How To: Ride in a Pack


One inevitable thing about contemporary grass roots events is that it's easy to find yourself riding in a large pack of bikes, most of them piloted by people you don't even know yet. Of course this can be fun or a complete ball-up depending on where you are in the pack and who you end up next to, behind, etc. While the accompanying story originally published in Roth's "Choppers" Magazine in '67 may be old, the concepts are not outdated, only accentuated by the diverse machines and high speeds that mix it up in today's group rides. The Big Daddy's advice may lean more toward beginning club riders, but these lessons can be valuable to today's noob rider as well.

1. Decide before you ride.
Are you a good enough rider to hang with the guys in this group? Be honest and ask yourself if you and your machine can keep up. If you have to think about it very long, have the decency to ride near the back. Know the route so if it gets hairy you can split off at the first opportunity and go at your own pace. This is just as important of a decision if you are a faster rider. Generally groups go a little slower. If this is going to make you antsy or keep you hunting gears, you may want to go off the front and get lost on your own. If you are determined to stay with the pack, simmer down, take you place in the group and hold your line.

2. You are not an outlaw, so quit pretending.
Maybe you are, but in a group of unknowns, you have no idea who you are next to or who's coming up behind you. Just because clubs ride two-up and haul ass for hundreds of miles with only a few feet doesn't mean you can. Those dudes have a lot of practice and know their wingman and the rest of the club so the situation is much more predictable. Lots of people (me included) prefer to split off from the main pack and form a smaller group going in the same direction, but much tighter and faster. Doing this with your friends that you are used to riding with makes a lot more sense than trying to pull it off with strangers who can be squirrley at best and downright dangerous at worst.

3. Hold your line.
Get in your slot, get an acceptable interval between you and the next rider and keep the pace. Nothing balls up momentum and throws everyone off like some jackass in the middle who keeps running up on the next guy and backing off. Adjust this interval to suit the riding environment. On the freeway I always tighten it up so that nerd in the Prius doesn't cut into the pack. On mountain twisties, give yourself enough room to recover if the guy in front of you runs out of talent. The last thing you want to do is wad up the whole pack because you were following too close for no good reason. When splitting lanes in a group, go to single file and stay behind the bike in front of you. If you split up and pass cars on both sides there is a good chance that a startled cager will notice a bike on one side and not the other and crowd the bike on the opposite side. Clubs have protocols for this, you should just try to avoid causing more confusion the cars and riders around you. The line that flows is faster, so just follow the dude in front of you and hope he does the same. 

4. What to do if the bike quits?
Well, there are a few choices here depending on the situation. The first priority should be safety, yours and the other riders of course. Signal that you are pulling off so the guys behind you know what's up. If you are riding with some buddies in the pack, hopefully they'll pull over. Wave everyone else by to keep the pack moving and then signal some of the slower riders in the back to swing over and lend a hand if need be. Hopefully you can fix whatever it is yourself, but if you need gas or someone else's expertise, be as selective as you can and don't hold up 100 riders just because you forgot how to switch to reserve. Bottom line, keep your shit tight so you aren't "that guy" in the group.

5. Be kind, be courteous, open that door for your mom.
Sorry, couldn't help but throw in that old Circle Jerks lyric. Anyway, think about the others in the group before yourself. Pass on signals and don't hesitate to motion that you are slowing down. Choppers have notoriously small and ineffective brake lights, so a little arm flapping might help the dude behind you stay that way. Getting a little chilly or jonesing for a smoke? Just wait 'til the next stop and avoid pulling over in the middle of the run and causing a break in continuity. Realize that even though you have big ol' brakes on your evo Sporty, the dude on the 70 year old bike behind you can't stop nearly as fast, so don't jam on your binders, give him some notice and he will be a lot happier.

6. Not everyone needs to blog the whole ride.I bet this isn't something old BDR had to worry about. I'm totally guilty of hauling ass in the wrong lane shooting with one or sometimes even two hands. I am a trained professional. Well, not really, but I try to make my intentions obvious and mostly go slow and let people pass me while I snap some pics. This is disruptive at best, but with a little care it can be done without pissing everyone off. When 50% of the people on the ride are doing it, stow your camera and just ride your motorcycle, blogs are gay anyway.

One last observation I have to make is that the East Coast guys I've ridden with seem to have it a little more dialed compared to some of the wingnuts I've ridden with in the west. Not sure what that can be attributed to, but if you've got any ideas, post them or any other experiences you have that might help people ride better in groups in the forum thread here. Me? I'm going to avoid large groups unless I'm out front and generally will have a better time splitting off with a dozen or less dudes that I'm used to riding with.







