Safety is of the utmost importance when riding. See and been seen. Here you'll find a number of great safety tips to make your riding safer and more enjoyable. If you have some additional safety related information you would like to share with the group, please contact our Safety Officer.
Most hand signals are given with the left hand so that the right hand remains on the throttle and near the brake controls for safety.
Ride in formation. The staggered riding formation (see diagram below) allows a proper space cushion between motorcycles so that each rider has enough time and space to manoeuvre and to react to hazards. The leader rides in the left third of the lane, while the next rider stays at least one second behind in the right third of the lane; the rest of the group follows the same pattern. A single-file formation with a minimum 2-second following distance is preferred on a curvy road, under conditions of poor visibility or poor road surfaces, entering/leaving highways, or other situations where an increased space cushion or manoeuvring room is needed.
side-by-side formations, as they reduce the space cushion. If you suddenly needed to swerve to avoid a hazard, you would not have room to do so. You don’t want handlebars to get entangled.
Periodically check the riders following using your rear view mirrors. If you see a rider falling behind, slow down so they may catch up. If all the riders in the group use this procedure, the group should be able to maintain a fairly steady speed without pressure to ride too fast to catch up.
If you’re separated from the group, don’t panic. Your group should have a pre-planned procedure in place to regroup. Don’t break the law or ride beyond your skills to catch up.
For mechanical or medical problems, use a cell phone to call for assistance as the situation warrants.
If a rider leaves during the ride, the rest of the group should re-form the staggered formation by criss-crossing into the next vacant position. Although it would seem more efficient for the column directly behind the missing rider to move up, we do not recommend it because passing another rider within a lane can be risky.
Safe Riding Tips
Few activities build camaraderie and memories faster than chapter rides. They are one of the core H.O.G.® Chapter activities. That’s why it’s so important that they’re conducted safely.
Group Riding Tips
There are a number of factors that come into play when planning or participating in a group ride. Here are some suggestions for making your rides safe and successful.
Planning the Ride
- It’s always a good idea to prepare a map of the route with all the stops indicated. If some bikes become separated from the group, they can “catch up” at the next stop.
- If you’re not out for a scenic ride, plan the most direct route to an event or activity. Freeways and motorways offer the following advantages: All traffic is moving in one direction. No cross-traffic or traffic lights to split up your group.
- When there are three lanes, it is wise to travel in the middle lane. This allows faster traffic to pass and will also allow vehicles to enter/exit the highway more easily.
- If you’re out for a scenic ride, be sure traffic conditions will allow it. For example, is there a county festival or car show in the area that day to complicate the ride?
- Plan stops to avoid gravel lots and right-hand turns. No one likes gravel, and in a group, it’s even less fun. Left-hand turns in and out of stops will help the group stay together.
- Plan fuel stops at least every 145km, so folks with smaller tanks can fill up and stay with the group.
- If you have a large group stopping at a restaurant, call the restaurant far enough in advance to allow them to prepare for a large group.
- If you expect a particularly large group and it’s possible to get a police escort or traffic control at the start/end of a ride or along the route, great! Otherwise, it is a good idea to at least inform the police department of your plans and perhaps drop off a map. Never block traffic yourself; it may be against the law!
Leading the Ride
- Choose and maintain a comfortable pace within the speed limit. Keep in mind that people at the end of the group may have to drive a little faster to keep up if there are gaps in the group. Remember, it also may cause a problem to drive too slowly. Drivers in vehicles behind the group may become impatient and try to get around the group.
- Know the route well enough so that you can give the group plenty of notice that you are approaching a turn. Always signal your intention to turn or change lanes. If you find yourself at an intersection too quickly for the entire group to make the turn safely, continue until you locate a place where the entire group can execute the turn safely.
Participating in a Ride
- Drinking and driving never mix. This is especially true when participating in a group ride.
- Always ride in staggered formation; it gives you an extra margin for safety.
- Make sure your vehicle is in good operating condition. For example, a bad tyre could cause an accident on a group ride.
- Being too hot or too cold can also affect how alert you are as a driver. Be sure to pack appropriate protective clothing, such as a long-sleeve cotton shirt (for protection from the sun), helmet, eye protection, leather jacket, gloves, etc.
- Always ride with your headlight on. Cars have enough trouble “noticing” motorcycles; riders should do everything possible to help them out.
- A group of motorcycles is not considered a single vehicle. Be courteous and allow cars to enter and exit the highway and change lanes. Generally speaking, a car will not want to ride in the middle of a group of motorcycles and will get out of the group as quickly as possible.
- Familiarise yourself with the route and scheduled stops.
