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Motorcycling with a pillion passenger | How to Guide

How to take a pillion on your motorcycle

By Adam Child

For some the very idea of taking a pillion sounds horrendous, like carrying a bag of potatoes on the back, it upsets the handling; bikes are made for one. However, the other side of the argument is that motorcycling can be fun to share!

Personally, I enjoy taking a pillion, whether it’s a gentle ride out with my wife on the back, or charitable pillion laps on a race track at race pace – I enjoy them both equally.

Win a pillion ride with legends Steve Martin or Troy Bayliss at the ASBK Wakefield round.

Win a pillion ride with legends Steve Martin or Troy Bayliss at the ASBK Wakefield round.

Steve Martin or Troy Bayliss often take a pillion for a lap at ASBK rounds

Obviously, some bikes are more suitable than others, and the same can be said for pillions. However, over 20-years of professional testing, I’ve picked up a few tips which I’m sharing with you. If you’ve never taken a pillion before don’t worry, it’s not as daunting as it may appear – that is unless you are planning to take an England rugby player for a spin.

Have a chat

Have a little chat with your pillion. Is it their first time? Have they been on a bike before? And without being rude, calculate their size.

If you’re 5’2″ and about to give your basketball playing husband a lift home, is that wise? Also is the pillion sober? If your pillion is affecting your riding, you can be charged with a criminal offence.

Is the bike suitable for a pillion?

Do you have a pillion seat and pegs? Do you have a grab rail? Can you adjust the rear shocks pre-load to compensate for the extra weight of your pillion? Adding pre-load to the rear helps with stability and improves the steering. Most bikes will have pre-load adjustment.

Zarco got a lift on the back of a KTM at COTA, next time he will be at the controls rather than pillion! - Image by AJRN

Zarco got a lift on the back of a KTM at COTA, next time he will be at the controls rather than pillion! - Image by AJRN

Some bikes are more suitable than others – Zarco getting a lift on the back of a KTM at COTA – Image by AJRN

If you’re lucky you’ll have semi-active suspension which will automatically adjust the suspension to compensate for the extra weight with a touch of a button. Don’t worry too much about the front suspension if only doing two-up duties as a once-off. 

Hoever, if you’re planning on riding the majority of the time two up, touring Europe for a few weeks for example, you can see a specialist, who can set up your bike specifically for two-up riding.

You need to be able to communicate

It’s a good idea to build up some simple hand signals, as at speed it’s hard to communicate without an intercom. My wife and I have a simple system. One tap from me on her left knee means hold on, fast overtake coming along. Tap on the right knee, back to normal speed and you can relax.

If she is navigating, and knows the area a tap on the left for left and vice versa. A strong tap on my back indicates for a speed camera or to slow down. Pointing at the fuel cap means we are stopping for fuel shortly and a tap of the chin bar, means hungry or rest. Agree on some basic signals before riding.

A communication system, or hand signals is very useful

The safe and correct way to mount up

I’m only 5’6″ so I’ve always struggled with pillions getting on and off, especially if they are taller and heavier than me. However, when I worked as a Limo bike rider around London, they taught me a secret.

You get on first, then put the side stand down, place your foot behind it so it can’t flick up and always insist your pillion gets on from the side-stand side. All their weight is then taken by the side stand and not your inner leg – simple.

Triumph Tiger Alpine

Triumph Tiger Alpine

Get your pillion to mount up with the side stand down and locked in place by you – the rider’s – foot

Once they are comfortable, lift the bike up from the side stand. Repeat the same process when stopping. Get the side-stand down, foot behind and ask your pillion to climb off on the side-stand side. Try it – it’s ever so simple.

The first few feet

For many this is the hard part. If you’re new to taking a pillion make sure it’s as simple as possible, you have a clear straight run on smooth ground, you don’t want to attempt a U-turn in a gravelly pub car-park.

Getting going is similar to a hill start, use a little more power balance on the back brake and feed the clutch in. Once you’re above 5 mph, you’ll hardly notice your pillion.

Don’t go too fast

You have more weight on the back, less on the front. On hard acceleration the front will feel light and might even wheelie in extreme situations in the lower gears. Short-shift, change gear early and keep the change as smooth as possible.



Riding pillion on a motorcycle


The opposite of the above. More weight on the front, less on the rear. The brakes won’t feel as strong as you’ve significantly increased the weight, and again in extreme situations the forks may dive excessively or the rear may even rise.

Remember your braking distances will have increased. Try to be smooth, use a little more back brake and engine braking than normal to give the front stoppers an easier time.


Your pillion doesn’t need to hang off the inside with their knee down, but equally they need to flow with the rider and bike. If you’re pillion is new to bikes, ease them into it.

BMW TS Safari

BMW TS Safari

Consider the extra weight a pillion adds to the bike and the stress that places on the tyre and suspension

Remember you’re asking more from the tyres. When going into the corner try not to trail-brake as much as you would solo. Mid-corner ground clearance will be less as the suspension has sagged with the extra weight, pegs may scrape or even the exhaust or centre stand.

On the exit remember the front is now light and the rear tyre is taking all the extra strain, smoothness is key.


If you’re clocking up some serious mileage and you’re getting tired so is your pillion. I’ve had pillions fall asleep on many occasions. Make sure they are ok, check the mirrors to make sure they’re awake.

