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- Get there on time. Eat before you leave unless you are meeting at a restruant. Be gassed up, packed up, geared up and ready to go
Have a Group Meeting Before You Leave
- Agree on the route, fuel stops, rest stops and discuss potentially hazardous or problematic locations along the route before you leave. Assign a group leader and tail sweep before leaving, both of whom should be among of the most experienced riders in the group. Have the group leader demonstrate and describe the hand signals to the entire group to avoid confusion later. Assign a riding order keeping the less experienced riders near the front of the group.
Keep the Size of the Group Manageable
- If there are more than seven or eight riders, break the group into smaller groups to avoid losing parts of the group along the way and to minimize traffic issues.
Ride in a Staggered Formation
- The group leader should ride in the left one-third of the lane, the next rider should ride no closer than one second behind the group leader in the right one-third of the lane. The next rider no closer than one second behind the second rider in the left one-third of the lane and so on. This means that no rider will be less than two seconds behind the rider directly in front of them, allowing you to swerve to avoid road hazards or perform a quick stop if required without hitting the back of the rider in front.
- Constantly stay alert so that you can maintain the proper spacing and frequently check your rear view mirrors to check on the riders behind you. If you see riders behind you falling back then slow down to maintain the proper distance between each rider.
If You get Separated From the Group, Don’t Panic.
- If you, or part of your group becomes separated from the group, simply continue to ride safely to the next checkpoint. Do not speed to catch up to the group, the group leader will wait for you at the next scheduled stop.
Even those who try to confine their motorcycle riding to fair weather days are going to get caught in the rain now and again. For those of us who ride our bikes every day, we get a lot of practice at it. There are a number of things that you can do to keep yourself safer and more comfortable when the rain comes pouring down. The main factors for safety and comfort when riding a motorcycle in the rain are:
- Protection from the elements
- Being seen
- Aditional Hazards
- Being able to see
Protection From the Elements
First, it’s important to have proper rain gear and to keep it with you, if there is any chance of rain. On the really inexpensive side of the equation, one can get a rain suit from Wal Mart or Target and those really work pretty well, so if you are very cost-conscious, you can get something that will keep the rain off of you for fifteen or twenty dollars. On the other side of the equation there are, again, two ways you can go. One is the urathane or pvc route, which provides great protection from the rain, but does not breath. The other alternative is the waterproof breathable types of rainsuits. Most of the rainsuits made specifically for motorcycle riders are of they urathane or pvc types. They have the advantage of being made to fit over your other riding gear, and many are made from highly visible colors and may have reflective stripes or panels to increase your visibililty to motorists. The primary disadvantage is that they can become pretty steamy on the inside on a warm day. The other type of rain gear is made of windproof and waterproof fabric that "breathes" to allows moisture inside the suit to be wicked away from your body. These rainsuits are much more comfortable when the weather is warm. One manufacturer, Frogg Toggs, has a rainsuit the Pro Action (PA102) that sells for between $60 and $70 dollars, depending on size. This rainsuit is is quite comfortable, when it is raining or just when it gets a little cool. Whichever way you decide to go, don’t forget to keep your rainsuit handy when you are riding.
The second factor that creates problems when riding in the rain is that even though motorcyclists seem to be virtually invisible to many drivers on a bright clear day, we become totally invisible when the rain starts. So, while this advice may be more relevant when it rains, it’s still important even when it’s clear. If you normally ride with your headlight on low beam, make sure to set it to high beam and leave it there. Wear clothing that is as conspicuous as you can possibly find. Yellow seems to be one of the easiest colors to see on a moving object (which is why tennis balls are yellow) so if you can find a yellow rainsuit, that will help a lot. Reflective strips or patches also help when cars have their lights on, so it never hurts to tape some on to your rain gear if it isn’t already built in to it. If you have emergency flashers on your bike, and you think that the rain is coming down hard enough to warrant turning them on, then do it. Anything that you can do to make others see you will help keep you alive. The excuse that is almost always given when a car violates the right of way of a motorcyclist and causes him serious injury or death is, "I didn’t see him." Do as much as you can to keep someone from using that excuse about you.
