One of the great joys of riding a motorcycle is enjoying beautiful weather and the open road — but even better is sharing that joy with friends. However, group riding can be dangerous if you don’t know how to do it. Motorcycle group rides are safest and most fun when everyone is comfortable riding a motorcycle, knows the rules of the road, and is familiar with group motorcycle riding etiquette.
Group motorcycle riding rules
Safe group motorcycle riding starts with basic rules that govern the ride and help all participants stay safe and have fun. Start by deciding on a leader for the ride — usually the most experienced rider in the group — and a secondary captain, called “the sweep,” to bring up the rear. Then, consider the following rules and tips for a safe and enjoyable group motorcycle ride.
Communication starts before the ride
Communication is key for motorcycle group riding. Start by holding a pre-ride meeting with all the participants. The leader you’ve selected will conduct the pre-ride meeting. The meeting should outline the destination, any stops along the way, and explain any tolls along the route, says the Motorcycle Legal Foundation. Discussing the route in advance can help riders focus on riding safely.
Communication continues until the ride is over
Once you set off, the leader will ride at the front of the pack, using hand signals to let other riders know of any irregularities, dangers, or other unexpected events on the road. While you could create hand signals for your group, it’s better to use traditional hand signals such as those used for bicycling. Signals specific to group motorcycle riding are used to indicate the following:
- Speed up
- Slow down
- Follow me
- You lead
- Hazard in road
- Single file
- Double file
- Comfort stop
- Refreshment stop
- Pull off
- Cops ahead
- Fuel up
Know your place
A key part of group motorcycle riding etiquette is formation. The Motorcycle Legal Foundation recommends a staggered formation where the leader rides in front to the left side of the lane. The next rider is about one second behind the leader but on the right side of the lane. The third rider is directly behind the leader, with about two seconds distance between them. This formation gives everyone space to maneuver — even laterally.
Not everyone has the same reaction time, so allow more following distance in front of and behind less experienced riders or if the rider in front seems unsure or slow to react. It’s not a race, so avoid sporty driving and enjoy your company and surroundings.
Prepare for variations or the unexpected
If something unexpected happens or someone leaves the group motorcycle ride, all the riders involved should know what to do. That can mean establishing protocols for these situations in the pre-ride meeting (especially if you know someone will be leaving early). It also means having a rule in place in case of something unforeseen.
Generally, if a rider gets separated, the group should slow down to let them catch up. If someone is leaving early (and expected), other riders should tighten up and adjust their staggered formation after the departure. Each rider should move up to the next position without passing each other.
Pack for the trip
Before you set out for your group motorcycle ride, check the weather. Be prepared for wet weather with a change of clothes and waterproof riding gear. According to the Insurance Information Institute, motorcycle accidents can quickly become serious, so every rider should have a cell phone to call for help if something happens. At least one rider should pack a first aid kit adequate for the group.