from the Educator
At March meeting, well it was April 1st, our rider education discussion continued with group riding. With the use of Fred, Jim, Duane, Buzz and Larry, we physically demonstrated the right and wrong ways that the group makes passes on our nations highways. Started with the basics, the group consists of 5 bikes; the first bike is in the left track. Fred was the leader, and Larry was the tail gunner. We start with passing on a multi-lane highway. This method of passing is used when there is more than one lane of traffic traveling in the same direction. It could be two lanes or three lanes, up to major highways that might have 4 or 5 lanes of traffic going in the same direction. These roads usually have a divided barrier between the two sides of the traffic lanes. Lets assume a 6-lane highway with 3 lanes going each way, and our group of 5 bikes is in the middle lane. As the leader comes up on another vehicle and makes the decision to pass, he makes this request of the tail gunner: Mr. Lambert (you can use whatever you need to get his attention) when it is clear, would you please take the left lane. Then Larry’s job is to calculate the traffic conditions and figure out when it would be proper to move into the left lane and have the time and space for the whole group to move over. When Larry has moved to the left lane, he then will announce, I have the lane and we can move over on the count of “3”. At the count of “1” the whole group turns on their turn signals. This is done to let everyone know our intentions, including the bikes that are not CB equipped. Then on “3” everyone moves at the same time, like a drill team into the left lane. Depending on the traffic conditions, speed and up coming conditions, such as an entrance or exit ramp, the leader may choose to stay in this lane for a while, or if he want to go back more immediately he will then alert the tail gunner, Mr. Lambert when you are clear of the passing cars (those we have passed), please take the right lane. When Larry has cleared the last car on the right, we will take the right lane, and then announce he has the lane and we can move over on “3”. Then on “1”, turn signals come on, and on “3” everyone moves to the right. Each group, group leader and tail gunner will have their own way of announcing these things, it doesn’t really matter, as long as its consistent and everyone in the group understands the commands.
Now we move to the more difficult passing techniques, which takes place on a two-lane road, where we have only one lane going in each direction with no barrier between the two sides of the road. The leader of the group will announce when it is necessary to make a pass, but “the group” will not be making the pass as a group. We break the group in to smaller parts; in this case we consider “pairs of bikes” as the part we concern ourselves with. Every two bikes make a pair, starting with the lead bike. In most cases the lead is on the left, so a pair starts with the left bike and the next right bike, and so on through the group. In the case of our 5 bikes, we have two pair groups and a single bike, the tail gunner. So, the leader announces the need to make a pass and he alerts everyone and says for each pair to make their own determination as to the proper time to make the pass. In each case the left bike in any pair becomes the leader for that pair and makes the decision for making the pass. So when Fred decides his pair can pass he alerts his partner on the right that they are going and as a pair they pull into the left lane, still in the staggered position. The lead bike on the left should be accelerating for the pass, the right bike should now add a little additional distance, our 2 second rule, as the right bike now moves into a single file position behind the lead bike. The reason for this is to give each biker the full use of the lane for making the pass, and dealing with anything that might happen, such as the wind gust when passing a large truck. The next group then becomes the lead pair and will make the pass when the left bike determines its okay to do so. I would mention that usually the first pair that has already made the pass will give advice on the traffic conditions up ahead, but, but, but, consider it only advice. I have seen too often a pair move out on the advice of the bikes ahead, and when they pull out, the conditions have changed. If you are a right hand bike in a pair, when the pair pull out, you will then have the ability to make your own decision if there is room for you or not. It is possible that the left bike after pulling out realizes there is only room for them and not for you, in which case you can move back into the right lane and wait for a better opportunity. On the other side of the pass, when you need to come back into the lane, there are two options: as the two bikes are in a single file and spaced by 2 or more seconds, each bike as they clear the passed car could move back into the right lane and into their respective positions. Or the second method, if there is room ahead in the passing lane, the lead bike could continue straight until the second bike has cleared the passing car, and then when the second bike turns on their turn signal, they can both move into the right lane as a pair. The first method offers the most safety and consumes the least amount of time and space, and this would be the recommended method for our chapter. Note of importance: when you make a pass, you need to accelerate to a higher speed, so you can overtake the car your passing. But, and I repeat but, too many times the bike having made the pass, when they return to the right lane, they slow to the posted speed almost immediately. This is fine if you are all by your lonesome. But if you are in a group and working with another bike as your pair, you need to continue that passing speed, until there is enough room for the bike behind you to enter the lane. You also want to continue at this speed to make sure you are far enough in front of the passed vehicle.
So to recap: when the group passes as a group, the leader asks the tail gunner for the lane, the tail gunner gives the countdown, and on “1” all turn on their turn signals, then on “3” everyone moves to the passing lane. The same happens for the return after the pass. On two lane roads, we pass in pairs. After the pair pull out they form a single file with a minimum of 2 seconds between and pass the vehicle, each bike returning the right lane after clearing the passing vehicle, returning to the staggered positioning. And keep your speed up till you have enough room between you and the passed vehicle to provide a safety margin.