TuTorial: Group riding advice

As per all of these posts, this will be a fluid document to which I will make improvements and add other people’s suggestions. Comments are welcome

Group riding advice

***It is recommended that anyone who rides on public roads has appropriate cycle insurance cover (e.g. as provided by the British Cycling, British Triathlon Association or the Cycle Touring Club)***

Club rides are unsupervised and the organiser/ride leader is not responsible for your safety; everyone on the ride must take responsibility to look out for others’ safety as well as their own. Experienced riders may ask you to adjust your speed, road position or style. Please respect them, as they are only concerned for everybody’s safety. Always bear in mind that everyone in the group may not be as confident or have as good bike handling skills as you.

When riding in a group, you should always aim to ride steadily with no sudden movements

Below is some basic advice to follow to make group rides enjoyable and safe for you and other road users:

Guidelines

Highway Code: Follow the Highway Code at all times and be considerate to fellow road users. Do not jump red lights. The lead riders should always wait for the group to come back together after hazards before picking the pace up.

No overlapping wheels: This is considered bad manners and dangerous.

Distance between riders: When riding in an experienced group on flat or rolling terrain, there should be 1ft-3ft (30cm-1m) between your front wheel and the back wheel of the rider in front. However, it is understandable that some riders do not want to ride so close to ‘strange wheels’, and some beginners should not be forced to ride too close until they are more confident.

Single or Double file: This entirely depends on road and weather conditions, or even type of ride. Be prepared on narrow or busy roads to ride in single file.

Two abreast (Double file): Where appropriate and safe to do so, usually in larger groups, cycle a maximum of two abreast in 2 close parallel lines, with 1ft (30cm) between your shoulders and any rider beside you. Focus on keeping it neat and tidy. Ride behind the wheel of the rider in front; if you cycle in the middle of the two wheels in front of you, you will push the cyclist on your outside into the path of passing vehicles. Do not half-wheel i.e. try to cycle faster than the person beside you, this is considered very bad manners. Ensure hazards are well signalled so the group has time to react.

Braking and pedalling: Cover your brakes at all times. Brake as gently and smoothly as you safely can when riding in a pack. When on the front, keep pedalling – this is particularly important going downhill. If you freewheel, everyone behind will have to brake. Avoid sudden movements.

Do not ride off the front: It will be assumed that you are riding by yourself. However, a group should always try to wait for those who fall off the wheel and drop behind.

Ride together and wait: Ride at a steady pace, keeping the pack as a compact unit. Do not filter traffic at lights. After stopping or slowing for hazards/junctions/lights, allow the riders behind to catch up and proceed as a group (everyone takes time to set-off, clip-in and get settled back in the saddle). Likewise, re-group at the top of hills and if necessary at the bottom. The lead riders should make sure that all riders are back in the group before resuming the normal pace. It is OK to keep moving slowly, until everyone is back together.

Don’t jump out of the saddle: When you come out of the saddle e.g. to climb, try doing it smoothly or give your bike a decent push forward for a couple of pedal strokes otherwise you will lunge backwards and possibly take out the cyclist behind you.

Equipment: Bring everything you might need. For example, puncture kit, tyre levers, inner tubes, pump, multi tool (including chain tool), helmet, waterproof jacket, food, water, money, credit card, mobile, emergency contact details… See this here.

Mechanicals: When a puncture occurs, find a safe place out of traffic to stop. If someone punctures or has a mechanical, everyone is expected to stop. So in return for delaying everyone, make sure you start the ride with spares like an inner tube, tyre levers and that your bike is roadworthy with sufficient air in the tyres. It is also worth regularly checking your tyres for road debris (e.g. flints or glass) which could cause future punctures.

Have fun: Above all, rides should be fun. Even when it’s raining. There may be some rules but a ride isn’t a military drill, it’s about enjoying being out on your bike.

Warnings and help

Everyone riding in a group is responsible for the safety of others. Clear communication makes a ride smoother and more enjoyable for everyone. How much calling is needed depends on the size and experience of the group. Personally, I’d rather hear too much than too little.

Be aware different groups use different calls. I read this article recently, and some of those signals I’ve never heard before, but may start using as they are self-explanatory.

Leaders: If you are on the front, remember that people are following your calls. Try to signal for hazards, or shout if necessary. If you make a decision to pull out on a roundabout or junction, you need to call ‘Clear’, ‘Slow’, or ‘Wait’. Do not repeat this call unless you have checked the junction yourself. ‘Heads Up’ or ‘Car Up’ can also be used if an oncoming vehicle is likely to become a hazard.

Sweepers: Rear riders ensure no-one is falling behind as lead cyclists will not be aware; it is your responsibility to call ‘Ease off/up/soft pedal’ to the cyclists in front if the pace is too high, or if other riders are caught at junctions. Ask them to slow down; it is everyone’s ride to enjoy. When the ride is together, calling ‘All together/All in/All through’ will reassure the lead riders that everything is OK. (Toria: If I am leading, I try to give a thumbs up once I’ve heard the call.) Rear Riders should call if there are vehicles building up behind e.g. ‘Car back/down!’, ‘Single out!’

