While many of us like riding solo and that’s thoroughly enjoyable, there is something to be said about riding as part of a group. The sense of camaraderie, the idea of sharing the freedom of the open road with a bunch of buddies, comparing notes after a series of switchbacks and shared anecdotes. Besides, it’s fun isn’t it? As a matter of fact, riding in a group is fun enough for our lazy office blokes to have formed a group that goes riding together at least twice a month on weekends, if not more.
For the Thrill of Riding part 1: Basics of Sport Riding, click here
Believe you me, these chaps have a jolly good time. But group riding also comes with its own set of challenges. Not everyone in the group will have similar riding skills and communicating between riders is difficult. And the larger the group the greater the magnitude of your challenges. Fret not, for we are back this month with a fresh new chapter of the Bajaj Pulsar Mania Thrill of Riding series, that has the answer to your problems. For this month it’s all about riding in a group.
Thrill of riding part 2: Launch Control, click here
1) Make the group; choose the leader and the sweep
Riding with a bunch of strangers can very quickly go from an adventure to a misadventure. So if you like to ride in a pack, choose to ride with people you know are on the same wavelength.
Choose the lead and sweep riders. These are critical positions because while the lead rider will set the pace for the group, the sweep will make sure that no member of the group falls behind. Normally the most experienced riders should be the leader or sweep since they will also need to make adjustments like stringing the group out on corners and then bunching them up again on straights. As the group gains experience, the lead and the sweep riders can be interchanged to break monotony and to maintain a group dynamic where every rider is considered equally important.
Thrill of riding part 3: Riding in the city, click here
2) Communication is key
Start with verbal communication. Ask questions. “Anybody volunteering to sweep this weekend?” “Has anybody been on that new road we’re planning to explore?” The answers will help set the group up. Agree on a set of hand signals before you ride out so that everyone knows what the leader or any other rider is trying to say. And you don’t need to signal at everything on the road, the rider behind you can see that truck barrelling down the road. If he was that blind he wouldn’t be in your group, so don’t shake arms and legs and tap your head at everything around you. Leave some space for riding too.
3) Set some rules
The song is always better when everyone is playing from the same songsheet. Set some basic rules, more as guidelines. For instance, agree from before to stay to the left of the centreline as a group at all times, except when you’re overtaking. Or maybe, setting a limit on straight line speed so that the group sticks together instead of thinning out.
4) The pace
Sure you can go as fast as your bike’s top speed but you’re essentially asking for trouble. Others will try to catch up. Some may feel competitive and go faster than they should and the next thing you know you’re peeling a buddy off the armco barrier on the side. Unsavoury to say the least. Instead try the pace. It’s quick and comfortable instead of fast with the potential to take people out of their comfort zones. The pace also prevents picking up too much speed on the straights that can lead to a disastrously rapid corner entry speed. You know what happens next
5) The staggered formation
While there are several ride formations, ride in a staggered formation on your ride out. The advantage is you can see ahead of you and you’re not focused on the other bike’s tail lamp. Most importantly, if he needs to stop then you’ve got some space to do so as well without rear ending him. Of course, in the city you won’t be able to maintain formation so have a protocol for meeting at a common point beyond the city and then ride out in a group.
6) No Racing
No, really. In spite of all that common sense offers us, things can get pretty competitive when riding in a group. Egos are bruised easily and only nasty speeds and stupid decisions can heal them. Unfortunately, they can also bring disaster in their wake. So however hard that new bloke in the group is trying, don’t take the bait. Stay with the rest of the pack and avoid racing.
This is a tricky one. Do not overtake a truck en masse. You’ll startle the driver for sure. Always overtake one at a time. If you’re part of the pack give the guy ahead some room after he’s finished his overtaking before you attempt yours. Yes, you will need to signal and check your mirrors before you pull out. If you want to overtake within the group, do so on a straight after signalling properly.
8) Corners and straights
Straights are boring, so why waste energies trying to go fast on straights? Instead use the straight to tighten the group. The leader should slow down to bring down the group’s pace so that slower riders can catch up. Besides if the slower riders know that the group will let them catch up they won’t ride beyond their limits on the turns. Have fun on the twisty bits.
9) Mirrors and the group
How do you know if members of the group have gone missing? Instead of cell phones use mirrors. Everybody keeps the guy behind them in their mirrors. If the last guy needs to stop and disappears from the mirror of the guy in front, he stops too. The chain reaction continues till the whole group stops for the guys in trouble.
10) Off the beaten path
The beauty of riding without an agenda is you get to make your own. So if you see a trail you can hit it right away. And to help you tackle some off-road riding, which the Pulsars are more than capable of handling, remember to stand on the pegs and use your legs as suspension to prevent trail shocks going through the spine. Also, stay off the front brake as much as possible. Use the rear and if you have to use the front then be gentle. Use one finger only. To turn on trails push the right handlebar down for a right turn and vice versa for a left hander. Meanwhile also use the right leg to weigh down the inside peg and use the left knee to push the tank so that the bike goes into the turn.
PRO-TIPS for riding
- When riding in a group remember the group can only travel as fast as the slowest rider in the pack.
- No gear, no entry into the group. Doesn’t matter if he’s your best friend. Especially if he’s your best friend. You don’t want him to get hurt if he falls, do you?
- Don’t go fast. Instead ride quick. Work the pace. When riding in a group that’s what will give you the Thrill of Riding.
Words by Aninda Sardar