Last updated: 8 November 2022
With group motorcycle riding, there’s no book of knowledge that you and your group can set your rules by.
With so many different people and personalities, boundaries will inevitably be pushed, and tempers will eventually be frayed.
It’s no secret that I prefer to bypass all these issues by simply touring alone! That being said, I have participated in group motorcycle riding and tours and thoroughly enjoyed it.
These are our top tips for group motorcycle riding to keep things running as smoothly as you imagined!
General Tips For Group Motorcycle Riding
It can seem exciting to have 20 of your best mates touring together. But trust me when I say it doesn’t work.
In fact, the opposite is true; it makes for a far more enjoyable ride to split the group into smaller sub-groups. So rather than 20 of you jostling for position and vision, you have multiple groups of 3-4 riders.
Many groups employ a drop-off system where riders are dropped off at junctions/turns so everybody can ride at their own pace.
And whilst this does work (I’ve ridden like this plenty of times in advanced riding groups), it doesn’t work as well as riding in smaller, more contained groups.
It’s worth noting that riders at the back of the group have to ride faster than those at the front. And this could be enough to tempt someone into making a mistake and ending up on the ground.
Agree Not To Overtake (Each Other)
There are two times when I see spills in group rides. The first is on bends. And it’s usually when riders at the back of the group are riding beyond their skill level to keep up with the riders up front (see above.)
The second is with overtakes. In large groups, it doesn’t take long for faster riders to get frustrated with slower riders who won’t overtake the slow-moving vehicle in front.
Eventually, the faster rider will decide to overtake both the slower rider and the slow-moving vehicle – just as the slower rider moves out to overtake.
Before you know it, you have riders bumping into each other because nobody is sure what anybody else is doing.
The best way to mitigate these mishaps is to not allow overtaking within the group. Instead, put faster riders together in one group and slower riders in another. Overall, this keeps things safer and smoother.
Employ A Riding Brief
When you meet up at the start of the ride, take 10 minutes over coffee to:
- Split riders up into smaller groups (depending on skill level, riding speed, and shared interests)
- Discuss the route, any roads/hazards to watch out for along the way, agreed lunch/coffee stops etc
- Ensure everybody knows who the ride leader is for their particular group
- Sort out any GPS issues
- Answer any questions or concerns
Group rides work best when there is a common form of communication. Larger groups can utilise hand signals which can be passed along the group. Or you may choose to employ the drop-off system mentioned above.
Smaller groups can use hand signals, too. But intercom may prove the better option.
Smaller groups of 3-4 riders likely won’t need any communication at all. And this is usually appreciated by everyone!
Ride In A Staggered Formation
Riding in a staggered formation is better for everyone. It compresses the group – making it easier to stick together.
It also takes up a smaller amount of the road, which is more courteous for other road users.
Lastly, it gives every rider in the group better visibility up front.
Group Motorcycle Riding During A Tour
Group Motorcycle Riding: Prepare To Travel Alone
I hate to set the tone here with something so negative, but part of your planning should always include a contingency plan.
Things often go wrong when it comes to group motorcycle riding. You might not get on with the group. Or maybe the riding style doesn’t suit you (too quick, too slow, too dangerous.) Perhaps there’s just one participant that really grinds on your nerves and is completely ruining your trip.
In any of these scenarios, there may come a time when you need to part company with the group – and this leaves you with two options.
You either go home or complete the tour alone.
For this reason, it’s always advisable to plan for the worst and carry your own essentials. This then allows you to complete the trip by yourself if that’s what you decide.
Carry Your Own Essentials
By essentials, I’m referring to money, passport, documentation, and camping equipment. Or anything you would need should you leave the group and complete the ride solo.
It’s all too easy when morale is high to spread the load of everybody’s stuff across the bikes to make it easier all-round. And whilst this is lovely in principle, limit your goodwill-sharing to things you can carry on without if need be.
Anything you absolutely need to complete the trip alone stays with you or is stored in your luggage – just in case.
Accept The Group May Carry On Without You
I’ve only ever been in one situation where there was a breakdown and the group had to decide whether it would stay with the broken-down rider or continue without him.
Inevitably, some people will think you should all stay. Others will decide that the ride should continue. So it might be worth discussing this before you start the tour.
If the group unanimously decides that the ride will continue if someone breaks down, accept that this might happen to you and put a personal plan in place for what you will do in this instance.
Accepting now that you might be left to fend for yourself for a few days will ward off any resentment that the group should have waited for you.
