Motorcycle Group Riding & Hand Signals

Motorcyclists are a very charitable group of people, many participate in charity events, such as poker runs, throughout the country all year long. If you participate in group rides on charity runs or on a road trip with several riding friends, learn useful tips to ride safe right here.

The MSF has published a Guide to Group Riding for motorcyclists who like to participate in organized events or perhaps just your own group of friends riding on the weekend or traveling around the country.

The following is an adaptation from the MSF A Guide to Group Riding and our experience. 

Arrive prepared.  Arrive on time with a full gas tank.

Hold a riders’ meeting.  Review hand signals with the group, such as slow down, stop, etc…(see hand signals on this page). Assign a lead (road captain) and sweep (tail) rider. Both should be experienced riders who are well-versed in group riding procedures. The leader should assess everyone’s riding skills and the group’s riding style. Keep the group to a manageable size, ideally five to seven riders. If necessary, break the group into smaller sub-groups, each with a lead and sweep rider.

Ride prepared. At least one rider in each group should pack a cell phone, first-aid kit, and full tool kit, so the group is prepared for any problem that they might encounter.  

Ride in formation. The staggered riding formation (see diagram below) allows a proper space cushion between motorcycles so that each rider has enough time and space to maneuver and to react to hazards.

The leader rides in the left third of the lane, while the next rider stays at least one second behind in the right third of the lane; the rest of the group follows the same pattern.

A single-file formation is preferred on a curvy road, under conditions of poor visibility or poor road surfaces, entering/leaving highways, or other situations where an increased space cushion or maneuvering room is needed.

Avoid side-by-side formations, as they reduce the space cushion. If you suddenly needed to swerve to avoid a hazard, you would not have room to do so. You don’t want handlebars to get entangled.

Periodically check the riders following in your rear view mirror. If you see a rider falling behind, slow down so they may catch up. If all the riders in the group use this technique, the group should be able to maintain a fairly steady speed without pressure to ride too fast to catch up.

If you’re separated from the group, don’t panic. Your group should have a pre-planned procedure in place to regroup. Don’t break the law or ride beyond your skills to catch up.

For mechanical or medical problems, use a cell phone to call for assistance as the situation warrants.

Road Captains:  Unfortunately some road captains believe the pack will stay up or catch up with them. If you see your group falling behind, do not expect that they can keep up. The speed required to catch up will most likely be too fast for that rider. REDUCE your speed and allow everyone to get back into formation.   

MSF’s Guide to Group Riding: Hand Signals 4/05

Group Riding Formation

Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic RiderCourse Flyer

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