If you join a scooter club, and I recommend you do, you’ll eventually find yourself riding with some other scooterists. If you’re new to scooting or to group riding, tell the group leader and some of the other scooterists. We love to have newbies along for the ride, and notifying other folks allows them to keep an eye out for you and make sure you’re safe and enjoying yourself. And always show up for a ride with a full tank — you never know when you’ll be able to stop for fuel!
Group riding can be a blast – here are some guidelines to keep the experience safe and fun.
Ride Within Your Ability
This is the single most important rule. Discuss the planned route ahead of time. Find out if the ride is conducive to your size of scooter and your experience level. For example, if you’ve been riding for a few weeks, you may not feel ready to hit the freeway. Or perhaps you feel ready, but your 50cc scooter is not up to the task. Finding out ahead of time can prevent mishaps.
Never hesitate to leave a group ride if you feel it’s beyond your ability – everyone will understand and your safety is your number one priority. Just tell someone you’re leaving so they can vouch for you if there’s a head count.
I made the mistake of following a group ride into uncharted territory once and paid the price. Our group of twenty approached an unpaved gravel road with enormous potholes and puddles. My gut told me this was beyond my expertise, but I went along with the group.
Not too far in, the scooter in front of me stopped short and I attempted to brake while coming out of a giant, water-filled pothole. The Frankenstella and I went down — into the muddy watering hole. Two other scooters went down as well. I scratched my cowls and banged up my knee and spent the rest of the 35 degree ride soaking wet. It was unpleasant and the last time I attempted to stay with the group when I thought better of it.
I learned my lesson! I’ve since left several rides partway in, including the first ride I went on with my brand new Vespa GTS, which I was not 100% comfortable on yet.
Always ride within your ability — for your safety and everyone else’s.
Stay Toward the Front
The safest spot is up front, so stay as close to the ride leader as possible. If you keep to the front of the pack, you’ll also avoid getting separated from the group at traffic lights. While getting separated is not the end of the world, it’s one less thing to worry about when you’re getting used to group riding.
Let the Ride Leader Lead
Never ride next to the ride leader, and allow her room at stops in case she needs to change course.
Use Staggered Formation
Maintain a staggered formation, with the ride leader in the left position. Leave two seconds of space between riders. This allows each rider time to react and room to swerve to avoid hazards. It also keeps the group tight enough to discourage cars from cutting in, while still allowing everyone in the group breathing room.
Use Single Formation When Necessary
Some riding conditions will require temporary single formation riding, which the ride leader will signal by holding an index finger high in the air. A good staggered formation group will easily close up to single file. Narrow roads, limited visibility, entering and exiting the highway may call for single file riding. The group leader will signal when it’s safe to return to staggered formation by holding up two fingers.
Use Hand Signals
When changing lanes within the group, signal your intent with your hands. Riders have a lot to focus on in a group and may not see your scooter’s turn signal. If you want to change from the outside of the lane to the inside, point to the open spot that you intend to occupy and be sure the riders around you are aware of your intentions.
Send Messages Back
Group riding is a bit like a game of “Telephone” — the ride leader will signal the intended action, and each scooterist passes the message back all the way through the group using hand signals. That way the riders at the back of the group know a turn is coming up even though they can’t see the turn signals at the front of the group. Riders may also signal an unexpected stop, or point out road hazards with their feet.
Listen to the Ride Marshalls
Larger rides may have ride marshals — group members who are responsible for stopping traffic at intersections to keep everyone together safely. If your ride has marshals, follow their directions and then thank them profusely after the ride because they make the experience much more enjoyable.
Watch the Turns
Turns can prove tricky in a big group. Riders in the left part of the lane have a tendency to cut the corner when turning, and riders on the right may swing wide. Stay in your lane, leave extra room around you, and keep an eye on others nearby.
Maintain a Safe Distance and Respect Others’ Distance
Leave yourself enough room to stop and don’t ride alongside anyone else. If a group member is carrying a passenger, don’t jump in front of them to close the gap — they may need the extra space to stop with the additional weight.
Follow Group Protocol
Some scooter clubs or riding groups have their own protocol with additional guidelines they follow — find out in advance. As an example, check out the guide for one of my scooter clubs: Westenders Riding Protocol.
If you follow these recommendations and any others that your ride leader provides, you’ll be on your way to a fun day seeing the sights with fellow scooterists. Enjoy!