There is a lot more to being a good cyclist than just speed. Riding in a group, close to others requires discipline and concentration but ultimately respect; for yourself, the riders around you and for the road. Below is a comprehensive list of what we believe to be the key elements of group riding etiquette. It is tiresome to have to constantly remind and be reminded about how to ride properly; so learn the etiquette. You will be a better cyclist.
The ride leaves on time. It’s just manners.
Check your ego. A group ride is NOT a race. You are not to “attack” off the front or try to show everyone how strong you are. That’s what races are for. Remember, there’s always someone faster than you!
Hold your line at all times with the bike in front; swerving, unpredictable behaviour causes riders around you to be nervous and puts others at risk. Trust the rider in front.
Never half-wheel the bike alongside you, should that rider need to manoeuvre quickly, you leave them no room to do so.
Ride as one entity, it makes us easier for the traffic to negotiate.
Maintain the Effort, NOT the speed! The gradient will change, if you’re riding at the front don’t try and maintain speed up the hills, simply maintain the effort as this will minimise splits in the group.
Close the gap to the bike in front. Like everything in group riding this should be done in a steady and controlled fashion.
Bar to Bar. Riding two abreast is fine, always ride shoulder to shoulder, in line with the other rider. If there is an uneven number of riders in the group and you don’t have anyone to ride alongside, you should place yourself in between the two riders ahead of you. Be mindful of the spread across the road, work on closing the gap between riders two abreast to better allow cars to pass.
Rider Rotation. During the course of the ride we will rotate the riders so that each person takes their pull on the front. From experience, the safest way to do this is to maintain 2 lines of riders. On a club run we will usually have the outside line as the moving line – as this works better in traffic. When making a rotation, make sure the rider beside you knows you want to go back. Once you have both established that the group formation will rotate, the rider in the outside line will gradually pull forward and move to the front of the inside line. Riders on the outside line will then move up 1 place in formation and as one unit, second wheel now taking their place on the front. The rider at the back of the inside line then moves to the back of the outside line to fill the gap. Note: This is similar movement to a chaingang but is NOT continuous and allows the group to remain at a maximum of 2 abreast.
Do not suddenly veer off to the side; move in a steady and controlled manner.
Pulling Through. When riders ahead of you peel off, it’s your job to come through to the front and pull the group along. Once you are in second wheel, you must come through to the front. Don’t speed up or get out of the bar-to-bar formation. Pull without surging. Maintain a steady speed and go to the front.
Sitting in. If you don’t want to go to the front, sit at the back and let the riders coming back from the front of the group slot in ahead of you. It isn’t acceptable to work your way up to the front of the group and then slow down because you don’t feel strong enough to be at the front. (If you find yourself on the front but don’t want to be there, you can do a ‘token pull’, agreeing with the rider next to you that this will happen, you can then peel off and slip to the back)
Never brake suddenly in the group, free wheel or learn to make yourself a natural wind break to scrub your speed. You should be riding ever-so-slightly to the side of the rider in front of you, so when they slow down you either stop pedalling and start to slightly overlap your front wheel with their rear wheel, or you touch the brakes gradually and use the “wheel overlap” as a buffer zone to avoid slowing too suddenly for the riders behind you.
Don’t look back. The most common novice’s mistake. Looking back, causes you to shift your line which can cause chaos. If you hear a crash behind you, keep looking forward and the bunch will naturally slow and stop.
Obey the Law & Highway Code.
Communicate obstacles/pot holes – preferably with signals – and move around them with care in a controlled and steady fashion, again no sudden deviations. Signals move down the group, repeat them once you’ve seen/heard them: they don’t stop at you, unless you’re at the back! Calling out should be secondary and rare** as it creates confusion if misheard. If you only see the obstacle at the last minute, ride through it! Better to get a flat than to take down the whole group.
If in doubt, follow the wheel in front*. It is safe to assume that the rider in front will be doing their best to avoid obstacles. Wouldn’t you be?!
*See Hold Your Line above.
Please only point out obstacles that are worth pointing out
An obstacle worth pointing out is one that will damage a bike or person behind you. Don’t point out manhole covers unless they are deeply set in the road, leaves, small cracks in the road surface, or other objects that aren’t truly hazards. Better to have your hands on the bars.
Keep pace. Be mindful that we ride as a group, the pace is appropriate to the group as a whole. On club rides, the pace is decided in advance and is controlled, not dictated, by those on the front.
– If you struggle to keep your pace even, say so and sit in the bunch. Group riding is about working to keep the bunch together. On a climb it is natural for strong climbers to move upfront and help tow other riders up the hill – but we remain as a group. Riders shooting off the front to chase Strava segments will be asked to do so on their own time!
When moving around the group, always signal your intention and communicate before manoeuvring. Move gradually and steadily.
Keep moving. If the group splits, riders up front should ride easy to allow the dropped riders to catch on. Whilst the following riders are still in sight, the front group should not stop as it will create an obstruction and will only to force the following riders to stop behind them.
Ride equipped with tools and spares to fix basic roadside mechanicals: tube, levers, chain tool, multi-tool, pump etc. If you borrow tubes or CO2 from your fellow riders – replace them!
Punctures happen. When they do raise your hand so that riders behind can see that you are an obstacle and can avoid you. If it’s a front tyre keep both hands on the handle bars and let someone else signal for you, especially when going downhill. Use the back brake predominantly. Don’t stop until the bunch has completely passed you, then move to the side of the road.
Climbing. When you stand to get out of the saddle, your bike will move back slightly. This can cause riders behind you to crash. Make sure that when you stand you don’t push the bike back, and exert slightly more pedal pressure to keep the speed constant. Better still announce ‘standing’ so that those around you are aware of your intention.
Descending. Those on the front should keep pedalling. This prevents having riders behind you having to ‘sit on their brakes’. Typically the front few riders keep pedalling and the riders behind will freewheel or soft pedal. Keep both hands firmly on the bars, preferably on the drops as it improves stability – particularly at speed.
Too Many Chiefs. If there is a designated Ride Leader or someone who has supplied the route for a particular ride then they – and ONLY they – give directions, which are relayed up or down the group accordingly. You may go wrong every now and then – but who cares?!
Riding well requires good technique – It’s one thing to be fast but another to be an elegant, graceful cyclist. If you remember that club runs and group cycling isn’t all about speed you will enjoy your riding much more.
If in doubt, ask! We are all here to help one another enjoy road cycling.
**A note on calls:
When you’re more than two riders behind the person yelling, all you can actually hear is a general sound. No one actually knows if you have just yelled hole and have not pointed it out. This may cause some riders to scan to the left, other to the right and centre. Other riders might think you yelled car. It is a confusion that should be avoided when a signal will suffice.