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The Four Fundamental Rules of Group Riding

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, immortal 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.

4. Brakes – 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 well being.
  • 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 left-hand side dictate the pace.
  • When you hit a hill, maintain your effort level, not your speed.
  • 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 – no club needs a ‘tail gunner’. 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 brake cover simply to win a town-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…

All this information and more is contained in a document prepared for new and novice cyclists by the club available HERE for download. Note this is not a definitive guide but won’t see anyone too far wrong.

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 Chain Gang Cycling Club is a friendly club willingly offering good coaching advice and welcomes all levels of cyclist from the competitive to the touring cyclists.