Tips and Past Experience
Nothing can replace Good Judgement and Common Sense!!!!!
- It is recommended for the Road Captain to have scouted the route prior to conducting the ride.
- Be aware of places you may have to stop. Watch for loose gravel or sand.
- The arrows painted on the lanes indicating the lane traffic flow become slick when wet.
- Watch for oil slicks around stop lights, stop signs or around areas where cars may have to sit for a period of time.
- The use of 2-way radios between the Road Captain and Tail Gunner is highly recommended.
- When pulling out from a stop sign or stop light and after making a turn, an even, steady acceleration is highly recommended. This will keep the formation together better than speeding up and having to slow back down. Do not slow to make sure the formation is following. This will cause a back up and may actually prevent the rear bikes from making it through the light. If the formation is broken for whatever reason, keep the speed limit to 5-10 miles below the posted speed limit to allow the rest of the formation to catch up. You do not need to stop (this is a judgement call based on the road and the traffic flow).
- If the formation is broken, and there is a turn in the route, the formation does need to stop as close to the turn as possible, allowing the trailing group to see where you turned. You may also instruct (prior to the ride in the pre-ride brief) that the last person in line wait at the corner to guide the rest back up to the formation. This is the Road Captain's decision based on what they know of the route, the traffic, and safe riding practices.
- Summer time and asphalt do not mix well, kickstands will sink in and the bike may fall over. Be aware of where you park.
- All riders need to pay attention to the bikes and traffic around them!!!!! There is nothing worse than a bike hitting another bike in formation because they were not paying attention.
- If you need to speed to get to your destination – you should have made better plans and started earlier. Chapter group rides are supposed to be enjoyable not racing events.
- Riders - So what if the Road Captain makes a wrong turn? Sometimes that's how you find that hidden special road!!!!!!
- If you think you need to burn a whole tank of gas before you stop for a 5 min break, you are missing half the fun of riding with a group. The BS sessions at stops are all part of the experience.
- If you know the trip will take 3 hours, plan on it taking 4. Something will always happen to cause a delay. The larger the group, the more time you should allow for rest stops, gas breaks, food breaks, etc.
- One lesson that the MSF class teaches that I think needs to be clarified better is their admonition to always stop with one foot on the ground. Fine, if it is a small bike, but a touring bike should be stopped placing both feet on the ground at the same time, in my opinion. A slick spot is unforgiving and very dangerous. Your rear brake can be released if your front brake is holding at 2 MPH with no concerns whatever. (Obviously, you do not put feet down until the bike is fully stopped.) The MSF used to teach that you stop with your RIGHT foot on the ground and the other on the peg. That was changed to LEFT foot down so that you could keep your right foot on the brake. In either case, by definition, your bike is not vertical with only one foot on the ground. If you must make a fast departure (to get out of somebody's way, for example), it takes more time to do so with one foot down rather than two. This, because you must straighten the bike as you depart, you have a more erratic start, and you must first take your right foot OFF the brake - all time consuming. Finally, you can probably more easily handle a smaller bike with one leg, but a large touring bike is another case entirely. [There are always exceptions to the rule, of course. If you are stopped at a light on a severe incline, your right foot belongs on the brake pedal. Similarly, in a panic stop situation you want to stop with your foot still on the rear brake.
- Assuming you are in the slow or second slowest lane and you approach an on-ramp, do a head check to the right. Equally as important, if you are approaching an off-ramp, do a head check to the LEFT (and catch that guy who is about to cut in front of you to make his exit).
- REMEMBER! Too much following distance can be just as bad as, and frequently is WORSE, than too little following distance. If the formation lacks uniformity in what we appear to be doing, then we don't "look" like we are "together" as group. We become regarded as random individual vehicles in the traffic pattern and not like a group or unit trying to function as one vehicle. Too much following distance INVITES cars into the formation, splitting it up in traffic. And if we don't control our lane space, the cars WILL take it away from us. Be prepared! Non-motorcycling car drivers really do NOT understand what we do when we ride as a group or why. So, if a car starts to blindly move into or through the group - LET THEM IN. We can always re-form the group a little later down the road.
If you are new to group riding or are uncomfortable riding in a Southern Cruisers Ride, please let the Road Captain know. Excessive following distance defeats the purpose of maintaining an equally spaced stagger formation. If you are new to group riding or have a handicap (visual, etc.) and prefer/need to ride on the left or right side of the lane, let the Road Captain know in advance. Also, make sure you line up in the proper position for where you need to be (odd-numbered bikes will ride on the left and even-numbered bikes will ride on the right). If you need to switch with another bike, do so before the ride begins and explain to them why you are doing so. If necessary, until you become more comfortable with group riding, it may be much better for your safety and the safety of the group that you ride individually 1/4 mile behind the group. We want to encourage you to be comfortable about making that choice.