Bike checks & maintenance

If you’re riding two up with luggage for the majority of the time, consumables won’t last as long. Your fuel range will be less, tyres and pads will also wear out quicker, especially if riding aggressively two-up. So keep this in mind when it comes to checking wear and consumables and thinking about servicing.

Triumph Tiger GT

Triumph Tiger GT

Brakes, tyres and more will wear more quickly riding two-up all the time

‘Ball in a bowl’

The key to riding with a pillion is riding smoothly. Here is a little tip. Imagine you have a bowl on your petrol cap. Inside the bowl is a ping-pong ball. Now ride without the ball leaving the bowl – get the idea?

Source: MCNews.com.au

Top 10 reasons for riding solo

Any excuse is good enough for a ride – whether it’s with the pillion-in-a-million, a couple of friends, a dozen club members, a hundred shop riders, or a thousand toy runners – yet solo riding is our favourite.

And in these days of social distancing, it may be the preferred way to go.

There are many reason why we love riding solo.

But here are our top 10:

  1. Zen: It’s a good time for peace and meditation, away from the mindless chatter and banter of friends. Solo riding can be a cathartic experience where you “blow out the cobwebs”, cleanse the mind of the week’s built-up minutiae and think about nothing else but the manual task in hand – clutch, throttle, brake, steering.
  2. Peer pressure: There is none when you ride solo. You can choose your own pace. Go on, race that HSV Holden if you like, tag on to the back of a bunch of sports bikes or just wave them past and continue to ride at a relaxed pace. If you race and win, you can congratulate yourself. If you race and lose, then there’s no one judging you.

    Riding soloWave faster riders through

  3. No pressure: Apart from a lack of pressure to go racing, there is also no pressure to stay together in a pack which can put pressure on you to make some silly errors, radical passing manoeuvres or run “very amber” lights.
  4. Stop: Yes, you can actually stop to take a photo, absorb a view, go to the toilet or grab another cup of coffee without being berated by a friend for slowing down the herd.

    Riding solo CFMotoStop and go when you like

  5. Go: No need to wait around for one of your group to use the toilet, pay for their latte by American Express, have a cigarette or fix their “classic” bike. Just go when you are ready!
  6. Idiots: You probably don’t ride with idiots, but usually a group can have one person who isn’t as talented as the other riders or makes rash decisions. Riding solo removes this dangerous element from your ride.
  7. Change your mind: There is no set agenda. You are allowed to change your mind, destination and route as often as you want without causing anyone grief or upset.

    Riding soloTake a sidetrack

  8. Explore: Groups have a rigid route and arrival time, but riding solo allows you to explore side roads, go a different route to normal or even head up a dead-end just to see what’s there. And no one will mind!
  9. Bench racing: You can’t fool yourself, so there is no point in lying to yourself about your escapades. However, when you catch up with your friends on another ride, you can “embellish” all you like as there are no witnesses!

    Riding soloElectronic gadgets make solo adventuring possible

  10. Safety: Riding solo, especially on lonely country roads or trails is not very safe in the event of a crash or breakdown. However, these days there are mobile phones, distress beacons, GPS trackers and other electronic gadgets you can use to improve your safety, even if you are out of phone signal.

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Billy ‘The Mayor’ still riding hard at 93

Billy “The Mayor” Vickery of Regents Park, Logan City, turned 93 last November and is still riding hard, admitting he doesn’t always stick to the speed limit.

He could be the oldest rider in Australia, but you wouldn’t know it when Billy whips by, throttle pinned on his Honda CB400 Super Four.

“I love it. I would ride every day if I could afford it,” he says.

“It’s the feeling of being able to do whatever you want to do. I don’t always stick to the speed limit.

“It’s now slower than when I was riding bikes with poor brakes and cross-ply tyres.

“Speed limits are for trucks and buses.”

Billy timeline

Billy was born in Sydney on 14 November 1926 and moved to Queensland a couple of decades ago to be closer to his grandchildren.

Sadly, in 2002 he lost his wife, Frances, but she still rides with him every day on his keyring.

Billy started riding an Acme two-stroke at 14 but didn’t get his licence until he was 17.

“I rocked up on my Honda CB500 and the copper said, ‘Well you got here, didn’t you?’ and gave me the licence,” he says.

“That was how coppers were back then.”

Some time later Billy met his wife-to-be at a midget car race meeting.

“I was learning the piano accordion at the time and racing midget sprint cars when I met Frances,” he says.

“I quickly sold the piano accordion for a BSA 500 to take her for rides.”

Unfortunately on one of those romantic rides, the BSA’s immovable pillion peg dug in on a corner and they all ended up in the bushes.

“Frances lost the lower part of her leg,” he says.

Tragically gangrene worked its way up her leg over the years, ultimately claiming her life.

They had been married 53 years.

“I had a Harley outfit at one stage and we would go everywhere,” he says.

Billy’s bikesBilly The Mayor Vickery

Billy brings out his photo albums and it’s filled with a wide variety of bikes he’s owned.

“You name it, I’ve had it,” he says.

Billy’s favourite was a Yamaha XJR1300.

However, he says in recent years he’s sensibly downsized to the CB400.

“I started out on a Honda and I want to finish on a Honda,” he says.

Billy has also raced a plethora of brands at Bathurst, Amaroo Park and Eastern Creek, including a track-ready 1976 GoldWing!

