 Club Meeting

The BMMC Riders Guide pamphlet that was created in 2007 is a great document and I certainly hope that you have a copy, have read it, and have it available for reference. It covers so much ground, however, that it can be difficult to keep it all correctly in mind. Just as airline and corporate pilots must undergo refresher training regularly – Recurrent Training, it’s called – to be reminded of information they already know, so also may we benefit from being reminded of what’s contained within the Guide. You unlikely will be hearing much, if any, new information, but rather a revisiting and emphasizing of what you already know.

The topic for today is Forming The Groups for a Group Ride.

For the last few months here in 2008, we have been – with a few stumbles! – utilizing a new method of forming up the individual groups prior to departing on a group ride. Since the procedure is still rather new and some of you may not yet been exposed to it, I want to spend a few moments presenting the particulars so that we will all be familiar with it.

During the general pre-ride briefing given by the Ride Host, the Lead/Sweep teams will be introduced. However, unlike in the past, there will be no effort to indicate in which order the groups will depart. Surprise!

Why are we doing this? We are a motorcycle riding club. The joy of sharing the open road with BMMC friends and riding colleagues should be the primary concern as we head out, not who is going to get the first seat at the feed trough – although I understand that desire ranks rather high on the priority list for some of us! We’re all going to get to the destination in good time. Sometimes the group you join may be first; sometimes it may be last…but we are all going to get there. Additionally, the best way to get to know new club members is to interact with them…ride, talk, eat. If all the eager-beavers gravitate to the first group every time, less chances exist for expanding our BMMC horizons.

After the general briefing by the host, the Lead/Sweep teams will remain in the parking lot, standing, each claiming their own spot, separated a bit from the others so that a lot of voices won’t be in competition. The riders will be asked to go to the group of their choosing. Nothing prevents riders who wish to remain together to clump up and get to the Lead/Sweep team of their choice right away, as a mini-group within the larger group. However, time is of the essence! If you lollygag around and find that the group you wish to join already has it’s ten-rider limit, then either your mini-group will need to meld with another Lead/Sweep team or else be split up. Realize that if more than eight riders choose to go with one Lead/Sweep team – eight riders, plus the Lead and Sweep, means than the group’s ten-bike limit is reached – some of the riders will be asked to join another group with fewer members. In this way, it is hoped that the groups may be better organized and assigned before the bikes start to move.

Once the Lead/Sweep team has reached their rider limit, now is the time for introductions to be exchanged so that all riders know who else is with them. Also, it’s time for the Lead/Sweep team to discuss any particulars they wish to address that may not have been presented in the overall briefing, as well as to re-state some of what was already said, if it is particularly important. For example, during last month’s KOFA Café ride, one group spent a short time discussing crosswinds and how to handle tumbleweeds blowing across the road.

As the Lead/Sweep team finishes the separate briefing to their group, they should designate both the area and the time at which their group will stage the motorcycles. I suggest the Lead yell out loud and clear “Group X, Ten minutes to go,” “Group X, Five minutes to go,” etc., and then start up and hit the road right on the dot.

In summary, join your group on foot in a timely manner, say hello to your fellow riders, and get answers to your questions before you move your cycle to the staging area that your Lead has designated.

 

 

 

Group Riding Tip #7

Ride Captain Prerequisites

Presented by Tom Clements, Ride Captain Coordinator, at the 2/7/2009 Club Meeting

This is the seventh in a series of talks regarding Group Riding. For the upcoming BMMC breakfast meetings, you can expect to get a short message from me or another Ride Captain.

The BMMC Riders Guide pamphlet that was created in 2007 is a great document and I certainly hope that you have a copy, have read it, and have it available for reference. It covers so much ground, however, that it can be difficult to keep it all correctly in mind. Just as airline and corporate pilots must undergo refresher training regularly – Recurrent Training, it’s called – to be reminded of information they already know, so also may we benefit from being reminded of what’s contained within the Guide. You unlikely will be hearing much, if any, new information, but rather a revisiting and emphasizing of what you already know.

The topic for today is Ride Captain Prerequisites.

Our club is blessed to have nearly forty (40) Ride Captains as of the start of 2009. Usually, enough members of that group attend the various club riding events that having sufficient Lead/Sweep teams is not a problem. However, sometimes we do indeed come up short-handed and need to twist some arms to get enough RCs to participate on a particular ride. The more the merrier! By having an even larger pool of RCs, fewer arms will ever need twisting and each individual RC will not be required to “work” as many rides.

In the BMMC Ride Captain Guide as well as in the BMMC Riders Guide – both available for download from the website, remember – the Ride Captain Prerequisites are listed. I won’t take our time now to review each and every one of the nine requirements listed – look ’em up on the site – but I do want to highlight the fact that you need to have at least one year of membership under your belt and have passed the MSF’s ERC (Experienced Riders Course).

I got a chuckle from a story related to me by another member during last month’s Eloy ride. Turns out that, in a previous life, he had gone on a couple of rides hosted by another motorcycle club in the Valley. He said that the only time he was really with his fellow riders was at the start and at the finish. The rest of the time, it was basically a testosterone-fueled challenge as to who could get to the destination the fastest. He said his speedometer rarely read less than three digits and he still was outrun by most of the others! Man! I’m glad that we’re “an eating club with a riding disorder” instead of a bunch of frustrated Superbike racers!

