from the “Educator”


At the last two chapter meetings, during the highly informative and fun portion, given by the chapter educator, we discussed two segments of the group ride.  For those that could not attend and to reinforce that which we discussed, here is a short recap, well maybe not so short. At the January meeting we discussed what to do when the group approaches a light and the light changes from green to red. Obviously we need to stop, but the manner that we sit at the stoplight was the issue. When you get to the light what do you normally do during this stopped duration. Do you sit with both hands on the handle bars with the bike in gear waiting patiently for the light to change, or do you put your bike in neutral, then either leave a hand on the handlebars or lean back in the seat and let your hands drop to your sides or lap? As we discussed the preferred method is to leave the bike in gear and hands on the handlebars. The main reason for this whether riding in a group or alone, is to be able to make quick adjustments depending on the traffic around you, specifically from behind. You won’t need to shift and transfer weight before trying to avoid an impending collision. In practice, however, this is not always the case and many will put the bike in neutral at a stoplight. For the purpose of group riding, the bottom line for this exercise is as soon as the light changes to green, no matter where you are located in the group, you should put your bike in gear and be ready to leave the instant its your turn. What we want to avoid, is the delay in waiting for you to shift into gear and ready yourself only after the bike in front of you has started away from the light. The typical rubber banding effect causes a lag and then the group gets stretched out. If you are ready before it’s your time to leave, it will cut down on the groups rubber banding. At the February meeting we talked about the positioning of your bike in the group as you come to a stop and then again as you leave a stop. The example we used, was a group of 6 bikes. It was explained that it is traditional to ride in a staggered formation with a distance of 2 second between you and the bike directly in front of you. Or 1 second between you and the bike next to you in the other track. Even though the lead bike can lead from the left track or the right track, there are greater benefits to the left track and you find most groups lead from the left track. So our group looks like this, bikes 1, 3, and 5 are in the left track and 2 seconds apart. Bikes 2, 4, and 6 are in the right track and 2 seconds apart. So, now we are approaching a changing light, or stop light or stop sign, how do we change our formation at the light? The number 1 bike comes to the stop at the appropriate location. The number 2 bike pulls up next to number 1, but here is the key part, the rider of bike 2(right track) should align himself with the passenger seat of bike 1. This would be your stopping location. Why not align bike 2 perfectly with bike 1?  If you were directly next to bike 1 you would be blocking the view of that rider to his right, and this would make it difficult for him to make the best choices for the group. Likewise, bike 3 should stop a proper distance from bike 1 and bike 4(right track) should pull up to the passenger seat on bike 3. Bike 5 should then stop at the proper safe distance of bike 3, and bike 6(right track) will stop at the passenger seat of bike 5. Each pair should also be their own guide when leaving a stopped situation. The bike to the left will make the decision for when to leave, or turn if that applies. Not the bike on the right. The left bike controls the pair. Its possible that a pair of bikes can proceed thru an intersection, but the traffic prevents the next group from leaving. It’s the bike on the left that will decide when to go. And the bike on the right should not attempt to control the pair. If the bike on the right sees something that indicates a dangerous situation, tell the other bike, but never be the one to say “go”.  So now we are all at the light, it changes green and its time to go. Of course, all the bikes at the change of the light, were in gear and ready to leave, just waiting their turn. How to proceed from the stop is next. On the road you will notice most groups leave in pairs, together. From a formation point of view this keeps the group tighter and smaller, and in some cases, like a stop sign the whole group can proceed thru, either because no one else is at the opposing corner, or some wonderful driver motions all of you thru at once. For the purpose of safety and to recommend the proper riding technique, the correct method of departure is as follows: Bike 1 on the left will leave first, and after he has cleared the front of bike 2, bike 2 can now proceed, and so on, making sure the bike ahead of you has left first and cleared your bike. The reason for this, is to allow enough room for the bike in front of you to be able to go where ever they need to in the case of a quick maneuver or simple to be able to get up to speed and allow for some side to side swagger. If it’s not already understood, the bike in front of you, is not referring in this case to the one directly in front of you, but the one in the track next to you and in front of you. As once happened to me, the person next to me left the stop first, and due to a wet surface on a piece of metal plating, they slid out to the side and went down. Had I not given them some distance, that would have been directly into me, and it would have taken me out as well. This will extend the group’s formation, but if everyone is diligent about being ready to leave the light when it is their turn it should go quickly and not cause too much of a delay in the group, and it will certainly be safer. Another example for good use of this spacing: have you ever started out and killed the bike? Depending on the spacing of the bike behind you, will depend on whether that bike will be able to stop in time, to avoid colliding into you, while you scramble to restart your bike and get going.  Three things we learned from the two meetings, One, when the light changes green, be in gear and ready to leave the light, Two, when you come to a stop, if you are in the left track, you stop with a proper spacing between you and the bike directly in front of you, if you are in the right track, then you align yourself with the passenger seat of the bike to your left. Three, when you leave the stop, the bike on the left is in control of the group, or the pair, and will make the decision as to when to leave. You wait for the bike ahead of you (the one in the track next to you) to leave and clear your bike before proceeding. So much for short explanations.