A Road Cyclist’s Guide to Group Ride Etiquette
As your cycling fitness and skills improve, you might consider joining a local cycling club or going for rides with a group of other cyclists. There are many great things about group rides, including being with like-minded individuals, honing your riding skills and developing your fitness further by observing more experienced riders.
Group rides offer something for cyclists of all abilities, fitness and skills. Once you find a cycling group or club to join, you should be aware that there is a set of group ride do’s and don’t’s, that serve as the general etiquette for riding a bike in a group.
What makes a good group rider?
There are two key elements that make for good group riding. The first is being observant to and aware of your surroundings while on the bike, and communicating any hazards clearly to other riders in your group. The second is being considerate to other riders and become aware of how your actions may affect them while out on the group ride.
Know what to expect before you join a group ride
Not all group rides are the same. Knowing what to expect on any group ride you intend to join is very important. Joining a ride without knowing what the planned route/distance/average pace/difficulty is can often be a recipe for frustration and may not be conducive to having an enjoyable time on your bike.
Ride leaders will often communicate the group ride details on whatever platform the club/group uses to announce ride plans. Seek this information out and if in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask.
Many cycling clubs will have a regular “no-drop ride” . No-drop rides are rides where no rider will be left behind regardless of whether or not they are able to maintain the average pace of the riders at the front of the group, and can always rely on a more experienced member of the group for assistance in case they have mechanical issues with their bike.
This type of rides is a great way to get into group riding because they are less intimidating than faster rides with a more competitive spirit in which more experienced riders will not always slow down or stop to assist riders lagging behind.
Decide the type of ride that would be most suitable to your current fitness and cycling goals, and the extent to which you’d be willing to physically push yourself.
How to signal pace changes in a group ride
Social and no-drop rides have a slower average space and sudden surges in speed are usually discouraged, because it disrupts the pace in a way unsuited to this type of group ride.
If you must accelerate, it is important to clearly signal any changes in pace. If you get out of the saddles, call out “Up!” to notify those behind you. On the other hand, if you join faster rides where friendly competition is encouraged, pace changes and surges are part of the fun and completely acceptable.
If you are unable to maintain the pace of other riders when it’s your turn to be the lead rider, also known as “pulling”, it is OK to signal that you’re dropping back to ride at a slower pace.
Group ride safety
Riding in a group tends to cause distractions that may cause momentary lapses in concentration – e.g. a chat with a fellow rider or looking at picturesque scenery. The shortest of drops in concentration can result in some undesirable, and often dangerous, consequences.
Riding in a large group of riders also carries a larger responsibility when it comes to being observant to your surroundings and obeying the rules of the road. Familiarize yourself with local traffic laws, especially those applicable to riding a bicycle on public roads, so that you can ride in a way that ensures not only your own personal safety, but also that of others in your group.
Minimize the risk of other riders hitting road debris or potholes by pointing out those hazards on the road in way that allows those behind you to avoid them. You can use hand signals and shout out verbal warnings to others behind you. Ensure that whatever signals you use they are visible or loud enough to reach the way to riders at the very rear. The riders at the back of the group are often responsible for calling out incoming vehicles so that the group can get into single file and make room for other road users to pass safely.
Don’t like unpredictably. Nobody likes an erratic rider. Frequently drifting from your line without a proper signal can make everyone around you uneasy and will earn you a reputation for being an unsafe rider. Hold your line and don’t make sudden changes to your direction or pace unless necessary, and after signaling your intentions.
Leave enough emergency braking space, and don’t overlap wheels
Drafting (or riding in the low-pressure area behind another cyclist) is fun, but be attentive to leaving adequate space to react in case there is an emergency braking situation.
Half-wheeling, or overlapping your front wheel overlap the rear of the rider in front of you, is a risky practice and is also annoying to riders to your side or immediately ahead of you. If riding side by side, ride handlebar to handlebar with your partner.
Punctuality and preparedness
Showing up late to a group ride is a big faux pas. Similarly, coming ill-equipped or without your spares ,repair kit, adequate nutrition or hydration. We’ve all forgotten our spare tube or pump once or twice, but it shouldn’t happen frequently lest you want to earn the reputation of being the unreliable member of the group. It is important to be both punctual as well as self-sufficient. Keeping some of your kit on your bike (such as in a saddle bag) can be a good way to ensure not forgetting your ride essentials.
Ask before joining a group ride
It is sometimes tempting to jump into a group ride you meet on the road, but doing so uninvited it is not the best way to make cycling friends. Introduce yourself, have a little chat (if the pace and riding environment allows) and ask politely if you can join. If they decline, it’s OK. Some groups have a more formalized membership system, others can be more casual.
Getting to know the guidelines of group ides you intend to join will allow you to act in a manner appropriate to the group and enjoy your time on the bike with other members. Group ride etiquette isn’t complicated. Seek information on the ride plan ahead of time, show up on time, be prepared, respect the rules of the road and look out for your fellow riders by riding responsibly and being aware of your surroundings. Group rides allow us to have fun with like-minded individuals, and the aside from the fun factor the priorities should be to ride safely, learn from more experienced riders or – if you are a seasoned rider yourself – lead by example and offer advice and assistance as needed by other members of the group.