How We Roll at Thames Valley Harley Owners Group

Here at Thames Valley HOG, we take safety very seriously. We are all riding for fun and we are all well aware of the risks of riding any motorcycle on our roads today.

Here we have some information to help reduce the risk of incidents, accidents and injury of riders when riding as a part of our group. Te suggestions are just that, you alone must adopt the safest way to proceed within the ride. At least the knowledge of what others around you may be doing and thinking will add further to reduce the risks.

Most of the information is plain common sense but a few guidelines are in place to ensure everyone is expecting the same thing from our great days out !

Before you leave home to meet at the start point make sure  …

  1. your body has managed to purge any alcohol that you may have drunk the night before. If in doubt, sit it out !
  2. your bike is roadworthy and legal (tax, MOT, insurance etc.)
  3. you know the location of the departure point and the time you need to be there
  4. you have a full tank of petrol or enough to get you to the first refueling point
  5. you have enough money to buy fuel, food and any entry fees required
  6. you have any necessary equipment to deal with expected (and sometimes unexpected) weather conditions.
  7. you know how to get home from the destination (most rides are only to the destination and not home again)

When you arrive at the departure point, take early advantage of the restroom facilities. Most rides will have at least 90 minutes before the first break. Make sure you know where and when the briefing will take place and make sure you are there in good time.

Listen carefully to what your Lead Road Captain is saying, whilst most of it will be the same each time, there maybe important information about THIS ride that you need to know to stay safe and on the right route.

If  this is your first ride in a group , or you are unsure of how to participate in the route marking method please let a member of the roadcrew know.  They will help you to build the knowledge and confidence to participate successfully (sometimes by shadowing you and stopping with you).  It is best to be honest at this point … you will not feel good if you don’t speak out and cause the ride to lose its way.

During the briefing, the Lead Road Captain (LRC) will tell and show you who is the sweeper or tailman. He (or she) should be on their bike when introduced. This is to help you recognise who will be releasing you from your drop point during the ride.

If you are planning to leave the ride before the destination please let the Lead Road Captain know. We operate a “Ride Exit Procedure” which you should follow to prevent the group from being misdirected. Please consider dropping out at a fuel stop or comfort stop.

Riding in Staggered Formation

It is important to maintain safe distance between you and the riders around you. Just like the Highway Code, we observe the “2 Second Rule” within our riding pack. We create 2 lanes of riders within a single lane on the road (where the road width allows). This helps reduce the length of the ride and still maintains a safe maneuvering distance. Each rider maintains a minimum of 2 seconds between the front of his/her bike and the back of the bike directly in front. There is a rider in the other column who maybe closer but because he/she is in the other lane we created, he/she should not interfere with you in the event that you have to pull up sharply.  Whilst you are moving there should NEVER be any overlap between you and ANY other rider in the pack. Only when you come to a complete stop should you pull up directly alongside another rider.

Remember, these are MINIMUM suggested distances. Road conditions, weather, visibility and a number of other human factors should be taken into account when making the decision on how much room you need. As always you are responsible for your own safety and ensuring that you do not endanger your fellow riders.

Occasionally, the road conditions prevent us from operating the staggered file formation. Where this happens, the LRC may indicate following riders to form a single file or where riders deem it necessary, they will create a larger gap between themselves and the rider next in the formation and form into single file themselves. This is more common in cities and towns, on narrow roads and when filtering. Once again, if you do not feel safe in the staggered file because of one of these factors, take the decision yourself (don’t wait for  signal from the front). Your safety and comfort is paramount, maintain that 2 second gap!

Marking the Route

We operate two basic methods of ensuring that rides get to the final destination safely and together.  Both methods require the involvement and participation of everyone in the ride. The Buddy System is used more for small groups (6 or less riders) and has a few risks of group separation and so the predominant method used by TVHOG is the “Second Man Drop Off” system.


Second Man Drop Off

This method of route marking requires the participation of all riders in the group. As a minimum, there must be a Lead Road Captain and a Tailman/Sweeper. Occasionally, a marshal will ride with the tailman in case of a breakdown.

This method works well with larger groups and operates well even if the group gets split up across junctions / lights. It is reliant on a rider being assigned a marking point by the leader, and that rider STAYING at that point until the tailman or sweeper indicates for him/her to rejoin the ride. Sometimes this can mean a wait of 5 or 10 minutes (or even longer). The point is, no matter what, you must only rejoin the ride in front of the sweeper/tailman. If you leave your station too early, everyone behind you will likely become lost…

The mechanics are something like this…

As the ride approaches a change of direction, a junction or fork in the road, The Lead Road Captain indicates to the rider directly behind him (The Second Man) to stop at a specific location. That rider, pulls over and points the way to all of the following riders clearly showing the direction they should go.

When dropped, the second man should ensure he/she is in a safe position and MUST cancel any indicators. Do NOT put your hazard warning lights on (if you have them). If you are dropped and you feel unsafe, try to move to a safer spot, in clear sight of following riders. Dismount if necessary and stand at the side of the road to point the way. If you have a passenger, have them dismount and do the pointing. Don’t worry about rushing to rejoin the ride, if the tailman comes along he/she will either pull over with you and wait or he will ride on in the knowledge that you will be coming to rejoin the ride shortly. The prime objective is to mark the route, show the way and be safe whilst doing so.

The person showing the way MUST stay at that location until he is invited to rejoin the road by the sweeper or tailman. He/she then rejoins in front of the tailman and is now at the back of the ride.

Meanwhile at the front, the rider behind the guy who was just dropped has now become the “Second Man”. At the next turn or junction the Lead Road Captain will indicate a drop off to that rider and so the process will continue. On longer rides each rider may get the chance to mark the route 2 or 3 times.

The staggered formation DOES NOT change during this procedure. Each rider maintains their position and riders do not switch position in the staggered formation.

Here is a tip for newer riders. The person riding in front of you will get dropped of just before you. This places him at the back of the ride. When YOU are dropped, look for that rider to pass you as right behind him should be the tailman. Make sure you see the tailman and he sees you before you move off, but this is a handy way to buy a few seconds to prepare to rejoin the ride in front of the sweeper / tail rider.

If you cannot rejoin in front of the tailman (traffic, road position, it is not safe to pull out or you are simply not ready in time to pull out in front of him/her), allow the tailman to pass and pull out as soon as it is safe. He will know you are behind and will indicate for you to pass him as soon as it is safe to do so.

If you are on a ride operating Second Man Drop system and you follow all of the advice above, both you and your fellow riders will all make it to the planned destination, safely and together.

Happy riding…