Instead of feeling betrayed, you can execute your contingency plan and catch the group up a few days later to continue your tour.
Group Motorcycle Riding: Your Place In The Group
Find Your Place
It might be that you’ve got quite a bit of touring experience, so the group has designated you Ride Leader. But it might be something more trivial.
Maybe you speak the local language and have been elected chief negotiator and food orderer. Perhaps you’re a dab hand with a camera and have been designated as the group’s photographer and filmmaker.
It could be that you’re a mechanic and have been asked to lend your expertise whenever someone has a breakdown.
Or maybe you’re a techy-sort person who’s really good at route planning and ensuring everybody’s GPS units are synced and updated.
Whatever your role is, use your individual skills and experience to strengthen the group as a whole.
Accept Your Place
Once the roles have been allocated (usually in the planning phase), ensure you accept your role in the group. If you’re unhappy, make your feelings known before the tour so something can be done to change it.
If you really want to be the Ride Leader, don’t wait until Day 3 of your tour to voice this opinion. Sniping at the designated ride leader to assert your dominance and show your knowledge doesn’t do anybody any favours.
Making sure you voice any concerns about your role before you set off can avoid any discourse along the way. Either accept it or leave the group.
But whatever you do, don’t bitch about it for the rest of the tour.
Group Motorcycle Riding During A Tour: Attitude & Fairness
Attitude Within The Group
It’s important to remember that everybody will be showing a certain amount of leniency towards each other during a group motorcycle ride.
And we need that.
The problem is it doesn’t take long for that leniency to waver. To avoid a breakdown in conviviality, we need to:
Learn To Compromise
Unfortunately, you are not the centre of the group. It’s okay to suggest something (a change of route, for example, or a stop-off at an attraction you really want to visit.) But it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t insist on these suggestions.
Put your suggestion to the group, and then decide on the right course of action together.
In my experience of group motorcycle riding, most people are quite amicable and happy to make small changes to a route to accommodate you, so there’s really no need to assert yourself too much!
Put it to the group politely. If they say yes, great. If they say no, then accept it and move on. And prepare to compromise on the wants and wishes of others, too.
Adjust Any Expectations
You may be a really experienced tourer and adventurer. But that doesn’t mean you should expect the group to do exactly what you want, exactly when you want it.
There’s a time and place for voicing your opinions – people want a riding buddy, not a school teacher!
Ensure Equality Within The Group
You are the same as everybody else in your group – unless decided otherwise by the group. You are no more and no less.
Use your knowledge and skills to the advantage of the group. If you’re experienced, use this experience to help a newbie in the group. Show them the ropes and pass on what you know.
The Sound Of Your Own Voice!
People who are naturally shy, quiet, or timid have just as many valid suggestions as those who are loud, outspoken, or extroverted.
Don’t be the one in the group who never shuts up! If you love the sound of your own voice, learn when to pipe down when riding in a group.
By all means, have your say. But people want you to be a part of the group – not the voice of it!
Group Motorcycle Riding During A Tour: Socialising
Socialise Within The Group
On the opposite end of the spectrum, be social within the group. It’s perfectly acceptable to get to your hotel and have an hour away from the group to phone home and let loved ones know you’re okay.
But try not to separate yourself from the group by eating alone or excusing yourself from excursions or leisure time.
Dinner is often the only time a motorcycle group gets to chat and discuss the plans for tomorrow.
If you’re not around, decisions will be made without you. And if you choose not to be a part of the decision-making process, don’t complain the following day if you disagree with the changes.
The Bigger Picture
As mentioned above, there is a good chance disagreement will occur throughout the tour. And whilst these disagreements seem significant at the time, try to look at the bigger picture and remember that the trip is the most important thing.
Harbouring grudges and resentments doesn’t do anybody any good. Ride them off for the good of the group, and by the time you’ve got to your destination, everything would have blown over anyway!
Don’t Become The Group Slave
Human beings are naturally lazy. You might think you’re doing the right thing by helping everybody out whenever they forget something, but once they know they can rely on you, they’ll begin to expect it.
They’ll no longer ‘forget’ stuff – they simply won’t bother bringing it because they know you’ll do it for them.
Remember that this is your tour as well as theirs. And whilst you’re happy to contribute to the smooth running of the group, you’re not the skivvy, slave, or water carrier.
Group Motorcycle Riding During A Tour: Respecting Skill Levels & Riding Styles
Consider Any Limitations
It’s easy to say yes when enjoying a few drinks with your riding buddies, and the prospect of a group tour arises.
But take a second to consider any limitations you might have which could hinder the group.