- Any SCRC member that needs to leave the ride early, please notify the Road Captain AND the Tail Gunner where you plan on leaving the group. If possible be at the rear of the formation (ahead of the Tail Gunner) prior to leaving the group. Any bikes following should move up into the standard group riding positions.
- BLOCKING: Remember, the cars on the road have the right of way and blocking is considered illegal. The Southern Cruisers Riding Club does not approve of the use of blocking, it is illegal in most States. If there is a need to block traffic, it should only be done with prior arrangements with the local law enforcement officials. It may take a few extra moments to wait for the traffic to clear. This will keep the formation together and safer. If the formation does get split up – refer to the section on rejoining the formation.
- STOPS AT TRAFFIC LIGHTS: Keep your bike in first gear and ready to move when the light turns green, unless you know that it will be an extremely long red light and need to give your hand a rest. The few seconds' delay for shifting from neutral to first gear can cause the group to be split because not everyone is able to make it through a turn signal.
- INTERSTATE/HIGHWAYS: When approaching the interstate or a limited access highway, you should gradually increase your speed while on the entrance ramp as you see that you'll be able to merge on to the interstate. Depending upon the size of the group, the Tail Gunner may not be able to move over and protect the lane for the entire group. COMMON SENSE AND GOOD JUDGMENT WILL NEED TO BE USED TO DETERMINE IF YOU WILL BE ABLE TO MERGE SAFELY. Do not assume that since the Road Captain and several bikes have merged on to the highway that it will be safe. If the group is separated, regroup when it is safe to do so.
- EXITING INTERSTATES/HIGHWAYS: When you are leaving the interstate or highway, try to maintain a speed that will allow all of the bikes to exit without being on the interstate and having to ride at an extremely low speed. Move fully on to the exit ramp or turning lane as quickly as possible. To properly protect the group, the Tail Gunner cannot move over until every bike is safely on the exit ramp or in the turning lane.
- TUNNELS: The Blue Ridge Parkway is a favorite place to ride for many local and out of state riders. Numerous tunnels exist on the parkway. Some are over 1/4 mile long. There is no lighting in Parkway tunnels. Cars are required to turn on lights, but some don't. On a motorcycle, the instant of going from sunlight to darkness is disorienting. Your eyes are not used to the dark. The first thing you do is instinctively brake a little. The eyes of car drivers as well do not adjust to darkness instantly. They may not even see the yellow line on the road in a tunnel. In addition, bicyclists may be encountered in tunnels as well. WHEN APPROACHING TUNNELS, SLOW FAR AHEAD OF TIME, ALLOW MORE SPACE BETWEEN RIDERS, GET INTO SINGLE FILE AND STAY AWAY FROM THE YELLOW LINE. You may encounter one tunnel after another so maintain this safe riding posture as long as you are in "Tunnel areas" of the parkway.
- CURVES: Many roads in the mountain are switchbacks, with non-stop sharp curves. You are riding along at 40 mph, come into the curve and you are down to 15. With a tight curve, riders behind you cannot see that you braked, or have little room to brake and slow, so it is easy to get bunched up. ALWAYS STAY IN SINGLE FILE, MAINTAIN GREATER SPACING BETWEEN RIDERS AND PAY ATTENTION. A group of H.O.G riders were riding on the parkway. The lead bike missed a sharp curve, left the parkway and went over the side of the mountain and fell 60 feet, resulting in a rider's death and a critically injured passenger. Riders in the group said that it appeared the rider, while entering a sharp curve, looked away for a second and then missed the curve. Many areas on the parkway and other mountain roads are like riding on the edge of a cliff - you miss your turn and you are airborne without a parachute! It's not the fall - it's that sudden stop at the end that'll get ya.
- Also be aware that after heavy rains on these kinds of roads in the mountains, that sand and mud will be washed down onto the road and can make the curves and corners very dangerous.
- There are many opinions on curves. A lot depends on how sharp the curve is. This, IMO, is one of the many reasons to ride in a good even staggered formation. This allows riders to be able to shift in the lane to take a curve better. Several groups have established signals to spread out the gap and this works well before going into curves to allow more freedom for the individual riders to have more space to work with. If the Road Captain sees that the curve may be a little sharp for the group, he/she can anticipate by signaling to slow down before going into the curve.
- If there are sharp curves, I would recommend single file spaced at least 3-4 seconds apart. This gives the rider the option to use as much of the road as they want and also allows for people slowing down when going into sharp corners.
- I highly recommend that the Road Captain be aware of the riding experience of the people they are leading on a ride. A pre-ride of the route (when possible) is also recommended. It is also up to the individual rider to admit to his/her abilities.
Compiled By - Greg "Dragon" Love - Click For Full Details