10 rules for group motorcycle riding

By Allstate

Last updated: January 1

The camaraderie of group riding is one draw of having a motorcycle. However, it's important to understand the etiquette and rules of group riding so you can do your part to help keep everyone in the group safe. Here's what to consider before heading out on a group ride:

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Dangers of motorcycle group riding

Group rides can become dangerous due to the following reasons, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF):

  • Riders covering too much of the roadway, or driving side by side
  • Mixing riders of various skill levels
  • Riders falling behind the group

It's a good idea to create guidelines beforehand to reduce the unpredictability of a group ride. And, in general, Motorcycle.com recommends that riders wait to participate in group rides until they have 1,000 miles of experience.

Rules for motorcycle group rides

Here are some safety tips to consider when riding in a group:

1. Be prepared before going to the ride

Riders should fuel up their motorcycle with a full tank of gas and carry a cellphone in case of emergencies, says the MSF. You should also have at least one rider carrying a first-aid kit and toolkit, as well as any other necessities your group may need.

2. Know hand signals

Knowing hand signals is key for formation leaders, as these signals cue the rest of the group to things ahead, says the MSF. You may have group signals for a fuel stop or road hazard, and should know signals for slowing down, speeding up or passing other vehicles.

3. Hold a pre-ride meeting

MSF says it's a good idea to get together with all the riders beforehand to talk about things like your ride strategy, stops and ride length. You can also use this time to discuss the hand signals your group should know. The MSF also recommends that riders learn each other's skill sets, so those with less experience can be monitored during the ride.

4. Select a group lead and sweep

Consider having the most experienced riders be the lead and the sweep, recommends Rider Magazine. The lead is positioned at the head of the group, and the sweep rides at the back of the group. Rider Magazine also recommends positioning the least experienced rider in the second position of the group.

5. Keep your group's size manageable

Rider Magazine says your group size should be no more than seven riders. If it exceeds that, consider creating subgroups. These groups should also have their own lead and sweep, says MSF.

6. Stagger your riding formation

While you want to keep your motorcycle group relatively tight, you should also maintain some space to give riders time to swerve or brake, if needed, says Motorcycle Cruiser.

Consider a staggered formation where the leader rides on the left side of the lane. Then, the second rider should position themselves on the right side of the lane at least a few motorcycle lengths behind the leader (MSF recommends riders stay at least one second apart in distance). Continue this pattern so riders are staggered appropriately.

If your group is cruising on curvy roads, or conditions create poor visibility, MSF recommends using a single-file formation. You should also increase the following distance between riders to at least two seconds.

7. Stay aware of your group's riders while on the road

Each rider should periodically check their rearview mirrors to ensure no one is left behind, says the MSF. You should also make a point to watch the leader of your group so you don't miss hand signals, says Rider Magazine.

8. Have a plan if a rider gets separated

Have a procedure in place ahead of time in case a rider in your group gets separated. That way, the rider won't feel pressured to speed and catch back up to the group, says the MSF. If someone does fall back, the formation should slow down to allow them to catch up.

9. Know What to Do If Someone Leaves the group

If someone plans to leave during the ride, be sure to have a plan in place to reassemble the staggered formation, says MSF. While doing this, riders move up to the next available position — and not pass each other. This can help minimize risks that riders may face when passing others within a single lane.

10. Take plenty of breaks

It's a good idea to take frequent breaks to rest and eat, says the MSF. This can help minimize the risk of riders feeling fatigue on the road.

What not to do while on a group ride

It's equally important to know what not to do when riding in a group. Here are some behaviors to avoid, according to MSF:

  • Don't ride side-by-side in the same lane. This is because you may not have enough room if you need to swerve to avoid a car or oncoming hazard.
  • Don't show off. Avoid competitions with your group mates, tailgating or passing other riders.
  • Don't overlook safety gear. Consider wearing a helmet, protective clothing and face or eye protection.

Having guidelines for a group ride can help keep your entire group on the same page and prepared for what's ahead. Remember these tips as you get ready for your next adventure on the road so you can help keep the group (and yourself) safe.