staggered formation motorcycle

The Complete Guide to Motorcycle Group Riding

While some bikers love to travel solo, there's something special about gathering a group of buddies to hit the road as one big unit. It's a feeling of camaraderie and safety that you just can't find anywhere else.

But before you start getting your gang together, it's important to be aware of the rules and etiquette that comes with a motorcycle group ride. Riding as a group means that you're a team, and every good team needs to establish structure and forms of communication if they're going to function properly.

Establishing some ground rules won't just keep the group safe, but make the ride itself a whole lot more enjoyable. You won't have to stress about things like how to communicate and where you're actually going when it's all been set out in a pre-ride huddle.

So before your group starts that big adventure, check out our complete guide in order to get the most out of the experience.

How Do I Form A Motorcycle Riding Group?

First up, let's establish the difference between a motorcycle club and a riding club. A motorcycle club, often called MCs, are those full-on organizations with a hierarchical leadership, formal rules, the classic three-piece biker patch and intensely strong family-type bonds.

riding club, on the other hand, is exactly how it sounds. A group of people who just love to ride together. These groups can still have a name and specific identity, but without the intensity or politics of MCs. For the purposes of this article, we're going to assume you're riding with this kind of group and not the former.

So how do you get a riding club together? The first thing you might want to consider is the club's identity. What are you all about? Your club could be exclusive to people only with certain types of bikes, or gearheads that love to spend time tinkering with their bikes in the garage.

While we're on the subject of club identity, before you establish a club it might be worth checking out if a similar riding club already exists. If so, ask yourself whether your idea for forming a new club is really necessary. Will yours be different enough to justify its own existence?

Of course your club doesn't have to have a specific identity, but if you're looking to gain members then it helps to all have the same interests and motivations. For example, it can make things awkward if half the group are adrenaline-junkies while the other half are just looking for a weekend cruise.

Now at this point, you might be asking yourself some questions like: "Clubs? What is all this crap, can't me and my friends just go for a ride?". And the answer is yes, of course you can. No one is going to pull you up for not being part of a formal club. Biking is all about being yourself and not conforming to anyone's rules, so ride your own ride.

Once you've finally got your gang together, it's time to start planning the first ride. Figure out a way you can all stay in touch, like through social media, and make an active effort to keep a regular riding schedule. The rides won't happen without a bit of planning. Depending on your group, it could be a weekly catchup or simply a monthly ride. There's no one way to go about it.

Motorcycle Group Riding Etiquette

If you're a solo rider joining a group for the first time then a slight change of mindset might be needed. You're part of a pack now, and the group need to all be on the same page if you're hitting the road as a unit.

The first thing to consider is that everyone might not necessarily want to ride at the same speed. If this is the case, don't pressure people into speeds they're not comfortable with. Instead, try splitting into different speed groups so everyone stays comfortable.

Show up on time to a ride. There's nothing worse then getting amped up to hit the road with your buddies, only to wait around for 15 minutes because someone is running late.

Don't ride side by side next to each other on the same lane. You might have seen plenty of riders doing this, but this is a move strictly reserved for the most seasoned of veteran riders. This formation doesn't give you any room to swerve or adjust for oncoming hazards

Don't show off or be a try-hard. Riding in a group means riding as one, so don't tailgate, showboat or try any cowboy riding. Basically, don't be a dick.

Formation And Group Riding Tips

riders in open field

Before you head out on that big group adventure, familiarize yourself with these tips to avoid any mishaps or sticky situations.

  1. Conduct a Riders Meeting Before the Ride

The pre ride meeting is where you can lay out the gameplan. Before you leave the starting point, the entire group should know who the lead rider will be, where you're going and any stops along the way.

This won't be a super formal meeting, but rather a chance to touch base and get everyone started on the same page. It's a good chance to make introductions and establish how you'll communicate on the road, along with anything else that needs to be covered.

  1. Arrive Prepared

Besides arriving on time, it's important for every rider to show up ready to go. Don't forget your phone, because it might be needed if the group becomes separated, not to mention the phone's GPS might come in handy. One rider should also carry a toolkit for emergencies and another should pack a first aid kit just in case.

Don't forget your gear either. A helmet along with proper riding pants, a jacket and boots will be needed to keep yourself safe out there. If you rock up in regular jeans and a hoodie, you'll end up looking like an amateur.


  1. Decide on the Leader and Sweep/Tail Rider

The group ride leader will be your general. They're the one who will first encounter oncoming traffic and they need to be able to respond accordingly. It's their job to safely guide the group through any situations that might come along, so make sure it's someone you all trust and not a hothead.

