For those new to a club cycling, riding in a group can sometimes seem rather daunting, but when riding with a group it is traditional to ride in pairs in a and to observe certain rules which are important for the safety and enjoyment of the ride. There are good reasons for this:
Riding in pairs is more sociable, you can talk to the person next to you, and It makes cycling easier. The person in front “slipstreams” you meaning less effort particularly into a headwind . This helps ensure everybody stays together and riders don’t get dropped . It makes it less likely that riders at the back get caught at traffic lights and roundabouts - It makes it easier for those at the front to communicate with those at the back and vice versa. And on wider roads it keeps the group shorter and therefore easier for cars to overtake.
If you haven’t ridden in a group before (or even if you have) below are some guidelines that will help you become proficient at group riding as quickly as possible.
- Ride directly behind the person in front, and along side the riders on your outside. and as close as conditions and safety allow. The group then rides in two parallel lines. After the ride has started the outside front rider should smoothly move forward and move over to the front left position (calling out ‘change’ so that all riders are aware) and the right hand file then moves up one position for a set period of time. If you are the rider closest to the kerb/verge be mindful of holes and other obsticals that you may need to avoid so don’t ride I the gutter!
- Do not ride off the front, stay in formation. Allow more room amongst the group if descending or if road conditions are very poor
- Uphill, go at your own speed and regroup at the hill top. Be aware that when a rider in front of you gets out of the saddle they can loose some momentum and will momentarily drop speed enough that you may ride into the back of them. It is important to ensure a prompt regroup at the top of the hill so that the riders maintains the momentum of the ride. The speed of ascent should be controlled to ensure a rapid re-group
- Watch for hand signals from the front and give them yourself to those behind. The hand signals are generally turning to the left/right, slowing down, obstruction to the left/right and poor road surface. It is good practice to call left or right turns ahead of actual turning so everyone is aware.
- Listen to commands to “single out” from back riders. Single out generally by moving into a gap in the left hand line of riders. Riders at the very front of the group should increase speed a little before them move over to help create road space behind them.
- If you are at the front or back warn the group of approaching or overtaking vehicles on narrow roads by calling out “car down” (your throat!) for vehicles ahead and “car up” (your bum!) for vehicles behind. Please avoid a generic shout of ‘car’ as this gives no indication of direction
- Signal bad obstructions, holes or bumps to the rider behind by signalling with the hand or shouting “hole” or “bump” or “on your left (or right)”
- Avoid sudden loud shouts that might make riders brake suddenly unless really necessary.
- Avoid using your brakes sharply unless really necessary. If you have to brake hard to stop yell “stopping” to warn those behind. If braking less hard yell “easy”.
- If you are at the back of a group and you know there is a rider or riders “off the back” let the leaders know. Let the rider in front of you know and ask them to pass on the message. If the group turns off the main road wait at the junction or roundabout to let those off the back know where to go.
- If you are at the back DO NOT wave cars on to overtake. A mistake could put the whole group in jeopardy so leave it up to the driver.
- If you are not a strong rider then try to keep as near the front of the group as possible, this will mean less effort for you, and the leader and not having to worry about riders off the back.
- If you have a puncture yell “puncture” to make sure those in front and behind know and pull OFF the road to the side to replace the tube, the rest will wait for you.
- As a general safety point always ride with your hands gripping the bars not just resting on top. This ensures that if you hit a hole or a bump you do not lose control and endanger those behind.
- THE RULES OF THE ROAD MUST BE OBSERVED AT ALL TIMES
Some important DON’Ts
- DON’T overlap wheels, or nudge in between the wheels of the riders in front. You will come off if they move off their line
- DON’T ride on tri / aero bars in packs as you will not be able to brake or steer quickly
- DON’T make any sudden movements/changes in direction off your line when in the pack. You are responsible for the cyclist behind you, they are following YOUR wheel they need to trust you.
- DON’T stop pedaling if you are on the front, even on downhills. The cyclists behind you will read this as you slowing and could be forced to brake and bunch up.
- DON’T “Zone out” on the wheel in front. Keep aware of everything that is going on around you, look ahead and that way you can avoid most hazards.
- DON’T ride round the outside of the pack to get to the front unless in an emergency. Shout up the pack any communication. If you do need to get to the front then make sure you check in front and behind for cars, remember three abreast can push you out into on-coming traffic on narrow roads.
- DON’T pull out at junctions without looking, having heard the “Clear” call from a fellow cyclist. Check whether there is a vehicle coming yourself.