One of my favorite aspects of riding a motorcycle is that it can be a solitary experience, or one that is shared with others. Riding in a group can be a very rewarding experience; friendships that last for life can be made on a single road trip. If you’re new to an area, this can be a great way to meet and to socialize with like-minded people.
If you don’t know anyone who rides, social media can be a great tool for finding riding groups. There are many out there to choose from, ranging from people groups (women, men, mixed, young, old,) or locations to styles of bikes.
Your local dealership can also be a great meeting place and source for finding people to ride with.
So, with that in mind, here are a few tips to get you ready for your first ride.
Bike inspected beforehand
At the very least, check your tire pressure and lights (headlight, taillight, signals). Depending on how long it’s been since you had your last maintenance done, you may want to have your bike run through the shop. There is nothing worse than breaking down on a ride.
Make sure your tank is full when you are ready to leave and be sure you know how many miles you can go on a full tank of gas… Then, keep track!
Keep in mind that when on a group ride you cannot always decide when you want to stop. Most ride leaders will talk about how far the next stop is and see if everyone is good for gas, however, it’s up to you to know how much is in your tank, and how far that will take you.
A good rule of thumb on a group ride, never pass off a chance to top off your tank or use a restroom!
If possible, carry some cash with you. There are actually food and gas stops out there that still don’t take credit cards. This is especially true if you are like me and enjoy riding backcountry roads. Cash is also a quick way to pay for lunch and get back on the road.
Prepare for a long day
Riding alone you normally have a good idea of how soon you will be back, but in a group there are many variables that can cause the ride to go longer than expected. What starts as a sunny warm day riding out, can be a cooler ride home in the dark. With darkness you will need to have two things in mind, staying warm and being able to see!
Have an additional layer tucked away someplace handy; an extra pair of warmer gloves won’t hurt either. Also, if your helmet doesn’t have a face shield, have some clear glasses with you. Riding at night with sunglasses is not fun for anyone, inexpensive “clears” can save you a lot of grief as the sun goes down.
Know your route home.
A good ride leader will bring everyone back to the original meeting place before parting ways. However, there are occasions when a leader will be tired and just want to get home another direction than you need to go, or there can be times a group ends up splitting into two and the leader is not with you. I have even run into leaders who toward the end of the ride say “Ok, everyone get home your own way.”
Not knowing how to get home can be an unpleasant end to an otherwise great day.
There are two remedies to this. First, if you know the route beforehand, have your return trip mapped out and taped to your gas tank or in/to your tank bag.
Second, ask a member of your group if they can help you get back to where the roads become familiar and you know your way home. There is almost always someone going your way, find out ahead of time who they are. Most riders are friendly and will want to help you, don’t be afraid to ask!
Your first group ride can often determine whether or not you decide to ever go on another one! But as you see, with a little forethought, you can ensure it’s an amazing experience worth repeating.
My next blog will be advice for handling the actual ride in a group.
Until then; remember, ride safe, ride smart, and have fun!
David Ianetta was born and raised in Boston, MA. After moving around in his younger years, he now lives in North Carolina. David has a passion for riding motorcycles,often exploring the scenic back roads of NC with is wife, Rika, who rides her own along side him.
David also writes a Daily Blog for Freedom Biker Church called, “Daily Rock“ located at www.freedombikerchurch.com and is a contributing writer for Southeastern Rider magazine.