Touring / Riding Experience
Are your buddies experienced riders and tourers? If you’re a novice rider, expect to be left to your own devices whilst on tour.
Sure, they’ll tell you they’ll wait for you and that they’ll ride at your pace. But will they? Really?
Yes, they might ride at your pace for the first few hours, but once they get into the twisties, they’ll want to let rip and have some fun. And they should be allowed to do that because it’s their tour as well.
If you’re unsure, a safe bet is to join an advanced riding club such as RoSPA and take it from there.
Limitations Of Your Bike
Many touring motorcycles these days can see 250-350 miles between fuel stops. If your buddies are on BMW GSA 1250’s and you’re on a sports bike that has to refuel every 120 miles, is that really fair on them?
At the outset, this doesn’t seem like a big ask. But when you get in the middle of nowhere, it could mean re-planning the entire route to ensure you have somewhere to get fuel even though the rest of the group still have 200 miles left in their tanks.
And whichever way you look at it, that isn’t really fair.
If they want to go 150 miles between stops, you should ensure your bike can make it.
As above, you need to consider the cruising speed of your motorcycle. Participating in group motorcycle riding will be difficult if everybody wants to cruise at 120mph on the autobahn, but your bike tops out at 60mph.
Make sure you find out the intentions of the other group members. It might be that they have no intention of stopping to check out local attractions because their sole enjoyment comes from riding mountain passes all day.
If this aligns with your riding style, then go for it!
However, you might like to slow down and enjoy the scenery. Perhaps you want to stop regularly to take snapshots and enjoy a coffee.
Either establish compromises within the group or hold off and tour with a group whose riding style aligns a little more with your own.
Ride At Your Own Pace
This is an absolute classic!
We’ve all been in situations when participating in group motorcycle riding, and the lead riders are powering through the twisties.
The pace is higher than you’re comfortable with, but you want to be ‘part of the gang’ and power on through with the other faster riders. And this is where it all goes wrong.
Ride to your own limitations and ride at your own pace. It’s far better to get there a few minutes after everybody else than not get there at all.
A decent group will slow down for you. But even if they don’t slow down, they won’t ridicule you for not keeping up.
If they do make fun of you, I suggest leaving the group and finishing the ride alone. If they start to get under your skin, it won’t be long before there’s an accident.
Group Motorcycle Riding During A Tour: Helpful Tips
During the planning stages of a tour, it’s sometimes a good idea to establish a buddy-up system.
With this system, you pair up with another rider you get on with and help each other throughout the tour.
You’ll room together and help each other pack in the morning. You’ll wait for each other if one of you gets lost or can’t keep pace in the group. And you’ll share the burden of load by splitting your luggage equally between bikes.
A buddy system can be a good way of harnessing support without relying on the entire group.
Don’t Be Late
Nobody will mind if you oversleep one morning and you’re late (another reason to buddy up!) It happens. But don’t be the one person in the group continuously keeping everybody waiting.
If you know it takes you 15 minutes longer to load your bike in the morning, then be outside 15 minutes before everybody else to start packing things up.
You might be like me, in that it takes you an hour or so to wake up in the morning. If this is the case, get up an hour earlier rather than keeping everybody waiting just because it doesn’t fit in with your morning routine.
As already mentioned, nobody minds mistakes. Just don’t keep doing it!
We’ve all been in social situations where we’ve either had no cash or forgotten our wallet.
It’s an awkward situation, but most people are happy to bail us out and lend us some cash until we can repay them. It’s what friends do.
But don’t make it a habit.
Try to take extra cash to ensure you aren’t asking for some from friends.
Whilst nobody will mind helping you out, most people will only bring enough money for themselves. Not themselves and you!
Buy Your Own Food And Drink
Before you set off, establish whether you will get rounds or buy your own drinks.
We’ve all got ‘that’ friend who accepts everybody else’s drinks and then conveniently disappears when it’s their turn to pay. Don’t be that person!
Fulfil your role by contributing to drinks, or decide at the start that you will all pay for your own throughout the tour.
Group Motorcycle Riding: Conclusion
People always forget the possible pitfalls of group motorcycle riding.
We all have our own agendas. We all have our own wants and ideals. And this is why I prefer to ride solo!
Group motorcycle riding can be great fun if you and everybody else have shared visions, riding styles, and ideals that align as a group.
If compromising isn’t your thing, consider riding the tour alone. But you’ll have a great time riding in a group if you’re happy to accommodate the wishes and necessities of others.
Top image: Jonny Gios