Greetings from Pax River!
With Part 2 of the August Newsletter, we begin discussions of Rider Safety and Operating Procedures used on Run For The Wall. It’s never too early to start getting ready and a clear understanding of how we ride is a primary factor in creating and maintaining a safe environment on the road. So, Kick Stands Up – here we go…
Stagger Formation – A Basic Guide
Formation riding can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience when everyone in the group is locked on and the formation remains tight and consistent. When the opposite occurs, the formation ride may become frustrating at best. Very often the difference isn’t necessarily due to rider ability as much as a basic understanding and uniform approach to how the formation is defined. The Stagger Formation is basic to any group ride. It allows for efficient passage on highways, flexibility in traffic, group integrity through intersections and can be safely executed by riders of almost any experience level.
I had the honor and privilege of leading a Platoon in Stagger Formation on RFTW XXVIII in 2016. Along the course of close to 3000 miles that we road together, this group set and held a textbook Stagger Formation that was truly impressive to behold – really, I’ve seen video! Here’s how we did it…
As with any large or complex task, the success of execution depends on attention to the details. A successful Stagger Formation depends on a consistent application of its individual elements.
>The roadway lane is divided into three tracks – Left/Middle/Right.
>The Stagger Formation will use the only Left & Right tracks.
> DO NOT ENTER THE CENTER TRACK except for safety of the lane.
>Each two bike group is a “Section”: Bike 1 & 2, Bike 3 & 4, Bike 5 & 6, etc.
>The Bike on left is the Lead Bike of the Section, the Bike on right is the Wing Bike.
>The Lead Bike maintains a set spacing on the bike directly ahead, in the Left Track.
>The Wing Bike maintains half that spacing on their Lead Bike, but offset in the Right Track.
>The Wing Bike maintains their spacing on their Lead Bike regardless of the Lead Bike’s spacing except for safety of the lane.
>The Lead bike should watch ahead 2-3 bikes to anticipate fluctuation.
>Think “Micro-adjustment” of the throttle, no big accelerations or decelerations.
>Sight Picture – The Wing Bike should observe and set a sight picture in the correct position such as aligning the Lead Bikes right mirror to a spot on the windscreen. As long as the sight picture is lined up, you’re in position.
>BRAKES should be used only when stopping the formation – spacing is maintained by judicious use of throttle and down shifting.
>Accordion Effect – The smallest change in speed is magnified as it affects each following rider.
>Bike Overlap – Unless the formation is coming to a stop, NEVER close the formation to create an overlapping condition between the Lead and Wing Bike.
>Deceleration Discipline – When the formation slows down, do NOT create an OPENING/INCREASING GAP in front of you. Slowing more quickly than the bike in front of you steals space from the bike behind you.
>If a rider drops out, the riders on that side move forward to close the gap.
>When stopped, the formation collapses to side-by-side, then reforms the stagger when rolling.
This concept of the Stagger Formation removes some variability since the primary spacing is maintained only by the Lead Bike of each section. Less experienced riders are often more successful riding in the Wing position. But regardless of position, a good briefing and clear understanding of each rider’s responsibilities will make for a tight and consistent formation, even if you’re NOT riding 3000 miles.
Watch for Part 3 coming soon…