Stayin’ Safe: Group Riding Tips

While it looks like a formation, the participants in this group ride are acting as individual riders, each selecting their own line and ready to adapt as necessary to the environment. Notice the last rider is able to look well ahead to get the big picture.

What defines a safe and enjoyable group ride? A tight grouping of bikes adhering to parade-like formation set by a leader? Or is it an outing of individual riders who happen to enjoy heading out on a road ride together?

The reality is, situations develop rapidly. A non-issue for one rider in a group can present a serious threat to the next rider in line. For instance, an empty driveway to the right of the lead rider may present a vehicle backing out of the same driveway just seconds later. Will that subsequent rider be able to create space from the threat or be able to slow down?

In a tight formation, riders often move as a single group, diminishing individual riders’ situational awareness, their flexibility to change lane position and ability to slow without creating problems for the rest of the group.

Instead, if riders approach group riding as individuals, each becomes responsible for reading the environment and adapting to situations by adjusting lane position and speed appropriate for the situation and according to their own comfort and skill level. Each rider creates enough separation between bikes to establish a suitable space cushion and to make it easier for each rider to take in the big picture (vs. fixating on the rider directly ahead).

Consider instituting a ride plan for your next group ride. Agree that each rider retains full use of his or her lane. Establish a two-second minimum following distance to enable each rider to read the road ahead, anticipate potential threats and allow enough time and space for each rider to respond to changes in the riding situation. And, while it may not look the same as a tight parade formation, a progression of skilled, individual riders that adapts to changing situations is a mighty impressive sight.


  1. yes this is critical. Had an accident due to the saddlebag falling off one of the bikes up front in the group. The saddlebag ended up in the middle of the lane. We were in staggered formation, but the 2 second minimum was not in play as it was a straight road with very clear side ditches thus didn’t expect trouble. Ended up clipping the left saddlebag of the bike in front of me. We remained upright, but the person ended up with a broken leg. I will now be pushing the 2 second minimum to a 3 second minimum and eyes on the bike in front at all times. The other thing that impacted this was I had my eyes off the road for a split second looking at scenery.

  2. And even when not riding with a group or a friend, but end up riding in same lane with somebody else, stagger your positions.

  3. Rode with NW Wings used the 2 sec+ rule worked well. One thing we found not to get too big of group. Just break into smaller groups as it doesn’t interfere with car traffic ! They get a little spooked when 20 or so bikes merge on the freeway.

  4. What happened to the good old days? Two or three second rule? Where is common sense? About 40 years ago I was learning hot to ride. As far as group rides, you positioned yourself so you could see the riders face in his mirror. Nothing to do with seconds etc, if you could see his face, he could see you. In an emergency he didn’t have to look or find you before he made a lane change. Seems like that has went by the way side during the past several years. It’s easy try it, get the whole group to try it, it works.


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