Comment with Facebook


Comment with Chopcult (33)

Commented on 12-3-2010 At 05:49 am

Awesome! This is the stuff I love to see. Keep it coming.


Commented on 12-3-2010 At 06:29 am

thanks, Bill. well written and ridden.

look forward to ridin' alonside on the next big run.


Commented on 12-3-2010 At 08:04 am

sort of like you Bill I only like 'joe public' packs when we are road guarding - that way I get to use my irish ancestral sheep fucking - er I mean sheep herding skills - other than that - fuck the weekend warrior/toy run packs.

think the best advice in this is BE CRITICAL OF YOURSELF AND YOUR MACHINE - you ARE putting all others lives in your unskilled hands. And take pictures in the parking lot.

Coup d'etat....Fuck your Mom!

Commented on 12-3-2010 At 12:41 pm

The weather is shittier on the east coast and there's no real scene out here so you don't have the fashionista chopper fags trying to be cool who cant ride a bike. (there are some but not as many)

Hows that for shit stirring? haha!!!

Commented on 12-3-2010 At 12:55 pm

The constant sun out here in the West makes us all a little more retarded than those back East. However, I'll take being retarded in good weather any day over being smart in cold wintery mix.

Commented on 12-3-2010 At 02:39 pm

Great article, I personally only like to ride with two four riders max. if in a big pack i prefer to be in the back so i can prepare for the dumbass. Scenery has a lot to do with not paying attention to the road. down here in the south we have a lot to look at, but riding in the hills or mountains you have to be alert and aware of surroundings and who you ride with. I prefer to do this alone or with one of my friends. three at most. Again great article.

Commented on 12-3-2010 At 05:53 pm

great article. Especially number 4 you absolutely have to signal in some way when your bike takes a shit and youre getting off the road.

Commented on 12-3-2010 At 06:07 pm

Great article Bill...glad to see someone lay out a bit of etiquette for group riding. I like smaller groups, with a quicker pace... and it doesnt make for a fun ride if you gotta constantly have your head on a swivel to see whos standing on the brakes, or going wide in a turn. East Coast guys might ride a little tighter because its pretty congested on the hwy's here. Losing sight of a buddy through traffic, means chances are your not finding him between the 18wheelers and city busses...Its stay on it or fall back.

Commented on 12-3-2010 At 06:44 pm

I couldn't ride cock to ass if I wanted to. No skills.

Commented on 12-3-2010 At 06:50 pm

Bill, thank you. i think everyone has already said it, but this article is not just great, but allows some of us (greenhorns) to see flat out where we stand, and where we need to improve in our game. ...*sidenote: did anyone else have difficulty reading the right side of BDR's article on the 1st, 3rd, & 5th pages? (maybe just the way things worked out? or avoiding leagal b/s with the mag? just curious, not tryin ta be a bitch about it)

Commented on 12-3-2010 At 06:59 pm

My brakes suck, and so does your only rear drum.
a quote I live by, Billdozer knows why...
"give yourself enough room to recover if the guy in front of you runs out of talent".

Commented on 12-3-2010 At 09:40 pm

Ferrum, those are scans of 40-year old zines and a little bit of the right side of right hand pages has been trimmed off. I got them like this. You can piece it together and figure it out, it's worth it, they are true artifacts.

Commented on 12-3-2010 At 10:20 pm

Reading this, I literally checked everyone of those things off. Meaning I broke the rules, all of them, at least once. I've also KILLED it at following all the rules too. I have some GREAT riding buds.

I'm not a fan of riding with strangers. Especially when they get closer than they should.

"blogs are gay" Not that there's anything wrong with that. could be a T-shirt.


Commented on 12-4-2010 At 01:47 am

Kick ass Bill

Commented on 12-4-2010 At 06:34 am

Bill, great read, on point and relevent. You can be my wingman any day. Tim

Commented on 12-4-2010 At 07:39 am

right on . Blogs ARE gay.

Commented on 12-4-2010 At 09:03 am

Bill, great write-up. Glad to say that west coasters that I've ridden with have pack riding dialed in just fine, yourself included. Even with one hand on the camera.

If I had to say why east coasters have it dialed I'd say it's the environment we have to ride in. Tight 200+ year old road system (no left turns and "jug-handles"), Asshole cagers, big rigs, and the most populated area NJ/NYC in the country. Sorry Your roads have way more breathing room. I feel relaxed riding out there.

Commented on 12-4-2010 At 06:43 pm

Hells Yea!! Damn good info for noob riders.

