Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Motorcycle Group Riding Differences

Motorcycle Group Riding DifferencesLast Sunday I couldn't find anyone who wanted to ride as it was Mother's Day, and I guess they were all busy. So, I rode south and hooked up with another riding club.

This club was relatively new. They're actually a sportbike club. But this particular chapter has an even mix of sportbikes and cruisers. I met some of them when they came up to ride with us months ago.

I hadn't tagged along with another club in a long time. I got to witness the whole group riding experience from the viewpoint of a hang-around, and see how they did everything differently from the way our club does things.

First, they spend a lot of time at the staging area, about an hour. Our club usually spends between 15 to 30 minutes.

This club was actually quite loose, similar to our club. They all seemingly knew each other well, and knew their place in the group.

Along the ride, the road captain, who was the VP of the club, often pointed at road signs to remind riders of road conditions. That's something our club rarely does.

They rode quite a bit slower than our club usually rides. I don't know if the speed they rode at is the same speed they usually ride at, or if it was just the guy who was leading them. I don't know if that guy always leads their rides or not.

They also seem to make more stops than our clubs does. The destination, which was Idyllwild, CA, was only 100 miles away. Yet they took a gas stop at only 42 miles into the ride, and then a butt break at another 35 miles after that. I couldn't figure out why they needed to make that first gas stop. Our club would probably have done the second stop however.

Because this club is a mixture of sportbikes and cruisers, the members all have varied riding styles. The sportbikes wanted to take a slightly a different route that involved more twisties, so that they could rip up some pavement and ride at a fast pace. The cruisers, however, wanted to take a more relaxed ride. Both routes would end up at the same destination. When we reached the point in the ride where the sportbikes wanted to take the alternate route, I decided to try my luck with them, but stayed in the back.

Splitting the group into two, and then having each group take different routes, is something our club hasn't done. For the most part, we all want to ride the twistiest roads, and we all seem to enjoy riding the same speeds, so we never seem to come to that. However, on any one of our group rides, someone will want to break away and crank the throttle. Blowing out the cobwebs and tearing up some asphalt is part of the enjoyment of motorcycling.

They didn't seem to pass any slower cars. When they encountered a slow-moving car in front of them, they just dropped their speed and waited it out. It's not like they had an awful lot of bikes, I'd say about 10 bikes. There were some stretches of straight road where they could have done it. But for all I know, these guys might pass up cars everytime with a smaller group.

As far as hand signals are concerned, I didn't see much aside for the usual turn signals. It's not like our club uses a lot of hand signals either. I tend to think that their club members have become quite accustomed to riding with each other, that they can anticipate what's about to happen. The same is true with ours.

Interestingly, everyone in their club wore full face helmets, even the cruiser riders. In our club most of us wear DOT half-helmets, or novelty helmets. In fact, after the second stop, once the temperature warmed up, I took off my sweater and rode with just my t-shirt. The folks in their club kept their jackets on. I certainly don't knock this at all. It's a contrast in riding philosophies.

In fact, a while back I read their club charter, which outlines all their rules and practices. Like any club, safety is an important issue, and they make safety a big part of their charter. So I think it all stems from that.

It's probably good to hook up with other clubs, and witness how they execute a group ride, just to show you things you didn't think about, or perhaps shed light on things you may be doing wrong. It's like what the Road Captain said about there being no book on group riding.

Oh, going back to where I said I rode with the sportbikes on the alternate route. Towards the end of the day, a couple of those riders gave me thumbs up for actually keeping pace with them. I was on my Ultra Classic, and I wanted to prove something to those rice burners. One of them said, "Man, you were really throwing that bagger around! I kept looking in my mirror and you were on my tail the whole way". While they were riding hot through the twisties, it wasn't like they were riding like professional racers or anything. They're just regular guys, with average skill, but with the benefit of bikes designed for speed and maneuverability. I just wanted them to know that they can't predispose a Harley rider.


  1. Cool post Steve.

    It is interesting to get a different point of view. I've never ridden as a guest with another club, but one of these days I'm going to make a point of doing it just for the experience of it.

    If you've read much of what I write, you know I'm in a comfort zone riding with my HOG Chapter. I can say that when we all attend other, bigger rides that are "open" to all bikes, we see some big differences from the way we ride on our own. Most of it has to do with safety, maintaining distance (the two-second rule), and what I call bike "bling," ie, all sorts of auxiliary lighting and so forth.

    Thanks for showing the sport bikers that a cruiser can be handled just dandy by a skilled rider.

  2. I found this page about the riding etiquette sometime ago - http://njmc.org/etiquette/ and blogged about it a little bit - http://www.motodisiac.com/blog/group-riding-done-right/. Hope everyone enjoys the sophisticated animation for hand signals they got there :).


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)