Group Riding Guidelines                

P.O. Box 1991

Madison, Tn 37116

 615 860-1991 - Office

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Group Riding Guidelines

The following have been adopted by CMT/ABATE as suggested guidelines for group riding. Obviously, everyone rides differently. Some have a great deal of experience in groups and others do not. It is important that everyone rides within their own comfort zone. A Ride Leader should have a good understanding of the experiences and skills of the group. This can be done easily during the pre-ride meeting or gathering. Simply ask.

No one should ever feel pressured into riding in ways or at speeds they do not like just to be 'part of the group'. Always emphasis that everyone must ride within their own comfort level. If they do not feel they can ride within the guidelines described, encourage them to drop to the back and ride at their own pace. This is a safety issue for everyone involved.

So, these are presented as guidelines. All questions should be directed to the Safety and Education Chairman at:



The following guidelines, or tips if you may, are printed here for the safe and pleasurable riding of the members of CMT/ABATE while on charter or state sanctioned group rides. Following these guidelines will keep us in an organized group and not be perceived as an undisciplined dangerous group of bikers. We hope that EVERYONE riding on a CMT/ABATE ride will abide by these guidelines. ANYONE violating these guidelines and causes a dangerous condition for other riders or themselves WILL BE WARNED. If violations continue by this rider, he or she will no longer be welcome to ride on a CMT/ABATE ride. Any officer of CMT/ABATE or assigned Road Captain may dismiss a dangerous rider. It is each riders own responsibility to maintain their machine and themselves in a safe and respectful manner for the rest of the group, and to follow the laws of highway usage.

CMT/ABATE will not be responsible for traffic violations or mishaps that may occur during a ride, that is the sole responsibility of the individual rider. Riding in a group does not surrender your decision when it comes to safety. Donít go any faster that you feel comfortable with and ride your own ride. If you have a problem with the shape or manner a ride has become or you are uneasy about your own riding skills. Please inform one of the Road Captains. All courtesy will be accommodated to you in order to make the trip enjoyable for everyone.

Ride organizers--- Be sure to inform all riders of the proposed route in advance of your leave time.  Give everyone a map if possible. Make it very clear that each rider is responsible for their own safety and to always be in control of their bike.

Be sure that everyone knows who the Lead and who Drag Rider is.

Remind the group about the 2 second rule between bikes, and not to ride side- by-side, but to use the staggered formation unless road conditions warrant single file. If the weather turns for the worse use a 4 second space. Advise trikes, trailers and side-hacks to use the center of the lane.

State that only the Lead Rider should use the high beams, everyone else use low beam headlights and turn off your headlight modulators. This rule is for daytime riding as well as after dark.

If the group splits temporarily, remind them that the lead bike in the new group is the new temporary Lead Rider until rejoining the forward group.

Donít make the distance between stops too long. Remember that we all have different size tanks and gas mileage. Donít make someone uncomfortable because there hasnít been a rest stop for them to use. Consider physical and health needs of the riders.

If a problem exists with a rider, be it their riding style, tailgating or riding while leaving a wide gap between bikes. Talk with them privately at the next stop. If the problem persists, inform them to go on their own and that they are not invited to stay with the group. Give them directions home if needed.

1.      All Riders should be on time to a group ride with a full tank of gas. Do not make everyone wait on you or have to stop because you did not fill up beforehand. Be ready to ride.

2.      Road Captains are the most important element to group riding. They control the flow of the group and must have knowledge of the route as well as all decisions regarding stops, keeping the group together, lane changes, merging, and unsafe conditions. There are a minimum of 2 Road Captains, Lead and Drag Rider and they work together hand in hand. If radios are present these two riders must use them often to keep the ride together. A good Lead and Drag can make a group ride a thing of beauty. When extra large rides are organized, ride organizers may want to recruit more Road Captains and break the ride up into smaller segments. This will make the ride safer for all when inevitable breaks occur in the formation. Use the same guidelines for the smaller groups within the larger ride formation.

3.      Lead Rider in many charters this is the person that was responsible for setting up the ride route, but it doesnít have to be. If possible the Lead as well as the Drag should have radios in order to communicate. Have cell phones at the very least, in case of emergency, or if the group splits because of a breakdown. Lead must know the route well. It is advisable that the Lead as well as the Drag had already ridden the entire route in advance. Lead should start out slowly from stops to give everyone time to get out and into position. Then increase to cruising speed. Lead should always be in the left track of the lane you are traveling in. Lead should stay in the right lane unless on a 3 lane highway, then the center is best to minimize lane changing. Lead also should know how long the column is and be aware of merges, entrances and exits, being in the proper lane for turnoffs and always to be aware of the time and space needed to keep the group together. All final decisions concerning the ride are made by the Lead Rider.