Billy The Mayor VickeryRacing a GoldWing with panniers!

“I don’t remember what championships I won, but I did all right,” says the former Gladesville Motorcycle Club racer.

“Rossi Valentino is my hero. I don’t know why they don’t give him a proper bike.”

Billy’s licencesBilly The Mayor Vickery

Billy has also had a truck licence and has driven semis over the years.

“My doctor took the truck licence off me, but I still have a car and bike licence for three years. I could have had them for five years, but I decided to take three and carry a medical certificate with me.

“I’m taking things one day at a time.”

He’s also had a few run-ins with the law.

On one occasion he was pulled over by the police while riding his Suzuki 1200 Bandit which he had fitted out with blue LED “safety” lights.

“The copper let me off with a warning to take them off,” he says.

“I wasn’t going to, but I did and a few days later I saw him again, so just as well.”

On another occasion he was riding with a group who were pulled over for a breathalyser, except for him.

When he asked why, the cop said he would “laugh like buggery” if Billy was over the limit.

Billy’s rides

Billy mostly rides with the Gold Coast Ulysses Club who gave him the moniker of “The Mayor” out of respect for his age.

The Burringbar Range on the Tweed Coast seems to be Billy’s favourite stretchy of smooth, twisting tarmac.

“I always pass the ride captain there,” he says.

“The little girl (CB400) lifts her skirts up and really goes.

“I suspect a couple of speeding tickets will be coming in the post soon, but I’ve been lucky over the years.”Billy The Mayor Vickery

Billy admits to a few crashes in his time, usually when riding too fast for his own skills.

On one occasion he laid down his GoldWing when he knew he wouldn’t make a corner and in another he ended up with a stick going through the leg of his decades-old leathers which he says are “getting a bit thin in the arsehole from crashes”.

“I always wear leathers, a yellow jacket and Rossi boots and gloves. Won’t ride without them.”

The yellow jacket isn’t necessarily so he can be seen by other traffic, but by the other riders in his group as he is usually so fast, he frequently ends up as corner marker.

Billy’s tipsBilly The Mayor Vickery

You don’t get to 93 and keep riding without being able to pass on some riding tips.

My tip is to stay out wide so you can see around the corner; don’t cut in too early,” Billy says.

“I also have a little voice up here,” he says, tapping his temple.

“I think it’s Frances telling me to behave. I think that’s saved me a few times.”

We wish Billy many more safe years in the saddle. What an inspiration he is to us all!

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

How to regain your moto mojo this Xmas!

Merry Christmas and I hope you continue to stay safe and enjoy your moto mojo!

I hate to admit it, but I sometimes feel like I’ve lost my moto mojo.

I’ve ridden so many amazing roads in exotic countries, ridden so many wonderful bikes and had more than my share of exciting adventures, it sometimes leaves me feeling a bit jaded when it comes to riding my own bike in my own “back yard”!

Switzerland Europe motorcycle travel parking Italy tunnel GPS satnav
MBW powering an MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 through Switzerland

Many of you will think I’m being a prima donna, but some times I find it difficult to motivate myself to go for a ride.

The bike is the same. The roads are the same. The riding buddies are the same.

It’s difficult to get motivation to go for a ride, especially when there is a boring transport stage along straight highways or through boring suburbia to get to the good riding roads.

It becomes too much effort, so I just give up and stay home, working on the website or reading about motorcycles.

If you ever feel you have lost your moto mojo, there are things you can do to recharge your riding batteries and get more enthusiasm to go for a ride.

10 tips to get your moto mojo back

MBW does a wheelie in a private carpark Triumph Street Triple mojo
MBW gets his mojo working (stunt performed in a private carpark!)

Here are my top 10 tips for getting your riding mojo back!

  1. Dig out the paper maps, or fire up Google Maps on the computer and start exploring for detours along your usual route. Try to find new places to go, new roads, or even new cafes along the way.
  2. Get out of your comfort zone and ride a different bike. Beg, borrow but don’t steal a different type of motorcycle. If you’re into cruisers, borrow a mate’s sport bike and vice versa. You may hate it, but at least it will be a new experience and give you something to talk about with your mates.

    Lambretta V200 Special
    MBW gets out of his comfort zone on a Lambretta scooter

  3. Ride with a novice or learner. Even though it may be a slower ride than normal, their enthusiasm for riding will surely rub off on you. It is also fun and a good relearning experience to impart your riding knowledge to them.
  4. Find new friends or join a different riding group. There is a myriad of riding groups on social media. They may have different routes, bikes and destinations.
  5. Take a master riding class. Even if you think you have skills, there is always something you can learn and being better at our craft enhances your enjoyment.

    2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 superstition
    Track day fun even on a Ninja 400!

  6. Book an overseas motorcycle tour and let someone else impart their enthusiasm about riding and travel. You’ll also meet interesting riders from around the world and enjoy new scenery, new roads and maybe even a new bike.
  7. It may be too expensive to upgrade to a new bike, but you can always renew your interest in your bike by adding some performance parts or extra bling!

    Clean wash Ducati GT1000 justice
    Soap it up and rub it down!

  8. Wash your bike. It is amazing how much this simple exercise leads to enjoyment as well as the practical side of finding things in need of attention such as loose bolts.
  9. Watch some motorbike videos, especially at night, when it’s raining or any other time you can’t go for a ride. We also recommend surfing through YouTube. Look out for the Motorbike Writer TV channel and we also recommend MotoGeo.
  10. Go down to Bunnings, get some cement and harden up … and a Merry Moto Christmas to our many thousands of faithful readers!

