Safe Team Riding

Part 1: Collaborative Cooperation

A team ride is a great way to travel and spend time with like-minded friends who love to live on the road. But at the same time, it can be one of the most demanding activities for a motorcyclist, demanding more cognitive concentration, precise coordination, intelligible communication and insightful, rapid-fire decision making. The nimble maneuverability of a motorcycle can be a blessing in “cager” traffic, but in a swarm of other motorcycles, that same nimble maneuverability is no longer a distinct advantage given that the single track and trike vehicles surrounding you can now brake, accelerate and turn just as quickly, tightly and precisely as your own iron horse. Then, complicate matters with the best practice of staggered formation riding and you introduce a new constraint which cagers can easily disrupt by simply merging into and breaking up your asymmetric convoy ballet. Traffic lights can have the same irritating effect when half your group “make it” and the other half don’t, appearing as a shrinking image in your rear view mirror.

When you really think about it, there are an infinite number of team riding situations that can occur in traffic with perhaps twice as many rational responses. You may not encounter or experience all of them in your lifetime, but since we aren’t getting any younger, we really only need to focus on the hazardous ones — which is still an impractical number of examples to contend with. Fortunately, we can use abstraction to help simplify our safety issues. Learn the basic tenants of team riding and then adapt your own best riding practices. But here is the rub: your best practices must still conform to the framework of the team ride and the best practices of the others in the group. (Note: You may be doing the “right thing” in your own mind, but if it’s not coordinated with everyone in the group, you may be introducing a whole new hazardous situation.)

Understanding the framework of team riding is easy. First, attend a GWRRA Team Riding seminar and/or a Road Captain seminar to learn the basics of team riding. Further your education by attending Chapter rides with experienced ride leaders and tail gunners. Learn to see your team or the group you are riding with as one entity. You are still responsible for your own safety, but you are also a member of a bigger coordinated group!

The Road Captain seminar is a terrific introduction to team riding and it is a requirement if you plan to lead a ride. However, there is no replacement for real team riding experience. Get out, challenge yourself and ride with the Chapter. Develop and apply collaborative group thinking with the intent that your safety and the safety of the group are paramount (Collaborative group thinking should not to be confused with “Groupthink,” where the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome). Constantly challenge yourself on the safest way to handle each traffic situation. Do not accept someone’s misconceived notions of safe team riding practices just because “this is the way we’ve always done it.” Your task is to collaborate on the optimum practice which covers everyone and all situations. Ask, “Why is this better?” and “Why is this safer for any given situation?” Be respectful of other opinions and be willing to listen and perhaps adopt other perspectives on safe riding, but only if they are indeed safer and proven so. Put forth a positive collaborative and cooperative attitude and you will enjoy all that team riding has to offer, especially when all riders are on the same page.

So, what are YOU doing this weekend? Don’t forget the Rider Education motto: “Safety is for Life.”


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