VOG FORMATION - GOOD COMMUNICATION
Originally published on 30 May 2006 and reposted in this updated format on 22 March 2018.
A great deal of responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Road Captain - not only does he have to brief the group on expected route & road conditions, but also to communicate effectively the hand signals that will be used to take the formation safely from the start to finish.
There will always be a mix of newbies amongst the seasoned riders and the chance of miscommunication is there - with the potential of disaster. As an example, we have seen once too often - a biker moving out of the group into another lane as if instructed to do so - when the RC has only given the intention to change lanes and is waiting for the sweep to take appropriate action when safe to do so!
Chinese whispers—also known as "broken telephone" - is an internationally popular children's game, in which the players form a line and the first person in the line whispers a message to the ear of the next person in the line, and so on, until the last player is reached, who announces the message to the entire group. What is delivered is often completely different to the one that is initiated! This may seem humorous in the game - but not funny when you are on a motorcycle!!
Signals are different between various groups and in different countries - but universally all signals should be:
Initiated by the road captain, except for bike-out or refuelling.
Passed down the formation, rider to rider, as quickly as possible to convey the message.
Maintained long enough to be noticed by the rider following.
Made to be to clearly visible and understood by all in the group.
The following signals are utilised by VOG:
“START YOUR ENGINES”
Indicated by the captain - swinging the left arm in a circular anticlockwise movement above the head.
“SINGLE FILE RIDING"
The captain raises his left hand, hand closed, thumb in and index finger straight, pointing skyward.
All following riders shall repeat the signal and then reposition in single file behind the captain.
Single file is used for many reasons:
Using a narrow off or on-ramp to a freeway,
passing slow traffic on single roads,
passing parked vehicles on narrow roads where car doors could be opened into the roadway,
moving to the left of a lane to allow accumulated traffic behind to pass,
turning to the left or right on narrow single roads,
allowing vehicles continuing straight, to pass,
to safely negotiate pothole conditions, roadworks, deviations or narrowed road conditions etc.
When riding single file, riders should assume the position in the road, taken by the Road Captain, being left, centre or right of the lane.
The captain will indicate to initiate or resume staggered formation by raising his left hand and spreading his index finger and second finger in a vee, and rotating his hand side to side. The signal is to be repeated by all following riders.
Point with left hand (slightly downwards) or left foot for obstacles to your left - to warn riders
Point with right foot for obstacles to your right - to warn riders behind you.
“BUNCH UP FORMATION"
Means "close up the gaps – stop lagging behind". Initiated by the Captain raising left arm, with the hand opening wide then clenching into a fist repeatedly (as if grabbing at the air).
It is impossible to lead a formation that dawdles along with large gaps created by lagging bikers. To negotiate some conditions, the captain. needs the formation to be tight and disciplined. This signal says it all! “Pull it together – tighten up”.
Remember that a consistent distance between riders of more than two seconds can constitute a separation from the official formation - no one should be guilty of splitting a formation and allowing other vehicles to pull into the formation.
Left arm straight out to the left and hold the signal until noticed by all riders (including the sweep).
“RIGHT TURN & DAWDLING RIDERS"
Left arm in a bent position over the helmet pointing to the right until noticed by all riders (including the sweep).
Should a rider in front of you consistently hang back, (thereby opening the following distance and splitting the formation) - then indicate with the right turn signal and pull out of the formation to the right, overtake & move into correct position in the formation ahead. Do not zigzag from left to right in the lane. Once the slow rider is out of the way, the riders behind must move forward and fill up the space in the same line they were in. (Do not pass on the left!!)
That rider will then have to assume an opposite lane portion to stay in formation. This action should wake the dawdler up to his/her daydreaming and he/she might then concentrate on maintaining following distance after that. If not, this action may be repeated by other riders, slowly moving a dawdler back to eventually end up in front of the sweep.
The SWEEP, having immunity to staggered lane position, can then use motivational tactics to urge the rider to maintain following distance.
When the formation needs to change lanes it shall be signalled by the Captain using the turn signal to so indicate his intention. This signal shall be repeated by every rider down the formation but they should all hold their positions. The SWEEP will then be the first to occupy the new intended lane, followed by the second-last rider and all the way up to the captain, who is the last to occupy the new lane. This allows the sweep to “block” and reserve the lane for the formation, before the riders start filling the lane. Turn indicators should only be cancelled after the lane change of each rider.
"STOPPING A FORMATION"
The captain will stop a formation by lifting his left arm, palm open facing forward, at head height, elbow out horizontal. (This is the customary hand signal but done with the left hand and not the throttle hand) the signal to be repeated by all riders, including the sweep)
"SIGNAL TO REFUEL"
Point to your tank with left hand index finger until noticed – elbow held up and out. Signal to be passed ahead to the ROAD CAPTAIN, who should decide on a route to the closest possible filling station.
"LOST RIDER OR SPLIT GROUP"
To indicate a lost rider (bike-out) or a split group - raise your left arm with a clenched fist (knuckles forward) seen in your mirror. Maintain the signal until the rider in front of you is seen to repeat the signal and is passed up the line to the captain. Where radios are used by captain & sweep, on a group ride, the sweep shall transmit a signal to the captain to stop the formation. The formation shall not turn back but with radio/mobile phone communication a decision will be made to overcome the bike-out situation.
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