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Ride Out Procedures

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One of the reasons people join us is to meet others who share the enjoyment of riding. It is therefore important to learn and understand the dynamics of group riding. This guide has been developed to provide riders with information regarding group riding with the Black Mountains Chapter. The Chapter plans many rides throughout the year. When participating on Chapter ride-outs we want everyone to ride safely and within their own capabilities at all times. It is important that you give respect and consideration to other members whose riding style and comfort zone may differ from your own. These guidelines will inform members of riding techniques with the intention of adopting the Chapter standards of group riding. However it is expected that members are capable and competent of riding progressively in a group within the speed limits.  Group riding techniques such as 'Second Man Drop' and the `Buddy System' will be explained further in these guidelines.


Group Introductory Rides will be held for new and current members who wish to refresh their riding skills.  A calendar of Black Mountains Chapter ride-outs and many other activities are available on the Black Mountains Chapter, Wales website.


Please note that members are individually responsible for their own actions when participating on chapter rides and you are deemed to be in control of, and responsible for your vehicle and your riding at all times irrespective of any guidance or instruction from any member of the Road Crew. You must at all times observe the Highway Code and conform to Road Traffic Regulations. Ultimately, each rider is responsible for their own safety.


Road Captains and Marshals

We are fortunate to have a dedicated, well-trained group of Road Captains and Marshals who strive to offer members an extensive ride schedule to exciting locations. Each Road Captain and Marshal is experienced with planning and participating in-group rides. A number of them are trained in First Aid and will carry First Aid Kits.

Black Mountains Chapter, Wales Road Captains and Marshals:

  • Choose routes and destinations in a variety of locations

  • Pre-ride each destination to ensure the safety of our riders

  • Select the restaurants/venues we use

  • Road Captains assign a Sweeper, Breakdown and Road Marshals to assist riders as needed and ensure a safe and progressive ride out.

  • Road Captains plan rest and petrol stop requirements based on the fuel capacity of bikes such as Sportsters and VRods. If the group stops for petrol and a comfort break, take advantage of the time to hydrate, use the toilets, or adjust your riding gear. We typically stop for a 20-minute break every 60 - 90 minutes. On occasion, we may ride up to two hours without a break; however, this is an exception.


Ride-Out Preparation

Before leaving home do a P.O.W.E.R. check on your bike.

P = sufficient petrol / fuel for the journey

O = check oil levels

W = check water levels if applicable

E = electrics check; lights, turn signals and horn etc.

R = rubber; check tyres, tread, pressure.


If your bike is found not to be roadworthy you will be asked to leave the ride-out.  It is the responsibility of each rider to make sure their bike has current insurance and MOT for use on the road.  Check the weather forecast; pack what kit you need, always carry waterproof clothing. It is up to the individual rider to decide what clothing they wish to wear before the ride-out starts, if rain looks likely, consider the wearing of waterproofs.

It is a good idea to plan to arrive at the meeting point 20-30 minutes before the set off time to allow you to say hello to everyone, listen to the briefing and still be ready to leave on time.  Ensure you arrive, at the start point, with a full tank of petrol.  New riders, those who have not ridden with our group before or those running in a new bike should speak to the Lead Road Captain or the Safety Officer If you intend to leave the group during the ride, inform the Lead Road Captain prior to setting off.


The Ride-out Briefing

The Road Captain in charge of the ride-out, known as the Lead Road Captain (LRC), will give the briefing to the group ensuring everybody is aware of what will be happening during the ride. The LRC will welcome and introduce himself and the Road Crew for the day. He will identify the Sweeper, the Breakdown and the Road Marshals. The Lead Road Captain and Sweeper will wear orange reflective tabards and the Road Marshals will wear yellow reflective tabards.


