Last updated: 20/08/2012
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Riding in groups of friends is a great experience, but the
importance of planning and understanding the rules of riding in
groups must be recognised. Riding in large groups is statistically
more dangerous than riding in small groups or alone. However with
some simple precautions and rules of the run, the experience can be
much safer and more enjoyable for everyone.
Tips for safe riding in groups
- Maintain a safe distance between riders. In normal conditions
allow at least two seconds of gap between you and the vehicle in
front, and at least double that in the rain.
- Allocate a position to each rider and stick to them.
- Put slower riders and those less experienced, close to the
front to take the pressure off trying to keep up.
- Alternatively make sure the whole group knows the route and
where the stopping places are to re-group.
- Ride slightly off-set from the rider in front of you to become
more visible to motorists and also have clean air to ride in.
- Always ride within your own capabilities and exercise your own
- Exchange mobile phone numbers at the start of a
Plan your route
Include plenty of variety so that the run isn't continually
challenging, and take into account the ability of all bikers on the
trip. Think about whether the route is suitable for the time of
year and always have a plan B! Everyone should have a copy of the
route with a map, be informed of stopping places and rendezvous
points, and the mobile phone numbers of others in the group.
Plan rest breaks
Arrange to make a stop at least once every 90 minutes. Regular
breaks also allow the riders to stay together and can act as
meeting points and refuelling stops. Remember that if a rider has
caught up while the others are resting, they will need a break as
well. Please use the following link for biker friendly cafes
Plan the return journey
Planning the home run shouldn't be overlooked. If riders wish to
make their own way back, or will be splitting off from the group on
the way home, they should let the others know their plans. Decide
on a point where the run will officially finish and then one rider
has the responsibility of a head count to make sure all riders have
made it back (taking into account any who made their own way
Organisation of the run
Let everyone know the general route, each other's mobile numbers
and where the rest stops will be. Agree which junction you're
getting off the motorway, if applicable. Ensure all bikes have
enough fuel to get them to the next refuelling stop, everyone has
done a maintenance check and is wearing appropriate gear. Ask
whether anyone is feeling unsure of the distance or route before
The running order
Allocate a leader or navigator at the front to lead the way.
They must be familiar with the route, have the riding skills and
bike to make reasonable progress and have a mobile phone. At the
back there should be a 'sweeper'. They have the same requirements
as the leader, and their role is to look out for slower riders and
breakdowns and ensure no-one gets left behind.
Rules of the road
There are two golden rules of group riding, and they need to be
agreed by everyone before setting off.
- No overtaking each other without prior
- Ride to the bike behind you, not the one in
One of the main causes of collisions is when the riders in the
group play 'follow my leader' and constantly try to keep up with
the bike in front. By doing this, unnecessary risks are taken that
put the riders in danger. It is worth remembering that
between 2003 and 2010 nearly 20% of all riders killed on
Cornwall's roads were riding in groups at the time.
This can be avoided by 'riding to the bike behind': make sure
you can keep the bike following you in your mirrors most of the
time and only slow down or stop if you lose sight of them for an
extended time. Never turn left or right without being sure that the
follower has seen you.
By following these simple rules group rides can be enjoyed by
every member of the group and there will be no need to take
If you are taking part in a larger group ride, a slightly
different approach is required known as the Marker System which
allocates a Lead rider, a Tail and a Marker.
- plans the route, taking into account people's capabilities,
experience, the conditions and so on.
- briefs all riders.
- sets an appropriate pace.
- signals to the Marker rider where to stop.
- always stays at the front of the group.
- leaves a reasonable distance behind themselves and the
penultimate rider, ensures that slower riders at the rear are under
- watches out for any rider who has stopped and pulled over.
- always stays at the rear of the group.
- follows instructions from the Lead as to when to stop.
- finds a safe place to stop when signalled to do so.
- remains at this point until the Tail rider has caught up.
- rejoins the group safely.
- rotates their position within the group as the ride goes
It should always be assumed that the group will take a "straight
ahead" route unless advised differently. When the group are going
to alter from the main route, the rider travelling directly behind
the Lead is signalled by the Lead to pull off the road in a safe
position. This stationary rider now acts as the Marker to the
remaining riders, showing which direction the group must take next.
This rider will then rejoin the group in front of the Tail rider
(if it is possible and safe to do so), knowing that the Tail will
have already made sure they are the last rider in the group.
Therefore, as the ride continues, each rider in the group behind
the Lead will take their turn to act as the Marker rider for the
group. This system allows each member to ride in a style and a
manner that suits them, always knowing that they are going to stay
with the group and confident that they will always know which route
the group is following.
To ensure that this is as effective as possible each rider must
be aware of the system, understand the signals that are to be used
that makes them the next Marker, and know who the Lead and the Tail
Riding on Motorways
Stopping on the hard shoulder or near a turn off just to
let the rest of your group catch up is illegal. Therefore
plan ahead to decide at which junction you will be leaving the
motorway and ensure that the group knows this.
A good way to keep everyone together (or at least in sight of
each other) on motorways is to give the lead rider a strict speed
limit which is well within the reach of everyone else in the group.
By combining this with both the no overtaking rule and
riding-to-the-bike-behind rule, no-one should have too much
difficulty staying in touch with the group.
Town and City Centres
Riding in large cities, or even smaller towns where there are
intricate traffic management systems, can be difficult, and
especially so when you're trying to stay in a group. The best way
to combat this is to get organised into smaller groups of three of
four and to ride in a staggered formation to make it easier to stay
together, less experienced riders may want to practise this in
familiar towns before the trip.
Familiarise yourself with the rules of the road in the country
you're visiting. Simple web searches such as "road signs Spain", or
"highway code France" can provide good information. Make sure you
have the correct insurance cover before leaving the UK and take a
look at the websites of British Embassies and Consulates which can
also be useful sources of
travel advice. When riding abroad it is useful to have a
substantial landmark as a rendezvous point in case the group gets
split up. Even in a country where you don't speak the language you
can usually get directions to major places of interest, which
should ensure you can all regroup if anyone gets lost.
- Plan the route - prepare copies for others.
- Identify the rest breaks.
- Brief the riders: explain the rules, the breaks and swap
- Explain the riding system you're using and identify the
Lead and Tail riders.
- If you're using a Marker system, make sure everyone knows
how it works and the signal from the Lead that would make them the
- Maintenance and fuel check before the start - you could
avoid a breakdown.
- Make sure the group wear the right gear. Be prepared for
changes in weather.
- Tell the group to ride within their own ability and don't
try to "keep up".
- Identify hazards like tractors in the country or caravans
in the summer.
- If someone leaves the group make sure they know who to
- Make sure everyone is accounted for at the end.