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On ride outs in The BMW Club we use The Drop Off System :

We generally use the Drop Off system when there are more than six bikes in a group of riders.


Martin Ellis Explains :

Riders are all individuals, and we all have our preferences and foibles. As a club, we try to encourage members to ride their bikes as much as possible, and in pursuit of that goal we have a great number of runs or rideouts throughout each year.

One of the most commonly given reasons for someone not trying a club run is that they don't like riding in groups, and I have to say that personally, neither do I. That's if the 'group' is the usual stereotype of a bunch of bikes riding in convoy through towns and villages, clogging up the traffic and (worst of all sins) holding up cars!

Neither am I a fan of the idea where each rider keeps the man in front and the man behind in sight, as this puts a great deal of pressure on each rider not only to watch stuff he shouldn't need to be watching, but also to keep up with the man ahead of him and not lose sight of the man behind him.

OK, that's a bit of an over simplification, but if any of that seems familiar to you, we're on common ground.

Our way round this is to use a tried and tested method of group control called the Drop Off System , which is also sometimes referred to as Second Man Drop Off.

Let's take a hypothetical group of twenty riders (although anywhere between six and forty is OK). In this group there will be a run leader and a back marker (sometimes called tail end Charlie or a sweeper). The position of these two bikes will always stay the same in relation to the rest of the bunch - i.e. leader always at the front, back marker always at the back.

As the leader approaches a point where the riders behind may not know where he's gone if he doesn't leave some sort of a marker, he points to a place at the roadside where he would like the bike behind him to stop. This can be at a junction, a turning or a roundabout. In this way, the bikes following on will see the marker bike and turn at that point. As tail end Charlie catches up, he will signal the marker to rejoin the group and continue the run. Simple as that.

Thus, the rider immediately behind the leader gets dropped off at the next junction and rejoins the group at the back (just in front of tail end Charlie). This process repeats at every junction, meaning that everyone eventually makes their way to the front and gets dropped off at some point during the run. It sounds complicated but it works extremely well, and with no fuss.

There are a few side-effects of riding in this way, all of them beneficial;

1) You no longer have to keep an eye on the rider in front to see where he's gone, as there will always be someone marking your path ahead.

2) If you're a fast rider, there's nothing (apart from legal and safety considerations) to stop you from overtaking the bikes in front of you after you've been 'dropped off', so that you get back to the front where you can do it all over again .

3) If your riding style is more measured , you may stay at your own pace, safe in the knowledge that you are holding no-one up (apart from the back marker) and will not be put under any pressure to go faster than you'd like.

4) In an ideal world, bikes will get spread out along a route, meaning that there'll be no 'convoys' holding up other traffic.

5) No convoys means no more desparate overtakes where you feel obliged to follow the bike in front as it disappears into the distance.

Your first run where Drop Off is used can seem a little daunting, but I generally advise first timers to make that fact known to the group when chatting before the run starts, and then to stay back as the run departs to give yourself a chance to see how those in front of you do it before it's your turn.

Some leaders don't point, but leave it up the following bike to use common sense and mark any possible route alteration, but if that makes you uneasy, ask the run leader if he will point for that particular run. We all had to start somewhere, and I'm sure he will help you out.

On some long runs, the run leader may decide to find a laybay or similar to allow the group to catch up a little before moving on, but I've found that even when you think you are miles away from your nearest rider, the whole group (generally) takes less than a minute to come together at such a stop.

Most run leaders wil try and avoid complex junctions (or major urban areas at all, wherever possible), but where there is such a junction ahead, stopping to 'group up' will allow a smoother passage with less chance of anyone becoming separated from the group.

Grouping up is also used sometimes before entering a motorway, as groups need stay in sight of each other on motorways due to it being impossible to (legally or safely) 'mark' a motorway exit. Alternatively, the leader will brief everyone before the run starts that he will be leaving the M/way at a certain junction.

Some of the above points illustrate the need to be at the start point at least fifteen minutes before departure time , to allow any of these items to be mentioned or discussed.

In practice, many run leaders (myself included) will avoid using motorways and major dual carriageways wherever possible to prevent complications when the need to leave the carriageway arises (and because they're soul destroying slabs of ashphalt/concrete which give no pleasure at all

OK, sometimes it goes pear shaped when someone marks a junction incorrectly, or goes too far round a roundabout before stopping to mark, but these are few and far between, and make good conversation points when you finally get where you're going .

Give it a try...you have nothing to lose, and might make whole new bunch of friends.

Of course, to take part in a club run/event, you have to be a club member (or a guest of one). See if this helps persuade you to join.


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