Hints and Tips: Riding in Groups/Pelotons

I was asked a week or so ago to write a piece on etiquette for riding in large groups or pelotons. Luckily the club that I ride with up at Uni on some Sundays: The Kenilworth Wheelers, have a great page on their website about "conduct during club rides". A large amount of the material below is sourced from there; I hope you find it interesting and that it will teach you or remind you about the generic rules for group riding.

Riding in The Group
  1. When riding in a group, it is important to ride in a smooth and predictable manner, and concentrate on what is happening with the other riders around you. You should also be aware of the road conditions and terrain at all times, to ensure you keep a steady pace.
  2. If the event is not a race, riders should organise into pairs - with the second pair back following directly behind the front pair. There is a tendency for riders to sit slightly to the side of one another, and overlap wheels, this is dangerous as it creates an echelon across the road. The Highway code states that cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast, when it does not impede other road users. As a result you should always single out on narrow lanes and hills. 
  3. Ride close to the riders in front of you for maximum slipstreaming effect but only as close as you feel comfortable with. If you are less experienced leave a larger gap and if the road is wet, or there is a cross-wind, leave a larger gap.
  4. Do not ride with your front wheel overlapping the rear wheel of the person in front. If the person in front makes a sudden move, your front wheel could be knocked from under you causing you and probably those around you to crash.
  5. Do not ride hands-off in the group; this is an extremely dangerous practice. If you need to take both hands off the bars for any reason, then move to the rear of the group before doing so. Putting on or taking off a rain top whilst riding in the group is dangerous, if you need to put on/take off a rain top then either ask the group to stop when safe to do so or move to the very back of the group and let the other riders your intentions.
  6. When pulling up at a road junction stay in two lines and do not scatter across the road. Don’t pass or crowd around vehicles that are waiting at the junction this only serves to annoy drivers and can be dangerous.
  7. The best way to single out is that riders on the inside should in turn slightly accelerate to allow riders on the outside to in turn slip in behind them. A common reaction to an on coming car is to brake. This should be avoided if possible as it can have a hazardous “ripple” effect through the group.

Taking Turns On The Front
In most clubs, the standard procedure for changing the rider at the front:
  • Firstly clearly tell the group that there is to be a change at the front.
  • Then the rider on the outside at the front accelerates and moves over in front of the nearside rider.
  • The outside riders then move up two positions and the last rider on the inside will move to the outside to reform into pairs
When at the front of the group don’t half-wheel the rider next to you (that is don’t ride with your front wheel always slightly ahead of him/her). This is not only anti-social but also causes the pace to rise as the rider who is being half-wheeled tries to keep up with the other rider thus destroying the whole ride.


Communication
Here are a few universal calls that are to be made when you are riding in a group and spot a particular hazard or problem:
  • “Car down”: This warns of a vehicle coming towards the FRONT of the group.
  • “Car up”: This warns of a vehicle coming towards the BACK of the group.
  • “On the left”: This shout often accompanied by putting the left arm behind the back warns following   rider of an obstruction on the nearside of the road. This may be a parked car, a pedestrian etc.
  • “Hole”: This shout accompanied by pointing to the road with the appropriate right or left hand is a warning that there is some hazard in the road. This may be a pothole, a branch, a brick, horse droppings etc.
  • "Easy": This is a request to slow down and be careful, for example because there is a hazard ahead, a dog, some walkers etc. This shout is also used when approaching a junction or if there is a problem within the group, or because the group is breaking up because the speed is too high.
  • “Stopping”: This is self explanatory. The group should avoid sudden braking and spreading across the road.
  • “Puncture”: If you have a puncture (or a mechanical problem) then use this shout, it is important that   you hold your line as you slow down, don’t swerve or break suddenly, then the other riders can  overtake or slow down in an orderly fashion and pull in to the side of the road at a safe spot and get off the road. Don’t just stop and spread out over the road.
  • “Horse”: You often encounter horses and riders on country roads. Remember horses are  unpredictable animals. The rider on the front of the group, as well as warning the group with a shout  of “Horse” should shout a warning to the horse rider of “cyclists behind”. Then, making sure that the  horse rider is aware that we intend to pass, the group should then pass slowly and wide. Don’t forget to go slowly so that the group can reform afterwards. 

Comments

  1. Thanks for the reminders Tim.....

    -Trevor

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  3. Brilliant blog Tim. I just read it all in preparation for my 4th Cat debut 10 Apr. I think it will be emotional but at least I won't have been the first! Thanks! Olly Nokes

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  4. Excellent reading Tim. Many thanks

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  5. Excellent reading Tim. Many thanks

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