Dan Workenaour, Road Captain
As you most likely know, bluetooth has become the best way to communicate when in a group motorcycle ride. Sena and Cardo have great helmet bluetooth devices to install when wearing a half, 3/4, or full face styles (including modular helmets), or no helmet at all. Their range can be up to several hundred feet. These bluetooth manufacturers will work together but keep in mind, they may be subjected to dropping out. From what I have read and talked to other riders, they love their bluetooth headset. They can listen to their own music, take calls privately, while communicating with other riders. Newer bluetooth devices have what is called a ‘mesh network‘. You can read about that on Sena and Cardo’s website what it is about.
CB’s has been the preferred communications for many years. They are cheap and their range can be up to one or two miles away. However, unlike the bluetooth, installing a CB on a motorcycle can be a challenge and the range will vary with terrain (line of site). I have seen many “mobile” CB’s installed on motorcycles and let’s just say the installation was… interesting.
JMC Corp has CB’s that are designed to fit on your bike. Although not cheap, they serve their purpose. They also carry an assortment of headsets to fit the CB. Another way to communicate is using your cell phone with a bluetooth headset. Sena and Cardo will pair with your cell phone. Keith and I discussed communications issues at our last Legion meeting. I do know that riding with your cell phone in a handlebar mount is what most riders do. Taking that call while riding is dangerous if you do not have a ‘hands free’ device like a bluetooth headset. So what else can we do when we do not have radio communications. Read on.
Being a part of many rides with the Legion Riders and with my HOG group, there are ways to communicate without using a CB, a bluetooth headset, or cell phone. All designed group rides will use the staggered position with the lead bike starting off on the left 1/3 section of the lane they are in. A rule to follow is the 2 second rule from the bike that is straight ahead of you, not the bike to your front right or left.
1. Hand signals. It is important that the lead bike initiate the hand signal. It should filter back to the last rider who is the sweep.
2. You need to pull off. Although there is a hand signal, it may be that a rider within the group or even the last rider needs to stop. Pull out of the group when it is safe to do so. When you get alongside the lead motorcycle, make a gesture that you need to stop. Take the lead and move on ahead to your stop. The original lead bike will lead the group until they reach where you are.
3. Group Riding Management. This is a tough one depending on how many motorcycles plan on attending the ride. Most rides are not escorted and traffic laws must be followed. It will be up to the event rider to know how many bikes are attending and to structure it for safety reasons. The rule of thumb is 10 bikes to a group. That number can change (i.e if 13 bikes are attending, there is no need to have another group formed). If there are 25 bikes attending, split it down the middle as much as possible.
4. Sharing Ride Information. This is especially important when you have a large group or many groups riding on the same ride with no law enforcement escort. If the trip is many days, the event planner will share the route and event planned. If you can, type and print it out. If you do not have a printer, share your document information with someone who can. If riders do get separated (especially within a city), the riders will have the information to follow. NOTE: The lead rider may pull over when it is safe to do so so that the group of riders who got separated can catch up. IF YOU DO GET SEPARATED, do not deter from the route. The lead bike most likely is waiting for you somewhere on the route. Follow all traffic laws.
5. SAFETY It is known that if a rider pulls over to the side of the road, the sweep will pull over and assist the rider. All other riders will move on ahead, adjust their position, and follow the lead bike. Most likely, the lead bike will notice this and pull over to wait. The sweep should contact the lead rider via cell phone. Hopefully, the group ride is not in a place where cell phone reception is weak to none. The lead and sweep will make the decision how to proceed.
This PDF information from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation is nice to have on hand. Most people who has a smart phone, can keep a digital copy of it. The bottom line is to be smart, follow instructions, and have fun.