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Discussion Starter #1
Starting this thread to get the collective knowledge of those who have organized, road captained or ridden in group rides.

This will become a very valuable resource for those that get asked to set a group ride up.

Please contribute. Tell us all what you have seen, both good and bad. Tell us what you do to make everybody as safe as they can be, and yet let them have fun.
 

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I organize for a gruop i head up in RI. I work with another fella that is a road captain. So its always he and I first and second bike. I like to ride the route myself it at all possible. That way you know what the road is like, traffic concerns, road work etc. Its best to try to ride the road at the time you plan to come through with your group, but obviously not always possible. I have riders RSVP so i know who is coming. Not all of our riders are all day riders. Not all of them are experienced riders, so all of that has to come into play. It sux babysitting, but if you want to plan and lead, sometimes thats what has to be done. I plan rides that are scenic and fun to ride. Plan stops at unique places if possible. Instead of eating at a chain restaurant, plan for a mom and pop place that serves stuff you cant get locally. This is some of the stuff i had off the top of my head. Planning will be detirmined mostly by the company. If you have a group of four friends that can ride hard all day, you can plan a dif ride than one experienced and 3 newbies.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Gonekat, thanks! Really good points. There are all kinds of guides out there in HOG Chapters and such, but often we are involved in groups that are less than formal. I get asked to Road Captain charity rides several times a year, and riders are from all walks of the two wheeled world.

One of the things I find is a problem now for me is my fuel capacity with the RGU. I sometimes have o remind myself that there are still "peanut tanks" out there.

When I pre-ride I go with 3 gallons on-board...
 

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Few ideas I've garnered over the last few years:
  • Sweeps are hugely important. They should be one of your best riders, if not the best
  • Easier to manage smaller groups, so plan on having multiple leads and sweeps, and make sub-groups in the range of 7-10. I've found eight to be ideal.
  • Always review basic road commands, and emphasize the riding style you want.
  • You can never educate riders on staggered riding and one and two second rules enough.
  • Leads and sweeps should always know the route in advance
  • Route sheets for the other riders are nice, but not always important.
  • Always end at a destination. Circular routes with people peeling off can be disasterous.
  • Always end the ride before the drinking begins. Nothing worse than being liable for others stupidity.
  • Break sub-groups into relative experience levels
  • If you're going to tolerate speed demons, give them a destination and let them loose on their own. Too much of a hassle trying to argue with them or keep them under control.
  • All participants must be able to handle the minimum ride requirements. To me that means being able to exceed the speed limit on all given roads you'll be riding, if necessary.
  • While riding your own ride is a great concept, if you have riders that aren't comfortable with the pace, give them the ability and road commands that allow them to drop back to a slower, more comfortably paced group
That's all I can think of at the moment.
 

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I did the whole HOG thing back in the day. I was a Road Captain and an Officer in the Chapter. Unfortunately, it wasn't for me. I think there needs to be different rules (or lack of rules) for different groups. HOG Chapters need rules. You're riding with people who range in their abilities. There is too much controversy over the proper way for HOG Chapters to ride so I won't comment.

I ride in small groups. I don't like any rules but I need to ride with people who have a mutual respect for the road. In general, I don't ride with newbies or people who cannot completely control their motorcycle in any situation. Yesterday I rode with a new group and had an issue with one of the riders. He was competent in his riding abilities but he was crowding me. Thanks to advise from the forum members, I will be able to handle the issue properly on future rides.

So, my advise is to ride with people who you know and to ride with people you trust. There's no need for leaders or sweeps when everyone in the group is a skilled rider. I usually tell everyone to ride their own ride. Don't try to keep up if you're not comfortable and use your head. The people I ride with have the same attitude as me. It works well for us.

Also, if you're not a skilled rider, try riding with people who are better than you. If you stay with people who are average riders you'll never get any better.