- Arrive to participate in a group ride with a full tank of fuel
- Ride with a partner. In the event someone needs to pull over for an unscheduled stop, the partner should also stop in case assistance is needed.
- It’s unsafe for a large group to stop on the side of the road. If someone needs to pull over, the remainder of the group should continue to the next stop. At that time, the group can decide to wait for the missing members or to send two riders back to assist. If the group has a standing policy to wait for a specified period of time, say half an hour, the members left behind will be aware that they can catch up. Again, all riders should have a map of the route so they can reach their destination on their own if need be.
- Passing should always be undertaken one motorcycle at a time, in staggered formation. Remember, passing at any time can be hazardous. Use common sense.
- Be far enough behind the vehicle you are passing to see clearly down the road to do an “oncoming traffic check.”
- Signal. If you have a passenger, he or she should signal as well.
- Check your mirrors and then turn your head to check your blind spot and ensure that no one is passing you.
- Accelerate and change lanes. Remember, legally, you can’t exceed the speed limit.
- When returning to your lane, signal and make a mirror check and head check to be sure there is space between you and all other vehicles. Return to your lane and turn off your blinker
Keep the Group Together
- Plan – The leader should look ahead for changes and signal early so “the word gets back” in plenty of time. Start lane changes early to permit everyone to complete the change.
- Put Beginners Up Front – Place inexperienced riders behind the leader, where more experienced riders can watch them.
- Follow Those Behind – Let the tail gunner set the pace. Use your mirrors to keep an eye on the person behind. If a rider falls behind, everyone should slow down a little to stay with the tail gunner.
- Know the Route – Make sure everyone knows the route. Then, if someone is separated they won’t have to hurry to keep from getting lost or taking a wrong turn.
Safe Riding Tips
Motorcycling is a fun, exciting and practical way to get around. But, like any other activity, it has risks. The reality is that you are exposed and vulnerable; it is up to you to avoid accidents and injury. Risk – and how you treat it – is what safe riding is all about. To help you reduce and manage risk, use the following tips as a guide:
- Know your skills. Take a beginning or experienced rider course from a recognised training centre. The more you know, the better rider you become!
- Know the rules of the road and respect other road users. Don’t forget, riding is a privilege. Get yourself and your motorcycle properly licensed; get insurance if required. Know the limits of your skills, your motorcycle, and the road conditions so you don’t ride over your head.
- Ride with the right gear. A helmet, eye protection, sturdy jacket, pants, boots and gloves are your best defence against accident or injury. It can happen to you!
- Ride aware. A car turning right across your path is the most frequent accident. Three-fourths of motorcycle accidents involve collisions with other vehicles, the majority caused by the other driver. Intersections can be bad spots, so slow down and be prepared to react. We repeat: It can happen to you!
- Ride to survive. Be seen and not hit. You aren’t as big as a Volvo truck, but you can attract attention. Wear bright clothing, use your headlight and bright coloured fairings, select a lane and a position within a lane to be seen, avoid rapid lane changes, and keep looking around – you don’t need surprises!
- Ride straight. Alcohol and other drugs do not let you think clearly or make sound judgments. Up to 45% of all fatal motorcycle accidents involve alcohol.
- Keep a safe bike. Know your owner’s manual, follow recommended service schedules, and have repairs made by an authorised dealer. Always check your bike’s tyres, suspension and controls before riding.
- Ride safe with a pillion. Company is nice, but not all pillions weigh the same and the extra weight will affect handling. Having someone on the back is a big responsibility, so instruct them on proper riding technique and protective gear.
Other Tips for Touring
- When in a tight curve, the rider on the outside of the curve should give room to the rider on the inside. This prevents excessive crowding if the curve is too tight.
- Use the buddy system when riding. If your buddy has trouble and must pull out of the group, pull off the road with him or her and offer any assistance you can.
- Keep a safe distance behind the bike in front of you. Know the stopping distance of your motorcycle.
- Try to maintain a constant speed. Don’t “rubber band” (speed up and slow down).
- Be aware of openings as you ride so that you will have some place to manoeuvre in case of an emergency. Also, be aware of the riders around you, especially the one to your side, and give each other as much room as possible.
- Always try to keep the pack tight without crowding each other. Stay close through intersections and traffic lights so that the group doesn’t become separated. Remember that some riders in the group may not know where they are going and could end up “leading” the remainder of the pack with no idea how to reach their destination.
- If there is a vehicle that needs to get onto the freeway, let that vehicle through and close the gap.
- Never ride in someone’s blind spot.
