Ride in the Pack

Formation Riding

A questions came to me recently asking about a “rule” in formation riding. It doesn’t matter what the question was, nor the answer, for the purposes of this post. What mattered more than the question and the answer was the follow-up after the question, “I always thought it was … “.

Clearly, this individual was confused over what they heard versus something that made them question it. So I got curious about who makes the “rules” that people are considering to be “the way”. I started doing some research to find the most popular consensus on the “Rules of Pack Riding”.


First out the gate: Harley Davidson! If anyone knows formation rules, it’s gotta be the iron-hearts themselves, right?? First thing I noticed following their link is that it didn’t go to Harley… it led to their Insurance page. You know, the one’s who have an invested interest in their own liability. Taking that into consideration, I accepted that their rules would be, at the least, the safest way to protect their investments.

Harley says, the first rule is to ride staggered… a two-second distance distance to the rider two spots ahead. Because they count the gap as a spot, this means, two seconds from the rider directly in front of you. Doing this allows you maneuverability, they say. Moreso, they invoke the right to hold the two second gap as a minimum and to expand on it, if desired.

Skimming through the rest of the “rules” Harley suggests follows pretty much the same template. Protect yourself, ride your own ride, and, essentially, allow everyone else to do the same.

Next on the Google results is Allstate… why are Insurance companies topping the list of results more than anyone else??

Skip Allstate and move on to Rider Magazine… First paragraph, ride staggered…

I will give credit to Rider Magazine that their second recommendation, after following the template staggered formation suggestion, is to bring focus on putting your most experienced rider as your Lead. They lost all my credibility the moment they suggest the least experienced rider to take spot #2, just after lead.

Stopped there… moving on.

Motorcycle Legal Foundation, let’s see what they have for me… 1. Pre-ride meeting; accepted; 2. Decide on a leader; okay; 3. Restrict the number of riders; ?huh?; 4. Ride prepared; starting to lose me if you don’t ride prepared at all times… and 5. Ride Staggered…

Moving past their “list” they are the first to mention knowing hand signals. Shockingly, hand signals are the number one way of communicating with your pack on the road and are the ONE thing that is formally universal. Having reached this far into my research before the first introduction to one of the most valuable topics of information is astonishing!

Thirty minute side check – every single site I could find validated the same exact hand signals and what they meant. The only consensus beyond riding staggered and the only information shared that is ACTUALLY useful for “How to ride in a pack.”

New search, how to ride in a club pack…

The variations are endless! … this rider goes here, that rider goes there, follow the leader, listen to the cap.

Not a single article, site, video, blog, or suggestion found that tell ME… as a Rider… in a Pack… what MY role and responsibilities are. How do I need to ride so others can ride with trust? … What tips are out there for ME to enhance my vigilance? … Should I watch taillights? Should I watch the yellow line? … Not a single piece of information to make ME a better rider in a pack.

… and this is why:

Everything you find in mainstream information is built on the regular rider. The cookie cutter; the “standard.” This standard is created under the ideology that the pack you’re in is full of weekend jocks hitting the poker run for the first time this year and they only know one or two others they don’t ride with any other time. The “standard” is written to keep YOU safe… tells YOU how to ride in a pack… might as well be riding solo, in my opinion!

Everything online is 100% accurate if you are joining a pack of riders you’ve never ridden with, don’t know, and don’t have road trust with. Hell, I would almost suggest that it all would be more accurate if the first step, across the board, stated: “Determine first if you’re going to ride in the formation, or stay the fuck away and meet up at the spot!” For me, I would never fall into one of these standard formations.

My final conclusion is this:

Don’t ever say, “I thought it was…” If you are not someone the standard is written for, then you are someone who is riding in a pack that has their own way. My research on club riding says there is no standard; it is the club way and you need to learn it.



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