Travel Check List

Riding in a Group

Riding in Staggered Formation


A bit about me: I have been an active member of Aire Valley since joining in 1998 and as well as being the Safety Officer, I have also been the Head Road Captain (HRC),: 2004 to 2006 and 2009 to 2011. The two roles fit together quite well as most of the safety concerns occur whilst riding together in a large group.

Having been a member of the club since the early days I have seen a lot of new members come and go; many returning to biking after some years out of the saddle. In recognition of this, we kick off each riding season with a new members’ ride in early March. The aim is to familiarise new members with the riding /safety protocols we adopt on ride-outs and to explain some of the rationale that underpins the way we do things. It also serves the added purpose of giving new members the opportunity to get to know the road captains and other new members. The new members’ ride typically takes a route that includes most types of roads and topography that any of the club ride-outs cover over the riding season. Before going on the first ride, new members should familiarise themselves with the ‘Aire Valley Ride-Out and Safety Information’ that is included in the welcome pack and shown on the HRC’s area of the website.

As many of our members return to biking after a long lay off (a polite way of saying we are all getting older) I have included a few pointers and tips below that members might find helpful. In doing so, I must point out that I am not an expert motorcyclist and would never pretend to be.

Riding a Harley: If you are new to riding Harleys, please remember they are big heavy beasts that do not handle or stop like the bikes you may have been used to riding years ago! When riding in a group please be aware that some bikes might stop quicker than yours (some have single front discs, some have twin discs and 4 pot callipers) so make sure that a safe distance is kept between you and the bike in front – we have had a few rear fenders cosmetically altered on ride-outs!

The Bike: Before commencing a ride, always make sure that your bike is in a roadworthy condition. Pay particular attention to: tyre condition and pressures, mirror adjustment and cleanliness, lights and indicators. Carry a cloth to clean your lights, windshield and helmet visor. And make sure you have a full tank of fuel before each ride-out.

Remember, a bike basically consists of two gyroscopes (front and back wheels) connected by a frame. Because of the gyroscopic action of the wheels when in motion, the bike wants to be upright and if leant over it will spring back up on its own. I’m sure we have all seen Moto GP riders on TV parting company with their bike only to see the bike continue on its own into the scenery. Understanding this particular law of physics should give all riders more confidence when riding and leaning the bike over in bends. Additionally, the curved profile of a bike tyre (unlike the flat profile( to the road) of a car tyre) helps the bike to corner when leant over in a bend. The profile of a bike tyre is effectively ‘conical’. If you imagine laying a traffic cone on its side and giving it a push, it will ‘roll’ in a circular fashion. A bike tyre, because of its profile, does just the same and as such helps cornering when the bike is leant over. Hence, the handlebars do not need to be turned too much when the bike is leant over when cornering.

Clothing: Road captains prepare the rides in advance but the weather can be an unknown quantity! Make sure you have clothing that is adequate for safety purposes and weather conditions. If your bike does not have panniers or a luggage rack, other riders may be able to help out and put your wet gear in their panniers/top box. Don’t be afraid to ask - Glide riders don’t bite!

The Rider: It goes without saying that alcohol and drugs are a no no when riding a bike. And if you are not feeling well, think very carefully before joining a ride-out. It’s not just your safety that may be at risk. If you have a medical condition that may require you to stop on a ride-out e.g. to take medication, please have a word with the HRC or lead road captain before the ride sets off. And lastly, start each ride-out with an empty bladder.

Riding Tips:-

Think Ahead: Inevitably, riders in a large group will be of varying levels of skills, experience and competence. Make sure you concentrate at all times and watch for hazards and obstacles in the road. We often encounter tree branches and larger road kill casualties that cause the group to swerve – seeing them in advance will avoid panic. And if possible, point to the obstacle (with your left hand) to alert the rider behind you of the obstacle. Thinking ahead will generally prepare you as the ride approaches roundabouts, junctions etc. And always keep a safe distance from the bike in front.

Thinking ahead is perhaps the most important part of the safety game when riding a bike. Apply it to all aspects of riding and you’re well on the way to safer riding.

Braking: One of the most important elements of motorcycling. It doesn’t matter how fast you can go if you can’t stop! Braking consists of two actions; reaction time and the time it takes you to physically stop. Reaction time – thinking distance varies from person to person and with the speed of the machine. Added to that is the time it takes you to engage the brakes. Reaction distances are estimated to be: 8.7 metres at 30mph, 14.5 metres at 50mph, 20.3 meters at 70mph. And remember, this is the distance travelled before you hit the brakes! Added to this is the time it takes to stop after you have hit the brakes – this is the overall stopping distance that is estimated to be: 23 metres at 30mph, 53 metres at 50mph, 96 metres at 70mph. Remember, as your speed doubles, your stopping distance quadruples! And if the road surface is poor or wet, these distances are extended. Scary or what?

