A recent article in a high profile New Zealand motorcycle magazine, actually it was this magazine (March 2023 edition to be precise – Ed), outlined some safety protocols involved in group riding. Now, in order to wipe the smile off some of your faces, the “group riding” under discussion did not involve the peccadilloes of that somewhat vaunted gang of spouse swappers that are supposed to inhabit a certain central Otago town going by the name of Cromwell…oh no no no. We are talking here about fine upstanding motorcycle group riders here who probably wouldn’t know a peccadillo from a prickly pair. Let me just state at the outset that old Captain Slow here is indebted to his editor for throwing up a topic so ripe for dissection and dissertation of a comic kind.

So “Group MOTORCYCLE Rides”, eh? I guess by broad definition, that conjures up a multitude of different images for many of you. Even the dictionary definition of a group is, by necessity, not a precise one – “A number of people or things that are located, gathered or classed together”. So just like flavours of ice cream, a group ride can be quite a diverse thing, but oddly enough, and for the sake of having some fun at the editor’s expense, for it was he who penned the March edition article, we will focus, at least in part, on those “stately processions” so beloved by Harley-Davidsonistas and other spin-off cruiser cultures. 

So let’s rip the sh-t out of, sorry, as you were… So let’s unpack what the editor had to say back in March.


Since when has your average biker ever been prepared? Especially the cohort that rides America’s answer to the motorcycle. By the time they’ve arrived at that time of their lives where their mid to high six-figure incomes have been dispersed through at least one or two matrimonial “settlements” (AKA “financial wire brushings”), the poor beggars may well still be in a position to own, insure, register and maintain their throbbing chrome tinted wonder-horses. But they themselves are pretty much gimpy old trouts with aches, pains, leaking eyeballs and bladders that they’re underperformers in virtually every department except being able to moan about, well, practically everything. Expecting this lot to make a rendezvous at a group ride start point with any sort of chronological precision or preparedness would be akin to expecting Winston Peters not to smell blood in the water if he was a shark chasing wounded minorities for the sake of votes! Hmmm. So not off to a great start, are we?


The point here was about riding with people who, to use the words of the editor, “you gel with”. Strewth Ruth! My friends are amongst some of the weirdest types I know (see the comment about aviators below). “Gelling” with them is about the last thing I’d want to do. Who knows where they’ve been!!! I’d go as far as sharing a table with them at a pie stop, but even then, I’d insist on being upwind and socially distanced. 

Trust me on this one. It actually doesn’t make that much difference if your fellow riders are all members of the same business round table who you trust implicitly when you illegally divulge a pending share sell-down or just a bunch of randoms. Because if you’re smart, you will ensure your safety by isolating yourself several hundred metres behind the rider in front of you. That way, you can ride your own ride in your own space without fear of being bounced by some Red Baron type or swayed into by Jeff who has chronic hay fever and who can’t stop his Wide-Glide jumping sideways every time he sneezes.


Just what is it about bikers that makes us allude to aviation all the time? Are we all latent Biggles, Baders or Mavericks? Why would you want to even think about being associated with a fraternity who have taken being opinionated & arrogant to new heights based on a career of not bumping into anything in an environment where there actually is nothing to bump into other than incompetent versions of themselves heading in the opposite direction who failed TCAS:101. You already know how to tell if there’s a pilot in a room full of strangers because don’t worry, they’ll soon tell you. As for the ride formatting itself like a Xmas parade convoy, I’m sorry mein Emperor Paulus Maximus, but your express thought that “It’s not much of a group ride if your “group” is spread along five kilometres of highway” could not be more wrong. 

Suggesting, complete with twee diagrams complete with dotted lines and time interval “rules”, that a group is best bound together almost leather-tasselled handlebar to metal hand-gripped handlebar in an early WW2 RAF tight “Vic” pattern is just silly! (Just ask Bader about that one). Motorcycle safety thrives on and in open spaces, and you certainly don’t want petite little gaps – you want “big uns”. 

Why on earth grown-up bikers would want to ride almost in their fellow riders’ pockets is something that perhaps only Freud might know. Is it compensation for not being able to perform in a SingStar soiree with their big sister and her friends when they were 12 years old?? Did they have to revert to singing solo quietly to themselves, using their hairbrush as a faux microphone before throwing themselves on the bed crying into their pillow??? Answer: Most likely “Not”!!! So why, at the opposite end of their lives, would they have any desire to be within cuddling distance of several other bikers, of whom almost invariably one of them will be smelling of wee???


At last, the editor and I are on common ground. As I alluded to above, motorcyclists need their own space to breathe in. That’s not just due to severe halitosis. We need clear lines of sight, and we need our own manoeuvring and braking room. We don’t need to feel like we’re hemmed in on a dance floor amongst a bunch of Whirling Dervishers! In a word, we want spatial freedom.

Outside of the need for safety in all of our riding, we all acknowledge the social aspect of group rides. But if you take nothing else away from this five-minute read, then please comprehend that there is zero need for groups of motorcyclists to ride in close huddles in order to be social. You can do your socialising at planned rallying points, pit stops and meal breaks. EOS. 

Words – Captain Slow – Contributor to BRM