STAR #474 Manassas, VA

Ride Safety

This page will contain information on Motorcycle safety including group riding norms practiced by this Chapter..

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Motorcycle Group Terms and Definitions

Posted by Wayne Vick on November 28, 2009 at 8:21 PM Comments comments (1)

     Cage: any vehicle that is not a motorcycle, but particularly an automobile.


     Track: This is the portion of a lane in which a rider maintains their position in a group. A lane of traffic is split into five zones: the left track is the second zone from the left, the middle of the lane (generally not used) is the third zone, and the right track is the fourth zone from the left. Two zones on the sides of a lane serve as margins. A rider may vary his path of travel from his normal track as is required by a road hazard or by an incursion into the group’s lane by other vehicles. When departing from a stop, the rider in the left track normally pulls out before the rider on the right, returning to a staggered formation.

Lane Changes

Posted by Wayne Vick on November 28, 2009 at 8:19 PM Comments comments (0)

In a group ride all lane changes starts with a request from the Ride Leader to the Tail Gunner. The Tail Gunner will (when it is safe to do so) move into the requested lane to secure the lane and informs the Ride Leader when the lane is clear. At this point, the Ride Leader has three options:


     Simple Lane Change: This is an ordinary lane change, and can be used in most situations. After the Tail Gunner has secured the new lane, the Ride Leader will put on his directional signal as an indication that they are about to order a lane change. As each rider sees the directional signal, they also turn their signal on, so the riders following them get the signal. The leader then initiates the change. All other riders change lanes too. The important concept is that NO ONE moves until the bike in front of him has started moving. So the formation fills the lane from the front.


     Rear Fill-in: This is sometimes necessary if a long enough gap cannot be maintained in the new lane, for example when trying to move from the right lane to the center and vehicles from the left lane keep cutting into the opening. After the Tail Gunner has secured the new lane, the leader (usually at the suggestion of the Tail Gunner) will call for the group to fill in the space from the rear. They signal this by raising their hand to shoulder height and "pushing" it towards the new lane. All riders repeat the signal, and the last bikes move into the space in the new lane ahead of the Tail Gunner, then the next-to-last bikes move in ahead of those, and so on until the Ride Leader finally moves into the space ahead of the entire formation.


     Block Lane Change: This can be used interchangeably with the Simple Lane Change. It requires a little more coordination, but it is well worth the effort and it’s also quite impressive to watch when it is done right, and gives the riders a tremendous feeling of "togetherness". This sounds a little complicated, but is actually very simple to do. After the Tail Gunner has secured the new lane, the Ride Leader will put on his directional signal as an indication that they are about to order a lane change. As each rider sees the directional signal, they also signals the turn, so the riders following them get the signal. When the Ride Leader sees that all are ready (the Tail Gunner may inform him by radio), he raises his left arm straight up. Each rider repeats this signal. Then, as the leader lowers his arm to point to the lane into which they are moving, they actually initiate the change. All other riders lower their arms at the same time and change lanes too. This allows the entire formation to move from one lane to another as a single block.

Group Size

Posted by Wayne Vick on November 28, 2009 at 8:17 PM Comments comments (0)

Depending on the number of participants on a ride, we will break into smaller groups of 6 to 12 riders, each with its own Ride Leader and Tail gunner. All groups will follow the same route and make the same stops. Each group will stay together during the entire ride, meeting up with the other groups at the designated stops. If an individual rider is planning to leave the ride at any time, he must inform his Ride Leader (and Tail gunner) when and where he plans to do so.


     Bikers Dozen: The size of a riding group is an important consideration for ride captains. We’ve all seen pictures of ride groups of a hundred to several thousand. Groups of that many riders are usually special occasions with official and police support. What this doesn’t consider is the impact on the driving public and the resulting impact on our safety. For our smaller group rides we will limit our groups to a Bikers Dozen (12 riders). If we end up with more than 12 riders in a ride, we will divide into two riding groups.