The LRC will give an overview of the destination, the route and planned fuel and rest stops.  The LRC will briefly explain the 'Second Man Drop' system, Staggered Riding technique, Hand Signals and remind riders of the 'two second rule'.  The LRC will also make riders aware of any actual or potential hazard that may be encountered on the route, such as complex road junctions, road surface, etc.  The LRC will also ask for new or inexperienced riders to identify themselves to him so he can give you a more comprehensive briefing.  All members should identify themselves to the nominated Road Captain or Marshal so a list of names of riders and pillion maybe collated for the Ride-out book.  Any guest of a rider who is not a member of the chapter will be asked to sign a release form before being allowed to participate on the ride.  After the briefing the LRC will give all members a five-minute warning to prepare themselves and their bikes for the start of the ride.

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The Basics

The basics of group riding are simple however one must observe the following rules.

Be aware of the position of all members on the ride.

Do not just look at the rear of the bike in front of you. Look into the distance and the riders ahead of you. They will give you some indication of any changes in speed, road layout, road conditions or hazards ahead. Also frequently look into your mirrors to familiarise yourself with the riders around you. The golden rule in-group riding is before you move from your chosen position on the road,



LOOK to the front and rear of your bike to see who is close to you,

SIGNAL to all, your intention of moving from your original position,

MANOEUVRE Into your new position only when safe to do so.


On many ride-outs there are dangerous or complicated junctions or road layouts. These have been highlighted in the Road Captain's planning and it is usual to have those junctions covered by Road Marshals. Please be aware and look out for 'Flying Marshals' overtaking the ride-out to man these junctions in advance of the main group. These Marshals will be wearing yellow reflective tabards and you should allow these Marshals to enter the formation at any stage whilst they work their way to the front of the ride to mark various junctions. When the ride-out stops at junctions, traffic lights or any other enforced stoppage on the road it is important to close up to the other riders side by side. This will keep the group size to a minimum, and will cause less of a hazard and making it more controllable to get as much of the group through the break in traffic as safely as possible. If you wish to leave the ride-out at any time this must be agreed in advance with the LRC.


The Two Second Rule

"Only a fool breaks the 2 second rule". This is the rule of thumb for leaving enough distance between you and the rider in front. In extreme weather conditions one should consider leaving a longer gap to allow for the stopping distance. The prime directive in any group riding is not to hit the bike in front of you! The other side of the coin is to leave too much of a gap in front of you which causes two problems. The ride-out becomes disjointed and hard for the LRC to control the ride and the second is the riders following somebody who is leaving an excessive gap become frustrated and may lead to incidence of dangerous riding.

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Staggered Riding Positions

The group rides in a staggered formation at a safe distance of two seconds to the bike in front of you and one second to the bike to the side of you (diagram A). When riding in staggered position, each bike occupies the same lane. Do not cross the centre of the lane you occupy at any time When riding in staggered formation, be aware of your position at all times. Do not pass bikes in front of you to your left or right. When riding in staggered formation be disciplined, observant and adjust your speed to those around you. Even when riding in staggered formation, ensure you adopt the correct road position when approaching a bend i.e. maximum visibility. Return to staggered formation once the bend is exited.

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Riding in single file is necessary depending on the roads we ride

  • Winding roads

  • Narrow roads

  • High wind conditions on the highway


When single file is necessary, the Lead RC will use the appropriate hand signal.  You do not need to ride directly behind the rider in front of you. Allow two seconds between you and the bike in front of you, which allows you the whole width of your lane for manoeuvring. Allow yourself room to safely manoeuvre and react to the road conditions, and the bike in front of you.


Second Man Drop

This technique is a tried and tested way of getting a large or small group of bikes to a destination without anyone getting lost. This technique is used to mark the route at junctions and roundabouts to inform those who are following the direction the LRC has planned. The technique only works if riders obey the rules of the system so do not panic and move off before being instructed to do so by the Sweeper.  Once the Lead Road Captain (LRC) is satisfied that the group are ready he will lead off with the group behind him forming up into the staggered formation. The rider immediately behind the LRC is known as the 2nd Man. The LRC usually takes up position in the centre of the carriageway or just to the left of the central road markings. The 2nd Man takes a position to the left of the Lead Rider. The rest of the group position themselves in staggered formation from the 2nd Man.  The LRC, on the approach to a junction or roundabout, will clearly indicate to the 2nd Man where he would like that rider to stop and take up a position to mark a deviation of route. The LRC will usually signal this manoeuvre using his left arm and point towards a curb where he expects a 2nd man to drop off. It is your decision to stop at a safe position on the road. If in your opinion you feel vulnerable then select a position where you feel safe however make sure you are still able to give directions to the rest of the group. Whilst in the drop off position stay on your bike with the engine running and look out for the Sweeper who will give you a signal to move off.  During a ride-out the 2nd Man can expect to be dropped off at one of the following places:

Left Turn Junction

The simplest drop-off is the left turn junction. The LRC, when he wants the ride-out to take a left turn, will, as he approaches a left junction, point towards the curb using his left arm. The 2nd Man will indicate left and pull over, placing himself in the required position that is clearly visible to the ride-out members and other traffic. It is useful to keep your left hand indicator flashing as well as pointing to the left with an extended arm to confirm that the ride has turned left. This is the important bit. The 2nd Man will keep this position until he sees the Sweeper who will give them a signal to move off in front of him. On occasions the group being will be strung out due to traffic lights, busy town centres etc. It may be that the 2nd Man will wait for 5 or 10 minutes before seeing another rider come past. Do not panic, wait for the Sweeper, Do not leave your position!


Right Turn Junction

As the LRC approaches a right turn junction, he will indicate a turn right and then, using his left hand, will point once again to the curb. The 2nd Man will pull over to the curb if safe to do so, and then point to the right so that the ride-out can clearly see that the ride-out has taken the right turn at the junction.

Alternately, if the right turn junction is open and has no visible obstructions, then the 2nd Man will take the right turn and then immediately pull over allowing the rest of the ride-out to see that he has taken the right turn junction. Wait for the LRC to signal your drop off point.


Traffic Lights

Traffic lights are treated in the same way as regular road junctions. Should the route for the ride-out be straight through at traffic lights, cross-roads, etc., then there is no requirement for a 2nd Man to drop off; however it is good practice, and reassurance for the ride-out to have a man drop off if practicable.  Roundabouts The LRC, as he takes an exit off a roundabout, will once again point to a curb. The 2nd Man will pull over where it is safe to do so and in sight of the oncoming ride-out and traffic to indicate which exit was taken off the roundabout by the ride-out. The rule is that on entering especially large roundabouts with numerous exits, (some of which are out of your sight), keep going round until you see the 2nd Man.


Ghost Islands

At traffic lights, roundabouts and some large road junctions, ghost islands are used to control traffic. It is rare but on occasions, where safe to do so, a Lead Rider may utilize the ghost island as an early indication marker for the ride-out as they approach the junction/roundabout.  Note that the ghost island can only be used provided there are broken white lines surrounding the ghost island. Be aware that ghost islands may have loose debris accumulated on them and can be slippery hence the use of ghost islands is not encouraged.


Forks in the Road

The rule of thumb on ride-outs is if you are at a junction such as a crossroads, and the ride-out is travelling straight through the junction, then there is no requirement for a drop-off. It is good practice to give assurance to the ride-out to drop off someone; however, sometimes this is not practicable. Should you arrive at a road junction crossroads with no 2ndMan drop-off, continue through the junction on the same road that you approached on.  Confusion can arise where there is a fork in the road however. LRC will indicate a 2nd Man drop off to indicate which forked road is the desired route for the ride-out.


Multiple Drop-offs

Where there is a complex road configuration or busy road traffic, the LRC may choose to drop off more than one person. An example may be a large roundabout where the LRC will indicate a 2nd Man drop off on the approach to a roundabout (perhaps utilizing a ghost island) and then another drop-off at the roundabout exit road.


It's Your Choice

Remember, your safety is your responsibility. The LRC will always consider road safety and drop off options, however road conditions are continually changing and a planned drop-off might not be as originally thought. Always make sure that you stop in a safe position and are well visible to all traffic and the ride-out. If necessary, park up the Harley and stand on a pavement and point to oncoming ride-out to show direction of drop-off route.



