Road Captain Manual – Does Such Instruction Exist?

HOG RC Patch

To be patched as a Road Captain is a great honor. The Road Captain can make an ordinary ride into a spectacular ride. The Road Captain leads his club and they follow knowing full well that their Captain will lead them as safely as he can. His focus is to lead the group safely and make the trip enjoyable. Just like a Captain at the helm of a ship, he is going to guide you through the adversity that is the open road.

For the prospective Road Captain eager to learn the ways of the road you can only hope to find a willing mentor. Some of you may be fortunate and join clubs with well established Road Captain programs. Others may not be so lucky. Maybe you are trying to start your own club from scratch. Maybe you live in some distant corner of the planet far away from Milwaukee where there are no other motorcycle clubs to model yourselves after. You may feel lost like Luke Skywalker seeking out instruction from Obi Wan and Yoda.

You can take the Riders Edge Experienced Rider Course. You can watch the Ride Like A Pro DVD series. You can watch the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s group riding video. You can get yourself some good books on riding proficiently. But where I ask… “Where is a Road Captain manual?”

Does your club have it’s own manual?

Do you know of a manual that is available to the public?

Is there a reason that this manual may not exist?

If you have one, can you mail it to me or tell me where I can get one?

26 Responses to “Road Captain Manual – Does Such Instruction Exist?”

  1. I have never seen one. Maybe you could be the first to write one. Here is my two bits on the subject.

    A Road Captain to me is a natural born leader that has no ego and has everyone’s best interest in mind. Is respected enough by the group that he does not have to command it, but is ready to crack the whip if someone is not following the program. He is admired and sought after for advice and experience. Knows the roads, ready for the unexpected and the master of common sense. Genuine confidence that’s tangible by others, but not known to himself. In turn he respects the riders of the group. Willing to sacrifice his personal desires for the good of the group and expects the group to do the same. He has a sixth sense and can almost predict what is going to happen before it does and thinks steps ahead of the moment. (Usually a bad-ass chess player) Most importantly he is chosen by the group for all the stated reasons. There’s my manual, heh.

    I’ll help in the quest. I just attended a business meeting with the CMA. Being a worldwide organization they actually might have one. I’ll ask.

    Seriously, might want to consider writing a book, it might just sell ok. Your probably not the only one wondering about this. I do admire your passion and desire to learn everything you can from those who have been there and done that, It can only lead to a better and more satisfying ride. It has inspired me to seek those more experience.

  2. There is no manual because every club is different. Just last Sunday I rode with another club, because everyone else in my club was doing Mother’s Day. I got to see how this other club effected their group rides. They were more structured than our club is. I’ve also ridden with the local SCRC many times, and they are even more structured yet.

    I think I’ll write up something on my blog that touches on this. Good subject.

  3. Steve and Dave, you are always insightful and generous with your knowledge. I thank you both.
    Dave your chess comment is excellent because being out there on the road is like playing a strategy game. You do have to think at least two moves ahead of the enemy. I plan on leaving this post up until I get back from my Pennsylvania trip. Please keep the comments coming on this.

  4. If there was such a document I would hope it would touch on the following:
    Recommended Requirements to Become a Road Captain
    Patch Maintenance (What I have to do to keep my Road Captain status)
    Pre-Ride Checklist (Things to discuss with the group prior to departure)
    Responsibilities for Leading a Ride
    Responsibilities for Sweeping a Ride
    Recommendations to Plan your ride
    How to handle feedback, common responses (too slow, too fast, gas station too expensive, etc. Don’t be offended it happens to everyone.
    How we ride (Staggered formation, Lane changes, What to do if the group gets split up)
    Group Riding
    Things to have on your motorcycle (Emergency Tools, First Aide Kit (Contents), Forms)
    Accident Scene Management

  5. Excellent list! Thanks Kent. What do you tell someone who is complaining that the ride is too slow? I have one of these.