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Tips to ride out your winter blues

(Contributed post for our Northern Hemisphere readers facing winter riding blues)

The moment you step outside your garage and your smart gadget reads between 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you are in for a treat. As a passionate motorcycle enthusiast, you are like ‘Give me 50 degrees all day, every day!’. But the world is round, alright (yeah, flat earthers, scram when you smell rubber burning on Asphalt and don’t look over your shoulder!).

Jokes aside, when you are enjoying the fall weather, you know winter is just around the corner. One fine day, the weather will do a 180 on you and you’ll be wondering, ‘How do I bike in this winter weather?’ Fear not, here are some tips for you, especially those beginners out there:

1-Avoid riding below 35 degrees F (about 1C)

The main danger associated with riding below 35 degrees is black ice on the road, which could set you up for disaster. If you are riding in low temperatures, no padding will prevent your arms from freezing. Riding with the ice out on the streets is not smart. Like the adage goes, ‘better safe than sorry’.

2-Watch out for the road salts

Road salts can be as bad as ice, with the risk of both slipping and sticking to your bike. There is not much science behind this, as any avid biker knows salt is corrosive to the ride that he holds dear. Giving your motorcycle a nice clean wash, just like you do with your car, can really help here.

3-Get heated gloves

Gerbing Gyde S7 heated gloves blues
Heated gloves

You may not have felt the need to wear heated gloves in the past. But, if you are up for some daredevilry or yearning for adventure, heated gear can help you when you are riding in near-freezing temps.

This holds true especially if you are in the Midwest or other northern states where it snows often during winter. You don’t want icy wind freezing the back of your palms as you blaze down the road.

4- Prepare for accidents

Riding your motorcycle on icy roads comes with some risks. As most Utah residents will know, during the winter months roads are slippery, and sight can be impaired from snowfall or fog. These dangers don’t just impact you, but they impact the other riders on the road who are equally at risk for crashing. Even when you’re being cautious, accidents can happen. These could result in unexpected injuries, vehicle damages, or even time off work to recover. If you find yourself in a motorcycle crash, and don’t have the savings to cover the unexpected medical or repair expenses, you may want to consider applying for installment loans Utah. These loans are designed to provide short-term assistance for life’s unexpected emergencies. It is also important to have medical and motorcycle insurance that could help cover any emergency expenses as well. 

5-Use the exhaust

Motorcycle riders are as obstinate as they come. If you are that stubborn sun of a gun who says no to heated gear because your grandfather was a 100% Norwegian, then use the exhaust to heat your hands up once in a while. You might have ‘great cold tolerance’ as you put it but it is always good to have blood back in your arms every now and then. All that you have to do is pull over to the side of the road and rub your palms at the back of the exhaust, with the gloves on. And it’s all good and you’re ready to go in no time!

6-Take it easy when it starts snowing

Its winter and snow or sleet might just be a street away. If it starts snowing, however, ensure you take it easy, find backroads with minimal traffic and head back home. Because, it’s not just you on the roads and there are bad drivers, distracted drivers, and even the best drivers have accidents sometimes

7-Watch the forecast

You may start your ride when the temperature is in the high 30’s, and before you know it the sun is down, and you feel like an icicle. This is why you need to be aware of how the temperature will drop so you don’t end up freezing cold without enough warmth and clothing to protect you.

While you might not be able to take a winter off as a biker, you would do well for yourself if you follow the above tips!

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

How motorcycles can safely overtake trucks

Passing long trucks can be easy for motorcycles with their rapid rate of acceleration, but there are several dangers you can encounter when you overtake a truck.

Here are our four safety tips for passing a truck.

1 Beware the blind spots

Goldwing Facebook page warning photo

When passing a truck, you need to be aware that they have a lot of blind spots that can swallow a small motorcycle.

The Goldwing World Facebook page published the photograph above warning of the extent of these blind spots claiming that all the bikes in the photo are in the truck’s blind spots.

Note that the photo is American, so the positions are reversed for left-hand-drive countries.

Remember, not all trucks, buses and other big vehicles are the same. Fixed vehicles such as vans and buses/coaches have different blind spots to B doubles or prime movers with trailers. There are also extra blind spots for trucks with hoods (eg Mack) rather than cab-over trucks (eg Hino) with flat fronts.

For fixed vehicles, the worst blind spot is close on the inside (left in RHD countries and right for LHD countries) of the vehicle. Most heavy vehicles have blind-spot mirrors, but fast-accelerating bikes can zoom into view so quickly on a slow-moving vehicle, the driver may not have had a chance to see them.

Prime movers also have the problem that when they turn, their mirrors, which are fixed to the prime mover, show only a view of the trailer on one side and a wide view on the other, creating a massive blind spot area.

For trucks like Mack with a big bonnet, almost everywhere from the mirrors forward is a blind spot, especially by the inside fender. Drivers say riders can slip into the gap in front of a truck without them seeing the bike, which could result in a rear-ender as they approach a red traffic light.

2 Overtake quickly

Motorcycles accelerate quickly so passing a truck can only take a couple of seconds.

Despite it being illegal to speed, I always overtake quickly to spend as little time beside the truck as possible.