In heavy traffic or built-up areas, the ride-out may become heavily fragmented and split up. Be patient and wait for the Sweeper before leaving your designated drop-off point. If you leave too early the ride-out will get split up and the latter part of the ride-out will miss the turn and get lost. If the ride-out does get split up, stay at your drop-off point. The LRC will eventually stop and wait for the ride-out to regroup.  If the ride-out has split, the LRC will organize a Road Captain/Marshal or experienced rider from the group to back-track along the route and pick up the stragglers en route. It is not a rare event to lose part of a ride-out, and 99% of the time, the ride-out is lost simply because ride-out members do not follow these simple rules of dropping off when requested and waiting for the Sweeper.


Re-joining the Ride-out

As the Sweeper approaches the drop-off point, they will slow down to allow the 2nd Man to re-join the group in front of the Sweeper. The rider will then stay at the end of the ride-out taking his place in the staggered formation at the tail end until he is superseded by the next drop-off rider who re-joins the group at the next junction.  If, however, traffic conditions do not allow this, then you must re-join the carriageway when safe to do so and re-join the ride-out. The Sweeper will slow down to allow you to catch up. Once safe to do so, overtake the Sweeper and re-join the Ride-out.  Eventually, if the ride-out duration is long enough and there are ample junctions then the tail end riders will make their way back to the front of the ride-out to become the 2nd Man once again.


Crossing Over-The Unnecessary Hazard.

Probably one of the most hazardous manoeuvres carried out en masse by the ride-out group is the Cross-over. This occurs when the 2nd Man is dropped off and the 3rd Man then becomes promoted into the 2nd Man position behind the LRC. The new 2nd Man crosses the lane from behind (or to the right) of the LRC, to the left of the LRC. The new 3rd Man then has to manoeuvre from the left side of the ride-out to the right and so on all the way through the ride-out until the Sweeper is reached. This is not recommended and the alternative is preferred.


The Alternative.

When the 2nd Man is dropped off the 3rd man will move to the left to take up the new 2nd man position. You, as the new 3rd man, WILL HOLD YOUR POSITION. If you end up immediately behind the 2nd man in the staggered formation do not move just give more time between you and the 2nd man, that is to say a 4 second gap. This method will mean that the remainder of the group will not have to cross over every time a junction is cleared and hence halting one of the most hazardous manoeuvres on the ride-out. This is the preferred method to be used.


The Buddy System

This is the second system used for group riding. The 2nd Man Drop and the Buddy System are two completely different disciplines of Group Riding and should not be used together on any ride-out. The 'Buddy System' is a discipline used in group riding when there are only a small number of riders. There are no designated Lead riders, Sweepers or Breakdown. This system is likely to be used when riding with a small group of friends, on a ride that is not pre-planned. In this system you are allowed to overtake each other when safe to do so and take it in turns to lead the ride. All riders keep their friends in view using their mirrors. Riders will self-deploy at junctions or mark any deviation other than a 'straight on' if the following rider is not in view in his mirror. If this system is used in conjunction with the 2nd Man Drop system then the ride will slow up and become lengthened to an unacceptable distance. One would reduce the ride to a slow crawl and frustrate the members who prefer the more progressive ride-out.



