Here are some of the ‘rules’ of group riding.
Contrary to the belief of some road users, riding double file is legal but experience suggests sometimes it’s not practical until we get a little further out of built-up areas. Use common sense, and try not to get involved in confrontations with the inevitable aggressive motorist. They are driving a 1 ton vehicle which is always going to win…….. If the situation does become difficult phone the Police and report the incident noting the car registration number and details. Ideally, record the confrontation on a mobile phone video.
On narrow country lanes, be considerate towards following cars and pull over where possible.
Ride 2×2 where possible
Any group of more than 6 riders should be riding in a double line as much as possible on most roads to create a “short line” for cars to overtake. A long line of cyclists is impossible to overtake safely.
Ride steadily – don’t switch position or brake suddenly without warning
Hold your line and keep a steady cadence, this is for the rider who may be riding behind and needs to be close and confident that you won’t move suddenly or wobble. The riders in front should not stop suddenly without warning, but always be prepared for any sudden moves.
Send the message to the front
If you are riding at the back and a rider is struggling with the pace or stopped with a puncture, tell the riders in front of you and ask them to shout up to the front. If riding in the middle, pass messages forward. The pace can then be adjusted to cater for all. No-one should be “dropped” off the back of the ride.
Other general shouted instructions:
- ‘Car back’. A general warning of a car approaching from the rear which might try to overtake the group.
- ‘Car front’ or ‘Car up’ A general warning of a car coming around a corner.
- Easy’ or ‘Slowing’. If this is shouted it usually means there is a bad junction or potential hazard ahead and to pay attention yourself, it’s often very easy to rely on the ride leaders to warn you of pending problems in the road. This is especially important if you are in a large group and it will take a while to get around the hazard.
- ’On your left’ means that there is an obstacle on the left and the group will move to the right to avoid it e.g. a single parked car, walkers or obstacles
- ‘Single out’ or ‘Single’ When a car is behind and needs extra space to overtake, or if the group is approaching a narrow road or overtaking a line of parked cars.
- ‘Stopping’ The group is stopping – usually for traffic lights or busy junction.
- ‘Horses’ Slowing down to pass or overtake a horse. When doing so say/shout anything so both horse and rider can hear you. Horses are less spooked by bikes if they hear the rider as well.
General hand signals
- Hand up in the air Usually signifies that the rider signaling is stopping (e.g. for a puncture) or there is a hazard in the road that the whole group may have to stop for.
- Pointing out holes in the road This is essential. You must point out uneven drain covers, holes, dead badgers, glass or anything else which may cause harm to a cyclist. Basically, if you have to go around it, tell the rider behind about it before they hit it.
- Indication directions to riders behind. Whether it is slowing down or turning at junctions, large groups need everyone to indicate for other road users, so let them know what you intend to do.
- Waving for parked cars, horses and pedestrians. When overtaking, riders will sometimes wave a hand behind them. This signifies there is a hazard that means the group will have to move out. They will do this by waving or pointing in the direction you will need to move.
Remember you are expected to do the same so the rider behind you has seen the obstacle.
If you are a slow mechanic ask for help. There will be experienced riders who can fix a flat in quick time, so don’t feel afraid to ask if it will save the group time. However, everyone attending club rides should be able to fix a puncture without assistance, in case they get separated. Some members of the group may ride on and then retrace so they keep warm whilst you fix your flat.
Tell someone if you have a problem
You may be feeling a bit shy about it but tell the riders around you if you have a puncture, mechanical problem, or just aren’t feeling too good. Don’t drift to the back and off it without telling anyone.
Food is fuel and drink is needed to keep hydrated. Most riders will eat and drink on the move. If you are struggling to do this, let someone know. If you are feeling a bit tired, check you have eaten enough.
Try to relax your upper body as much as possible. This will help prevent fatigue and also prevent you from making sudden changes in direction. Bend the arms a little and keep your head up.
Group Riding Formations
Riding in Mixed Ability Groups
On our clubs rides we are lucky that we can have so many groups with different average speeds. But there will always be variation in ability especially as the gradient changes.
When riding in a group, the toughest place to ride is on the front, in the wind. The second toughest place to ride is at the back. The easiest place to ride is second position in the line behind the leaders. There are 2 reasons for this. Firstly although you get a huge benefit from having a rider in front, you also gain a small benefit from having a rider behind. Secondly, when going around corners the group always changes speed and this gets more pronounced towards the back of the group – so riders at the back have more work to do.
Therefore, on a ride, if at any time you think you are the weakest person, you should not be at the back! The back few positions should be stronger riders.
If a group wishes to make the fastest time possible, you need to protect your weakest riders and ensure they are never riding in the wind. So no gaps in the line. It is the responsibility of ALL to yell forwards if any gaps appear. A yell of “gap” means slow down on the front.
Strong riders can help a group by riding “on the front” and doing the work in the wind. Riding “off the front” with a gap behind is not helpful and will slow the group down. Experienced group riders will be able to lead on the front and vary their pace so that no-one gets dropped. This is a useful skill to learn.
Having strong riders at the back means that if a gap does happen, they can help bridge the gap.
For steep “hill climbs” or steep technical descents, we all ride at our own pace and regroup at the top or bottom. Be considerate to others in the group. If you are slower than others, keep left. Allow the fast descenders or hill climbers to pass easily on the right.
For most ups and downs we ride as a group. On long uphill ramps, the hill climbers in the group can take their turn on the front, helping to pull the heavier riders up the hill.