Since motorcycles only have two wheels, tire traction is a very, very important. Over the last few decades, tire manufacturers have come a long way in increasing the traction available on motorcycle tires. Normally, you will have about 80% of the traction in the rain that you have on a dry road. However, when it firsts starts raining or when it is just drizzling, the oil, antifreeze, grease and other automotive goo sits on top of the water and makes the roadway very slick. The most prudent action is to pull over somewhere dry when it first starts to rain, and have a cup of coffee or a coke until this stuff has a chance to wash away. Most likely you’ll need to pull over to put on your rain gear anyway, if you’ve waited till it starts to rain before putting it on. So while you’re there, let the rain wash away some of the slippery stuff before you get back on the road. Even then, try to avoid the grease strip down the center of the lanes as much as possible, and exercise more caution than usual when you put your foot down at a stop. Since, under the best circumstances, you have about 80% of the traction that you do under perfect conditions, be sure to follow the traffic ahead of you a little farther back than usual. If you normally stay two or three seconds behind the car in front of you, increase your distance to three or four seconds, giving yourself that little extra margin of safety that could mean the difference between stopping safely and doing a face plant into the back of a pickup truck.
There are a couple of other things to think about when riding in the rain as well. Don’t forget that the painted lane stripes and turn arrows can be very slick when it rains. I have known several riders to go down suddenly and with fairly severe injuries resulting, when they crossed lane stripes in a turn. Avoid them as much as possible, but when you must cross them, make sure that your lean angle is slight. The last point about traction in the rain, is hydroplaining. Hyrdoplaining occurs when your motorcycle’s tires do not shed enough water to allow the contact patch (that part of the tire where the rubber meets the road) to contact the pavement. Instead, your tire rides on top of the water on the road. When this happens, it’s like your bike is on ice skates. Most likely the first thing you will feel is the rear end wobbling, the wobbling will then work its way forward until you’ve got a full blown tank slapper going (where the handlebars occilate wildly hitting the gas tank on each side as they do so) and then in the next instant you’re sliding down the highway on your keester. I have known two riders just this year that have experienced this phenomenon. While neither incident was fatal, due to wearing proper protective gear, both bikes were totalled and both riders were hospitalized. So, remember to take it a little easy when it’s raining, always make sure your tires have plenty of tread depth and as much as possible, without doing something foolish, avoid the puddles that build up on the road. Usually it is best to drive in the dry strips left by the automobiles and trucks ahead of you.
Being Able to See in the Rain
While other drivers are having more trouble seening you in the rain, you are going to have your own problems seeing. Most likely they are going to be more profound than theirs, since you’re not sitting in a dry car with the windshield wipers sweeping the rain away. If you are not wearning any eye protection, you will soon find out just how badly raindrops sting the eyeball at fifty or sixty miles an hour, your best bet is to just pull over somewhere dry, wait it out, and remind yourself to buy a pair of goggles at your next opportunity. I’ll assume this poor foolsih fellow isn’t you, but instead you are either wearing some form of eye protection or even better have a visor protecting your entire face from the elements. Even with your eyes protected by goggles or a visor, it quickly gets hard to see. You have to combat both fogging from the inside and rain drops building up on the outside. There are a number of products that will reduce fogging and hopefully you have recently applied some. In a pinch, however, scuba divers have found that spit works pretty well at keeping diving masks free from fog, so if you find yourself fogging up and spit is all you have, you might want to give it a try. There are a number of products that help keep the rain from building up on the outside of a visor, and even some good old Honda polish (one of man’s best friends along with duct tape and WD40), will do a lot to keep the rain streaming off of your visor. However, you should never use a product like Rain-X on your visor, windshield, goggles or any other plastic, since it contains chemicals that will cause permanent fogging of the plastic over time. There’s also a handy little gadget I’ve found that fits over your finger and can be used as a squeegee to wipe the rain away as you ride. It works like a champ. Riding in the rain isn’t that uncomfortable, or that unsafe as long as you make sure to be prepared, slow down, make sure that you can see and be seen, and ride safely.