  6. First I would explain why it was slow if indeed it was slow. Most of the time this is for SAFETY of the group when you’re riding in particular areas of town or county. Second explain it was for SAFETY. People that ride these days are experiencing group riding for the first time. They don’t get the whole “Ladder of Risk” and what you as a Road Captain are doing to prevent anyone from having a bad day. Smaller groups are easy to manage, try leading 50 riders without a police escort and still have people tell you, GREAT RIDE! May sound unbelievable but it happened. Rides of March 2006

  7. I’m leading 29 motorycles on a 6 hour trip to Mansfield, PA this week. Weather is calling for scattered thunderstorms. We are taking farm roads through Pennsylvania Dutch country until we hit Rt 15 north of Harrisburg. Any special advice regarding leading a group this size in this kind of weather?

  8. If someone complains about riding too slow, tell them to ride up ahead, and not to wait up for you. You shouldn’t have to explain safety to complainers. A club is not supposed to be one big happy world that dumbs itself down to the biggest idiot. Whoever is in charge of your chapter needs exercise his/her leadership skills, and just give that person a few four letter words, and make sure they never want to come back. Otherwise, you’re gonna have to put up with that crap everytime you ride.

    As for leading 29 motorcycles through a thunder storm, it’s no different than leading 29 motorcycles under bright sunshine, except you ride slower on the wet roads. Each rider is responsible for their own fun and safety. If you’re really worried about it, send out a couple of scouts about 1-2 hours ahead of the main group. Let them phone you and leave a voice mail regarding the road conditions and weather up ahead.

  9. Steve, you sound hard core. Surely the “true” definition of a biker.
    Your comment above is one of the many reasons I do my own thing and don’t associate with chapters or clubs.
    I tired of the juvenile attitudes and back stabbing associated with these “Social Riding Clubs”.

    The disregard you would have for someone because they had a question tells me your people skills are lacking. I’m not saying your have to bow down and kiss their ass every time some complains but at least give them the benefit of the doubt before disrespecting them.

    As I said in my earlier post, most riders today are experiencing motorcycles for the first time and group riding is new to them. Changing lanes as a solo rider is no problem, changing lanes with group behind you is another thing all together. This is a topic you could discuss in your pre-ride. The most effective way to change a lane is to communicate to your Sweep prior to the ride. Let him/her know when you signal to change lanes you want them to move over first to capture the lane for the rest of the pack. Each motorcycle ahead of the sweep will move over until the last one “The Lead” is in position. This scenario doesn’t usually work if you’re in a congested area unless you have a Sweep that’s on his/her toes.
    As far the as the too fast or to slow. Group riding is that “GROUP”. Each person in the group should respect the distance between each rider.
    Maintain 2 seconds from the rider in front of you and 1 second from the next rider in staggered formation.
    The best thing a Head Road Captain can do is get some time on the agenda at one on of the “Free Food” functions and explain group riding to your club or chapter. You will be surprised at how many people have no idea but they’re too afraid to ask questions because they don’t want to look like a “lesser biker” to the group.

    I try to educate people before I discount them. You’ll find if you take this approach you’ll have an average of 15-20 people showing up to everyone of your rides.

  10. Jay,

    As far as your trip and the weather. Have a plan prior to leaving and explain it to the group prior to departure.
    If you’re traveling narrow 2 lane roads and it’s raining and forming puddles in the road, call the group into single file and have them space out 2 seconds apart.
    know the riding abilities of your group prior to leaving. Most of these people are your friends so the four letter tongue lashing probably isn’t a very good idea.
    Keep the group together if you’re worried about weather. The two “Scouts” you send two hours ahead could be riding into the sunshine while the rest of the group is getting hammered by the weather and has to pull over.

    I grew up in Washington State. I lived there 30 years before moving to Delaware. I never saw it rain so freaking hard until I moved to Delaware. East Coast showers are a little different than West Coast showers.

    Worse yet is Montana, Wyoming and the Black Hills area of South Dakata. Hail the size of marbles!

  11. All good advice. Back to the original topic… obviously there is alot to be covered on being a Road Captain, does anyone know where the average Joe can find some type of documentation on this topic? I want to find out everything I can about being an RC.