The above video was recorded in 2016 on the Logan Motorway in Brisbane, but it could happen anywhere.

Just look at the amount of truck tyre debris on our roads. Any one of those tyre blowouts could easily have claimed the life of a rider.

When passing a truck, it’s probably better to risk a speeding fine and ride by quickly than to sit alongside, or if a truck decides to overtake you on a multi-lane road, either speed up or slow down.

Also, take a wide berth by moving into the furthest wheel track of the adjacent lane.

Be aware that the rear trailer on a road train can suddenly wag sideways by a couple of metres.

Road safety crash accident motorcycle overtake
Way too close!

3 Prepare for the blast

Trucks have a lot of wind resistance creating “dirty air” or turbulence that can unsettle a small motorcycle at highway speed.

The worst are not the closed-in trailers, but open trailers such as car carriers and livestock trailers. (Another tip: Don’t follow livestock trailers too closely unless you want to be showered in sh*t!)

Closed-in trailers tend to create “still air” as you pass, then you suddenly get hit by a blast of wind.

So be prepared as you pass, lean forward, hold on tight and power through.

Lane position automated vehicles tailgater blowout
Riders steer clear of trucks

4 Don’t cut in

Don’t cut into the truck’s lane as soon as you pass.

For a start they may not see you and drive right over the top of you at the next set of traffic lights.

Also, if you have to brake suddenly, the truck will have a lot less stopping power than you and will simply drive straight over the top of your motorcycle.

5 Show courtesy

They are bigger than you and they deserve respect.

Also, if you show a little courtesy, truckies will show some back. Many even flash their indicators to show you when it is safe to pass.

That’s handy as they have a high view and can see a lot further ahead.

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Group Riding Best Practices

motorcycle group riding
Riding in a group, especially in busy urban areas, can be either fun and empowering or stressful and even dangerous. Follow the guidelines in this story, and hopefully your next group ride will be an enjoyable and safe experience.

For some, group riding is a quintessential part of the motorcycling experience, a rolling social gathering that happens as naturally as a family party. It’s a fun way to keep a group together when traveling, and modern communication technology has only made it easier. Yet even seasoned riders, if they spend most of their time solo or don’t know the others in the group well, can feel a bit unsure about the rules, expectations and etiquette of group riding. So to help you navigate the dos and don’ts of riding in a group and become the person everyone likes to ride with, we’ve put together this handy primer.

The Basics

Staggered formation. You’ve probably noticed how groups of riders space themselves out within their lane; we call this “staggered formation.” The purpose is pretty simple: it allows each rider a clear view ahead, along with space to the side for any quick or sudden maneuvering in the case of road hazards like potholes, rocks, critters, debris, etc. The leader is typically in the left portion of the lane, rider No. 2 is in the right portion, rider No. 3 in the left and so on. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends spacing yourself so that there is a two-second gap between you and the rider directly in front of you (see graphic below). As speeds increase, that means a longer distance, and at slow speeds (especially in heavy traffic areas) that means closing ranks and tightening up the formation.

Who rides where? Put an experienced, responsible rider in the lead position. The leader should obviously know the route you’re taking. The least experienced rider in the group goes next, in the No. 2 position behind and to the right of the leader. The last position, also called the “sweep,” should be another highly experienced rider. The sweeper should carry a first aid kit and tools, and should also know the route in case the group gets separated.

MSF staggered formation
Staggered formation is fundamental to group riding. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends maintaining a two-second gap between you and the rider directly in front of you, and roughly a one-second gap between you and the next rider in the formation. At slower speeds, that means tightening the ranks. Graphic courtesy the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

Group size. Try to keep your group manageable — between five and seven riders is a good size. If necessary, break up large groups into smaller ones. 

Lane changes. Good leaders will be watching their mirrors, and will wait until there is a large enough space for the whole group to move over. Sometimes that’s just not possible, in which case the riders make individual lane changes, returning to their positions within the new lane. Maintain your speed when changing lanes! Remember that there are riders behind you who need to move over as well.

Communication. This is especially important in a group. The leader will often activate his or her turn signals early; following riders should also use their signals, essentially passing the message back. Some groups also like to use hand signals for upcoming turns: left arm straight out to the side for a left turn, left arm raised at a 90-degree angle for a right turn. There are a few other “universal” hand signals in the moto world: extending a hand down and opening and closing your fist tells another rider their turn signal is still on, and sticking a foot or hand out indicates a hazard in the road on either the left or right side. Below is a chart from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation showing some other common hand signals. Each group has their own way of communicating, so don’t be afraid to ask before you leave!

MSF hand signals
This chart from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation shows common hand signals used in group riding. Still, you should always check with your group to see if they use any special signals or ways of communicating.

Curves. When the road gets twisty, throw the staggered formation out the window. Forming a single file line gives you the space you need to lean and adjust your line if necessary. Remember this might also mean giving the rider ahead of you some extra space. 

Passing. Never blindly follow riders ahead of you when they pull out to pass a car. Move over to the left portion of the lane and wait until you have a clear view of the road ahead. That may mean waiting until the rider in front of you is safely back in the lane ahead of the vehicle you’re passing. Then check your mirror to make sure another speed demon isn’t trying to make the pass from behind you.