The lead rider should be one of, if not the most experienced rider in the team. They should have good judgement and know how to handle themselves on the road.

You'll also need a tail or sweep rider. Their job is to hang at the very end of the group to make sure it doesn't get separated. The sweep rider should be one of the more experienced riders as well, because their expertise might be need to help others catch up if the group gets split up.

  1. Restrict the Number of Group Members

To keep things manageable, restrict the number of members in group rides. Bulky groups can bunch up on the road, becoming an obstacle not only to themselves but to everyone else around them.

As a rule, try to keep your numbers between five and seven. A group of five is ideal for less experienced riders, while you can push that number to seven for a more experienced group.

If need be, you can break up a big riding group into sub-groups. These sub groups will still each need a lead rider and a sweep, so a bit of extra coordination will be needed.

  1. Motorcycle Group Riding Following Distance

Try to maintain a following distance of two seconds from the rider in front of you. This allows some margin for error if anyone encounters a sudden obstacle and needs to adjust on the fly. Many people ride super close to the rider ahead while in a group, so don't make that mistake.

Conversely, don't ride too far behind either. Leave too much room and there's an open space for a random driver to cut in on your formation, which breaks the group harmony and cohesion.

  1. Staggered Formation

When it comes to group riding, you and your mates will need to get the hang of staggered formation motorcycle riding. This is a formation that allows for maximum visibility and maneuverability.

The way it works is that you all pretty much form a zig-zag. The lead rider sticks to one side of a lane, while the rider behind them stays on the opposite side of that same lane. This repeats throughout the entire group so that every second rider is on the same side of each lane.

We use this technique because it gives each rider as much visibility as possible, and it lets them freely move left and right if need be.

The only time you won't use the staggered formation is while cornering. When taking corners, each rider chooses their own line so that you'll almost be riding in single file. Once the road straightens then it's right back to the staggered formation.

  1. Learn your Hand Signals

Your group needs a way to communicate through the noise and chaos of the road. Being on top of your hand signals is the best and most efficient way to get a message across the entire team. There are signals for slow down, speed up, pit stop and everything in between.

For the group to operate as one big unit, you'll need to all be familiar with the basics at the very least. Turn left, turn right and pit stop are the ones you will probably use the most. We're not saying you need to master them all, but get the major ones down before starting a group ride.

Hand signals only work if everyone knows what they mean. The pre ride meeting is a good chance to establish how communication will work out on the road.


  1. Overtaking as a Group

Sooner or later your group will need to overtake a vehicle. This can be a bit tricky to perform as a team but it's quite achievable if you all know the process.

Overtaking should be done one rider at a time. Each rider should only pass when they have a clear path ahead, which can sometimes turn into a game of patience. Getting separated from your group can produce a bit of anxiety, but the others will wait for you or pull over if need be.

Sometimes it might be that only a portion of the group can overtake while the rest get stuck behind. In these cases, just patiently wait it out and the opportunity will present itself sooner or later.

  1. Prepare a Good Plan in Case of Lost Riders

Someone will probably get separated from the group at some point, so don't panic when it happens. Everyone should know the route so it's just a matter of how the lost rider will catch up with the rest.

Establish what the plan is for separated riders in the pre ride huddle. In severe situations a stop might be needed, or the group could just slow down until the lost rider catches up. Whatever your plan is, just make sure you have one! Situations like these are why every rider needs to have their phone handy.

  1. Group Riding In Very Slow Situations

When your team gets stuck in slow moving traffic, it's time to ditch the staggered riding formation. Instead, ride in a single file line and as close to the curb when necessary.

Even in slow moving situations your group should still observe the two second rule of following distance. If your group is large, break off into smaller groups so that faster moving traffic can pass.

  1. Be Mindful of Each Rider's Skill Levels

In a perfect world every rider would have the exact same skill level, but that's almost never the case. Your group will most likely be a mix of riders with varying degrees of experience, and it's important to keep everyone feeling safe and comfortable.

As we've mentioned, the most experienced riders should be at the front and back of the pack, so they can guide the pack through obstacles and different traffic conditions. Novice riders with less experience will benefit from following visual cues from up front, and the sweep rider can keep aggressive drivers off their asses.

Common Injuries In Group Riding Accidents

Riding in a group comes with many safety benefits and a feeling of security, but it comes with its own risks as well. If one rider goes down in a sticky situation, there's a severe risk of a pile-up forming from the other riders behind them.

One risk that might seem surprising is injury from flying objects. No, we don't mean angry motorists pelting things at you. The risk comes from loose or poorly maintained parts of motorcycles coming off and hitting the other riders behind them. A tightly formed riding group will be in serious trouble if they meet a flying bike part at high speeds.

