Many motorcycle riders have a real fear of keeping up and are uneasy riding within a group of motorcycle riders. This is even more so if you’re new to motorcycling and haven’t a lot of experience riding with others. Plus, in a group there are often various levels of experience, and if you’re not practised at riding with others or with more experienced riders, you’ll often feel like you’re working hard to keep up to the group’s pace or ability. This can be frustrating and end up holding you back. What often occurs in this situation is negative thinking and mostly about your abilities. This results in causing undetected anxiety which can invade your riding and your comfort on your motorcycle. Additionally, this can be an additional deterrent to your abilities while equally preying on your attitude. But how else are you going to gain experience?
Try these 10 tips to overcoming the fear of keeping up!
- Give yourself credit. If you are worried about being left behind, that means you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and riding with people who may be more experienced and smoother in the corners than you are. That’s a good thing, because riding with better riders, makes you better. Look at it as a training tool. You might at first feel the odd rider out, but make it a goal to hang on, put your self-judgements aside and ride with the group a little longer each time. It will get better.
- Have a plan. Before you start, figure out what you’ll do if you really don’t mesh with these riders. Will you turn around and backtrack home? Will you finish the ride / route solo and maybe meet them a later point? Will you do your own ride from there? If you’re riding somewhere unfamiliar, have a map or smartphone / motorcycle GPS so you won’t be worried about getting lost. Having a plan will make you feel more at ease.
- Find Trusty Riders. Scan your riding group for relaxed, stable riders while also making note of those who are acting out or appear disrespectful of the craft of motorcycling (poor gear, motorcycle unkempt, etc.) Follow the stable calm rider. You’ll get a feel pretty quickly which riders you do and don’t want to follow or ride close to.
- Protect Your Front Wheel Zone. Your main goal is protecting your front wheel. Even though you may tighten up your normal following distance of 1 – 3 seconds (depending on where you are in the group) don’t overlap your front wheel with the rider in front of you. Or if you do, have enough of a buffer so if that rider has space to swerve to avoid a road obstacle, they won’t cause you to have a mishap or worse, hit you. Be sure to use blind spots when slowing or suddenly braking in a group to ensure you can get out of the way if you see the rider following you can’t stop as quickly.
- Look Through The Group. Riders get in trouble in groups when they stare at the rider directly in front of them. This is often due to following distance but also not having time to react when something causes the entire group to slow or stop. Look past the rider in front of you, through the group, so you can see changes in terrain and what’s happening well in advance.
- Pre-Ride Skill Drills. Practice builds comfort and confidence. Ride a bumpy road or a narrow country road you’re familiar with along with another rider friend. Practise riding closer to each other than the normal 2-3 seconds following distance. This way in a larger group ride, you’ll be calm and collected.
- Positive Pre Ride Pep-Talk. Your inner voice can coach you in both negative and positive ways, so practise changing all negatives to a positive. Lemons’ to lemonade as I like to say. Go easy on yourself and be realistic. Riding with rider friends for the first time is like any relationship – you need to get to know each other and make adjustments. Realise everyone is learning new skills, no matter how long they’ve ridden or how little. Avoid the judgements and be positive while not pushing yourself yet accepting that step by step you’ll get more into the flow of the ride.
- Find Another Group to Ride With. There’s always the case that perhaps the group you’ve chosen to ride with ride too far for your liking or at a non-stop pace which doesn’t suit yours. Then maybe you need to find another group to ride with. Although it may be that you will be able to ride at the same pace over time, don’t give up on that group that’s a little more extreme than you believe you can ride. As your riding “fitness” improves, you will eventually be able to keep the same pace and ride abilities as the others and hang on longer.
- Take It Step-by-Step. For some group rides there might be the option of taking some shortcuts so you can rejoin the group. You could utilise those shortcuts until you have increased your motorcycling stamina and keep up for the entire ride.
- Improve Your Skills. Attend a rider skills workshop or hire a private instructor so you can improve your riding talents. You’ll ride well if you corner correctly, descend well, relax efficiently and get the most out of your on-bike ability.
Remember to draw the line any time you feel unsafe in a group even if that means just you and one other rider, trust your instincts. Road safety is not something to second guess nor is it worth the usual risky outcomes. You’ll find the more you ride, the more you’ll become acquainted with riders – eventually getting to pick and choose the various group ride experiences you’ll want to be part of. There are many motorcycle riders out there to share common ride styles with not matter how experience or what type of motorcycle you ride.
By Vicki Gray
Editor, Founder MOTORESS; basic, advanced and race motorcycle instructor; certified for over 30 years. Motorcycle on-road and race licensing examiner. Trained, coached, examined riders for European, Caribbean and North American training institutes.