  12. Jay,

    Here’s something I have posted on one of my sites.
    http://www.motorcycleposse.com/safety_page.htm

    It’s more detail about group riding.

  13. Jay, I really don’t think there’s much about the subject that Steve and Kent haven’t touched on. I don’t know how First State does it, but in Blackstone you become a Road Captain only after your riding skills have been well proven. If there was such a manual, and you could quote it chapter and verse, that and 2 bucks would get you coffee. It’s how you ride and demonstrate leadership that earns the rocker with us.

    If I were you, I’d speak to your Head Road Captain and find out everything you can from him or her. Talk to other Road Captains in your Chapter also. Maybe they’d be up for the idea of you getting a manual of this sort together for First State. Then again maybe they wouldn’t. Find out before you do anything is all I’m suggesting.

    We don’t have a manual. From the first day you join a ride as a new member, you’re being watched by the others. This sounds snobbish, but it’s not. You can be the nicest guy in the world, but if you can’t handle your bike safely, we don’t want you in the middle of us on a group ride. I’m a Road Captain. Even so, if I pulled a dumb move on the road tomorrow, or two years from now, I’d be spoken to with no hesitation. Depending on how dumb the move was, I could lose that rocker on the spot. The evaluation period never really ends.

    The only thing we have in writing is that new Road Captains will be approved by a vote of the existing Road Captains, with final approval resting with the Head Road Captain. The rest is on an “as needed” basis. Basically it comes down to either you’re up to it, or you’re not. Giving the best “pre-ride” talk in the world isn’t worth much if you do something dangerous in the saddle. Nobody cares about your well-stocked First Aid kit, flares, and maps if you fail to signal the ride into single file when the road narrows to a point where riding staggered could get someone killed.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

  14. I’m going to have to agree with Steve on his response to the “too slow” question. If we had to explain to someone that sometimes you have to slow down for safety, I wouldn’t want to be riding next to them.

  15. Well said Joker.

    Do you have such a thing as “Patch Maintenance”? You said the evaluation never ends but do you have requirements to keep that patch? Lead so many rides a year, Safe rider requirements, take the ERC (Experienced Rider Course) etc?
    It seems to me there should be something like that. I brought this up in my old chapter after becoming Head Road Captain. The previous year there were 13 new Road Captains patched and only half were participating. It seemed they were more impressed with showing everyone their patch than actually leading rides.

  16. Kent,

    Thanks, I always try to be straight forward – when I’m not joking around that is. 🙂

    Yes, we do have other requirements, they just aren’t written down. All new RC’s must complete the Advanced Rider Course before being allowed to officially lead a ride. You must lead 2 rides per season and show up for most of the RC meetings. Ongoing, you must re-take the ARC every other year, and consistently demonstrate competency on the road.

    The “patch lovers club” is exactly why our current Head Road Captain was given that position. Blackstone went through some growing pains to evolve into what it is today. It used to be those patches were handed out based on who was “in” with the clique. All that sort of bullshit has since been done away with. A few guys lost their rockers this spring for just that reason. We’re here to ride, not to hang out in bars thinking a Road Captain rocker is going to help you get laid. Real women aren’t impressed by stuff like that anyway. In my experience it’s more likely to get you knocked on your ass by a dude who doesn’t much care for show-offs.

    There are gray areas too. If we have a great Road Captain who can’t lead 2 rides during a particular season because of work or family issues, we’re not going to take his patch away. It’s the people who you know are around and just not pulling their weight that lose the status. Our bottom line is a great group of riders who have many miles behind them, with a goal of putting together great rides that are as well organized and safe, as they are fun.

  17. Thanks for the firm but logical way to handle that Mr Joker. It’s a shame that someone starting a new club or in a club that is in a rebuilding stage may not be able to find structured documentation or instruction to use as a foundation for becoming a patched Road Captain. I don’t know about Massachusetts, but here in DE good Road Captains don’t fall off trees. We have 300 members but only a handful of dedicated RC’s that would meet your criteria, Steves criteria or Kent’s criteria. What are we supposed to do? How are we going to grow our program? We can’t just vote in and vote out the handful of guys who are willing to step up to the plate. We would have a club who meets once a month but never rides anywhere. The information is needed. It is sought after. But where can it be found???

