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Rules For Group Riding

When riding with just a small handful of friends, the rules of the ride are very lax, and often unspoken. However, when riding with a pack of 15 or more scooters, more formal organization has to be maintained. While there are pages and pages of published material on group riding "rules" here is a brief run-down of what you will need to know prior to riding with us.

Disclaimer: Motor scooters are potentially-dangerous motor vehicles, and the group can in no way guarantee your safety and cannot be held legally-responsible for any injuries or damages sustained on a group ride. You are responsible for your own safety.

Pack Leader and Tail

All group rides have a Leader as well as a Tail. The task of the group Leader is to maintain the integrity of the group. The leader will explain the route before the ride begins, and will set the pace of that ride. The Tail also maintains group control, and will assist with the initial pull-out, blocking oncoming traffic so as not to separate the group, and to ensure everyone made it into line. Both roles have many jobs during the ride, but this is the most basic explanation.

Group Formation

The formation of the group begins with the Leader (of course). Generally, the lesser-experienced riders will be put directly behind the leader. Other more experienced riders will be placed somewhere in the middle as well, to aid in occasions where the pack might get split up, or if some other issues arise that are not immediately visible by the Leader or the Tail.

Of the first importance is to understand the staggered formation. It's simple but it is very important. When not riding single-file, the leader will be to the left side of the road (closest to the yellow line), the next rider will maintain position on the right side (closer to the shoulder), the third rider will stay to the left, the fourth to the right, and so on. Each rider should be about 1-3 seconds in distance away from the rider in front of and behind them, as well. This gives each rider a good buffer between the other riders, and will help avoid collisions in the event of sudden stops, or if the scooter in front of you has a sudden engine problem or accident. Like I said, it's a simple rule, but it's very important - so keep to your correct side!

When riding, keep proper distance (as I said, distance will vary depending upon speed and terrain), but when coming to a stop (such as at an intersection) close ranks double-file, so that the group will be more compact. Also, do not let TOO much space open up between yourself and the next rider, or you run the risk of a car taking up that space, splitting the group.

Stop Signs and Stoplights

In transit there will undoubtedly be stop signs and lights. It's unavoidable. When approaching a stop sign group integrity must be maintained. The leader will stop at the intersection and will wait until the whole group is stopped and ready to proceed once there is a large enough gap in traffic. Once the Leader begins the pack, do not stop at the stop sign, continue on through it. Though it's correct to come to a complete stop when riding by yourself, the whole pack needs to act as a unit, otherwise too much distance will open up between riders for cars to get into and separate the group.

Stoplights are a different matter. Just like with regular riding, red means red. If the light has been green for some time the leader will likely slow down and prepare to stop, assuming that it will turn red before the whole pack is through. When the Leader proceeds past the green light the group should follow through safely and quickly (the slower we go the more likely for the group to separate, but not TOO fast, for obvious reasons). If the light starts turning, stop and wait with everyone else behind you. The pack will signal forward to the Leader (horn signalling), and the front end of the pack will either slow down or pull off to the side to wait for the rest of the pack.

Signals

Horn Signal: If there is an occurance that the Leader needs to know about (pack split by a stoplight, engine trouble, an accident, etc) sound your horn and hold it for a couple seconds (rather than a quick toot, which could mean anything). The next people in line ahead of you will also signal with their horns, up the line until the leader is aware of the issue, and will act accordingly.

Hand Signals: Yelling gets us nowhere, so hand signals are used to communicate between riders. The leader will usually start the signal, other riders will follow suit so the rider behind them knows the plan. We keep these to a minimum so as to avoid confusion, so they will be easy to remember (note, there are visual aids saved in the VTScoot Yahoo Group "Files" section)...