Being passed. Being passed by a single vehicle is easy: just let them go. There may be times when the vehicle doesn’t have the room to get around the whole group in one go. Don’t take offense, even if they’re obviously just being impatient. Open up a space and let them back in. There’s no sense in riding too close and putting yourself and the rest of your group in danger. 

But what if it’s another group of riders passing yours? Well, first off get in the habit of watching your mirrors (see Advanced Course below). That way you won’t be startled when riders start blasting past you. As the sweep rider, if you see another group approaching from behind, move to the right and wave them past. This lets them know that a) you see them, and b) you’re going to maintain your position to the right to safely allow them to pass. As a mid-pack or lead rider, keep an eye on your mirrors. If the headlight of the bike behind you moves to the right, look for passing riders and move right as well, waving them by. This can take time as the second group filters past, but just hold your right-side line and give your fellow riders a wave as they move on.

Staying together and on-track. Each group has its own procedure for this, and it’s something that should be discussed before you leave. Some groups prefer to stay in a pack at all times, with the leader pulling over immediately if you get separated, for example at a red light. Others, especially on long trips or when riding off-road, use the buddy system or back-marker technique. When approaching a turn or confusing intersection, check your mirrors. If you don’t see the rider behind you, pull over and wait. Basically you’re making sure that each turn is marked, and the sweep rider can pick up any stragglers.

Advanced Course

Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s talk about being a better group rider. Instead of blindly following the tail of the rider in front of you like a bored packhorse, being aware and proactive will make you a more proficient, safer rider with whom others want to ride!

Awareness. This is something you should be practicing anytime you’re on the bike, not just in a group. You’re always scanning ahead, checking your mirrors and watching the patterns of other drivers, right? Don’t get lazy just because you’re surrounded by your “pack!” Watch your leader. If your group is stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle and the leader starts to peer around them, you can guess that a pass is imminent. Be ready to change lanes or pass quickly, safely and efficiently, keeping the whole group moving. If you’re on a multi-lane highway, the sweep rider could move over early and “set a pick” for the riders ahead, keeping the lane open for them to easily slide over.

Look farther than 20 feet ahead of you. See that “stale” green traffic light that could be getting ready to turn yellow? Be prepared for the rider in front of you to hit the brakes if the light changes. See the guy in the SUV in the next lane over, slowing down and looking over his shoulder? He likely wants to change lanes — keep an eye on him, and consider slowing to let him in, especially if your group is a large one.

Go with the flow. Group riding rules are not always black and white. For example, on long highway stretches it’s common for the group to spread out as everyone finds their own pace. Just be sure that you follow your group’s established procedure for back marking at turns. In areas of heavy traffic and slow speeds, try to keep your formation tight. Don’t be “that rider,” who dawdles and allows large gaps to form between you and the rider(s) ahead, then bolts through yellow lights at the last second, leaving those behind high and dry or forced to attempt to make the light. If your group hits some twisties and you find that you can’t keep up, don’t worry, just ride at your own pace. Wave the rider(s) behind you past if they want to go faster; at minimum, the sweep rider will stay with you and the rest of the group will wait for you to catch up ahead. This is part of the fun of group riding: you know your “pack” will take care of you.

Try to be consistent. It’s a lot easier to ride with people who are predictable. Hold your line, be smooth and steady with your speed and pay attention to your surroundings. Your fellow riders will thank you!

Final Exam

No, there isn’t actually a final exam, but I do want to leave you with this parting advice, and it’s the most important: ride your own ride.

Ultimately, we are all responsible for ourselves and only ourselves. Even though you’re in a group of other riders, you alone are in control of your bike and are therefore on a solo ride. If the group is doing stuff that makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Ride your own pace, don’t run the red light even though the two riders ahead of you did, and if you need to take a break, signal to your group and pull over. And don’t attempt an unsafe pass — your group won’t leave you behind.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Storm Chaser: The Dangers That Follow Heavy Rains

Flooded street
Rising water during an isolated storm floods the road and drags gravel, silt and debris onto the roadway.

The sun may be shining now, but the dangers associated with that recent downpour may still be lingering around the next corner.

Many of the roads we love most meander along streams and rivers. During a storm, those ribbons of water often flood the adjacent roadway and then recede, leaving a mess of trouble for the rider. Even in areas where no stream is nearby, rushing water can instantly appear as storm runoff descends from hillsides, sloping yards and steep driveways during a heavy downpour. The waters rage across the road surface, dragging rocks, sticks, tree branches and an abundance of mud.

None of us likes to ride in foul weather. But, while we may be mindful of danger when dark clouds and lightning appear, we often forget about risk once the sun emerges and the road surface dries. When rain has moved on, it’s easy for us to move on as well, picking up the pace and riding as if everything is normal. But road conditions are often not back to “normal” in the hours — or even days — following a severe storm.

dirty road surface
Just a few hours after the storm, the sun shines and the road dries, but dangerous silt and debris can catch the unsuspecting rider by surprise.

Look for uneven color on the road. Light tan areas on the surface may be fine silt that has been washed onto the road by recent flooding. It is usually seen in low spots on the road and can be particularly slippery, especially in the middle of a turn. Be even more vigilant to look for dark areas that may indicate remaining damp areas — especially in the shadows. These dark spots can be as slippery as grease and could put a rider down instantly if the bike is leaned or if brakes or throttle are applied while riding through it. If you can’t avoid it, coast through with no throttle or brake adjustments while staying as upright as possible.

