Wednesday, October 26, 2016

8 Tips to Being a Great Ride Leader

A group ride should have a flow, a rhythm to it.

Words and photos by Jim Foreman
Additional thoughts by Shanghai HOG Ride Captain Jim Rice.

Taking a group of friends or riders out for a day trip or a multi-day ride is a serious responsibility. A good leader makes the difference between everyone having a great experience or not.
Several important characteristics separate a good ride leader from a poor one.
Please keep in mind that this is not about group ride etiquette or hand signals but rather how to be a good group ride leader.

1. Don’t ride in too big of a group. Break it up.

We’ve all seen it. Seemingly hundreds of noisy V-Twins going down the freeway in group formation on a Saturday or Sunday. All but the most lifestyle-centric rider typically finds this style of riding distasteful. When taking a group of riders out to your favorite roads or trails, keep the group small and manageable.
Consider no more than 6-8 riders in a group. It’s far easier to manage a smaller group and ensure everyone has a great time. 

2. Ride to your least experienced rider’s capability, not your own.

Most people willing to lead a group are good riders. Often, ride leaders are highly skilled riders. Regardless of your abilities, you must quickly and accurately evaluate each rider’s ability and riding. If you push a less-experienced rider too much, you will guarantee yourself a crash or worse. If some riders want to go fast and others feel better proceeding more deliberately, break up the group and agree to meet up at certain spots, along the way.
Make sure you express that each rider must take responsibility for their riding and actions. They must also be able to communicate any criticisms without reprisal or fear of rejection.
Remember that a ride leader’s responsibility is to lead a fun and safe ride for the entire group. It’s not to show off how amazing and awesome a rider you are in a selfish and ego-centric way.

Agustin Ceron Guedea's Hi-Viz Jacket and Helmet make him very noticeable.

3. Ask a rider with a bright helmet or unique lighting to serve as the tail or sweep rider.

This is key. Make sure you constantly check for the sweep or tail rider and that everyone is keeping up at a safe pace. If they are not, it’s important to slow down the tempo of the ride so that everyone can safely enjoy the ride.  Communicators are helpful but are not critical to a group ride’s success.

4. Arrange a stop at a next gas station if the group becomes separated.

Invariably, the group may become split, temporarily. Traffic lights, merging cars, and mechanical or operator issues may cause the group to split. As a ride leader, if you notice this, slow down the group in the lead to see if the remaining group can safely catch up. Invariably the people at the end of the group will be riding faster then the people in the front, so keep the speed down.  If, after a while you don't see the remainder of the group, stop at the first gas station or intersection and wait. Make sure everyone knows that if the group becomes separated that this is what will happen and they won't be left behind.

5. Take regular breaks every 60-75 minutes. 

Make sure everyone is doing good at breaks.
You may be an Iron Butt Association member, but the rest of the group may not be able to sit on their bike for long periods without stretching. This is especially true of sportbikes. Take regular breaks. Make sure everyone is drinking water, having a good time and not showing tell-tale signs of exhaustion or dehydration.

6. Know the roads you plan on taking. Don’t rely on a GPS or map solely.

When you lead a ride, it’s important to know the roads and conditions before leading the group there. Don’t rely on GSP or maps as they will not indicate if a road is closed, under construction, in disrepair, or has any services for a long stretch.
If you haven’t been on the road, make sure you find out, first-hand from someone who has recently been on that road what to expect. Make sure you know the elevation, road conditions, and expected weather before proceeding.

7. Listen to the other riders about what they want to see and do.

A good ride leader will ask pertinent questions of the riders in the group. Some questions that should be asked is how fast do you feel comfortable traveling? What’s the range on a full tank of gas? How do you feel about (insert the conditions one may expect). Some examples one should be asking about include rain, switchbacks, steep elevations, dirt, and temperature.

8. Keep it simple. Don’t push the group too hard or try to do too much.

Don’t try to do too much on a group ride. It’s better to leave the group wanting more rides in the future than to have them not want to ride with you again. Don’t make the ride about you, but rather about achieving a goal or purpose together.
Make sure to take photos at breaks and if a group member wants to ride up ahead to take riding-action photos, make sure they can.

keeping the ride uncomplicated will simplify every aspect of the ride.  Trying to control every aspect will create unnecessary stress and strain on you, and the group. Avoid complicated hand signals, overly technical roads or dependence on electronic rider aids. Technology is useful but not necessary.
Lastly, have fun. That’s what a group ride is supposed to be all about.

When you are in Southern California, be sure to visit Irv Seaver BMW Motorcycles in Orange County.  In addition to sponsoring these stories, Irv Seaver BMW has the best selection of new and pre-owned BMW motorcycles in the region.  Award-winning Service, fully stocked Parts, a well-stocked Apparel and Accessories department are the envy of other dealers nationwide.  Irv Seaver BMW is known for offering the most aggressive pricing on new BMW Motorcycles and will make sure you get the motorcycle you want at a price you'll love.  Come in today to see why we're the best.
©2016 Jim Foreman  All Rights Reserved.


  1. Very well written Jim. I'm afraid you covered all the points and I can't critique anything. 😎

  2. Good advice for a ride leader, but also informative for less-experienced or returning riders (like me) who need to learn how to "play well with others" on the road.

  3. Thanks, Jim. This is a good, straightforward, and simple listing of the keys to a fun group ride.
    Would you be able to send me a copy so that we can include it in our next Newsletter?
    John C., Prez SCBMWRC

  4. I've lead a few group rides for our company and your advice is perfect. Nicely done.