Cycling is a sport that you can enjoy alone or in a group. Riding safely in a group requires adherence to certain rules and skills.
1. Be predictable — This may be the most important rule (even for solo riding) and it involves every aspect of riding from changing positions in the group to
following traffic rules. All the other rules support this one. Smooth
predictable riding isn’t just a matter of style...here the word
survival comes to mind! If unpredictability is the only predictable
part of your riding style, you are a hazard to yourself and everyone
else who has the misfortune to ride with you. Have you ever been on a
ride where the group stops at an intersection and people scatter all
over the lane? Some going through on the wrong side of the road and
others turning left from the right side? Some running the stop sign and
others doing it right? It’s confusing and irritating to drivers of
vehicles as they approach a situation where cyclists are going in all
different directions or just blowing through stops! Part of being
predictable is riding within the rules of the road as a vehicle. Groups
should maintain integrity when approaching intersections. That means
staying in the correct lane, stopping together, and starting together
as traffic allows. It goes without saying that if we demand the right
to ride on the road, then we must be willing to ride
responsibly...especially as a group.
2. Don’t Overlap Wheels — This habit will get you in real trouble. This is a good way to test your ability to do cartwheels if you don't adhere to this rule. Some
people do it from lack of concentration, others may just not know any
better, but sooner or later they'll crash. There is no recovery from a
front wheel deflection. All it takes is for the person in front to
move sideways a few inches...if someone is overlapping his wheel, that
someone will go down along with practically everyone who is behind
him. Many times the person in front can recover, but not the people
3. Be Steady — This includes speed and line. If the person behind you fails to adhere
4. Announce Hazards — When you are in the lead, you are responsible for the safety of everyone behind you. You will become very unpopular very quickly if
people behind you keep bouncing off of potholes, running over rocks, or
reacting to unsafe traffic situations that you fail to point out. You
need to be very vocal when approaching intersections, slowing,
stopping, or turning and all actions should be smooth and deliberate.
Sudden, unannounced actions will throw terror into any peloton. When at
the front ALWAYS be looking up the road to anticipate traffic signals
changing. There are only two calls you should make to announce your
intention. ‘Roll It’ if you are going to proceed on the yellow light
and ‘Light Up’ if you plan to stop. These two cannot be confused and
are clear. A STOP sign should invoke a call of ‘Slowing’ as you near
the sign(riders in the back might not be aware of an approaching sign)
and then ‘Stopping’. Riders in the pack should relay these warnings to
the rear. When you are following, announce oncoming traffic from the
rear…in this case others should relay this info toward the front.
6. Don’t Fixate — If you are staring at something (i.e., the wheel in front of you), eventually you’ll hit it! When you walk in a crowd, you don’t stare at
the back of the person in front of you…so you shouldn’t ride like that
either. Learn to be comfortable looking around or through the riders
ahead of you. This will allow you to see things that are developing in
front of the group. With a little practice you will be able to "sense"
how far you are off the wheel in front of you.
7. Stay Off Aero Bars — This shouldn’t require much discussion. They are much too unstable to be used in a group ride. Plus, you don't need to be on aero bars if you
are in a pack as you will receive more aerodynamic effect from the
other riders anyway. Never, never, never when you are
within the group or following a wheel. I know there are some people,
usually triathletes, who are more comfortable on the bars. But, sooner
or later, steering with your elbows in a group will add new meaning to
the term "lunch on the road." Plus, it really tics off those behind you
when you go down in a pack! Use aero bars for what they are meant
for...solo fast riding.
8. Don’t Leave Stragglers — If you get separated at intersections, as a matter of courtesy, the lead group should soft pedal until the rest have rejoined. Another note
here is that if you are the one who will be caught by the light, don't
run the red light to maintain contact. If they don't wait for you to
catch up, you may not want to be riding with them anyway. Also as a
courtesy to those who may not be able to stay with the group, the pack
should wait at certain points along the route to regroup. Especially,
at turn points and if the stragglers don’t know the route. Now
obviously this is not applicable during a race but we're not talking
about a race...No one should be left alone on a group ride. If you
don't adhere to this rule, your "group" will get smaller each week
until you're riding solo.