EDIT: I JUST READ THE POST ABOVE MINE. HE WAS POSTING AS I WAS TYPING. WE PRETTY MUCH GIVE THE OPPOSITE ADVISE. I THINK THERE WILL BE MANY OPINIONS IN THIS THREAD. THERE'S NO RIGHT OR WRONG BUT WE ALL NEED TO DO WHAT IS BEST FOR US. BTW, I'VE MET ZzzzEN DOG AND HE'S A GOOD GUY AND AN EXPERIENCED RIDER.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
BD and Zzzen Dog. Thanks! See that's what makes this a great way to learn. I can agree with both of you! Been in both shoes at one time or the other.

In my part of the world, we commonly see a charity or foundation look to the free spending bikers as a way to raise money. It becomes a real nightmare to organize and pull off one those rides.

I don't do the HOG thing either, and yet there are some of the rides they do I'm tempted to go on. I always end up sweep or trail because of my EMS status...and willingness to wrench on anything. Most everybody is well into the second beer when I get to the end usually.

With my small regular group we have ridden so much together that we know what the other rider is going to do, and we compensate automatically...and ride hard as a result. I can't imagine getting up close to some I see on charity rides or poker runs for that matter.
 
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With my small regular group we have ridden so much together that we know what the other rider is going to do, and we compensate automatically...and ride hard as a result.
I think you've helped make my point. You become intuitive when you ride with the same people on a regular basis. You trust them and can predict their actions. My friend Ron and I always draft each other. We will ride directly behind the other about 1" apart. We only do it on open highway and when there will be no sudden stops. We can do it because we know and trust each others abilities. We also know when it's ok or not ok to do it. Sometimes we'll get side by side and put our foot on the others' floor boards or highway pegs. Again, it comes down to skill, ability, trust and logging 100K+ miles together.
 

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I did the whole HOG thing back in the day. I was a Road Captain and an Officer in the Chapter. Unfortunately, it wasn't for me.

So, my advise is to ride with people who you know and to ride with people you trust. There's no need for leaders or sweeps when everyone in the group is a skilled rider.
Former Road Captain myself who has nothing to do with HOG anymore. Too many rules and riding with vastly different skill levels in huge groups is just a recipe for disaster.

+1 on the ride with people you know. One or two outliers / unknowns in the groups is okay, but I just give them plenty of room until I can determine their riding skills.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Has anybody figured out a way to get people to ride with a mentor? As in if this is your first group ride, or you are apprehensive...here we are going to tuck you in with so and so...

I don't wanna be the so and so...but it would help new riders learn to negotiate a group.

Another thing I learned is to never ride in an organization role with a passenger. Had a really cute nurse one time that was part of the charity...she wanted to ride with me...and see the road. Wow... She panicked every time we got 2 degrees off from vertical...man could she latch on. She showed up in a very short pair of shorts...which didn't do my concentration any good either... Now I ride alone when I'm workin' the ride...
 

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I feel as if I'm posting too much on this topic but I have a lot of opinions. As far as planning a route, if you have an regular group of riders there's really no need to plan in advance. My friends and I pick a destination a few days before the ride. Once we all meet up, we decide which route to take. There's a lot less planning involved when you're riding with a regular group regardless of your skill level. The best rides are when you just go.

Now, if you're riding with a group where everyone is not familiar with each other or a club (like HOG), you need more structure. You need rules, a leader, a sweep and, in many cases, a safety officer to enforce the rules. A safety officer gives the responsibility of correcting another rider without everyone ganging up on him. You also need to have hand signals and rules about how you will structure the ride. Usually weekend clubs ride staggered. Everyone should stay in their place and there is a particular way that the group will change lanes. In many cases, routes are emailed to the group in advance but only after the route is approved by the Head Road Captain. This has been my experience with organized weekend groups and I understand that other groups may have a completely different structure.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
BD, no way you can post too much on any subject. I have learned a pile of good stuff from you. Fact is you are on my must read list!

