18 Motorcycle Riding Tips to Ensure Everybody has a Safe and Enjoying Ride

When riding your Harley Davidson motorcycle in a group here in Louisiana, we must do it in a way that does not endanger anyone or interfere with the flow of traffic. Louisiana Harley Riders wanted to provide some general rules followed by motorcyclists touring in a group. These rules are not difficult. As a rider, you must understand that you are responsible for the safe operation of your bike so that you do not endanger yourself, your passenger, or other vehicles on the road. All your driving maneuvers should be thought out, planned in advance, and communicated to the other members in the group. Never take a spontaneous action unless necessary to avoid injury.

group riding

1. The first thing you want to do is organize the ride. The leader should inform the group of the destination and the ride. This can

be as informal as standing around in a parking lot or as a special meeting to hand out maps and cell phone numbers.
2. When creating your riding formation, it's wise to have your experienced riders at the lead and running sweep (bringing up the rear). Consider positioning the less experienced riders immediately behind the leader. This allows the front rider to adjust the pace if necessary.

3. Ride your own ride, and don't go any faster than you feel comfortable going. Remember that riding in a group does not mean you surrender any decision making when it comes to your safety.

4. While riding, don't fixate on the motorcycle in front of you. Instead, remember your basic training. Look well through the turn to where you want to go. If you want to see what’s going on, look 5 bikes ahead of you.

5. All riders are responsible for making sure their motorcycles are mechanically up to the task. Before you even meet up with the group, make sure you've got plenty of fuel in the tank, and you've taken care of all those maintenance issues. You really don't want to be the reason for stopping the group for something mechanical you could have prevented.

6. When crossing controlled intersections, motorcycles should pair up to reduce the length of time crossing and keep the motorcycles together. This should avoid anyone trying to play "catch up." Each rider is responsible to insure they can make a safe crossing before entering the intersection.

7. Each rider should observe, and constantly be aware of, the motorcycle in front and behind, to be on the alert for any trouble. Trouble can arrive quickly - you should be paying close attention. Maintain the following formation for normal group riding. On narrow roads, curvy, or mountainous roads areas where visibility is limited, construction areas, loose surfaces, or when there is an obstacle in the roadway, ride single file.

8. Adjust your lane position to deal with hazards and invasions of your space cushion. Use at least 2-second spacing when riding single file, such as in twisty sections. Above all, ride carefully. Common courtesy while sharing the road is important. RIDERS PASSING ON THE RIGHT, WEAVING THROUGH GROUPS OF RIDERS, TAILGATING, OR OTHERWISE RIDING IRRESPONSIBLY, ARE ENDANGERING THE OTHER RIDERS AND ARE NOT WELCOME ON GROUP RIDES!

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9. On the road, motorcyclists should have at least a 2-second cushion in front and behind them, except when stopping at controlled intersections.  Leave enough room per lane so each rider can maneuver side-to-side if need be. Street lanes can be split up into 3 equal sections (this is learned at the DMV when obtaining your license). The left 'tire track' is 1, the oil stained strip is 2, and the right 'tire track' is the 3rd. Always travel in the left or right sections; avoid the oil strip when possible. Always ride in a staggered position! Avoid riding side-by-side, it’s extremely dangerous and you’ll have no exit strategy in case of accident or hazard!

10. At intersections where you've come to a stop, tighten the formation to side-by-side to take up less space. As the light turns green, or when traffic opens up, the bike on the left proceeds through first.

11. As turns get sharper, or as visibility decreases, move back to a single file formation. You'll also want to use single file when entering or exiting a highway, at toll booths, or when roads have a rough or questionable surface.

12. You'll need to communicate while on the ride, so make sure everyone knows the signals you'll use. Hand signals are extremely important and should be used on every ride..

13.  When passing vehicles, the Ride Leader should maintain passing speed until he has opened up room for the rest of the riders.

group riding tightness

14.  Passing other members of the group is prohibited. You may not pass another bike unless it has pulled over to the shoulder and indicated an intention to stop. If you do not like the position you are riding in then change it only at a rest stop.

