This was written for people who are new to group riding. The following will explain what to expect on a group ride and how a group ride should work. Safety, keeping the group together, and other group riding issues will be discussed. These are matters of etiquette and consideration for your fellow riders. When followed, they will make for a better group ride experience for everyone.
First of all, when you show up for the ride, have a full tank of gas. Top off your tank when the group stops even if you aren't running low on fuel. This ensures that you won't be the one to unexpectedly stop the group.
When in traffic, ride staggered (- _ - _ - _) not side by side. When you get to tighter twisty roads, spread out single file (- - - -). Group rides are not races. Passing in corners could scare an unsuspecting fellow rider and possibly cause a mishap. Also, do not ride too closely behind the rider in front of you. The MSF Class teaches a "2 second rule", and it's a good idea to follow it.
If you should encounter debris (i.e. dead animal, sand, pothole, gravel, etc.) on the road, stick your foot out on the side of the bike that has the obstruction. This will warn the riders behind you. Pass this info back through the group.
Use hand signals and the directional for turns. Sometimes in a group ride, people are distracted by all the bikes around them and may not see your blinker. If another rider flashes their hand open and closed at you, it means that your directional is probably still on.
Group rides consist of a lot of different skill levels. Some riders are "Joe-got-his-first-bike-last-week" and others are expert racers. Remember a group ride is riding at your own pace while accompanying other bikes. Nobody wants you pushing your limits to keep up. If you feel that people are riding faster than you in the corners or feel at all "over your head", please let the riders behind you pass. Pull to the side and wave them by. A lot of people may feel that they do not want to be "the slow rider". However, keep in mind that we were all "the slow rider" at one time. Your fellow riders would much rather wait a bit longer for you at the next stop than try to figure out how to get your bike home for you.
You may be worried about getting separated from the group. There are a couple ways to make sure that everyone stays together. Groups often use a leader/sweep-rider method for keeping everyone together. When you get on a particular route, stay on that route. When the leader comes to any direction/route change, they will wait as the group collects, even if they have to sit through a light cycle or two. The leader doesn't start off again until the "Sweep-rider" is in sight and gives a thumbs up. The "sweepers" job is to stay behind all riders and make sure that nobody gets left behind.
Another method used for keeping everyone together is the "last rider waits" method. When the road changes direction (i.e. fork, turn, etc.) the last person in line waits for the people behind them. If you are 4th in line with 5 people behind you and the group turns left, but you don't see the riders behind you, stop and wait. Don't worry about losing the group in front of you because, if this is done correctly, there will always be someone waiting at the next direction change for you.
The method of keeping the group together should be discussed at the beginning of the ride. Time and mileage duration vary with each ride, but there are usually rest stops for socializing or eating/drinking about every hour. People should NOT consume drugs or alcoholic beverages when riding. Let the others know if you have to depart early. This will ensure that nobody thinks that you are lost or something. These are simple guidelines to a safe, enjoyable day of group riding.
I hope to see you all out on the road! Ride safely, Ride smart, but most importantly.... RIDE!!!