  18. Jay,

    Google “hog road captain manual”

    The first and third hits are the Road Captain’s manuals established for the El Cajon and Kenosha HOG Chapters. They seem fairly specific.

    Sure you can vote in and vote out the handful of guys who are willing to step up to the plate – that’s how it has to work. I don’t care if you have a thousand members, you have to work with what you have. You ask for people to step up and be Road Captains at two meetings in a row and leave a sign-up sheet. After the second meeting, have a Road Captain’s meeting and go over the names on the list. Pick those who the majority of Road Captains think are good riders and would make good Road Captains. Final approval should rest with the Head Road Captain. Avoid cronyism and pick good riders who show up on a regular basis. Have your Safety Officer set up an ARC for the new Road Captains. That’s it.

    Now, after all that, what you end up with is what you end up with. HOG itself I believe has criteria for how many Road Captains should be in a Chapter in relation to the number of members. Your Director or Head RC should be able to find that out. If your 300 members start bitching at a meeting because the ride calendar is sparse, that’s when the Director or Head RC should stand up and say, “Well, we called for new Road Captains at two meetings in a row. 12 people signed up and out of those only 5 were chosen, giving us a total of X. With 300 members and only X amount of RC’s, they can’t be expected to each lead 5 rides a season, so maybe you people should stop crying and step up and help out!”

    You’ve got the ball now – time to run with it.

  19. I was recently asked to be Head Road Captain of my HOG Chapter.

    The prior HRC talked a lot about creating standards and maybe an RC manual, but never did anything about it. I think he feared that he’d lose RC’s.

    I have actually started developing an RC Manual that (once it’s finished) I’d be happy to share. It’s already up to about 15 pages and covers topics like:

    How to become & what is expected of an RC
    Planning Rides (with some hints)
    The Pre-Ride Briefing
    When and how to call off a ride
    Rider Placement in the pack
    Conducting rides
    Lane Changes
    Tips for how to counsel a problem rider
    Accident Scene Management
    Paperwork (ugh!)

    I’ve only been at this for about 6 months. I’m trying to collect as many things as I can think of and get them down on paper, so maybe the next guy has it a little easier.

    One of the great things is I have access to a seasoned Head Road Captain in another local chapter, and I pick his brain all the time.

    Oh and just a suggestion…Take the Accident Scene Management course offered by an ASMI Instructor. Especially valuable for Sweep Riders.

  20. Thanks Doorman! What is ASMI?

  21. Accident Scene Management Incorporated.

    You can check them out at

    http://www.accidentscene.org/

    I’ve taken the course and so have all the Road Captains in my Chapter (that weren’t already qualified as EMT’s or LEO’s). We did not make this a requirement of being a Road Captain, but the RC’s stepped up and took the course regardless.

  22. Great info Doorman…do you have a blog? Where did you hear about us?

  23. Where did I hear about you? I Googled “Road Captain” I guess? I have spent a lot of time over the last 6 months gathering as much information about Road Captain-ing as I could.

    There’s a backstory to how I became Head Road Captain of my HOG chapter that is better left largely untold. Suffice it to say that I was “volunteered” for the position and support from the former HRC was not going to be available. I had only been a Road Captain for about a year prior, so this past year has been a huge learning experience.

    No blog. I’m just a really curious HRC who doesn’t like to lurk without contributing something.

  24. I know where you are coming from Doorman…I got “volunteered” to be our chapter Volunteer Coordinator!!! LOL

    Welcome. Read on. And please continue to share your thoughts and experiences with us. 🙂

  25. Doorman and Di,

    I’m sure both of you have a passion for what you do and it was recognized.

  26. Yeah, it was either that or my Director got a hold of some very powerful hallucinogens. Either way I’ll keep going until we find somebody better.

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