The general rule is that no rider will overtake another rider on a ride-out. If a rider overtakes the Lead Road Captain then you are deemed to no longer be part of the ride. Overtaking on a single carriageway will be instigated by the LRC first. This may be due to a stationary hazard or slow moving traffic. Each following bike will overtake only when safe to do so. If it is safe for more than one bike to overtake at a time they may do so in single file only and not staggered formation. Once you have overtaken the vehicle maintain your speed so that you leave sufficient room for the following bike to come in behind you. Do not slow down hence 'closing the door' and 'leaving him to hang out' in a dangerous position.  When overtaking on a motorway or dual carriageway the same rules apply however be mindful of fast moving traffic in the outside lanes. When the LRC overtakes a slower vehicle maintain your position in the nearside lane until the vehicle you are planning to overtake is within safe overtaking distance. Do not all follow the LRC and block the outside lane causing a hazard and un-necessary congestion. If a bike in front of you is not progressing i.e. leaving an unacceptable gap, failing to overtake slow moving traffic when it is obvious it is safe to do so, or in your opinion riding in a way as to cause a danger to following bikes then overtake when it is safe to do so after alerting the rider of your intention to overtake him. Remember you may have to justify your action to the Road Captain or Safety Officer. If you exercise your right to overtake another rider for any of the above reasons you must inform the LRC or Safety Officer as soon as practicable during or after the ride-out so the incident can be noted.


Progressive Riding

Progressive riding does not mean exceeding the speed limits or riding dangerously. The LRC will always progress the ride within the national speed limit for that road. They will also take into account the prevailing conditions, such as the weather. If adjustment to speed is required then they will implement the change. With that in mind, it is each individual's duty to maintain a speed, which always allows progress to be made. For example, if the road is clear, the weather is fine and the speed limit is 50 mph then the expectation is each rider should maintain a speed on or near the permissible limit. Progress should be made. It is not acceptable to be riding at 30mph in this given situation. The same as riding at 30-40mph on a group ride-out on a motorway. This is totally unacceptable and dangerous. It is worth noting that riding too slow can be as dangerous as riding too fast. The frustration it causes is immense and often results in the following traffic using dangerous manoeuvres to get ahead. To this end, listed below are the national speed limits (other than in a built up area) for bikes.

Single carriageways              60mph

Dual Carriageways                70mph

Motorways                             70 mph



There are occasions when the ride will use motorways, mainly to get to a destination in less time than using the more scenic A and B classified roads. There are potential dangers present when group riding on motorways. Apart from traffic travelling faster and more lanes to negotiate there are two main hazards to prepare yourself for. These are entering and leaving motorway slip roads. The slip roads are designed to allow vehicles to increase their speed before entering or decrease their speed when exiting the motorway. It is not advisable to stay in tight formation whilst carrying out these manoeuvres especially when in a large group. You must be aware that other traffic will want to enter your lane so be flexible and leave room to facilitate vehicles using the slip roads. Once clear and a steady speed is maintained you will be able to be part of the staggered formation again. If a motorway is to be used on a ride you will be told what junctions you will be joining and leaving by the LRC at the Pre-Ride briefing. Captains and Marshals cannot stop and mark the exit slip road as they will be in contravention of the Traffic Regulations. Stay alert when approaching exit slip roads. The LRC will signal in plenty of time to inform the ride that they will be leaving the motorway.

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It is important to use the correct hand signals to communicate to riders in the group. Hand Signals are initiated by the LRC and must be done by each rider, one-by-one, from the front to the rear of the group. The entire group should use hand signals to clearly communicate to other riders in the group. When the group is large and spread out on the road, hand signals can become unclear if they are not performed correctly. Riders at the rear of the group may not receive hand signals so it is important to hold hand signals long enough to be visible by riders behind you.
Signals are performed with your left arm.

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What If You Break-down?

Organized ride-outs have a Breakdown man who is positioned behind the Sweeper. The Breakdown's duty is to assist with any breakdowns within the Group. Should you become ill or your bike suffers a problem or malfunction then you should use your mirrors, signal you intend to move to the nearside, when safe to do so move to the nearside curb and stop at the side of the road. Activate the hazard warning lights on the bike. The Breakdown will pull up with you and check that you are safe and assist where possible.  It is your responsibility to ensure you carry adequate breakdown/recovery insurance for riding home and abroad. The Breakdown is not responsible for getting you and your Harley home. Breakdown will ensure you have access to a mobile phone so you can call your nominated recovery service. If the problem is of a minor nature the Breakdown may at his discretion assist you in getting back on the road.


If reading all this sounds daunting, don't worry, that's the theory dealt with.


Now the exciting bit.


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