You are helping this thread do what I was wanting it to do. I wanted it to become a general "primer" on group riding. Given time this could become a central spot to look at when we get involved with a group, and remind us all of what is and isn't safe and acceptable.

Rules are great for those that don't wanna bend them...I suspect most of us bend...grin.
 

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HOG and me dont gee haw , I did it for a couple years way back in the 80's when they first got going .. Like BD , just not "my thing" ..

They broke me from large group rides real quick ..

I ride alone mostly ..

There were five of us who used to ride together , we did long road trips , those guys I trusted , like BD , ya rack up enuff miles with the same people , and ya know what everyone else is thinking or going to do ..

Two of those guys have passed away , one is no longer able to ride because of his health , and Bill , at 72 , shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon .

And he's like me , just about the only group ride either of us do , is together , so , I dunno , is two a group ??

But from my personal experience , and it may be because our group was rarely larger than five .. To me much over six riders , is too large of a group to manage ..

And like BD , we all knew where we were going , and where we would stop for fuel , so if we did get seperated , it was only until the next fuel stop ..

I still don't like riding SxS , and it's probably again , from an experience we had , where two were SxS , and one was cut off and nowhere to go , and both went down hard ..
 

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EDIT: I JUST READ THE POST ABOVE MINE. HE WAS POSTING AS I WAS TYPING. WE PRETTY MUCH GIVE THE OPPOSITE ADVISE. I THINK THERE WILL BE MANY OPINIONS IN THIS THREAD. THERE'S NO RIGHT OR WRONG BUT WE ALL NEED TO DO WHAT IS BEST FOR US. BTW, I'VE MET ZzzzEN DOG AND HE'S A GOOD GUY AND AN EXPERIENCED RIDER.
First off, thanks for the compliment, much appreciated, though I'd say I'm merely competent.

Given the question, I went with my experiences of leading groups... and those groups typically vary in skills and experience. Hence the leads, sweeps, etc.

I'm totally with BDM, that given a choice I ride with experienced riders that I know and trust. And that certainly dictates a different, more relaxed set of rules... or virtually none.

At the lowest end of the spectrum if I were leading a ride, I'd give people the destination, gain relative confidence in their being able to follow me or find it on their own. Adding the caveat of: ride your own ride.

Slightly further up the scale would be preparing a route sheet.

And onwards up to the high end with all the rules etc.

I lead a lot of rides and/or sweep them for our group. They are enjoyable, but they are work. I do this work, because when I started out I rode solo. I got pretty good, but when I started looking for others to ride with I was presented with HOG chapters, that at the time seemed difficult to gain access to... took me a while to find the right environment. Which ironically began with me planning and leading rides. I do it because other riders need a place to learn and become the experienced riders, the kind that I'd like to ride with.

Just rambling thoughts there.

Edited to add: that from what I was able to see, BDMastiff was both descent fellow and an experienced rider. Hopefully one of these days, we'll sync up for a ride.
 

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Ride Planning

Been leading rides for 11 years. I've led rides from 1 bike to 86 bikes. For some, this may be overkill, but here are my steps:
  1. Pick out destination and/or start end points.
  2. Plan route on Garmin's MapSource and/or ADC Street maps.
  3. Find roads that are low in traffic, high in fun quotient. More right turns than left in traffic areas and the fewer stop lights and stop signs are better
  4. Preride route and make notes on areas for improvement, if needed. Then make changes to route.
  5. Pre-ride route with changes
  6. Ensure stops or breaks are planned for water, fuel, butt rests about every hour.
  7. Plan any food stops and inform restaurant of planned arrival time and amount of people. This makes meals go better as they will have planned their staffing with enough notice.
  8. On the preride, make notes to give during pre-ride briefing - Look for areas that may have grass on roadways, gravel, mud on road, etc.
  9. Day of ride, give pre ride brief to include possible problem areas, rest stops, ride leaders (tailgun, road capts, leader, etc) hand signals, and other pertinent information.
  10. Ensure you have enough personnel to assist on ride for teh amount of riders you expect on the ride.
  11. HAVE FUN!
Remember to keep a watchful eye on the rearview for trouble. Slow down and keep as many riders in your site as you can. It's okay to allow cars in the pack if you have a large group. If not, they may force their way in and cause more trouble. Keep an eye out for cars at on ramps and stop signs. Be courteous to cage drivers and don't give motorcyclists a bad name.

