Congrats! You just bought a new rig with some off-road capabilities and now you want to see what it can do so you take to the interwebz. Lo and behold Facebook does not disappoint and you find a group that welcomes you with open arms and invites you on a group ride. Now what?
Here are a few simple guidelines you can follow that will help improve your chances of being invited back!
- GET A RADIO! Many people scoff at this and I completely understand. It’s not sexy, it’s not cool, and very few people will click like on your social media when you post about. But IMHO it’s the single most valuable tool if you plan to ride with a group. Why? Simple. Without it you are somewhat isolated from the rest of the group. Check with the group ahead of time to see what they use for “comms” and if you don’t have one, let them know. This is often the subject of debate but by and large the most common on the trail is the CB. Some groups use GMRS or HAM but those require licenses to legally operate and are not as common. That said regular store bought walkie talkies are a great investment and since they come with 2 you can give one to someone else in the group and use them to relay. If you want to talk to someone in China then great, get a HAM… if you want to talk with the people in your group…. Get a CB.
- Ask ahead of time if there are any requirements such as Radio (as already mentioned), Recovery Gear, experience, or “not stock”. Be honest about your rig, gear and experience. Now is the time for humility and reverence, not ego. Also, note… a ‘stock’ Subaru Forester is not equal to a stock Jeep Rubicon and driving state forest roads with a friend or two is not the same as riding rated trails with 20 other rigs.
- Stay in line. You are responsible for the rig in front of you and the rig behind you! If you lose sight of them wait for them and let the rest of the group know (because YOU have a radio)
- Communicate! If you need to stop or break away from the group for any reason then communicate it to the group so they know if they need to wait, or carry on.Don’t be afraid of speaking up and asking for help picking a line or making a judgement call either. If people know you are new they will most likely be looking out for you anyway and will respect that you are asking questions.
- HELP! If someone in your group is in need of assistance or has a problem - be it mechanical or in need of recovery - pitch in to help. If you don’t know how to help ask.
- Show Respect! This should go without saying but it is far too often overlooked. When I say “show respect” I’m talking about several things. Respect for the others in your group - Come as prepared as you can. There are plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong already so lack of preparation just increases the likelihood of problems. It also means simply treating the people in the group with respect. Is this a group ride with kids? If so act accordingly. Be mindful of swearing etc. Respect the trail - Practice “leave no trace” and “Tread Lightly”. Stay on the trail. Respect the community - The offroad community often gets a bad rap. There are subsets of people that just go “tear it up” and can become a nuisance by trespassing, littering, going off trail, simply being obnoxious, and a host of other actions. Represent the community in a positive way because you are representing it now.
- Save the drinking for after. It doesn’t matter if you are on public or private land. Drinking behind the wheel is a bad idea.
Of course there are always exceptions but overall the off-road community is very open and welcoming. Many people (myself included) really enjoy sharing our passion by helping newcomers get started. At the same time, we can tend to be very protective and sometimes with very good reason. So my advice can be summarized quite simply: Listen, Learn, and Don’t be a Dick!