Rider safety is paramount for all of our group rides. The primary key to riding in a group is being predictable. An analogy is walking on ice: any sudden movements will cause you and others around you to fall.
We’ll all be predictable to each other by following these riding tips:
- Protect your front wheel. Imagine it has a bubble around it. Don’t allow other riders’ wheels to drift into that bubble. A bump to your rear wheel will unlikely lead to a fall, because it has nothing to do with your steering. But a bump to your front wheel will almost certainly send you crashing down.
- Don’t overlap wheels. When you overlap wheels in a group you are at greater risk. Do you trust the rider whose wheel you have overlapped? That wheel has just entered your bubble outlined above. Don’t do that.
- All riders in the group have a responsibility to point out road surface irregularities for the benefit of riders behind them. And if it appears to be a pothole, then shouting, “Hole!” is appreciated by everyone.
- Do not just fixate on the wheel immediately in front of you, but also watch up ahead. You will be less surprised when something happens in the group ahead of you.
- Avoid grabbing a “fist-full-of-brakes.” Modulate your speed by reducing your cadence and/or feathering your rear brake lightly. Many crashes come from a panicked grab of the brakes leading to a back wheel suddenly touching the front wheel of the bike behind.
- When riding at the front on a downhill you must continue to pedal. If you just freewheel, the riders behind will have to brake to avoid running into you. Not all roads are safe enough for others to simply overtake you.
- When riding at the front be aware of the wind. For example, if the wind is from the right, move towards the right side of the shoulder. This makes more room for the riders behind you to seek shelter without being in the traffic lane. Safer for all concerned. Same applies for a cross wind from the left. Move towards the left without moving too far into the traffic lane. It gives riders more room to follow without riding in the gutter.
- Group crossing of major roadways and highways has the potential for catastrophe. As you approach a major intersection drop a couple of gears so that when the time comes you will be able to quickly accelerate to cross the road. Do not get bogged down in your big ring. Pay attention, no time for chatting. It is most important that the group acts as one, so communication is important. Someone at the front of the group must verbally take charge and tell the group when to wait and when to go and how far to go, i.e. halfway, all the way.
- Usually we ride in a social double paceline. Ride 2-up, side-by-side, and you can chat with the rider beside you. Don’t half-wheel (see the above)! On the front, each rider will drop back along the same side that they have been respectively riding. The left rider drops to the left. The right rider to the right. Make a clear hand signal to the riders immediately behind to indicate you’re letting them come forward.
- Don’t let a gap open ahead of you. Do your best to maintain the group speed. Don’t accelerate hard to close a gap, as this usually opens up more gaps behind you and/or you can overrun the wheel ahead of you. Either gently accelerate before the gap becomes enormous or shout, “Pace!” which is a common expression to tell leading riders to back down their riding speed.
- Half-wheeling is not necessarily dangerous, but it is poor cycling etiquette. A sign of experience is an ability to ride the pace of weaker riders in the group, not just full throttle. If you are feeling strong take a longer pull on the front rather than a faster pull.
- At other times, in a fast riding or really strong headwind or crosswind scenario, we ride in a double line echelon. As the name implies a double line echelon has two lines of riders. The faster line where the riders move forward in the group and the slower line where the riders drop back. Regardless which line you are in, it is important to always be on a wheel. As well the only time you accelerate is when you are at the back of the group and moving across to join the line of riders moving forward. When you reach the front of the forward moving line of riders it is important that you do not accelerate. If each rider accelerates before moving over to join the drop back line of riders, the whole group will continue to speed up until the echelon blows apart … not what we want!
- Be considerate of the riders behind you. If you must spit, blow your nose or drink it is best to do so when you are at the back of the group. Spitting and nose blowing at the back is obvious for the courtesy of people behind you. When grabbing your water bottle, you may deviate from your line. At the back of the group you won’t deviate into the wheels of anyone else if you’re a bit wobbly.
Always show up with your bike in good riding condition. This means:
- Bar tape is in good condition (not unravelling) and you have proper bar-end plugs installed
- Gears are tuned, shifting properly and won’t overshift above your biggest cog into your spokes, or off your smallest cog onto your axle.
- Your chain is lubed.
- Wheels are straight/true with no loose or broken spokes.
- Tires are inflated.
- You’ve got a flat repair kit. This includes a spare tube even if you are riding tubeless with sealant. More than one CO2 cartridge and/or a frame pump. Tubeless plugs to hopefully plug a gaping hole before reverting to installing that spare tube. A multi-tool to adjust the most common bolts on your bike.
Group Riding Videos
The always-helpful editors at GCN have a couple of great YouTube videos that cover many of these Group Riding tips too (just remember, we ride on the right-hand side of the road!) :