Commented on 12-4-2010 At 08:13 pm

let's face it: most of us experienced riders have acquired habits that, if a new rider were to emulate (ESPECIALLY in a large pack of non-everyday riders) would cause some serious clusterfuck mayhem to everyone involved. i agree with others on the thread about getting away from the herd in formation riding. i generally avoid large runs with unknowns altogether for that reason; i didn't start riding in the first place just to find another damn conformity group to circle jerk with, did any of you? it's just plain frowned upon to stand on the pegs in some gaggle of baggers and piss at oncoming traffic while sparking a smoke in your dry hand, and who needs that kind of guilt trip when you're just trying to feel the breeze between your knees? great article and good advice all around. take the time to instruct new or just plain crappy riders one on one or in very small groups and, in the long run, everyone can be safer, more skilled, and take a piss whenever their coffee soaked bladders need some air (women included, i've seen it done successfully!).

ps-blogs are boring, saying shit's gay for lack of verbal skills is just assless chaps and tribal tattoos

Commented on 12-5-2010 At 10:38 am

"ps-blogs are boring, saying shit's gay for lack of verbal skills is just assless chaps and tribal tattoos."

Ha!!! this is awesome. And technically, isn't this a blog??? Just sayin'. BUT, This BLOG is amazing. Sharing information across the world is amazing. Let's not be too hypocritical and try not to act like we're too cool for modern conviences. We're all chopper NERDS!!! Seriously. We go to chopper conventions and get all dressed up like we're a bunch of fucking Trekers going to meet William Shatner. And that's cool. But, let's not fool ourselves. The real true believers would be like..."What the fuck is Chopcult???" This site is bitchin. This article is bitchin. Im a motorcycle geek and not ashamed.

Commented on 12-5-2010 At 02:59 pm

moto geeks unite! maybe someone should start a group for openly geek riders...pocket protectors on leather jackets and horn rim glasses under dot helmets? a geek pride ride?

Commented on 12-5-2010 At 05:10 pm

kick ass read ! Im from The eastcoast (Boston) our streets are way narrower then streets out here in cali.So ya gotta ride tighter. blog's are gay !

Commented on 12-6-2010 At 01:01 pm

To me riding tire to tire going 80+mph in a small pack of your tightest bros is the best RUSH you can ever get! Bad ass article....

Commented on 12-7-2010 At 04:50 pm

They call that RACING

Commented on 12-7-2010 At 08:21 pm

Agree with everyone else. Great words! After 30 nearly years in tha' saddle I rarely do any group riding outside of tha' club. As I am sure others have witnessed, there's a whole load of stupidity in play when a gaggle of riders get together and haul ass from poker run stop to stop. Even riding with my closest buds, I'll take the dead last spot every time. Catchin' some wind at a leisurely pace beats elbow-to-asshole group ridin' any day. Respects and ride safe out there. =)

Commented on 12-8-2010 At 04:26 pm


Commented on 12-11-2010 At 12:26 am

Thanks for putting this up, love it

Commented on 12-17-2010 At 09:34 am

Good post man. I personally do not like riding in a big pack. Probably because I used to ride a ironhead that always broke my balls and I would end up on the side of the road. Its not embarassing until it happens every run I went on. Fuck it i like rippin around by myself anyway.

Commented on 12-17-2010 At 09:34 am

Good post man. I personally do not like riding in a big pack. Probably because I used to ride a ironhead that always broke my balls and I would end up on the side of the road. Its not embarassing until it happens every run I went on. Fuck it i like rippin around by myself anyway.

Commented on 1-25-2011 At 04:13 pm

here's another point: keep an eye on the guy behind you... i'm usually in the front & sometimes when our group stops for gas, i'll ask where the last 3 guys are ? & the guy in front of them says " i don't know" well, when did u last see them ? "i don't know" how hard is it to check on the guy behind you ? in case he breaks down & he can't pull ahead to let someone know.

Commented on 5-3-2011 At 12:01 pm

A move to watch out for is the guy who during the formation of the pack got placed 9 or 10 bikes behind his buddy - Then spends the rest of the time getting in and out the the pack trying to make it back up to his buddy so they can ride side by side.

Commented on 8-26-2013 At 07:37 am

Read, thanks for posting!

I've never ridden in a pack larger than four of some of my closest friends, and even then we have issues...I'll be sure to pass this one on to them! Not a cure-all, but might help us out.

Commented on 8-26-2013 At 07:37 am

Good read, thanks for posting!

I've never ridden in a pack larger than four of some of my closest friends, and even then we have issues...I'll be sure to pass this one on to them! Not a cure-all, but might help us out.

Please Login to Comment


ADVERTISE    |    CONTACT    |    ©2009 - 2017 ChopCult    |    REPORT ABUSE    |    CONDUCT

Chopcult on Instagram Chopcult on Pinterest Chopcult on Tumblr Chopcult on Facebook Chopcult on Twitter