When braking, try to do so as smoothly as possible. The front brake is the most effective of the two brakes and when the front brake lever is applied, the load of the bike transfers to the front end/tyre. As the weight transfers to the front tyre, the more grip it has with the road. Conversely, as the load transfers to the front, the less weight is left at the back end and therefore the rear brake is more likely to lock the wheel and the cause the bike to skid.

Emergency Braking: This is worth practicing and may save serious injury or worse. But practice on a dry straight road where it is safe to do so. Tockwith Airfield off the B1224 Wetherby to York road has a practice area that anyone can pay to enter and this is worth considering if you want to do some serious practicing!

Remember, the front brake does nearly all the work when braking. If you need to stop quickly, this is the best procedure: squeeze the brake lever firmly and progressively, do not snatch at the lever. Having squeezed firmly, the load transfers to the front end and the forks compress. When the forks are fully compressed, squeeze hard on the lever and at this point maximum brake effectiveness engages. If you snatch at the lever the forks compress, and almost instantly they bottom out and the bike ‘pogo sticks’, thus reducing contact with the road and reducing braking efficiency. If you can practice this in a safe environment, you will be surprised how quickly you can stop and how much you can improve with more practice. Use marker points to gauge your improvement with successive attempts.

Try always to brake when you are travelling in a straight line and the bike is upright. Slow the bike down before you enter a corner. Braking in a corner can upset the balance of the bike and make the bike unstable. Locking the front wheel in a corner can be disastrous! Falling off in a left hand bend will throw the rider across the white line and into oncoming traffic. Falling off on a right-hander will throw the rider into the scenery – or a lamppost!

Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS): Braking as firmly as possible on ABS equipped bikes is the quickest way to stop in the dry. In the wet the bike will take slightly longer to stop (than a bike without ABS) when the ABS kicks in as the ABS works hard to maintain stability.

Cornering: Good preparation when approaching a bend is essential. Remember, think ahead! Slow down when approaching a corner and select the correct gear. Get the braking out of the way before entering the bend. Slow in, fast out is the best way of taking a corner. Identify the ‘limit point’ when entering a bend. The limit point is the rider’s furthest point of vision ahead in the bend. Always ride at a speed that lets you stop (on your side of the road) within the distance that you can see is clear i.e. the distance between you and the ‘limit point’. The limit point determines the speed at which you can safely enter a bend. The closer the limit point, the less distance (and time) you have to act and therefore the slower you need to go. And vice versa. Simple – as the Meercats would say! But not quite so simple, it takes practice but it pays off and results in safer and smoother corning. Before entering a bend, when you can see the limit point, make a visual assessment of the road surface and look for obstructions/potholes. Once you’ve done that, focus on the limit point and keep focussed on the moving limit point as the bend unwinds. That way you will corner safely and smoothly. Watch the Moto GP riders on TV, they focus on the limit point and not the road immediately in front of the bike. Often the rider’s head is pointing in a different direction to that of the bike. That’s because he’s focusing on the limit point or beyond! Simple. A good biking road is one with a series of connecting bends, right, then left, then right……….The limit point will be different for each bend and you may need to brake whilst taking the series of bends. If so, brake when the bike is upright at the point you exit one bend before entering the next one. Keeping the bike rubber side down and shiny side up is always recommended.

Overtaking: Seems very straightforward. But surprising how many accidents happen whilst overtaking. Before overtaking, consider; is anyone ahead of the vehicle you are about to overtake slowing down to turn right? Is the vehicle in front hiding a vehicle that might limit your ability to tuck in after overtaking? Are you in the right gear to overtake? Can you see over the vehicle or through its windows to help you look and think ahead? Don’t overtake at or approaching a junction, even if it looks clear – the vehicle you are following/passing may turn without warning. Always assume the driver of the vehicle in front hasn’t seen you! Have a final look in your mirror before you overtake. If in doubt, be patient and don’t overtake.
The final bits of advice: aim to take your organ donor card with you to the grave. And when you can’t get your leg over, it’s time to get a trike! 

Here are a few websites that members might find of interest:

And for many more, enter ‘Motorcycle Safety’ in the search engine and hit transmit.