Leading group motorcycle rides

Once the day has come to actually ride the ride, here are some tips to help everything run a bit smoother and for all the riders to have a good time.

  • Overcommunicate: If I can say only one thing, this would be it.  It’s amazing how many times you can say things and people just don’t hear you, get it, are confused, etc.  Enunciate clearly, be loud when talking to the group and repeat anything that is important at least once.

That one piece of advice aside, let’s walk through each functional part of the ride.

Prepping the leader

  • Get a good night sleep: You’ll want to be fresh on the first day.  Don’t be packing late into the night for an early start.
  • Check the weather: Do check the weather for each  functional area on your trip for the time of day you will be there.  If you’re going from San Francisco (coast) through the central valley to Lake Tahoe (mountains), check a city in each locale for local info.  Things can vary wildly.  It will also help you tell the group how to dress to reduce stops.
  • Check the traffic: If traveling through urban areas, do a quick check for traffic.
  • Review the itinerary: Check the itinerary to refresh your memory for all the things you’re going to see that day.  Use this time to help frame how you see the day going.

Pre Ride Meeting

  • Ensure that everyone is there: Sort of obvious, but if everyone is not there, they don’t get the info they need an cause delays later.
  • Define the group culture: Give the group some idea of how you like to ride and how they can adapt to it.
    • Speed: What speed will you ride at relative to posted limits?  What will the sweep do?
    • Lane Splitting: Will the group whiteline in areas of heavy/stopped traffic?
    • Passing
      • Other riders: I like to see passing riders give the passed rider the full lane as they would in passing a car.  It personally irritates me when I’m passed in lane by another rider w/o me waving them on.
      • Other cars: When passing other cars, I usually remind riders to continue accelerating after the pass and to move right in the lane so the bike behind them can pass as well.
      • Striped/Solid Lines: Be clear as to what is the expectation is here and how you want to accommodate riders that have different opinions than you.
  • Turning: Remind folks to wait at any turn until they see that the rider behind them sees them.  This is the single biggest way to not lose riders in the group.
  • Route:Go over the route.  Cover the following things:
    • Stops along the way, particularly gas stops.
    • Type of ride (slab, city, twisty, etc)
    • Key landmarks at turns
    • Weather changes (major elevation changes, wind, if a weather system is in the area, etc)
    • Alternate routes (what happens if you run late or someone get tired)
    • Reiterate the part about turns.
  • Above all else: Remind everyone that they need to ride their own ride.  We’ll all finish and it’s not a race.

During the Ride:

  • Check your riders: How is everyone doing?  Are there riders that are having trouble keeping up?  Can you segment the group to better accommodate them?
  • Appoint a casual ride leader: If the group is large enough that the lead and sweep cannot keep an eye over everyone you might want to have someone in the middle to keep an eye out for issues in the middle of the group.
  • Point out cool stuff: Part of the  reason we ride is to see cool stuff.
  • Point out uncool stuff: If there is a hazard on the road, point that out as well.

At Each Stop:

  • Check the itinerary: At every stop, check the actual time against the scheduled time.  It’s important to know where you are on the ride.  Doing so will help you keep on schedule to meet your arrival time.
  • Overcommunicate: Inform the riders at each major stop:
    • Weather changes (do they need to add/remove layers)
    • Route changes
    • Key Hazards
    • Road type changes (sweepers->goaty)
    • Next gas stop.

End of day:

  • Have an alcohol plan: Ideally you can walk to dinner so that you don’t have to drink and ride.
  • Say Cheers: You’ve had a great day on the road!
  • How did to day go?: Get a sense for how the day went for everyone.  Use that info to help make tomorrow better.
  • Post ride info: Inform your riders of the following details for the next day
    • Kick Stands Up: When do we pull out?
    • Breakfast: Is that before or after KSU?
    • Weather: Will the heavy clothing and rain gear need to be near the top of the saddlebags?
    • Highlights: Point out what is cool about tomorrow’s ride.

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