- Remember, you’re not safe from lightning on your bike.
Now, take responsibility for your riding, learn more ... and go enjoy yourself!
Short Checklist for Group Riding:
- Arrive early
- Arrive with a full tank of gas
- Be certain your bike is in safe, reliable operating condition
- Know your mileage/fatigue limit
- Communicate your intentions
- Be prepared for any weather
- Be prepared for an emergency
- Ride your own ride
- Know who you are riding with
- Make sure they ride THEIR own ride
- Hand out contact numbers or route sheets
- Allow as much space for yourself and others as you would riding alone
- Don’t follow any rider closer than the distance that rider is following the vehicle in front of them
- Allow other riders to pass you
- Pass only on the right
- Pass only when you are certain you have enough room
- Respect the space of others
Wet Weather Riding
Rain and bad weather produce low light conditions and other vehicles produce road spray all combining to limit your visibility to other road users. Waterproof boots and gloves are also a must. Throttle, clutch and brake controls on a motorcycle all require feeling and dexterity of your hands and feet. Once your hands and feet get wet, it will only be a short time before they get cold and you reduce or lose your ability to manipulate your motorcycle controls.
Also, being wet and cold will distract you from your attention to riding, something you don’t want to happen while you are riding in the rain. You want to maintain your mental edge. You should have clear lenses for your glasses or a clear face shield to permit clear vision. Be aware of fogging of your glasses or visor in rain conditions. Opening your visor open a bit or moving your glasses further away from your eyes will permit air to flow on the inner side of the lenses and keep them clear.
The first 10 to 15 minutes of rain is the most dangerous with the rain water mixing with the oil, dirt and road debris that has been sitting on the surface to create a greasy, slippery coating on the road. This usually washes away within this time so if you can, pull off under a bridge or other dry spot and use this initial raining time to put on your rain gear and adjust your riding attitude and style to suit these new conditions, by the time you’re ready to go again the road will be less slippery.
Note that your bike set up is more critical in these conditions and you should always be checking your lights and tires prior to riding so you are prepared. The condition and traction ability of your tire’s contact area can make the difference between the weather being a minor inconvenience to taking a ride in the back of an ambulance. Check your tire pressure and your tread depth prior to all rides. Your tire pressure should be at the manufacturer’s recommended rating and your tires should have enough tread to channel away water from under your bike’s tires.
Research shows that a motorcycle will have 75 to 80% of maximum traction in wet weather. If you have been applying good riding techniques in our motorcycle riding style in the dry, apart from the reduced traction, nothing else should change when it rains. What wet riding does require is good smooth application of your clutch, throttle and brakes. Wet riding is to be a lot less forgiving than dry weather riding when it comes to errors of under or over application of the bikes controls. Do your accelerating and braking in a straight line, set your corner speed in advance, smooth application of your clutch, throttle and brakes will keep the wheels of your motor from breaking free from the traction of your tire’s contact area. Keep your eyes up and identify hazards well ahead of time so you can make smooth adjustments. Remember to look where you want to go.
Hydroplaning occurs when a tire cannot channel all the water out from under the tire and the tire rides up on top of a thin layer of water and removes all of your traction. You might get away with this on a four wheel vehicle but a crash is almost inevitable on a motorcycle. Many factors affect when a motorcycle will hydroplane; water depth, speed, weight, width of tire, tire tread depth and tread pattern. All tires will hydroplane when presented with the right combination of these factors. The experts say keeping your speed below 90km/h will reduce most of this risk, but there are no guarantees. If you do hydroplane, do not steer, lean or apply any braking but maintain your direction, look ahead where you want to go and PRAY. Scan the road surface for hazards such as puddles and smooth black tarseal can help avoid potential hydroplaning situations. Riding in the track of the vehicles ahead may also help avoid these situations as the tires of that vehicle will disperse the water on the road so your tire won’t have to work as hard. Also, when the vehicle ahead hits a puddle the spray from the puddle will indicate a hazardous situation for you to avoid.
Along with the risk of hydroplaning in pooling or ponding water, you must also be aware of varying road surfaces reacting differently to rain. Steel plates, earth, painted road markings, and railway tracks all change their coefficient of friction (grip) to differing degrees when wet.
Rain + Night (a double whammy). Every drop of rain lying on the road, in puddles, on your windshield, on your glasses or visor, refracts light given off by headlights, tail lights and street lights into your straining eyes. Add flashing emergency lights to this equation and you may overload your optical inputs. Remember to focus on the the outside white line on the left your lane of the roadway to avoid being dazzled by oncoming lights.
Good luck, ride safe and have fun