Throttle Therapy: Motorcycle riding in groups has merits

Britt Santowski, a former Chief instructor with the Vancouver Island Safety Council, shares her bits of wisdom about safe riding.

Britt Santowski periodically writes the Throttle Therapy column for the Sooke News Mirror.

Recently, I was lucky enough to join in on a group ride. On May 15, I attended the Biker Blessing, facilitated by Reverend Gordon Kouwenberg  of the Knox Presbyterian Church here in Sooke. I then rode with them on their group ride. Generally, I am a solo artist, an introvert who really REALLY enjoys being alone. Really.

That said, group riding does have some nice attributes. These are some of them.

It’s sometimes nice to be a part of a group.

The solo rider must be forever vigilant of vehicles in front and those behind. When you’re in a group, while you must first get a feel for the rider in front and behind you, once you get their riding style you can relax the hyper-vigilance. Of course, you may still be constantly placing yourself, but it’s a different kind of alertness that’s required.

There is safety in numbers.

I know this is obvious, but there are also less obvious advantages. For example, as each member of the group passed an object in the middle of lane, they alerted those behind by pointing to it as they passed. When it was my turn, I passed “the point” along to those behind me. Oh yeah, it’s okay to take your hand off the throttle to point at a road hazard when you must.

Also, and this sort of goes with out saying, but there is no driver in the world that can miss a group of 50 plus riders. Even if the group gets split, it’s okay. You will be noticed.

Ride according to the rider staggered before you.

If someone falls out of formation up ahead, it’s not your job to passive-aggressively micro-manage the situation. Your job is simply to ride staggered to the rider ahead of you. When that person rides left, you go right, and vice versa. When they ride in the centre of their lane, cornering or on narrow lanes, fall back and do the same.

Dominant lane position is irrelevant.

Need I say more? The thundering group creates its own dominance. End of concept.

Group riding is a beautiful dance.

I was reminded the beauty of the group ride when the group collapsed like an accordion at stops, and expanded on acceleration. The automatic shift to single lane riding around curves was magical. When done correctly, with everyone doing their thing, it’s a beautiful beautiful thing.

Ride your own ride.

No matter what, ride for yourself. This cannot be emphasized enough. I know I said earlier to follow the lead of the staggered rider ahead of you, but like Life Herself, there are exceptions. For instance, when one rider stopped in the middle of an intersection, no one followed that lead. The hazard was too high. However, the group lead did pull over on the straight-away up-head, where it was safe to do so, and the group waited for the others to catch up.

You can still ride in a group and be an introvert.

I did have to mingle before the ride, but that was in part because my job (as reporter) requires it. However, once in the group ride, I was able to nurture my inner introvert and regain my energy. Start the bike, shut the visor, crawl into my head and ride. Yep. It worked. I was rejuvenated.

 

Lastly, and this has nothing to do with the group-riding thing, I got my first tailpipe burn.

No, I don’t really want to talk about it.

 

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