9. Know Your Limitations — If you’re not strong enough or too tired to take a turn at the front, stay near the back and let the stronger cyclists pull in front of you
instead of making them go to the back of the line. Unless they are a
complete...well you know...they will appreciate that more than having
to get past you to get back to the front. Plus, it strokes the animal's
ego as you admit that he/she is the stronger rider. Another point here,
don’t pull at the front faster and longer than you have energy to get
back in at the rear (Remember, your "pull" isn't over until you are
back in the rotation). I've seen this scenario many times, it comes
"biker wannabe's" time to take his/her pull and the pace is getting up
there. The thoughts running through his/her mind is, "I need to show
these guys that I can pull 2 mph faster than everyone else has been
pulling." They go to the front and hammer. Legs begin to burn after a
monumental pull...now it's time to pull over and let some "lesser"
rider take a turn. Well, the "lesser" biker is all refreshed after
tagging on a wheel and is ready to punch it up another notch. It's
bye-bye to the first rider as he/she gets blown off the back...toast!
Testosterone and ego is a volatile mix (even for you females) and it
can get you dropped in a heartbeat.
10. Change Positions Correctly — A common beginner faux pas is to stop pedaling just before pulling off the front. This creates an accordion effect toward the rear. Keep a
steady pressure on the pedals until you have cleared the front. After
pulling off, soft pedal and let the group pull through. As the last
couple riders are passing through, begin to apply more pressure to
smoothly take your position at the rear. If you don’t time it
correctly, you’ll create a gap and have to sprint to get back on. A
technique used to reenter the line is to move your bike sideways first
then your body. Try it. It will feel awkward at first, but it is the
safest way to move within a group. It's just a small subtle move not an
exaggerated one. If you lean your body first and misjudge the speed or
the person in front of you slows down, you’ll touch wheels and be
leaning the wrong way…bad situation! If you move the bike first, you
will have a chance to pull it back.
11. Climbing — Ever been behind someone when they stood up going up hill and all of a sudden you were all over them? If you need to stand, shift up a gear
compensate for the slower cadence and stand up smoothly keeping a
steady pressure on the pedals. This will keep you from moving backward
relative to the rider behind you. Apply the opposite technique when
changing to a sitting position. Downshift and keep a steady pressure on
the pedals to avoid abrupt changes in speed. It takes a little
practice, but your riding buddies will be glad you spent the time
learning how to do it right.
12. Descending — The leader must overcome a much greater wind resistance as the speed increases. If you are leading, keep pedaling. If you don’t, everyone
behind you will eat your lunch. Riders to the rear will accelerate
faster downhill as drafting becomes more effective at the higher
speeds. If you are following, back off a couple of bike lengths to
compensate for the greater affects of drafting. If you are closing on
the rider in front, sit up and let the wind slow you or use light
braking to maintain spacing, but in both cases you should keep pedaling
against the resistance. Keeping your legs moving not only makes it
easier to keep the spacing, but also helps the legs get rid of the acid
build up from the previous climb.
13. Relax — This one is really important. It will allow you to be smooth and responsive. You can bet that if you see someone who is riding a
straight line and is very steady, he/she is relaxed on the bike. It
not only saves energy, but it makes bike handling much more effective.
Anytime you are riding in close proximity of other riders there's
always the chance that you may come into contact. If you have tense
arms and get bumped from the side, the shock will go directly to the
front wheel and you will swerve, possibly lose control, and possibly
cause a massive pile up. If you are relaxed, it's much easier to absorb
the bump without losing control. A good exercise is to go to a grassy
field (which is softer than pavement if you fall) with a friend and
ride slowly side by side. Relax your arms and lightly bump each other
using your relaxed elbows to absorb the (light) impact. You will become
familiar with how to safely recover from that type of contact. It may
save you some road rash someday.
You quickly become a valued member of the group if you practice good, safe riding techniques. Riding in a group can be fun