Notice unusual collections of gravel, dirt and debris at the road’s edge. That’s a sign that water has crested above the road level recently. And a good indicator there may be large areas of debris up ahead.

While you’re at it, scan side roads and gravel driveways for ruts and washouts that may suggest debris has washed out onto the road surface up ahead.

We’ve all heard talk about the calm before the storm. But for the rider, it’s the calm after the storm that we need to be extra mindful of.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Before Help Arrives: Being Prepared in the Event of a Motorcycle Accident

During the first few minutes after TJ’s crash, he was woozy and in some pain. Once the adrenaline wore off, his condition became more serious. But without first aid training all we knew to do was call for help.

Like it or not, accidents happen. Fortunately, they tend to be rare events, and when they do happen they’re often minor, such as a parking lot tip over that does more harm to our pride than our body or bike. But sometimes accidents are more serious. Sand or gravel may cause us to lose traction. We may overcook a decreasing-radius corner. Or we may have a close encounter with a car or a leaping deer.

As responsible motorcyclists, we owe it to ourselves, our friends and our loved ones to be prepared in case an accident happens. If we’re riding in or near an urban area, then we can usually count on having a cell signal, the ability of first responders to access the scene quickly and the proximity of a hospital. But even in urban areas it could take up to 30 minutes or longer for an ambulance to arrive on the scene.

What should you do until help arrives? And what if the accident happens when you’re riding out in the country or other remote area? Those are exactly the sort of places we love to ride, where we can escape from the city or suburbia to enjoy winding roads and off-the-beaten-path scenery. How would you call for help? And even if you can call for help, how long will it take for an ambulance or helicopter to arrive?

A few years ago, during a dual-sport ride with friends, our buddy TJ crashed his GS on a downhill, landing on his right shoulder. He was woozy and in pain, but he was able to get up, remove his helmet and speak coherently. After a few minutes, TJ told us his fingers were numb, his arm felt cold and he had a history of heart problems. We were lucky. We had a weak cell signal and were able to use my GPS to provide precise coordinates to the 911 dispatcher, and an off-duty paramedic and a nurse happened to be in the area and attended to TJ while we waited for a helicopter. TJ was airlifted to a hospital where he was treated for a dislocated shoulder, a chipped bone in his upper arm and a bruised collarbone. 

We were relieved that first responders were able to provide assistance and evacuation so quickly, but what struck me about that incident was my ignorance of what to do other than dial 911. Recently I completed a weekend-long Wilderness First Aid course put on by NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School. Aimed at those who recreate outdoors where emergency medical response can be expected in less than eight hours, the course teaches the Patient Assessment System, basic first aid and how to make evacuation decisions.

As luck would have it, members of the Pathfinders militia were training in the area, and a nurse and a paramedic from the group attended to TJ until a helicopter arrived. Since help is rarely available in remote areas, it’s good to be prepared with first aid training, a first aid kit and a reliable way to contact first responders.

One of the teachers was Dave Craig, a Senior Instructor at NOLS who is a Wilderness EMT as well as a motorcyclist. He enjoys long, exploratory rides on his Suzuki DR650S throughout Arizona and down into Mexico. When I asked Craig how wilderness first aid applies to motorcycling, he said, “When it comes to first response to a motorcycle accident, whether in remote areas or not, there are several important elements. First, secure the scene to prevent further injuries.” This is the first step in the Patient Assessment System (see sidebar below). If the accident occurs on the road or a popular trail, enlist friends or bystanders to control oncoming traffic, and beware of other potential hazards. If the injured rider is trapped under his or her motorcycle, make sure the bike is picked up safely without putting you or others at risk.

“Second, you should be prepared with training and materials to attend to threats to life,” said Craig. “Take a first aid/CPR course and always carry a first aid kit with medical gloves. For the injured rider, first assess the ABCs — Airway, Breathing and Circulation, and check for serious bleeding. Next, evaluate D — Disability; in particular, do you need to protect the spine? And E — Expose any injuries so they can be examined.” This is part of the initial assessment in the Patient Assessment System, which is the first priority after the scene has been secured.

Many believe you should never remove a motorcyclist’s helmet if he or she has been in an accident. However, a full-face helmet’s chinbar covers the rider’s mouth, making it difficult to check airway and breathing. (A flip-up or modular helmet allows a rider’s face to be exposed without removing the helmet.) Also, if the accident occurs in a remote area where it could be an hour or longer until help arrives, removing the helmet allows the rider’s head to be examined for injury and helps keep them cool and comfortable. Whether or not the helmet is removed, ensure that the rider’s head is supported to protect the spine. 

“And third, after completing a thorough patient assessment, you need to have a way to contact emergency services in the areas in which you ride,” Craig said. At a minimum you should carry a cell phone, but a satellite communicator, such as those made by Garmin or SPOT (see Resources), is a great backup because they work anywhere and transmit precise location coordinates to first responders. Be sure to keep your phone and/or communicator in your pocket rather than on your bike in case you and your bike go separate ways in an accident, particularly if you’re riding solo.

Accidents are emotionally charged situations — for the rider(s) involved and for bystanders. If you witness an accident or are one of the first to arrive on the scene, it’s important to stay calm and help keep others calm. Assess the situation before diving in; help secure the scene and act in a thorough, deliberate manner. Just as motorcycle skills training prepares us to be better riders, hands-on first aid training prepares us to act with confidence so we can assist the injured as well as first responders. Always have emergency contact and personal medical information on your person in an easy-to-find location, as well as a first aid kit, a cell phone and, if traveling in remote areas, a satellite communicator.