15.  Always maintain a safe speed and keep a safe distance between motorcycles. If you feel uncomfortable in keeping the pace of the group (rain, wind, winding roads, steep grades, etc) mention it to the Ride Leader, call for a stop or let the group know you are going to pull over and stop.

16. If, and when, it becomes necessary for one motorcycle to stop, all other motorcycles are to proceed on until they reach the first available safe place to pull over.

17. If you pass another motor vehicle you may not do it in the same lane that vehicle is driving in, even if it has pulled over to the shoulder with the intent of letting you pass. You must be able to pass in the oncoming traffic lane.

18.  If riding in a group and you need to stop for a rest or stretch your legs; or if you need a drink, food, or fuel; or if you need to make a comfort stop, let the group know your needs, by signaling. Group riding is not an endurance test.

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 maps 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 left
- Pass only when you are certain you have enough room
- Respect the space of others

There is safety in numbers and group rides are amazing if we can all obey the rules of the road. Remember, you are responsible for the safe operation of your bike. No one else can accept that responsibility. These rules are not intended to be all-encompassing and do not cover all aspects of group riding. These rules are intended to be suggestive in nature and have been found to work extremely well. There is always room for common sense to fit any particular situation.

These are rough guidelines for a successful group ride. Every group has their own objective, style, and personality. Some groups RIP up the canyon, some sit back and Cruise. Be sure you know the overall speed and expectations of that particular ride. Take these ideas and adapt them to make them work for you. These tips are osted by Louisiana Harley Riders to help ensure everyones saftey.

Some groups have highly-structured and well-thought-out rules for group riding, using road captains, sweep riders, a set order, and numerous hand signals. These are a sample of commonly used hand signals.

To see more viewpoints on motorcycle riding, we suggest the following links to The Motorcycle Safety Foundation:

Vulnerable Road Users Conference 
"The MSF RETS: A System Designed to Succeed" paper 
 "The MSF RETS: A System Designed to Succeed" presentation
 "Preparing Riders to S.E.E. Better: MSF Tools for Improving Hazard Perception" paper
 "Preparing Riders to S.E.E. Better: MSF Tools for Improving Hazard Perception" presentation (PDF)

Safety Tips
"You and Your Motorcycle: Riding Tips" booklet
"Motorcycle Operator Manual" booklet
"T-CLOCS" Pre-Ride Inspection Checklist
"You and Your Scooter: Riding Tips" booklet
"You and Your 3-Wheel Motorcycle: Riding Tips" booklet

Feel free to copy the following Quick Tips sheets for your own projects:
"Should You Ride A Motorcycle?" Quick Tips
"If You Ride A Motorcycle" Quick Tips
"T-CLOCS" Pre-Ride Inspection Checklist
"Ten Things All Car & Truck Drivers Should Know About Motorcycles" Quick Tips
"Riding With A Passenger" Quick Tips
"Group Riding" Quick Tips
"Alcohol Awareness" Quick Tips
"Preventing Motorcycle Theft" Quick Tips

Cycle Safety Information (CSI) Documents 
Personal Protective Gear
How Helmets Work
 2010 Equipment Requirements

2010 Rider Education
2008 Licensing Information
2001 Crash Statistics

Curriculum Materials
Basic RiderCourse Handbook (Non-printable)
Basic RiderCourse Handbook - Spanish (Non-printable)
Scooter Basic RiderCourse Handbook (Non-Printable)
 3-Wheel Basic RiderCourse Handbook (Non-printable)
 ERC Rider Classroom Cards

Images, PSAs, Banners and More  
MSF Banner Links for Your Website
"We're Out There" video PSA 
RADD / MSF video PSA's
Alcohol Awareness Print PSAs
SEEing is Believing (optical illusions)

NAMS - National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety
National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety Grant Program
National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety Grant Application
National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety - Original Document (size = 4 MB)

Hope this information was helpful to making your riding more enjoyable and safe. Special thanks to the Motorcylce Safety Foundation and AMA-cycling.org for the informaition provided.