     More than a Dozen is a Danger: Consider the psychological impact of a large ride group spread out over a distance in the right lane of a highway. Someone in the left lane that wants to take an exit may get caught off guard and force their way through the formation to get to their exit. Smaller ride groups are considerate of the driving public while maintaining the beneficial safety of a group.

Group Riding Roles

Posted by Wayne Vick on November 28, 2009 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (0)

     Ride Captain: a person who devises group riding rules or guidelines for an organized group ride. And who communicates these guidelines to the group, and who generally plans and lays out group rides. The Road Captain may or may not ride lead for a particular ride.


     Lead Bike: a person who rides in the most forward position in a group and who relays information to all other riders in the group via hand signals. The Lead Bike determines the group’s direction, speed, choice of lane, and formation. He or she often must make quick navigation decisions in the face of road hazards, changes in road surface conditions, poor signage, construction and other obstacles while maintaining control of his or her bike and communicating to those following. If there are three groups on a ride, there will be three Lead Bikes.


     Tail Gunner: This is a rider who rides in the last position in a group. The Tail Gunner must secure a lane for the rest of the group during lane changes into faster traffic (move first to block oncoming traffic) and close the door (move to block passing traffic) when a lane is lost in a merging lane situation.


The Tail Gunner serves as the eyes of the Ride Leader. They watch the formation, and informs the Ride Leader of any potential problems within the group. They watch other vehicles, and informs the Ride Leader (and anyone else with radios) of hazardous conditions approaching from the rear, such as vehicles trying to cut into the formation and trucks passing with potentially dangerous wind blasts. They will watch for merging lanes, and will move into a merging lane (or stay in a merging lane just vacated by the group) in order to "close the door" on other vehicles that may otherwise find themselves trying to merge into the formation. At the Ride Leader’s request, the Tail Gunner changes lanes before the formation, to secure the lane so the formation can move into it. Should an appointed Tail gunner not be available, the Ride Leader will designate an experienced rider to fill that position.


Usually this is the most experienced rider in a group, for the Tail Gunner is the rider who stops to assist a rider who has mechanical trouble, loses control, or unexpectedly drops out of a ride for some other reason. The Tail Gunner should be prepared to render aid to a downed or disabled rider in a group. If at all possible, the Tail Gunner should have a co-rider who can assist with traffic control if a serious problem arises. For each formation there is a Tail Gunner. If there are three formations on a ride, there will be three Tail Gunners. The rider in this position is sometimes called the Drag Bike.

Ride Formations

Posted by Wayne Vick on November 28, 2009 at 8:13 PM Comments comments (0)

Ride Formations

When STAR 474 goes on a group ride we observe a few formations:


     Single File: This is a formation in which all the cyclists in a group ride in one track of a lane. (See Definitions for Track) This ride formation is preferred on a curvy road, under conditions of poor visibility, poor road surfaces, entering or leaving highways, or other situations where an increased space cushion or maneuvering room is needed.


     “Double Up” Staggered 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. This is the standard riding formation for most groups unless the ride leader calls for single file. In staggered formation, the bikes form two columns in a single lane, with the leader at the head of the formation in one column, usually in the left track. The second bike will take the lead of the second column, in the right track, and will ride approximately 1 second behind the leader. All other riders position their bikes 2 seconds behind the bike directly in front of them, which puts them 1 second behind the closest bike in the next column.


This formation allows each rider sufficient safety space and discourages other vehicles from cutting into the line. The last rider, known as the Tail Gunner, Sweep or Drag Bike, may ride on whichever side of the lane he prefers. He will have to change sides during the ride, based on the situation at the moment. (see Definitions for Tail Gunner).


     Parade Formation: This is a formation in which all the motorcyclists in a group ride two abreast (side by side) in the same lane. Note that this formation is illegal in most states unless riders are in a parade.


     Parking Line: a formation in which all bikes in a group follow the Lead Bike in single file into a parking lot or gas station, making a U-turn such that they can all line up next to each other in the space available with the rear of their bikes against the curb or edge of the lot, the front tires pointing outward.