Roadguardians.org offers an 8-hour Accident Scene Management Bystander Assistance Program for motorcyclists.

Patient Assessment System

Scene Size-up

Identify hazards to self, other rescuers, bystanders, patient.

Determine mechanism of injury.

Form a general impression of seriousness.

Determine the number of patients.

Protect yourself with body substance isolation (e.g., wear gloves).

Initial Assessment

Obtain consent, assess for responsiveness and protect the spine.

A – Airway: Open the airway; look in the mouth and clear obvious obstructions.

B – Breathing: Look, listen and feel.

C – Circulation: Check pulse at the neck; look and sweep body for severe bleeding.

D – Disability: Decide if further spine protection is needed.

E – Expose and examine major injuries.

Secondary Assessment

Head-to-toe examination (look, listen, feel, smell, ask)

Measurement of vital signs (responsiveness, heart rate, skin, respiration, temperature, pupils)

Medical history (chief complaint; SAMPLE — Symptoms, Allergies, Medications, Past history, Last intake/output, Events)

Source: “NOLS Wilderness Medicine, 6th Edition” (see Resources below)



Accident Scene Management Bystander Assistance Program for motorcyclists; 8-hour course; visit roadguardians.org 

American Red Cross Adult First Aid/CPR/AED Course; 6-hour course (certification valid for two years); visit redcross.org 

NOLS Wilderness First Aid Course; 16 hours over two days (certification valid for two years); visit nols.edu

“NOLS Wilderness Medicine, 6th Edition,” by Ted Schimelpfenig (Chapter 1 covers the Patient Assessment System in detail); $16.95, visit store.nols.edu

First Aid Kits/Supplies

American Red Cross’ online store sells a variety of first aid kits, supplies and instructional books; visit redcross.org/store

NOLS Med Kits are made by Adventure Medical Kits and range from the basic, 3.7-ounce Med Kit 1.0 ($16.95) to the well-stocked, 25-ounce Med Kit 5.0 ($84.99); resupply packs and individual supplies also available; add a NOLS Wilderness Medicine Pocket Guide for $4.99; visit store.nols.edu

Personal Medical Information

Smartphones typically have easily accessible medical information and an emergency contact, as well as the ability to dial 911, directly from the home or lock screen. Look up the details for your device and fill in the forms as completely as possible.

Rescue Facts Emergency Pack, which attaches to apparel or helmet with hook-and-loop, contains a rewritable medical information form so it is easily accessible by first responders; $10, visit aerostich.com

Satellite Communicators

Garmin makes several products with inReach technology that allows two-way text messaging and S.O.S. signals via the global Iridium satellite network; starting at $349.99 plus required service plan; visit garmin.com 

SPOT makes one-way (Gen3) and two-way (SPOT X) satellite communicators for sending text messages and S.O.S. signals; starting at $149.99 plus required service plan; visit findmespot.com

Source: RiderMagazine.com

The Importance of Hydration on Your Motorcycle

Stayed properly hydrated while riding your motorcycle is vitally important. Ideally you’ll avoid dehydration, but if it occurs re-hydrating isn’t as simple as pounding a bunch of water.

The first step to addressing a problem is to first acknowledge that you have a problem. With that, I openly admit to all of you that I have a serious non-drinking problem. Despite years as a professional motorcycling safety expert, I habitually fail to hydrate before, during and after a ride. In excess, I don’t drink.

If you are one of the many riders like me who forgets to drink enough water, here are some indicators of dehydration and a handful of steps you can take to break your non-drinking habit.

Recognize the warning signs

If you ride for long periods without urgency to stop at a rest area to relieve yourself, you may be dehydrated. When you do go, if your pee is dark yellow, that’s a warning sign as well. If you drink a lot of coffee instead of water, you may have to go more frequently but are actually flushing out vital water reserves since coffee acts as a mild diuretic.

If your skin, mouth, lips and eyes are dry, you may be low on H2O. Similarly, if you find yourself becoming fatigued or achy, or are beginning to experience headaches, don’t wait; you’re overdue to rehydrate.

In extreme dehydration, you may become dizzy, experience elevated heartbeat and rapid breathing, or even become confused and disoriented. At that point, consider it an emergency; it’s time to get help as soon as possible.

Avoiding dehydration

Begin to drink water in the hours before you hit the road. Don’t think you can just down a large bottle of water minutes before hopping on the bike. It doesn’t work that way. Drink smaller amounts more often so your body can absorb instead of pass the vital fluid.

Pack bottles of water and make a point to refill yourself each time you refill your gas tank or stop to stretch your legs. One of the easiest ways to stay hydrated en route is to take a water bladder with you (such as those made by Camelbak). They are typically wearable and include a hose that you can sip from as you ride. Add ice to keep that water cool and refreshing.

Keep the drinking habit going after the sidestand is down for the day to continue to replenish your body and prepare for the next day’s journey.

By being more conscious of the issue and following these guidelines, I’ve begun to control my own non-drinking problem. As I do, I can ride for hours and still feel fresh at the end of the day. Hopefully these steps will help you as well. Now drink up! 

Source: RiderMagazine.com