CC Hackney often receives emails asking for tips and advice about group riding so big up Bigfoot CC for the following text. Most if not all of it also applies to CC Hackney's group rides, including youth groups on Saturdays and mixed adults on Sundays.
Ride Rules and Etiquette
When you first ride in a group you may be slightly unsure as to what is going on; where you should be riding in the formation or who is in charge etc. There are a few rules to riding in a group safely and effectively. There's also some basic 'etiquette' you need to know.
BIGFOOT IS KEEN THAT ALL MEMBERS FOLLOW THESE RULES SO THAT WE HAVE SAFE RIDES.
IF YOU CAN MASTER THE ART OF RIDING IN A GROUP, NOT ONLY WILL YOU ENJOY THE RIDE MORE, YOU WILL FIND THAT YOU SAVE ENERGY BY WORKING TOGETHER SO THAT OVER THE LONG RUN THE GROUP CAN GO FASTER AND FOR LONGER.
Why ride in a group?
For several reasons; social, safety, sporting and fitness, and, of course, you won't get lost. By riding in a group you'll learn road skills and be able to chat to more experienced riders. Generally speaking it is the best place to learn about how to get into cycling.
Have a look at this short video for some useful advice.
Find a ride suitable for your level
Look at our “Next Rides” section which will give you help in choosing which ride is most suitable for you. When you turn up for a ride, ask other cyclists where they think you will fit in best and try that ride out. Don’t worry, we won’t leave you behind if you have mis-judged. We suggest for your first ride out with us that you pick a level you are conservatively confidently of, and then review your choice for your next ride.
Wear appropriate cycle clothing. You may warm up quickly but feel cold when you stop. Carry the following with you: a rain jacket, a pump, essential tools, spare tubes, food for three to four hours and plenty to drink. Also carry a mobile phone and some ID, plus money for a tea stop.
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 or mechanical problem, don't drift to the back of the group and off it without telling anyone. If they drop you on a hill they will wait or send a rider or two back to pace you up to the group so don't worry, they won't abandon you.
The group may ride on and then retrace so they keep warm whilst you fix your flat. If you are a slow mechanic ask for help. There will be experienced riders who can help you so don't feel afraid to ask if it will save the group time.
Send the message to the front
If you are riding at the back and a rider is dropped for whatever reason tell the riders in front of you and ask them to shout up to the front. The pace can then be adjusted to suit the problem or the group can stop.
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.
Take these at your own pace – don’t worry about how slow you are going. All groups separate out on hills and re-group again at the top.
DO NOT RIDE OFF THE FRONT!
Depending on the type of group you are riding in, the main principle of group riding is to ride together. Attacking off the front is not a good idea, it will usually upset the more experienced riders and generally upset the discipline and pace of the group. If you get lost by shooting off ahead of your group, they will not try and find you. Sometimes there will be a long hill or section where there will be some hard riding allowed. Often there may be a sprint for a town sign, but remember to be sensible, this isn't a race. Take your cue from the other cyclists about when this is appropriate.
Where there is a lot of traffic, you should ride in single file to allow cars to pass. Please don’t cycle all over the road. Where possible we will ride two abreast, usually with the ride leader at the front and another experienced rider towards the back. Do not break the line and overtake only on hills or safe places where the road ahead is clear.
Allowing cars to pass
Following on from the point above, if you are cycling in a large group, make sure you bunch up into smaller groups (of say 4 riders) so that a car can “leap-frog” each smaller group. Car drivers can sometimes be antagonistic to cyclists so it is good practice to make things as easy as possible for them. You don’t want to wind a driver up by causing them to be stuck behind you unnecessarily. Frustrated drivers take risks and drive too close.
The benefits of riding in a group are more than just social. If you move into the faster groups you will find they may cycle in a “chain gang” – cycling close together, and taking turns to lead at the front. You cover more ground with less effort in a group, saving around 20% of your energy when cycling in the bunch. So stay close to the rider in front (6 inches) to maximize the slipstream and allow riders around you to also use it to best effect. It is a difficult skill to master but of huge benefit once you can do it. Let others know if you are new to the practice. If you are nervous about hitting the wheel in front, try riding 6 inches either side of it and don't stare at the tyre. Try to look up, this way you will relax more and see any problems before they arise.
