Riding in a group is about more than just maintaining a parade-perfect staggered formation. Instead of blindly following the tail of the rider in front of you like a bored pack horse, being aware and proactive will make you a more proficient, safer rider that others want to ride with!
Maintain your situational awareness. This is something you should be practicing anytime you’re on the bike, not just in a group. You’re always scanning ahead, checking your mirrors and watching the patterns of other drivers, right? Don’t get lazy just because you’re surrounded by your “pack!”
Watch your leader. If your group is stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle and the leader starts looking over their shoulder, you can guess that a lane change is imminent. You’ll be ready to move over quickly, safely and efficiently, keeping the whole group moving. If you’re riding sweep, move over early and “set a pick” for the riders ahead, keeping the lane open for them to easily slide over.
Look farther than 20 feet ahead of you. See that “stale” green traffic light that could be getting ready to turn yellow? Be prepared for the rider in front of you to hit the brakes if it turns. See the driver in the next lane over, slowing down and looking over their shoulder? They likely want to change lanes—keep an eye on them, and consider slowing to let them in, especially if your group is a large one.
Go with the flow. Group riding rules are not always black and white. For example, on long highway stretches it’s common for the group to spread out as everyone finds their own pace. Just be sure that you follow your group’s established procedure for back-marking at turns.
In areas of heavy traffic and slow speeds, try to keep your formation tight. Don’t be “that rider,” who dawdles and allows large gaps to form between them and the rider(s) ahead, then bolts through yellow lights at the last second, leaving those behind them high and dry or forced to attempt to make the light with them.
If your group hits some twisties and you find that you can’t keep up, don’t worry, just ride at your own pace. Wave the rider(s) behind you past if they want to go faster; at minimum, the sweep rider will stay with you and the rest of the group will wait for you to catch up ahead. This is part of the fun of group riding: you know your “pack” will take care of you.
Try to be consistent. It’s a lot easier to ride with people who are predictable. Hold your line, be smooth and steady with your speed and pay attention to your surroundings. Your fellow riders will thank you!