If the ride is difficult, do not be afraid to announce early that new riders are not welcome. Then keep slow riders off of ride. On non-difficult rides, keep newer/slower riders up front so you can adjust your speed to their pace. Make sure that they are not over their heads trying to keep up with you.

This said, my favorite rides are with 1-3 other riders that I know and trust in their riding abilities. I am a 1st Officer of a SCRC chapter, so need to lead group rides, but not really my preference.

Starting this thread to get the collective knowledge of those who have organized, road captained or ridden in group rides.

This will become a very valuable resource for those that get asked to set a group ride up.

Please contribute. Tell us all what you have seen, both good and bad. Tell us what you do to make everybody as safe as they can be, and yet let them have fun.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
OK, here I go. Just said yes to organizing a charity ride. They have 425 bike pre-registered. They fully expect that to double or even triple by June 2012, when the ride happens.

Big charity, and a long ride. It has been billed as "500 miles of Torturous Fun" with "Gourmet Food".

Thinkin' I'm either an idiot, or it was a very weak moment...
 
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OK, here I go. Just said yes to organizing a charity ride. They have 425 bike pre-registered. They fully expect that to double or even triple by June 2012, when the ride happens.

Big charity, and a long ride. It has been billed as "500 miles of Torturous Fun" with "Gourmet Food".

Thinkin' I'm either an idiot, or it was a very weak moment...
That's not a group ride! That's organizing an event!!! You'll have your hands full putting together good maps and organizing stops/food/prizes/etc. :eek:
 

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Discussion Starter #18
That's not a group ride! That's organizing an event!!! You'll have your hands full putting together good maps and organizing stops/food/prizes/etc. :eek:
It may be that it's going to kill me before it's over. There is going to be a wide variety of riding levels involved, and I am going to do some serious research into where we are going to place everybody.

I have a couple of good things going for me. LEO organizations are involved with a dotted line responsibility, and they will do some serious route protection.

The other thing is in my part of the country, it's pretty easy to avoid cage congestion for about 80% of the route. Have some municipality penetration on the route for stops and food and charity photo ops. Fuel costs are included in the registration, and fueling will be done rural from tanker hookah rigs (2 or 3 trucks with 10 nozzles each).

Betting I put put 800 miles on my bike during the ride alone, to say nothing of the pre-rides...

This should be fun!
 

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OK, here I go. Just said yes to organizing a charity ride. They have 425 bike pre-registered. They fully expect that to double or even triple by June 2012, when the ride happens.

Big charity, and a long ride. It has been billed as "500 miles of Torturous Fun" with "Gourmet Food".

Thinkin' I'm either an idiot, or it was a very weak moment...
Personally I'm neither a fan of leading a group over 50-60 bikes, and I don't like riding in group rides larger than this.

I would suggest that this is an event where you'd want to hand out route sheets, have check points, let folks ride the route on their own (or in their own small groups), and have sweep riders or vehicles that ride along the route throughout the exedus to assist riders with basic roadside problems and getting them back on track if they're having problems with route sheets.

Problem is: 500+ miles is a long, long ride to actually keep everyone in formation as well as handling logistics such as fuel, restroom breaks and food. In fact, it's next to impossible.

Just some thoughts.
 

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You need an army of road captains and volunteers to make it run smoothe.

Someone has to teach the less experienced about group rides. Yeah, I wanna ride with only my best riding friends. On sunny dry days that are 75 degrees.
Road in a club pack this weekend, 500+ miles, and all was well.

But a prospect went down because he lacked knowledge and skill.

Not my pack though. Different chapter.


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