Tips For Group Riding
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Tips for Group Riding

You are finally going your 1st Group Ride. Congratulations. This is one of my absolute favorite activities. I hope you enjoy yourself as much as I do. This article will give you some general tips to think about as far as all group rides. I will also make some suggestions as far as sportbike group rides. Sportbike rides are a little different.

Just the basics:

It's the night before so what do I do now? Thoroughly check over your bike. Look at the tires. Is there thread showing? Are the wear bars showing? Your tires are shot. Change them out or don't go on the ride.

Tires OK, right? Check the tire pressure. On a sportbike the recommended pressure is 36 Front and 40+ psi Rear. Don't run those low tire pressures unless you know what you are doing. Were the brakes working OK the last time you rode the bike? I hope so. This is the most important system on your bike.

Brakes ok, right? Check the chain slack. Look at your owner's manual or service manual. Adjust it if you need to. Do ALL your lights work including the turn signals? Check them. Fix any that aren't working. How about the Horn?

Sportbikes have a lot of plastic bodywork. Is everything connected correctly. are any panels flapping in the breeze? Remember Zip-Ties can fix a lot of things. Duc Tape can usually fix the rest. Carry some zip-ties in the trunk.

Check the oil level. Is the level at the right place in the sight glass? Is the oil filler cap screwed on snug? What about fuel? Do you have enough to get to a gas station? Many rides start at a convenience store that has gas pumps. Check your trunk. Do you have some basic tools?

Sportbike storage is not very good. You won't have much room in the trunk. Something good to have is a tire repair kit with a tire gauge and an extra cell phone. A small flashlight is good also. There will be at least 4 other riders and probably a lot more. Start the bike. Do you need to charge the battery?

It's a good idea to get the bike completely ready for this group ride the night before. It's just common sense.

Get some sleep the night before. Many group rides start early in the morning. The majority of rides are on Sunday. Remember some people go to church on Sundays. Other drivers may not be in much of a hurry. They may not be paying attention. You want to be sharp and wide awake on this ride.

OK, it's Sunday morning. The ride is supposed to start at 9;00 A.M. We call that KSU at 9. Kick stands up at 9 o'clock. Plan on getting to the meet spot at least 30 minutes early. 45 minutes would be better. When you get to the meet spot, fill your tank full.

Hopefully, you haven't forgotten your wallet and your cell phone. After you fill your bike, look for any other sportbikes in the parking lot. Park your bike close to them. Use a little common sense here. Take off your gloves and helmet, maybe the jacket too. Now go inside and get a drink and maybe a snack. Use the restroom now. See, now you have plenty of time to mingle with the group. You are not rushed and you are prepared.

The Pre-Ride meeting: There will probably be a short meeting in the parking lot. The leader will ask who is new to the group. The leader will also ask about rider's experience level. Some of these rides will have 25 riders or more.

There will be riders at all skill levels. Hopefully, you have picked a slower paced ride and not a race pace ride. The leader will probably go over some hand signals that maybe used during the ride. Try and remember them. Some leaders will distribute maps. Don't count on this.

Gear Up Start your bike: A couple minutes before 9:00, start putting on your gear. You will probably see other riders doing the same. Don't start your bike until a couple minutes after you HEAR other riders start theirs. There's no need to let your bike idle for 15 minutes until the ride starts.

The ride starts: This is not a race. There are no trophies and no prize money. Your NUMBER ONE GOAL is to finish this ride with you and your bike in one piece. Take it easy. Don't get caught up in the adrenaline rush.

You can bring a camera, but don't take ride videos with your helmet cam or tank cam. Wait for the next ride. You'll have plenty of time in future rides. Just enjoy the experience. take it all in.

If there are 20 riders, try to merge into the pack around space 15 or so. The faster riders will fall in towards the front. Most rides have a "sweeper". This is an experienced rider that always brings up the rear. He will pick up any stragglers. The sweeper maybe a quarter mile or even further back from the last regular rider.

Keep your distance: You should keep 1 to 4 bike lengths behind the rider in front of you. You must be capable of making an emergency stop. You have practiced this maneuver before, haven't you? You are responsible for your front tire. Don't hit anybody.

On the straights you can close up the distance a little. Don't let too big of a GAP develop if you can help it. Ride to an angle to the rider in front of you in the straights. Don't ride extremely close to him or her. Pay attention. Watch your mirrors. I know sportbike mirrors suck. You can also listen for someone trying to pass. Sportbikes are loud with their aftermarket pipes.

Be smooth with your braking. Don't slam on the brakes. Remember there is a rider close behind you. Scan ahead to the bikes way ahead. Don't just stare at the rider's tail light in front of you. This is extremely important.

In the curves or corners don't ride side by side. Ride inline. Also it is good ride etiquette to NOT pass in the corners. You may get passed by a hot dog showing off. Just shrug it off. Don't bring it up until after the ride is over maybe. You may see that hot dog later in the ride has crashed on the side of the road.

Don't worry if you fall behind. Ride at your own pace. The leader wants you to ride this way. Leading a ride is big responsibility. The leader wants NO crashes and certainly no ambulances. The group will stop at all stop signs and wait for the slower riders. This is a universal group riding rule.

These rides are typically 50 to 100 miles per ride leg or stint. There will be all kinds of roads and some challenging ones too. You'll be riding on highways, country roads, crossing bridges and railroad tracks. Try and cross the tracks head on. Those painted centerlines in the road can become very slippery. Remember that.

When you are riding around a blind corner, there could be sand or dirt in the road. Pay attention to the road signs. Is there a hidden driveway ahead. If you see a car trying to pull out from a driveway, slow down and get ready. The driver will probably pull out right in front of you! Drivers just don't see motorcycles and especially sportbikes.

There are hand and leg signals to learn. If you don't know what they are, just repeat what the rider is doing in front of you if you can do so safely. Try to remember to use your turn signals and then turn them off if you need to.

If you have a flat or have some bike trouble pull over where it is safe. The sweeper will eventually pick you up. If you get completely separated from the group, just stop. Get your cell phone out and call the group number. You got one from one of the leaders before you left I hope. Don't get yourself super lost. You may get yourself even out of cell phone range.

There maybe a break in the middle of the ride. Walk around and get some cool water. You need to stay hydrated. There is usually lunch at the end of a long ride. The food is usually excellent. Figure on spending up to ten bucks for lunch. Sportbike riders never drink alcohol on rides even during lunch. Keep this in mind.

Special rules:

Let's say this first ride is with some very experienced riders. The forum post called it a mod-paced ride. These rides can get real fast paced, believe me. Knee down in corners, high triple digit speeds. DO NOT try to keep up. There is no way you can keep up in the corners. Trying to make up the gap in the straights will get you KILLED my friend. Pinning the throttle and reaching 165 mph on a 2 lane road with a 45 mph speed is just stupidity. Hit an animal at that speed and you are toast.

You cannot completely stop your bike from top speed either. The brakes will fade out. Hitting your front brakes hard in a corner may cause you to highside. You will probably need a ride to the hospital. If you come up to a crash site slow down quickly. If you can stop to render aide, do so. At least call the leader or sweeper.

If there are a bunch of riders already stopped, consider riding on to the next safe spot to pull over. If there are paramedics or cops around, just keep on riding a little ways. You will probably see some other riders stopped ahead.

Conclusion: This article should get you started on your way to your first group ride. You will learn something on every ride you take. I like to go on rides with all types of groups and riders. The sportbike rides are the most fun and challenging. You will get to know the leaders personally soon enough. Be safe and create a good reputation as a skilled group rider. You may get PMed to go on "special rides."


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