According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), there are several reasons that group riding can become dangerous. These include:

  • A mix of riders with varying skill levels
  • Some riders falling behind in a group
  • Riders covering too much of the road or driving side by side

With that being said, there are plenty of steps you can take to mitigate these risks. It's not all doom and gloom. Your group's risk management begins in the pre ride meet up, where you can establish who is leading the charge, who the sweeper will be and the day's route.

This is also an opportunity to discuss potential issues such as each rider's skill level, what to do when someone falls behind and what your riding formation will be. Most of your trip will be spent riding in a staggered formation, which provides each rider the best possible vision and plenty of room to move around.

Proper riding gear will be your battle armor on the road. The truth is that most bikers will encounter a sticky situation at some point. It just comes with the territory. You can only counter this by wearing the proper clothing from head to toe.

Your helmet is the most obvious piece of gear, but that only covers a small part of your body. A proper riding jacket and pants are the best equipment you can wear to protect your torso and lower body. The best ones include armor pockets that cover all your most precious parts, like elbows and knees.

Wearing good, sturdy boots that cover your ankles are also highly recommended, along with a good pair of leather gloves. In the event of a fall, our instincts will automatically make us stick our hands out, so make sure there's something covering them.

But don't take our word for it. Check out our collection of crash stories to see for yourself whether motorcycle gear really works.

Motorcycle Group Riding and Safety

We've talked a lot about the risks involved with group riding, but it's not because we're trying to scare you! Arming yourself with the right knowledge is the best way you can prepare yourself for hitting the road with your buddies, and feel comfortable while doing it.

Group rides are an awesome and exhilarating way to blow off some steam, but the etiquette exists for a reason. Keep your head and prepare properly so you don't risk breaking the group cohesion.

Riding as a unit means preparing as a unit. Think of yourselves as an army brigade. The mission won't succeed unless everyone is on the same page. So know your hand signals, plan out your route and devise some tactics for how the group will deal with the unexpected.

Don't forget your gear either! Sure, you might see some riders out there with nothing but a singlet and shorts on, but what do you think happens when skin meets road? Check out our awesome range of moto gear so you can arm yourself properly before setting off.

Final Thoughts

Group riding can be an amazing and addictive pasttime. Each journey will be its own unique experience with a rotating cast of riders, and the different adventures you take on as a team.

Every group ride will have its challenges, but with sensible practices and preparation there's no limit to what you can achieve as a riding unit. Be realistic with your goals and build on your group skills. Follow the basics of group riding etiquette and you'll have one hell of a time.


group of riders in parking lot

What is staggered motorcycle formation?

You've probably heard it mentioned a thousand times, but what exactly is staggered motorcycle formation?

Staggered formation is when a group of bikers ride in a kind of zig-zag formation. The lead rider at the front sticks to one side of a lane, while the rider behind them favors the opposite side. This process continues with the next rider in order, so that each person in the group is riding on the opposite side of the person both in front and behind them.

Why do motorcycles ride staggered?

So why do motorcycles ride staggered anyway? It's because the staggered riding formation allows for the best possible combination of visibility and maneuverability. This form of riding gives each biker a clear view of what's ahead of them, but also lets them move from side to side if necessary without worrying about a lack of space.

Staggered is the go-to formation for group riding for these reasons. The only times you wouldn't use it is when going around a corner or riding in very slow conditions. In both of these cases, riding in single file is the better method.

Should motorcyclists ride staggered or side by side?

So should motorcyclists ride staggered or side by side? You've probably seen people ride side by side in classic biker movies or even on the streets in real life, but we don't recommend adopting this practice. Stick to staggered riding.

While riding side by side looks cool, it's a dangerous way to ride that only the top one percent of riders should really attempt. Side by side riding gives you almost zero room to maneuver and can really come back to bite you in certain situations.

How do you ride staggered?

How do ride staggered anyway? The key to this formation is to keep a left, right, left, right pattern amongst your group. First the lead rider will keep to a certain side of a road lane, and the rider behind them should correspondingly stick to the opposite side of that lane.

Each rider behind them in the group then follows this pattern, so in the end your group will form a zig-zag shape that gives everyone plenty of space and a clear view of what lies ahead of them.

What is a group of motorcycles riding together called?

Now that you've got a riding group together, you might be wondering what a group of motorcycles riding together is called. We don't mean the nickname you might give yourselves, but rather a collective noun that can be used for any group of motorcyclists.

The most common term is to simply call riders a group, but you might also hear bikers referred to as a pack. Sometimes riders can be called a club, but this only really applies if they actually are a proper club.

Back to blog