Oftentimes you may want a ride your motorcycle with your friends, clubs, or other motorcycle riders in a pack. Unless you know the person so you’re riding with, and their habits, you must be very careful. Even if you do know your friends riding habits, you must be careful.
I am not going to go into a dissertation on biker hand singles for riding in a pack in this article. There are many places on the Internet that will show you all of the recognized hand signals used by motorcyclists in a pack. When you ride in a pack make sure you use the hand signals at all times.
Unlike riding by yourself, pack riding can be extremely dangerous because you have motorcycle riders in front of you and to the rear of you, and often times safe distances are not observed. Pack riding involves placing your trust in all of the other motorcyclist in the pack. One wrong move by any rider in the pack can literally take out the whole pack.
Many of you have probably been on poker runs, or at biker events where you ride with a whole bunch of motorcycle riders that you do not know. Although it’s fun to ride with a group of other riders, you must assume that the other riders are either amateurs, or weekend riders unless you know them.
I have personally witnessed many bike on bike rear-ender accidents, and crashes at biker events. I have also witnessed riders swerve into other riders, and take them out. I have also witnessed riders take turns too wide or fast and crash their motorcycles, or be hit by incoming cars. When I am riding with a group of strangers I always like to stay in the back and at a safe distance, just in case.
I was once riding with a gal who had her own motorcycle. We made a left-hand turn from one major street to another. Since I was in the left position, I was leading the ride. After making the left turn, I then put on my right hand blinker and gave a hand signal that I intended to pull into a bank parking lot on the right hand side. Instead of watching my movements, and accelerating slowly through the turn, the gal accelerated way to quickly and did not give herself time to react. When she saw my signal, she panicked, locked up her brakes, and crashed her motorcycle. This accident would not have happened had the gal kept a proper distance, and not accelerated like a mad woman out of the turn. Had the gal not crashed her motorcycle, she would’ve most certainly crashed into me.
There are three types of pack formations: (1) Side-by-side (otherwise know as the Coffin Formation); (2) Staggered; (3) Free-for-all. I highly recommend that all pack rides be done in a staggered formation, because it is the safest formation for pack riding.
A staggered formation is where one person is on the left part of the lane, then the person behind him is riding about 1 or 2 seconds behind on the right part of the lane, then the person behind him is riding 1 or 2 seconds behind him on the left part of the lane and so on. There are many websites which give examples of these formations.
The staggered formation should only be done when it is safe. If your pack gets onto a small country road or in mountain twisties, the pack should switch to a single file formation. That is where one person rides behind the other and so on.
My opinion is that the two safest places to be on a pack ride is either in the back or in the front! They both have disadvantages but the disadvantages are substantially outweighed by the dangers of actually being in the middle of the pack.
If you are in the front of the pack you will be able to see all road obstacles and debris in front of you, so you will be able to avoid them. However, if you have to brake hard, there is a very good chance that the riders behind you will rear end you. I have lead many pack rides. There is nothing worse than the sound of tires screeching behind you when you slow down or stop!
If you are in the back, you can keep a very safe distance from the rest of the pack. If there is an accident you should be able to stop in time before you hit your fellow riders. The bad part about being in the back is that you cannot see the road conditions in the front of you. If the pack is doing proper hand signals, they should be pointing to rocks and other debris on the road before you get to it, but nonetheless you will not see it until you are right up on it unless you are keeping a good safety buffer between you and the pack. Another disadvantage to being in the back is that if you are not keeping a safe distance, and a rider goes down in front of you, you may not have enough time to avoid the rider, and you may crash into him or them. One other disadvantage to being in the back is that you will be eating everyone else’s exhaust fumes, hearing their loud exhaust, and eating oil if someone has a leak. However, a good aspect about being in the back is that everyone else should clear the bugs and air debris before you get to them.
I prefer to ride in the back at a safe distance. I have seen too many rear ender bike on bike accidents. For me the back is best. You will have to choose what is best for you.
Pack rides can be awesome, and they can be deadly. Exercise caution at all times!
By Norman Gregory Fernandez, Esq. , Copyright 2006