The following points will help you when riding in a group and understand the cycling etiquette. The most important factor to successful group riding is communication.
COVID – Riders should not ride if they have any signs or symptoms of Covid. It is advised to carry a face mask you can put on in the event of an accident if someone needs to administer first aid to you. All riders must be aware of and adhere to latest guidelines.
Be aware - Stay relaxed in the group but constantly look around and don’t mindlessly follow the wheels. Look past the riders in front to get a ‘heads up’ of the road ahead. Always look first and let the riders around you know before moving within the group.
Ride consistently and predictably - Your movements will affect everyone in the group. Hold a straight line, don’t weave and always overtake around the right-hand side of the group. Braking hard is likely to cause someone to go in the back of you, so only do this if you need to. Gentle braking is much safer in a group.
Don’t overlap wheels - In case the rider ahead needs to brake, don’t follow their rear wheel directly. It’s perfectly acceptable and you’ll get the same drafting benefit from riding six inches either side of it. However, it’s essential that you don’t overlap their rear wheel as any sudden movements by them will be likely to bring both of you down.
Wheel suck - Don’t always sit amongst the wheels and shirk your stint on the front. Even if you just put in a few turns of the pedals it’ll be appreciated. However, even if you’re finding the pace easy, don’t get on the front and accelerate, try to maintain the pace of the group.
Don’t ride in the gutter - If you’re on the front of the group, don’t sit in the gutter as you’ll be forcing everyone else to follow you increasing the likelihood of hitting obstructions such as drain covers and of picking up punctures. Where possible, ride 1m out from the curb.
Expect the ground to change - Groups will change, fragment and reform as the ride progresses. Expect a more compact group on the flat sections which will spread out on longer climbs. Similarly, on descents, riders will tend to string out to give more time to react at higher speeds.
Keeping the pace of the group consistent - This is really for the riders on the front, and can be a difficult one to master, but is probably the key aspect to making the ride enjoyable for all. If you are on the front avoid the temptation to speed up, you just need to keep the pace. Regularly check that other riders are still with you. Ease or speed up the pace as required to keep the group together.
Eagle-eyed when on the front / looking around corners - When you are on the front you are the main eyes and ears of the whole group. Think about the group as a single body. Stay eagle-eyed looking for dangers and be ready to call out. Observation, communication and 100% concentration is essential
Regrouping after slight inclines / passing cars - Often splits in the group appear when the group has had to line out to get a car passed, or on a steeper rise where it is difficult to keep everyone together.
In these cases be aware and steady it up for a while to let everyone to get back on. Once the group is all back together then the person on the back needs to shout “All On”, and the message passed up to the front and then the pace can be slowly increased back to the required pace.
Calling out ALL hazards (and pass back through the group) - This should be well known and understood. “CALL OUT ALL OBSTACLES AND DANGERS!” and make sure riders behind you hear and pass back the message. Shouts of “gravel”, “holes”, etc. are the sort of things to call out, and pointing out the dangers is also helpful.
Getting cars past the group / calling through - This is slightly tricky and perhaps even contentious. Normally, it is best for the group to line-out, single-file for cars to pass. But often this is not necessary and can even be more problematic, especially in larger (longer) groups. A vehicle then has to travel much further in the “danger zone” passing the longer line of cyclists. So, stay tight in pairs for as long as possible but recognise that there might be times when you need to line-out. So, it is often better, if the group is riding tight for a car to quickly overtake when we are still two abreast.
Half-wheeling - This is especially important if you are riding on the front, but also important all down the line. When group riding and safe to do so look down. If your front wheel is ahead of your partners then you are half-wheeling. There’s some psychological factors that cause people to do it. Just keep checking and please don’t do it.
Drafting/Riding Together - This has the benefits of someone to talk to, can save you up to 30% of your effort and offer increased road presence. However, there are some customs that you need to know to enjoy the experience:
· Never overtake or even pull up next to someone on their left. There is enough to look out for.
· It is difficult for those at the back to see what is up ahead, so the front rider(s) must think on behalf of the group, stopping if there is insufficient gap in traffic/green in the light for the whole pack to get through, calling out obstacles and hand signalling everything. Common calls are “stopping”, “clear”, “hole” and “glass”. Hand signals include turning left, right, moving right to avoid an obstacle (e.g. slow rider or parked car), glass, hole, and manhole cover.
· Everyone else in the pack should repeat the call and hand signals for the benefit of those behind them.
· Front riders should start slowly after a stop to allow the group to stay together.
· The rear rider is responsible for letting the group know what is occurring at the back, e.g. if a car is approaching. In this circumstance the call is “car back” or “car up”.
· Allow room for the person next to you when going around a corner together.
· Keep up. There will be times when you will need to work hard to keep up. Please do so to keep the group together, knowing that there will be opportunities to catch your breath when you are drafting behind others.
· All of us like to crank hard up a big hill and that is fine. However, please wait at the top of the hill in a safe place, preferably off the road, for the last rider to join the group and recover before leading off.
· Never spit (or worse) when other riders are close behind you.
· Hold your line with no sudden movements left or right. This means that if the surface is a bit rough go through the rough patch to avoid swerving all over the place. Of course, this does not apply if there is a big hole that will bring you down.
· Brake slowly so that the rider behind is not caught unawares.
Hand signals - In addition to the standard directional signal of the left or right hand extended out to the side, which should be used whenever you are cycling on the public highway, see below some of the other common hand signals used when riding in a group situation. Make yourself aware of these prior to going out on a group ride and also check with a group member which hand signals and verbal shouts they regularly use, as they can vary locally.
Also remember to make cycling enjoyable for everyone. When passing other cyclists, runners, pedestrians, etc. it is polite and wise to let them know that you are coming through. “Rider right” in a clear voice will usually do the trick, along with a thank you when you have passed if they have made an effort to get out of the way.