Pacesetting: Gentle ease your pace by pedalling less hard or freewheeling for a moment. Look at your speedometer – if someone is being dropped you probably only need to reduce your speed by half a mile an hour to allow them to stay on.

The pack: must pass calls on to the front or to the back. Listen to them and act on the calls, and most importantly, repeat them for the cyclist behind or in front of you. Do not look back and check for yourself, as you will move off your line and may cause an accident.

Change the lead (working hard): Every few minutes, the lead should change. So if you’ve been sitting on the front for a while, when it’s safe to do so, flick your elbow and/or call ‘Pulling off’. Check over your shoulder for other riders or traffic before pulling out and decreasing speed slightly so that you rejoin after the last rider or if required, fill a gap. When you pull through to the front, do not surge i.e. increase speed. If you’re tiring when it’s your turn on the front, tell the others. It’s fine to take it easy and only pedal a few revolutions before pulling off.

Passing pedestrians or other cyclists: It’s considered good cycling etiquette to nod, wave or otherwise acknowledge others on the road. If you are overtaking, speak e.g. a cheery ‘hello’ or ‘passing right’ so they know you are there.

Horses: Slow right down when passing horses, and pass them as wide as it is safe to do so. Always call to the horse riders well ahead of catching them – a cheery ‘Good morning’ or ‘Hello’ will do. Keep calling until the riders indicate they know you are there. They may want to turn the horse so it can see you.

Calls

Slowing’: Usually accompanied by a hand signal if it’s safe to take a hand off the bars.

Stopping’: Brake!

Hole’ (‘Hole left/right’): Upcoming pothole to avoid/ride through. ‘Below’, ‘Loose’, ‘Glass’ and ‘Gravel’ are alternatives.

Wait’: Usually at junctions to indicate there is a vehicle coming/it is not safe to go.

Clear’: To indicate that a junction is traffic free. ‘Slow’ can be used to pull out with caution.

All together/All in/All through’: The group is together. Should be called after all junctions by rear riders/sweepers and communicated to the front.

‘Soft pedal’: Pedal slowly to enable group to come together/catch up.

Easy/Ease up/Ease off’: Ease off the pace a fraction to allow riders to catch up, or deal with a potential hazard.

Heads Up’: Potential hazard ahead; pay attention.

Single out’: Get into single file safely and promptly

Car Up/Front/Back/Down’: caution for an approaching vehicle. *Note – be aware there can be a differences in directional calls depending who you’re riding with.*

‘Horse up’: Slow down and single out when passing horses, call and pass them as wide as it is safe.

‘Mechanical/puncture/chain off’: Slow or stop and wait. *Any other suggestions for calls?*

Out’, ‘Pulling out’ or ‘Swing out’: Usually accompanied by the behind back hand signal. There is usually an obstacle – a car or a slower rider – on the inside of the road, so move over.

‘[On your/Passing] right/left/inside’: A rider behind is coming past, so hold your line.

Up’/’Hup’: Either a late warning of a pothole or obstacle, or a rider wants to slip in front of you.

‘Standing/Changing down’: Use this if you think you may slow suddenly on standing or changing gear when climbing. Exercise caution if you hear it, and back off the wheel slightly.

Pulling off’: The lead rider is peeling off the front of the group.

Pull through’: Come and take your turn at the front. Do not surge.

Swing off/Pull off’: Instruction to rider to swing/pull off the front of the group and let someone else take a turn there.

Last (Man)’: Tells a rider pulling off that you’re the last in the line and he/she can return to the line behind you. *Caution – always check no other riders have joined behind.*

Signals

Please only signal if it is safe to do so and you are comfortable taking a hand off the bars.

Single hand in the air (up or down): ‘Slowing’ or ‘Stopping’. (Alternative is hand parallel to the ground with up and down motion.)

Waving/pointing down at the road: This is to point out hazards such as pot holes, manhole covers etc which may cause damage to either bike or rider. Pointing – specific hazard/deep hole. Flat hand wave – rough surface. PLEASE copy this signal, it prevents accidents and punctures.

Arm straight out left or right: Turning. Everyone in the pack needs to indicate when turning left or right. Straight hand pointing forward over the head means going straight on.

Left/right arm signalling behind back: The cyclist is about to move out into the road, e.g. to pass a parked car, another cyclist or to go round debris in the road.

Pointing at wheel in front or behind: Signals another cyclist needs to change position in the group. May be confused with other signals so try to confirm with a call.

Come past me/come through: A knee-level wave forward, gesturing the rider or vehicle behind to come past. Take care that the correct person sees this as you may confuse other road users.

Elbow wiggle: In through-and-off, the lead rider is pulling off the front and will pull out to drift back to the rear of the group. Be aware that some groups use the inside elbow, and some use the outside.

In summary, there may be a lot here, but it’s surprising how quickly you will pick it up.

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