Being a rider who is capable of going fast is great. It’s fun to whip the throttle to the limit on the straights and then be able to judge when the throttle comes off and the brakes come on such that the corner being approached can be negotiated well, near the limits of traction…during a Track Day at Firebird Raceway, say. To have that type of skill in reserve when riding the highway is a wonderful confidence-instiller. But, friends, needing those types of skills on a BMMC group ride is not a prerequisite of a Ride Captain nor of any other group member!

Much more important than being a fast rider is being a safe rider, one that is always aware of his/her surroundings. One that “SEEs” what is going on as he/she Searches the landscape ahead, Evaluates the hazards that appear, and Executes the maneuvers needed to remain safe.

It’s also important to have the desire and ability to know where the hell we’re going! Although GPSs have made that task mighty easy for many of us, there is still nothing wrong with a well-previewed map and simple distance/turn directions written large where you can see them while riding. (How many remember the old grease pencil on the windscreen trick?)

Another important part of being a RC is being friendly: Making the new members and guests feel welcome and being sure they meet their riding colleagues. Years ago I was taught the old adage that the prettiest word in any language is one’s own name. Making a real effort to know the names of those in your group and using their handles when appropriate sure goes a long way to ensuring a sense of group connectedness and closeness. (I know none of us can match the phenomenal name-retention skill of a Vickie or a Ron, but we can work at it little by little, eh?)

So, to those of you who already have stepped forward and become BMMC RCs, I extend my thanks, appreciation, and respect for the job you’re doing. To the rest of the members, I ask you to examine your riding background, your availability to participate in our rides, and your desire to help the club. I know there are some of you listening to me today who know that you meet the requirements yet, for a variety of reasons, have not yet offered your services in this manner. Please, please, let me know if you’d be willing to join the RC ranks. You’d be truly welcomed! See me, call me, drop me an email. If you are not yet qualified in all respects, it’s still OK to let me know your wishes and we can work together on clearing the remaining hurdles.

As we begin a new year, 2009, I look forward to many fun, interesting, and safe BMMC group rides. I hope to see more of you riding with us!

 

 

 

Group Riding Tip #8

The Challenge of Staying in One Lane

Presented by Tom Clements, Ride Captain Coordinator, at the 1/9/10 Club Meeting

Once upon a time a motorcycle rider who was returning to the activity after a few years away bought a used metric cruiser and joined a local club. He took a refresher riding course and started going on various outings, glad to be back in the saddle. As his experience and proficiency increased, so did his enjoyment as well as his acceptance by his fellow riders. One day, after a particularly brisk and technical ride that involved lots of neat twisties, an older, wiser, much more experienced rider approached the motorcyclist with a strong suggestion, even an order. “Don’t ever cross the yellow center line!”

“Huh?” said the rider. “Why not? If I can see that it’s clear ahead in the other lane, why not utilize that space and make the turns wider and hence easier?”

“Three reasons,” said the old pro. “First, someday even though you think you can see that all is clear, maybe a bad surprise will be waiting, one that could get you killed! Second, it’s illegal and could get you a ticket if a law enforcement officer happens to observe it. Third, it’ll make you a better rider by learning how to safely negotiate all turns, no matter how tight, while remaining totally in your own lane!”

“Hmmm, I see your points,” agreed the rider. “I’ll try that from now on.” And thus it came to pass that the rider broke that bad habit he’d formed and did indeed learn to ride with tighter tolerances, more safety margins, and even greater enjoyment.

The story is true. The rider was me. The club was BMMC. The pro was Bart Iden. Thanks, Bart!

Observing some fellow riders recently, I think the message being presented here is timely and important enough to pass along. At BMMC we pride ourselves on being a top-notch group of motorcyclists. No BMMC group rider should ever feel good about his or her performance if he/she crosses the center line. Let’s work to always keep improving both as individuals and as a group.

One additional comment on a different topic. When asked by the Leader why the Number 2 rider was not staying, on average, one second back in the opposite tire track, the response was “Because if I did so, you and I would leave the rest of the pack in the dust! Every time I stayed with you a big gap developed behind me!”

Friends, you cannot control the spacing that goes on behind you. All you can control is how well you are spacing on the rider immediately ahead of you. If, in fact, you are spacing properly and a large gap does develop behind you, it’s the duty and responsibility of successive riders to pass so as to fill in the gap.

Everyone can have a bad, low-biorhythm day and not maintain the spacing expected. That’s OK! That’s why sometimes you need to position yourself near the Sweep or even decide to forego the group ride altogether that day. No problem! But if the inability to keep spacing develops after you are already near the front or middle of the pack, then wave the following rider(s) around. If you don’t signal, and he or she does a safe pass anyway, please realize that they are not being discourteous to you but are merely doing what’s expected of them right out of the BMMC Riders Guide.

Speaking for myself – and probably a few others, too – I know that I feel pleasure and pride when a BMMC group rides cohesively and presents a sharp, unified, appearance to those who see them on the road. And when that doesn’t happen? Yuck! It’s embarrassing and frustrating. When you ride with BMMC, you ride with the Best! Let’s show that to the world!