Don't 'switch' suddenly
Hold your line and keep a steady cadence - this is for the rider who may be riding behind and needs to be confident that you won't move suddenly or wobble. The riders in front will not stop suddenly without warning so you won't have to make any sudden moves.
SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR HORSES
Please slow right down for them and give them a wide berth. It is useful to call out so they know you are a human – they don’t understand bikes.
• Call out on approach - immediately the horse identifies you as a human.
• You wait for the rider to notice you - they may need to take a stronger hold on their mount or to reassure them.
• Finally, you pass slowly and as far away as possible to minimise possible distress and give you the best chance of staying out of range if things do go wrong.
GENERAL SHOUTED INSTRUCTIONS
CAR BACK/CAR UP: A general warning of a car trying to pass or one coming around a corner. Please be aware and move into single file to let it pass if appropriate. Can be 'Oil up' depending on which part of the country you are in.
CAR FRONT/CAR DOWN: A warning of a car in front. Used on narrow lanes when the car might encroach on your road space. Can be “oil down”.
HEADS UP LOOK UP: If this is shouted it usually means there is a bad junction or potential hazard ahead and to pay attention yourself. This is especially important if you are in a large group and it will take a while to get around the hazard.
SINGLE OUT: 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.
ROLLING: We all know not to run red lights, but it’s equally as dangerous to stop dead when the light suddenly turns yellow when you have 80 riders going 45km/hr behind you. If it’s a fresh yellow and there are riders behind you yell ‘ROLLING’ as this lets others that you’ll be rolling through.
CLEAR: When an intersection is safe to cross call out ‘CLEAR!’ Don’t yell ‘NO!’ if you see a car as this can easily get confused for ‘GO!‘ Yell, CAR RIGHT or CAR LEFT
ON YOUR RIGHT: Call this out when you are in a fast moving group and you are passing another rider or group of riders. This alerts your group to move over to the right. Remember to always pass other riders on their right hand side.
STOPPING: Yell this out if you are stopping so others don’t cycle into the back of you and cause a crash.
Click here for more advice on group riding.
And many thanks to Cyclinginform and David Heatley for this:
"Group Ride Etiquette. Have you ever seen a pro team on a training ride? Side by side, shoulder to shoulder, quietly zipping along. Then, there is the club ride. You actually hear it before you see it. Slowing! Right Side! Stopping! Rolling! Hole! Then you see it. 25 riders spread out over an entire city block, three, sometimes four, wide. Weaving, swarming cars, running stop signs. Keep your group ride cool with the following four rules of thumb. 1) Never ride more than two abreast. 2) Never allow more than six inches distance between your front wheel to the rear wheel of the rider in front of you. 3) Maintain a distance, no more than 12 inches from your shoulder to the shoulder of the rider next to you. 4) It only takes one person to call things out. This should be the person at the front of the pack. Ideally, a little point of the hand is all it takes to indicate obstructions or turns. It shouldn’t take two dozen people yelling at the top of their lungs to make a ride run smoothly.
To look cool, keep the group tight, wheel to wheel and shoulder to shoulder. To look Euro-cool, only ride with other cyclist wearing the exact same kit. If this is not possible, make sure there are no more than three different kits in the pack and that there are at least three riders wearing each kit. And please, never swarm cars at stop lights or steer a large group of riders through a red light. It’s just not cool."
I'd like to add to the list:
Cyclists do well when being mindful and cautious while passing cars in traffic, parked or other wise; ride slowly through if close enough to be body checked by an unwanted door (on either side of a vehicle) flying open - it happens. Ride out and well clear of car doors, any traffic behind will understand why you're keeping your distance.
Do communicate with all other road users. Showing drivers your appreciation with a wave, after being treated with respect by motorists like those that wait, is good practice and promotes cyclists.
Keir Apperley - CC Hackney