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Riding on Rural Highways

Motorcyclists often travel in groups on rural highways for charity rides, travelling to motorcycle rallies, or just the desire to sightsee. Group rides on highways outside the city limits can be enjoyable but also pose certain risks. Motorcyclists should prepare themselves properly to avoid accident or injury. Extended group rides should begin with a plan for solid communication. Groups should either use radio headsets or be familiar with hand signals. Groups should ride in stagger formation to allow each rider room to avoid debris and negligent motorists. However, windy mountain roads call for single file formation and caution when taking sharp turns. Groups should stay small and avoid becoming separated by merging traffic. Groups should also prepare for the possibility of inclement weather. If a motorcyclist is injured while riding in a group, they should seek medical attention and contact an experienced motorcycle attorney.

Group Riding on Rural Highways

As the weather cools in Arizona, many motorcyclists begin to plan weekend rides outside of Phoenix. Rallies, charity rides and sightseeing all invite groups of motorcyclists to enjoy a ride outside the city limits. Group riding on through the county can be a rewarding way to spend time with friends and admire the scenery, but motorcyclists should be aware of potential risks. Riding in a group requires different skills and strategies than riding alone. Additionally, groups are vulnerable to negligent drivers, poorly maintained roads, and other unexpected hazards outside the city.

Why ride in Groups?

Group riding brings a social element to the motorcycle experience. Some motorcyclists like touring with buddies so they can share stories and experiences. Some couples purchase motorcycles after retirement and use them to tour the countryside. Charity rides provide the opportunity to support a cause while enjoying the open road and meeting new friends. Groups can be safer and more sociable than riding individually. Below are some tips to making a group ride outside the city as safe as possible:

Know the Plan

When riding in groups, the first safety precaution to plan the ride in advance. Exchange phone numbers and emergency contact information in case of separation or an accident. Second, decide on a riding formation and the position of each motorcyclist. If you have CB’s or intercoms in your helmets, make sure everyone is on the proper channel and test them beforehand. Additionally, make sure each rider knows the standard hand signals. Each time you start a leg of the trip, decide on the next stopping point so there are no surprises or sudden stops. Once your route is determined, tell a friend or family member so they will know where you are and can send help if need be.

Choose Proper Formation for Road Conditions

On moderately crowded roads, the safest pattern to ride is stagger formation. The motorcycles are staggered with the lead in the left, the second bike following to the right, with the third bike two seconds behind the first. The forth bike is two seconds behind the second, and the pattern continues as such. The formation gives each bike room to the left or right to avoid road debris, animals, or other obstacles present on rural highways. When there is little other traffic, groups can fall back into single file formation. This gives riders more leeway to relax and enjoy the countryside. Single file is also appropriate for winding mountain roads like the ones leading to Globe or Sedona. Single file formation lets members of the group use the whole lane to round corners. It also allows riders to track the progress of preceding motorcycles to gage turns.

Avoid Separation

One risk to riders in a group is being separated by passenger vehicles. Many motorists are unfamiliar with the unique needs of motorcyclists and may try to cut through a group. The motorcyclist is suddenly confronted with less following distance, losing sight of the lead rider, and possibly losing control due to a sudden shift in wind shear. On two-lane highways, once separated, a group may not be able to reform until the car exits or traffic becomes sparse enough to pass.

Keep Groups Small

Motorcyclists should keep groups small when riding on rural highways outside of Phoenix. Large groups prevent more aggressive drivers from passing safely. They are also difficult to manage due to the rubber band effect, where the group stretches and condenses when accelerating and braking. Gaps invite passenger vehicles to merge and divide the group. Braking suddenly can cause an accident with riders at the rear. For events like charity rides when a large group is travelling to the same place, the motorcyclists should split into sub-groups of four to six riders, depending on skill level.

Prepare for Weather

Arizona’s weather is beautiful but dynamic. Temperatures can vary significantly as weather, altitude and time of day change. Storms develop rapidly, especially at elevations seen just outside of Phoenix. Decreased visibility and traction puts the entire group at risk of being struck by a passenger vehicle or forced off the road. Be prepared to pull over and wait out storms.

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