There are many guides to group riding techniques and etiquette on the internet and we probably could have spent a few hours/days rewriting them to create our own but the guidelines below come from Blarney Cycling Club and we think they are as good as any out there. We’d like to thank Blarney CC and hope you find these as helpful as we do.
Codes of Behaviour
There are codes of behavior that are somewhat unspoken yet understood in the cycling community. If you are a new rider or your riding is done mostly solo, you may be unaware of this protocol. To avoid embarrassment, it s a good idea to know the rules of the game before stepping out onto the field.
There is a lot of enjoyment to be had from cycling in a bunch – but to reap the full benefits and keep everyone happy you need to make sure you are aware of the etiquette and language of group riding.
Safety is the number one priority when riding solo or with a group. Behaving predictably is the best way to make this a reality. When other road users can anticipate your next move, you go a long way toward ensuring everyone’s safety.
Bunch riding has its own etiquette and language. To the uninitiated the latter may seem like random hand signals, frantic elbow waving and indecipherable grunts, but once mastered, it is your passport to acceptance in any group of riders the world over.
Once you know the rules, signals and terminology of group riding you can seamlessly blend into any pack, whether it’s a fast-rolling bunch in a sportive, on a local club run or even a collection of commuters you happen to pick up on the way home from work. Being aware of how to behave and communicate with riders around you will make the whole bunch experience safer, faster and more fun.
The problem with unwritten rules is that they can take years to learn – particularly if no one ever spells them out to you. While some are obvious and can be picked up easily, the subtlety of group ride etiquette can be confusing.
The Four Fundamental Rules of Group Riding
1. Sitting on a wheel
This is a valuable lesson, its here where you get the most protection of windbreak. If there is a rider on your wheel then you have an obligation not to leave any gap open with the rider in front of you, mortal sin of cycling if you do.
2. Don’t be a lazybones
Once you get a bit stronger you are obliged to get off the back of the bunch and make your way to the front and do your bit. Not going through messes up the rhythm of the group. Missing turns and cruising at the back all day is a quick way to lose other riders’ respect.
3. Relaying verbal information
It’s important that you let everyone behind know what’s coming up. Those at the back won’t be able to see, so are relying on you to give them adequate warning and keep them safe. Try not to shout too frequently or unnecessarily. Important things to tell the group are when you are stopping, (otherwise you risk a pile-up), that a car is coming head-on with little space so riders need to single out, that there is a car trying to overtake from the rear, and that you are approaching a tight turn or gravel on a turn. CAR UP is a car coming from behind the group and CAR DOWN is one heading towards you.
The biggest hazard in group riding is people stopping quickly and unexpectedly. More accidents and mass pile-ups are caused by people panicking and grabbing a handful of brake than anything else. If you stop suddenly, the person behind is just going to run into you, and a collision is likely to bring down other riders as well. If something happens in front, look for ways to avoid it while maintaining speed and shouting back a warning, rather than simply slamming on the anchors.
Unwritten Rules of Group Riding
• Be aware that everything you do has a knock-on effect on everyone behind and beside you.
• You are responsible for the safety of everyone around you as you are for your own wellbeing.
• Don’t half wheel. When you hit the front, keep the pace consistent and matched to your riding partner. Some groups allow the cyclist on the lefthand side dictate the pace.
• No aero/tri bars – they are much too unstable to be used in a group ride.
• When you hit a hill, maintain your effort level, not your speed.
• At the base of inclines and climbs, be prepared for a rider in front getting off the saddle (standing on the pedals) as this causes a momentary loss of momentum and can result in wheels touching.
• When you come through for your turn and move over to the recovering line, do so smoothly and close to the rider you are taking over from. Don’t leave them with a massive gap.
• Don’t leave gaps. Full stop.
• If you are struggling to close a gap, wave the rider behind you through.
• Do your fair share of work at the front. Forget any nonsense about saving yourself on a club run. If you are hanging and can’t take a turn, stay back rather than disrupt the rhythm of those who are working.
• If you are feeling strong and someone else is suffering, give them a shove on the back to help them back onto a wheel. Keeping gaps closed will ensure the group stays together and you’ll maintain the pace better.
• If someone gives you a shove, accept it graciously. Everyone has bad moments.
• Always carry the tubes, pumps, food and tools you need to look after yourself and your bike.
• Don’t nail yourself trying to do super-hard turns if the pace is above what you are capable of or you know you are tiring. If you start to get dropped, the group will have to slow down to look after you, or in some cases you will be abandoned.
• Don’t ever sit at the back on a group ride doing nothing all day and then break cover simply to win a town/county-sign sprint or hill climb. If you are that strong, get yourself to the front. You are there to work and get fitter.
• If someone is repeatedly making mistakes, tell them discreetly towards the end of the ride. Don’t shout at them in the heat of the moment. If it’s you being given constructive criticism, then try to learn from it.
• Show your respect for other cyclists and the drivers with whom we share the road. A smile and a wave go a long way if a driver has waited for a cyclist to get through a junction. Say hello to other cyclists on the road as you pass. We are kindred spirits, connected by our passion. Oh yeah, never spit when other riders are too close behind you.