May 2005 Safety Thoughts

 More Than Spacing 

by Dave Hansen, Safety Officer 

One of the important aspects of group riding is the need to maintain proper spacing between you and the riders in front of you. This includes both the one second to the offset rider & the two seconds to the rider directly in front of you. Remember, this spacing is dynamic: the actual distance between bikes varies with the speed youíre traveling. The spacing distance at 30 MPH will be less than the spacing distance when traveling at 70 MPH. 

As the riding season begins & we again re-familiarize ourselves with riding in a group, itís important to maintain the full one & two second stagger spacing. I know I talk about this often, but in reality, many times our groups tend to ride with closer to Ĺ & 1 second spacing. Thatís too close for adequate reaction times, particularly early in the riding season before weíve re-honed our riding skills after several months without riding. 

But just maintaining this spacing is not enough. 

Let me give an example why: A couple years ago I was leading an overnight ride. We were on a two-lane highway in a rural setting. The day was sunny, bright & warm. The road was straight & level. We were approaching an intersection that had a traffic light that could be seen a half-mile or more ahead. The traffic light was green when it first came into view. As we approached the intersection, a car stopped on the intersecting road from the left side. I expected the light to change and it did. When it went from green to yellow, I began braking. As I was stopping, 3 bikes passed me on either side. All three went through the intersection. I stopped before the intersection. All three that went through the intersection said they didnít have time to stop. 

I was the lead bike and had plenty of time to stop. Why? At least 2 of the 3 bikes that passed me were seasoned riders with 10ís of thousands of miles in the saddle, so I donít believe itís because Iím that much more skilled at braking than they. I stopped because I was looking ahead, saw the car approach, anticipated the light changing and was prepared to stop. 

I donít know what those other riders were thinking or seeing as we approached the light, but I do know they werenít looking ahead, anticipating a need to stop. 

It is imperative, even while group riding, scan ahead to identify potential hazards and anticipate possible reactions. Whether this is a traffic light changing, a pothole in the road, debris falling from another vehicle or whatever? In fact, itís even more critical to ride alert & aware when in a group because you endanger not only yourself, but the other riders in your group.

Donít become complacent when group riding and be lulled into just playing follow the leader. Maintain your spacing. Anticipate & be ready to react. It could save your life or your riding buddyís life. 

Ride Safe! 

Words of Safety