France Re-Union: Ride Conduct

Please note this just covers ride conduct, other ride specifics such as routes, timings, required documentation and phone numbers will be dealt with elsewhere. Treat this as part of the pre-ride briefing.

Group riding ‘rules’ for the French Ride:

The French ride/drive on the right!

There will be a group leader, a second leader and at least one tail-gunner who will be made known to you. You must make sure you know who these people are and what they look like on their bikes and in their helmets and riding gear. You should not overtake the leader, nor fall behind the tail-gunner.

Anyone who feels their bike is one of the slowest ones please tell the leader, and stay tucked in behind him so a suitable pace can be set. The front of a ride is always the slowest place, especially with a large group as this will be. We are assuming all riders are willing and able to do NSL in the UK, if you are not, bail out now.

All junctions will be marked using the cornerman system. On most rides this is usually the ‘second man drop-off’ system, but on this ride there might be need for pace-setting as above. The second leader will be behind the first group (which may well be just the group leader) and will direct whoever is immediately behind him to mark any junctions. The cornerman should make sure they are positioned safely, in full view of the following riders and indicate the required direction unambiguously. In some cases two cornermen may be necessary. The cornerman should remain on his bike, and be prepared to set off in front of the tail-gunner when he comes into view. After joining the ride again, do not overtake to get to the front, this allows everyone to get a fair share of the different paces throughout the ride.
If you have to overtake another rider, do so safely with plenty of room to spare and make sure you aren’t going to surprise the other rider or compromise their road positioning. Conversely, if you are riding right up to your comfort level, yet see another rider coming up much faster behind you, keep to the right (we’re in France remember) and let them know by waving them through that you have seen them.

When riding in slower ‘red circle’ limits, especially in towns and villages, ride in staggered formation to keep the ride as compact as possible with no gaps for cars to jump in while still keeping a decent braking distance to the bike in front. When crossing junctions try to do so two abreast to get everyone across in quick order. If traffic lights turn red on you, obey them! Amber flashing traffic lights mean proceed with caution.

Speed limits in built-up areas will be strictly adhered to on this ride by everyone, there’s no +10% +2mph leeway in France, and it is considered very disrespectful by the French to ignore these limits. The start of a 50kph (31mph) zone is usually marked by the town or village name in a red-bordered rectangle. The end of the limit is a similar sign but with a red diagonal line across, and unless otherwise marked it will be NSL (National Speed Limit) after that. French police strictly enforce this and the financial on the spot penalties can be severe. Note some limits change if it is raining, see the link below.

In many villages and some towns ‘Priorité a droit’ - “Priority to the right” may prevail. This means drivers emerging from the side road or lane on the right have priority over the traffic on the main road, and the French love to exercise this right. There are signs telling where this is in force (a yellow diamond with a black line through it, no black line means you have right-of-way again), and there will usually be a diagonal black cross in a red triangle a hundred metres before any such junction that’s hidden, but not always. Sometimes there is a warning sign ‘Vous n’avez pas le priorité’ - “You do not have [the] priority”. Really watch out for all of these!

Out on the open road the French NSL is 90kph, (56mph) but the ride may well become ‘progressive’, so don’t worry about a possible slow pace especially if you are near the back, the elastic-band effect will serve you well. :wink: But don’t get carried away and follow the rider in front if your riding skills don’t match their’s, it’ll only end in tears.

If anyone has a problem, or gets into trouble of some sort, drop back and wait for the tail-gunner who will help sort things out. There is plenty of back-up on this ride, don’t worry too much. If you feel you need to drop out of the ride, make sure the tail-gunner knows.

The French drivers are almost invariably very bike-aware and will normally do their utmost to help a ride ‘make progress’, to the extent of driving into the ditch to keep out of the way or blocking roundabouts for you, so no stunts please! There’s no need to give bikers especially UK ones a bad name, or make anyone else in the party cringe.

Here’s a link to the basics of the French Highway Code, courtesy and copyright of the London Advanced Motorcyclists from the May 2006 copy of their monthly ‘Progress’ magazine:

And now the disclaimer: Your conduct on the road, the state of your bike, the required spares you carry, your documentation and individual breakdown recovery is your responsibility alone.