  • "Slow Down": Left arm extended out, palm facing down, swing arm downward (like petting a dog). This means the pack is to slow its speed, probably due to road conditions or a sudden change in traffic flow.
  • "Speed Up": Same as above, only the palm is facing upward and the motion is also upward. If the pack is travelling too slowly this too can be a problem (especially when frustrated and aggressive drivers get stuck behind a pack of scooters going slower than the car wants to go - these drivers often behave stupidly and dangerously).
  • "Single-File": Left arm and index finger extended striaght up. Road conditions may dictate everyone travel single-file behind the Leader for a variety of reasons (twisty roads, bicyclists, a car pulled over to the side, etc).
  • "Double-File": Same as above, only there are two fingers extended upward.
  • "Hazzard In Road": Deep potholes, roadkill, broken glass, gravel or sand, and other debris can be very dangerous for two-wheeled motorists. When encountering this, point your left index finger down toward the hazzard in the road, or if it's on the right side, point your right foot down toward it.
  • "Cancel Turn Signal": Every ride is guilty of this once in awhile, of failing to cancel the turn signal after a turn or merge has been completed. This can be confusing to the other riders who rely on your turn signals to know when legitimate turns are coming up. To signal "Hey, cancel your turn signal" open-close-open-close your hand with thumb and fingers extended.
  • "Heavy Metal": When a rider puts his left arm into the air and extends his index finger and pinky, it simply means that Kevin is having a good time - you don't have to do anything other than tolerate him.

Cars and Trucks

We're not the only ones out on the road, unfortunately we also must share our roads with 4-wheeled vehicles. Just like when riding alone, these other motorists are a constant hazzard that must be taken into account. Thankfully, most drivers in Vermont tend to be very couteous and accomodating (we're a pretty easy-going population), but this isn't always the case. When encountering a pack of motor scooters, motorists can become impatient (they view us like they view garbage trucks and city busses: something slow and obnoxious that is keeping them from getting where they need to be, at the rate of speed they deem appropriate), so always keep an eye out for them - they will never cease to amaze you with the depths of "bad idea" they will sink to in order to get around you, or force their way into the middle of the pack. So always be aware of them.

Some drivers will make their intentions very well-known, and you'll know immediately which car (like, oh I dunno - a performance-tuned Acura full of teenage boys?) might be prone to acting suddenly and aggressively. Don't change your riding (ie; slowing down, speeding up, or merging toward the right) unless the Leader directs the pack to do so. Don't let the car distract you, but at the same time, keep an eye on them.

Likewise, if a car has placed itself into an opening between the pack of riders, do not change your riding unless directed by the Leader to do so. The Leader will direct the front half of the pack if it's neccessary to pull off the road, and the riders behind the car should continue onward and follow the planned route (unless signalled to pull off the road). If we were riding faster motorcycles a complicated maneuver of speeding up and passing the car might be the solution, but this is not a luxury we can employ - so just be patient, chances are the car will disappear before it becomes too much of a nuisance.

Other Rules to Ride By

Before you attend a group ride, if you are inexperienced be sure to tell the pack Leader so they will know how to manage you. If the route of travel, the speed or the length of the ride is beyond your abilities it is your responsibility to inform the Leader, who will decide to either change the route or perhaps even suggest you come to a future ride. We will try our best to accomodate all riders as best we can, but for your own safety and the safety of others Never ride above your abilities!

If the ride is to be an average of 40+mph, and your scooter is a 50cc which can only go 30mph, you'll need to inform the Leader for the same reasons listed above.

No stunting, no speeding, no buzzing the other riders, or any other activity that may be considered dangerous or illegal. This should be common sense, but I'm mentioning it all the same.

Come to the pre-ride meeting with your gas tank full and your bladder empty. there will be plenty of opportunities along to way to empty one and fill the other, but at the beginning of the ride we need to be ready to go.

If you need to leave early, be sure to inform someone! Never just break away and ride off without telling someone, or we might think we have accidentally lost a rider and spend the next hour looking for you!

Don't fix your attention on the bike in front of you, scan the roadway for possible hazzards, just like when riding alone.

....................................................................................................
Article by Kevin Montanaro

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