When I was young, my friend Dwayne and I were riding bicycles together. We pulled up beside each other, we talked for a minute and then gave each other a very cool high-five. A moment later we were laying on the payment catching our breath and bleeding from the knees and elbows. What was supposed to be cool, hurt. We were fortunate enough to get back up and work on the bikes and pedaled off with our pride intact.
Not long ago, I was driving outside of Winston-Salem and saw two motorcycles laid out across a 300-yard stretch of highway. It appeared that the two street bikes had collided at high speed. The speed limit was 65 mph in that area so I’m sure they were running at a good clip. This is one of those situations that should have been 100 percent preventable. Riding side-by-side is a dangerous formation. It looks very cool but unless you’re filming a TV show č like CHIPS č or are in a special situation, you should learn to stagger your formation.
Let’s break it down with math. The average motorcycle is three to five feet wide, times two bikes on an average 12-foot-wide road. That leaves two to four feet for a margin of error. Anything can cause a bike to swerve. The wind, an oncoming vehicle, a passing vehicle, an animal or one of you not paying attention č it’s an accident waiting to happen.
In North Carolina, motorcycles are allowed to ride two abreast, however, no more than two. It is illegal to share a lane with a car and motorcycle. There are situations where riding side-by-side is appropriate. These situations include parades, funerals, escorting or situations of low speed.
So let’s break group riding down. There are three formations. Side-by-side, single file and staggered. The first thing is to be safe. The second is to maximize your space. If you are the lead rider you will want to ride in the left third lane to provide visibility to oncoming traffic. This position puts you in the best place to see around right-hand turns and corners. The second rider will want to be one second behind but now on the right third of the road. The next person will stagger from the second rider and behind the first rider back in the left third of the lane. Continue this formation accordingly. This will give you two seconds behind each rider and maximize your space while allowing a tight formation.
The formation will expand and contract with traffic or the situation. If you get into curvy roads or poor visibility you will want to fall into a single-file formation. When in this situation you will want to remember to spread out your space and maintain that two-second distance.
If someone falls back or breaks off for some reason, the group can slow down, wait at an appropriate location, or wait at your predetermined locations. Remember, if you are with a group, know what the plan is and have your own map just in case you separate.
Riding in a group takes a lot of concentration, focus and practice. Keep your space and enjoy your friends and your ride.
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