4.      Drag Rider is the main support for the Lead. Drag has to watch the formation and inform the Lead of problems that occur. If the group has radios, Drag informs the others of problems with dangerous vehicles coming from behind or cutting into the group.  Drag also has the responsibility for closing the door from other vehicles for lane changes on multi-lane highways by moving in and securing the lane well in advance of the Lead. If no radios are present Drag becomes more responsible for lane changes and must be alert for them by using the rear fill lane change method explained further on.

5.      Sweep Riders are experienced group riders that have knowledge of the route and have radios or cell phones. They should be positioned behind Lead and also just in front of Drag. The responsibility of a sweep rider is to help a downed or disabled rider and to be able to call ahead to the group or for 911 in an emergency. Sweep riders can become a temporary lead and take a split off group back to the main body. If no other radios or cell phones are available the Drag Rider will stop during an emergency and call ahead to the Lead.

6.      Inexperienced Riders should be positioned behind the front sweep, and other group leaders near the front of the group.  Lead can then see them and adjust the speed of the ride to accommodate their riding skills. This keeps the group together without gaps in the middle. Remember we are out to have an enjoyable day, not to win a race.

bulletBe courteous to your fellow riders.

Emergencies---- as stated previously the Sweep or the Drag should stop with a disabled rider and call ahead to the Lead. No one else should stop with the rider in trouble. The Lead should make every effort to safely pull the group over to the shoulder or into a parking lot to await further notification from the rear.

Parking lots--- Lead should find an area that will accommodate the entire group. Pull into the area and ride to the end, there swing the front of your bike out and back into the curb. All bikes do the same. This makes for a neat formation and leaves room for everyone. Play follow the leader in the lot, one by one, donít race across the front of the other bikes in a rush to find your parking spot. Wait for the bike in front of you to finish their parking maneuver before you start yours.

This also makes a good impression for the general public.

Hand Signals--- all riders should know the basic hand signals in the State Rules of the Road manual, but for group riding there are a few more that are suggested. All signals are performed with the left arm.

Signals, hand or electronic should be duplicated by each rider in line. NO ONE MOVES UNTIL THE BIKE IN FRONT OF HIM HAS STARTED MOVING.

A.     Left turn--- arm pointing straight to the left with hand open.

B.    Right turn--- arm bent 90 degrees up with hand open.

C.    Stop--- arm held downward with hand open.

D.    Single file--- arm held up with 1 finger pointing skyward. Used when riding conditions such as a winding road, animal, truck wind blast or any other time the Lead feels the staggered formation is dangerous.

E.     Staggered file--- arm held up with 2 fingers pointed skyward. Used when the Lead feels it is safe to return to the staggered formation.

F.     Pull over--- arm held as for right turn, but swinging back and forth toward the shoulder to the right.

G.    Follow me --- arm held straight up with hand out. This can be use to be sure everyone is ready to take off from a stop. When all riders have their hand up the Lead will drop his hand and proceed. It is also use for the Block lane change procedure below.

H.    Rear fill in lane change--- initiated by Lead the arm is raised to shoulder height and pushed toward the lane the group will be changing to. See the procedure below.

         The following signals can be initiated by anyone.

A.  Danger road hazard--- arm is held down like a stop but with 1 finger pointing in the direction of the hazard. This can be used for road kill, gravel, steel construction plates, pot holes, gravel etc.

B.    You lead or come alongside--- arm is held down like a stop but swinging from behind the hips toward the front. Used mainly by the Lead to communicate with a Sweep. Also used to communicate with another bike about problems he may be having. Use this signal sparingly.

There are 3 types of lane changing that can be use in group riding; all depend on the Drag Rider blocking the traffic from the rear. If a radio is present, the Drag then informs the Lead that all is clear.

A.     Simple lane change--- after Drag secures the lane, Lead signals the lane change and each rider also signals. As the leader changes lanes each bike changes lanes also front to rear. No bike changes lanes until the bike in front of him changes first.

B.    Block lane change--- performed like the simple, but as a unit. Lead holds his arm up in the follow me hand out position. When all riders have their arm up also Lead drops his arm either left or right to point to the lane he is changing to. All other riders drop their arms and change lanes together. Very impressive maneuver.

C.    Rear fill-in change--- the lead uses the rear fill in hand signal, arm to shoulder then pointing toward the lane he wishes to change to. After all riders repeat the signal, the rider in front of  Drag moves in and then each bike in turn from rear to front with Lead being last.

        These procedures do take practice and the more your group uses them the safer and more proficient your group will be. If a new rider doesnít understand these maneuvers, take the time to inform him or her at the next stop.

TennesSee Motorcycles                                  HAVE A GREAT RIDE

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Last modified: May 21, 2006