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Second Man Drop-Off

Second man Drop off when group riding

Second Man Drop off when group riding

There are many occasions when the second man drop-off system may be used when riding as a group. The main thing to consider is how you intend to stay together as a group.

Some group rides just want to go out for a ride and don’t mind if people get lost or split up. Other groups want the whole group to stay together at all costs and make sure nobody gets lost or separated on their ride.

Whatever approach is used, all group members must be made aware of the way that is intended to ride as a group. If “second man drop-off” is being used, all riders must be aware how it works and what their role will be.

Everyone should know the group’s strategy and there should be a destination or meeting place agreed prior to departing. A briefing should be delivered to all group members to tell them the important aspects of the ride. Riders should know the intended route and where intermediate meeting places may be, what to do if they are separated and how to meet up again on such occasions.

Using radios to communicate

Radio communication may be used by a number of riders, the lead and tail riders should be in communication and marshals should also be used to relay and transfer information from the front to the rear of the group and vice-versa. Radios like Cardo Packtalk are a great asset and can pair or MESH up to 15 individual riders. They can communicate at a great distance acting as a chain.

Good communication is key to a successful ride, as the lead rider needs to know what is going on behind them. They are directed by the riders behind and can make decisions based on the information from the other riders.

Sat navs are another great addition to group rides. If the lead rider has created a GPX file, they can distribute this amongst the group to ensure everyone knows where to go. If the group starts to get separated by large gaps between riders, at least they know where they should be going.

How it works

“Second man drop-off” is important and everyone in the group has a role and responsibility to play. This is especially true when they have been dropped off and they do not leave the spot they have been told to wait until everyone in the group has passed them.

1. Lead and tail rider

In this system of “second man drop-off” there is a lead rider and a tail rider whose positions never change in the column. The lead and tail biker will be designated and will always stay in position. All riders should take a good look at their bikes and clothing so that they can be identified during the ride. You do not want group riders to inadvertently follow a biker from another group (which has happened before).

2. The Second man drops

As the group arrives at a point of deviation on the route (e.g. a motorway exit, a turn or a roundabout) the second bike in the column “drops off” (“second man drop-off”) at the roadside in a position that is safe from other road users and visible to the following bikes. The second man dropped-off is acting as a visible signpost for the following riders. The lead biker will point out the spot where the “second man drop-off” will be placed.

3. They must wait

The “second man drop-off” motorcyclist stays in this position until the last biker has passed them. On seeing the tail biker go past or to be allowed to ride off in front of them they resume position in the line immediately in front of the tail marker.

4. Stay patient

It is absolutely imperative that the “second man drop-off” biker remains patient and stays in place until the tail rider appears. This system has been used on many occasions and it works if everybody follows the rules. 

An old friend of mine with a mixed group of bikes and rider abilities told me that he had  once gone on a ride around Wales of about 230 miles with about 35 other riders. By using the second man drop-off system they didn’t lose a single rider all day. Sometimes the wait was as long as 10 minutes or more but because everyone played their role correctly, it worked.

5. Not always necessary to drop

There should be no need to have a second rider stop when the exit is clear and travelling: – straight on at traffic lights, roundabouts, or crossroads if no “drop off” is evident. But the group can make their own decisions if they want to mark every junction.

6. Everyone must ride safely

Riders in the group must not ride above their own ability or limits just to try and keep up. There will be a bike waiting at the next turn off point. Do not rush and cause yourself or others any problems.

Do not get pushed along by a faster bike behind you. Move over and let them through if you are unhappy with their position if it is too close to you and you feel pressured. Slower riders, beware you may be holding up a faster rider and move over to let them pass.

Ride at a pace that is within your ability and you are comfortable with.

It’s not a race and you won’t get left behind. Just because you can’t see the bike in front doesn’t mean you’re going to get left behind. Take it steady, someone will be waiting somewhere. Trust in the “second man drop-off system”.

7. You create your own group rules

You may overtake your fellow riders to make it towards the front if the group allows this but do not at any time overtake the lead rider. Overtaking should be done safely and with respect, make sure you have time to complete the manoeuvre and do not rely on the bike in front to wave you on, make sure it is safe to do so with your open decision-making.

8. Bikers joining the group

Do not worry if another vehicle that is not part of your group gets in between you and the rider in front or behind. Make sure you keep track of the bike in front and concentrate at junctions so that you do not follow the wrong motorcycle. The second man drop-off should be there waiting for you to pass anyway.

9.Let the lead rider know what’s going on

 If there is a problem during the ride, a rider within the group should come alongside the lead bike and flag them down to stop in a safe place. Having a radio to communicate will be a huge advantage to keep in touch with other riders and be able to inform the lead rider what is happening further back in the group. It does not need to be the second man to give this information to the lead rider, it can be anyone in the group who feels things are not right especially if the safety of the group is in jeopardy.

10. Everyone is inexperienced at some stage

Remember everyone has different riding abilities and skills. Having a lack of experience is short-lived, everyone has to start somewhere, and respect their fellow riders in the group. Not everyone will be happy being the “second man drop-off”, so it is better to let those who feel they are not ready for it, do it on another day when they feel ready.

People gain experience and confidence with time and practice. Nothing is easy to start with and riding in a group may feel awkward, frightening or daunting.

Motorcycle Training Instructor and student


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Encourage new riders to the group

If you want to encourage other riders to join you, you should be patient and train them how to ride within the group you are riding with or leading. Being a group leader is not about leading the group, it’s about understanding the dynamics, problems, and solutions to make everything gel and seem seamless and smooth.

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