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Pack Riding

Putt provided this section.

A question that is often raised is: "What is the proper way to ride in a pack?". The following information was gathered from a thread on r.m.h where a group newbie challenged the Old Timers, Bitches (tm) and Assholes (tm) to provide some constructive input on the subject. The information has been distilled and organized and is presented here.

Pack Size:

A pack can be 4 or more bikes riding together. The larger the pack, the more organization you will require.

Organization:

A pack can be formally structured, with a road captain, co-captains, crossing guards, a sweep, a chase truck, maps, CB frequencies, even a cop escort. Or it can be just a few friends out for a putt trying to keep out of each other's wheels. Most people prefer the latter. One comment made about tightly organized pack rides was: If I want close-order drill, I'll take an Achie Brakie class.

Always designate a road captain, usually a person who knows the route to your destination. The road captain makes decisions on the route -- where to stop, how long to stop -- and also delegates tasks to other riders. When pulling away from a stop, the road captain should accelerate up to speed slowly, to keep the group together and avoid the 'bungee' effect, where those behind the road captain must race to catch up and then brake quickly to maintain position.

If you don't have a particular destination, pick one before you start the ride. If the pack has to separate because of a breakdown or other reason, everyone will know the final destination and can catch up.

In larger packs, you may designate one or more baby sitters. The number of baby sitters depends on the size of the pack, and is usually one for every ten bikes in the pack. The baby sitters should be 100% legal, including their bike, license, insurance, blood alcohol etc. They may have to deal with the MAN away from the pack. The baby sitters situate themselves at the back of the pack and fall out with anyone that has a problem. The baby sitters also keep problem riders in line, enforcing discipline on the pack.

On larger or longer rides, you may want to have a chase vehicle, such as a large van or pick-up truck, with a ramp board, tie downs, extra gas, gas line, spark plugs and wires and some tools to effect minor repairs. If a bike can not be fixed immediately, then load it up, get back on the road and fix it later. If the rider insists on fixing the problem on the spot, you can usually delay 5-10 minutes. After this, if a rider still refuses to load up, leave. Consider it a learning experience.

Keep your slowest bikes and riders at the front of the pack. This slows the pack and ensures that everyone gets to the destination at the same time. Most packs have one or two hot rods along for the ride. If they know where they are going, cut them loose and have them meet you at the first stop or the final destination. Not everyone will be able to ride comfortably in a pack, and your goal is the best ride for the pack. You are out for a ride, not a road race.

Riding in a pack:

How you ride depends on both the road and traffic conditions. On narrow roads, ride single file. Single file spreads the pack out more, and gives each rider use of the entire lane if necessary (such as when riding on a twisty narrow road). Sometimes one side of the lane might be bad, so everyone has to stick to that side, or if it gets real twisty, you might want to vary which side of the lane you are on.

A staggered single file is the safest. It gives everyone more room to maneuver if there is a sudden need to avoid a pothole, muffler, road kill, ice, fallen rider etc. Some people like to ride near the berm, others near the center line. Know which you prefer so you can position yourself on the favored side. Always ride in a staggered formation in congested areas. Cagers will see less space between bikes than there really is, and will be less likely to cut between the bikes. This formation gives you a safe stopping distance behind the rider who is in your half of the lane ahead. ALWAYS ride in staggered formation except, perhaps, when moving slowly through city traffic. On highways and interstates, you never know when you might have to swerve around something in the road; if not staggered, you could hit the rider next to you.

Two abreast is the formation for parades. Parallel riding is illegal in some states and is dangerous as hell, because you only have half a lane to maneuver in. If someone pulls up beside you, drop back and give him the position.

When in a pack, avoid passing. It is a good way to get the pack split up, especially on a super highway when you are within 2 miles of your exit.

Never ride beside a side-hack or a trike. Leave them enough space to maneuver.

As a pack member, the big one is: don't let the group force you to ride over your head. If you do, then you're not only putting yourself at risk, but everyone behind you as well (the domino theory applies). Always maintain the separation and speed that you feel most comfortable with. Don't be afraid to drop back or even out of a ride that's pushing your experience or the capabilities of your ride out of that envelope. On the other hand, if the pack is too slow for you, don't be an asshole and lean on everyone else. Do the decent thing -- get out of the group and meet up with them at the next rendezvous if you want. Don't tailgate or try to grab the lead just because you don't like the pace. A safe pack ride accommodates the skill/experience level of the least skilled rider.

Riding distance gap:

The ideal distance between you and the riders immediately in front and behind you is a 2 second gap. There should also be a 1 second gap between you and the bike staggered to your left or right. The rider directly in front of you should be able to see your headlight or face in his mirror, and you should be able to see the headlight or face of the rider behind you in your mirror. This gives you a comfortable spacing. All this depends on speed, road conditions etc. You want to give the riders around you enough room to maneuver without endangering anyone else or slowing things down.

You should always keep an eye on the rider behind you, in case he gets stuck at a traffic light or mired in traffic. Drop back to let the riders in front of you know that there's a problem. If everyone does likewise, this will send a message to the lead rider to slow down and let the pack regroup.

Signaling:

Always signal when making a move. Hand signals are preferred, because many older bikes do not have signal lights. A good passenger will be able to assist. Make sure that hand signals (slow down, turns, road hazards etc.) are passed from the front of the group to the back.

Hand signals are necessary, especially in emergencies. If you have trouble, put your hand up immediately. If you're on the outside, pull over slowly to the shoulder. If you're stuck on the inside, pull to the left with your hand up until the riders behind you back off and let you move to the right and off onto the shoulder. Do not make any sharp moves.

If you see a hazard in the road (pothole, dead animal, muffler etc.), point down to it until you've passed it to warn those behind you.

Always signal lane changes and turns, either with your turn signal lights, or with hand signals. When slowing, use hand signals to alert those behind you.

Some general rules:

Pay attention.

Check your equipment, e.g. brake lights and stuff. This can avoid break- downs.

Pay attention.

If you cause a spill because you did something stupid, it could earn you some lumps on top of your road rash.

Pay attention.

If you think your bike won't make it, drive the truck. You will get just as much experience and have just as much fun getting there.

Pay attention.

Your eyes should be watching a few bikes up the road from you, not fixed on the bike in front of you.

Pay attention.

Respect the speed of the pack. If the pace is too slow, pull to the front at the next stop light and inform the ride captain where you will meet up with the rest of the group.

Pay attention.

Always remember you're in a group. Every move you make affects the others behind you.

Pay attention.

Problems occur on rides because group members don't know or don't respect group riding rules. Many accidents happen because of inattention.

Pay attention.

Keep your eyes on the road and on the riders around you.

Pay attention.

Ride staggered if you do not know who you are riding with or their riding styles!

Pay attention.

Don't ride too close to the centerline of the road. You don't want to slam mirrors with a pickup coming toward you.

Pay attention.

Always pass single file. If there is not enough room to pass, don't feel bad about being separated from the pack. Better late to the next stop than early to your grave.

Pay attention.

A pack is no place for hot dogs. Wait until you are alone or with one or two other hot dogs to play Speed Racer. If the road captain or someone else in the pack criticizes you, take it seriously. Some people will not give you another chance to put their lives in danger with your antics.

Pay attention.

Remember, there are old bikers and there are bold bikers. The law of natural selection says there are very few old, bold bikers. One-hundred more times is still not enough -- Pay Attention!

Many close calls and wrecks could have been avoided if the riders had been more aware of their environment.

Pay attention!