Dynamics of Group Riding: What You Should Know Before Riding Out
Are you and some friends looking to set off on the road as a pack? We've got the lowdown to get all of you around town as a cohesive group.
1. The More The Merrier....Most Of The Time
Since the beginning of the 1900's when bicycles were outfitted with their first engine people have been gathering to ride together. As a mode of transportation, it was, and still is, cheaper than driving a car and this brought people from all walks of life together to share a passion. Group riding became synonymous with rebellion and mischievousness as the danger associated with motorcycles appealed to American youth. As our soldiers began returning from Vietnam many found camaraderie among motorcycle riders and began forming motorcycle clubs across the nation. In addition to motorcycle clubs, there are many riding groups, associations, and social clubs that provide riders with an opportunity to meet other riders. As group riding became popular among organized groups it became evident that an entirely different skill set was necessary to ride with others. Different riding styles, competence, confidence, and personalities can make organizing and riding in a group a very challenging experience.
2. The Leader
Before setting out on a group ride across town or across the country, there are a few things that the group must have in order to make the experience enjoyable, safe, and coordinated. Motorcycle clubs and other riding organizations have well-defined protocols for riding in a group and although some consider this somewhat of a "militant" way of going out for a ride it is imperative to have explicit roles and responsibilities established. Even if is just a ride out with friends from work or the local bar; one of the first things that a group ride must establish is who is in charge. The lack of appropriate leadership can (and usually does) result in frustration and miscommunication. In established organizations this leader is usually referred to as the "Ride Captain" and although he or she might not be responsible for everything he/she is responsible for knowing the route and fuels stops, at the very least. Establishing a leader from among a group of friends out for a Sunday ride might be difficult but it pays off. The leader usually finds out that no matter how well prepared, how beautiful the route is, or how many rest stops, someone will always complain. Is all part of group dynamics and knowing this is sometimes enough to avoid a bad situation. Weak leadership is often the main reason for a sour ride.
3. Everyone Wants An Opinion
You know what they say about opinions.. everyone has one. While it's good to get input from the group before setting out on a ride, at some point, once things are decided it should be left up to the leader to lead the ride. Contrary to office dynamics, this is a good chance to do some "free riding"- meaning that once the decision are made, the rest of the group and (and should) let the leader make the decisions. Take it easy and enjoy the ride.
Individual personalities can present the biggest challenge to the group as a whole. Whether you are riding with ten other motorcycles or two-up with your spouse, everyone has a different personality. This is why established organizations have well-defined riding protocols which might seem harsh to the non-rider. The ride should be enjoyable for most (it won't for everyone, every time) and it should not be influenced by any one person. Sure, dealing with personality issues is sometimes the leader's job but it's really about personal discipline; you know who you are! - Mr. "I'm the best rider and everyone else sucks" guy - closely followed by Mr. "If I had planned this ride it wouldn't suck" guy. Setting expectations and leadership responsibilities before the ride will help to settle some "rash" personalities, but not always.
5. Knowing Your Group
Sometimes groups that ride together have been doing so for some time. They know each other well, they know everyone's strengths and limitations. The leader will know that going up the switchback roads will slow down specific people so the ride formation will be determined based on that ride, placing those slower riders in the back. Conversely, the leader would know that on a long run, riders with health issues might need an extra eye upon them so they will be placed somewhere in the middle. Is all about knowing who you ride with and making decisions for the benefit of the group with the intent of making it as enjoyable as possible. Sometimes is not possible to know who you ride with. A spontaneous group ride from a local restaurant on a Friday night might find a rider surrounded by people that he or she does not know.
6. Riding Gripes
You have heard them, you have had to deal with them, and you probably just get annoyed and have to ignore them. As a group participant, and especially as a leader, you might have to deal with some of the most prominent gripes that arise in an organized ride or event.
1. We mention this guy earlier: Mr. "I'm the best rider and everyone sucks" guy - This rider is god's gift to two wheels and constantly reminds people about it. Most times he/she cant pull a U-turn on his Harley without duck-walking it. (Most good riders seldom advertise themselves as such).
2. Also mentioned earlier: Mr. "If I had planned this ride, it would not suck" guy - A guy who will find every excuse not to take charge or plan a ride, yet will find every excuse to complain about every stop, every road, and perhaps even the weather.
3. The "Fighting Couple" - this is a special annoyance to a group ride. If you have had the displeasure of meeting this couple you know how this usually goes. An argument usually breaks out over who ate the last snack or some other meaningless excuse to disagree on something. They will proceed to fight as if they were in the comfort of their own home while everyone else tries desperately to ignore them.
4. The "Princess" - this is not gendered specific. This rider will get his or her feelings hurt at any comment directed to them that is not flattering or positive. They cannot deal with being placed at the rear of the formation because they cant lean their motorcycle on mountain roads, or their needs always outweigh everyone else's.
5. Mr. "It was someone else's fault" -guy. We all make mistakes and we all do something embarrassing, like dropping your motorcycle at some point in your life. Yet this guy always manages to blame someone else for his or her issues.
6. Closely related to #1, Mr. "I have been riding my whole life" guy - this rider is also sensitive to any criticism. This is usually the guy who has owned a motorcycle since the 1980s but has a total of 5000 under his belt. You usually can easily tell who the "lifers" are and they are the not likely the ones to start an argument with "I been ridn' a bike since you were in diapers".
If you are new to group riding, expect this, and remember; is all about individual discipline. If you don't like how things are done, volunteer to take charge.
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