The basics of friendly and safe group rides

Earlier this year the club hosted an Introduction to Group Riding class for local cyclists. A number of members mentioned that nearly all riders could stand to be reminded of the etiquette, safety and skills needed to ride with a group of other cyclists. So here you go…

Key Principles:

  • Take responsibility for the safety of the group
  • Ride predictably
  • Learn to “Hold your Line” –  Ride a straight line without any wobbles or sudden swerves
  • Don’t overlap wheels
  • Communicate to other riders

Safe Riding around other cyclists:

  • Communicate to other riders: Use hand signals and communicate verbally for: turning, slowing, and stopping. Point out and verbalize road hazards or other road conditions that riders behind you may not see such as: “pothole”, “stick”, “glass”, “bike up”, “runner up”, “car up”, “car back”, “on your left”, or the always popular, “young mom with double baby stroller and Chihuahua puppy on leash coming up”.

  • Normally, don’t pass other cyclists on the right unless you:
    • let them know you are there – “I’m on your right”;
    • are safely riding 2-abreast when there is light traffic;
    • are in an organized paceline rotation.
  • Do not ride too close to the bike ahead or to the bike next to you.
  • Don’t overlap wheels – if you “half-wheel” someone from behind and they swerve into your front wheel, you are almost guaranteed to go down.
  • Don’t swerve or brake suddenly (unless you must).
  • If you must brake suddenly, loudly say, “STOPPING” to alert the group.
  • Keep your eyes up the road to look for hazards so you are not surprised.
  • In a group, always assume that there is a rider behind you, on your left, and on your right, until you can prove otherwise.
  • If you come upon an unknown cyclist, don’t draft them until you ask if it’s okay. In a regular group, if you come up to another rider to draft, let them know you are “on their wheel” so they are not surprised.
  • When climbing, if someone is on your wheel, call out “Standing” before standing up. As you stand, your bike slows for a second or two and you need to warn the rider behind. Also learn to push your bike forward as you stand to counteract this.
  • Move to back or out of way before spitting or blowing your nose.
  • If leaving a group ride early or taking a different route, tell the ride leader or someone that you are leaving.
  • If you don’t know the route, or are unsure of the turns, pair up with another rider (who does know the route) so they can watch that you are staying with the group.

 Safe Riding around cars:

  • Be courteous to drivers. Give cyclists a good reputation by being a cycling ambassador.
  • Traffic Lights & Stop Signs – Bicycles are treated as vehicles and you have a legal responsibility to obey traffic laws. Every cyclist has a different interpretation of what this means, especially regarding stop signs. Many “slow and roll” through stop signs so be prepared. Use common sense and be safe. Better to be dropped by the group and have to catch up than be unsafe.
  • Don’t take chances with stop lights/signs/traffic. This is especially true if other riders are following you. You might be able to speed through the yellow light and make it safely,  but the 7th person behind you in line will not.
  • Ride no more than two abreast, and ride single file if there is heavy traffic or you are holding up cars.
  • Ride as far to the right as is safe and practical. However, don’t hesitate to take the full lane if that is the safe way to proceed and then move back to the right when safe.
  • When you are going straight through an intersection or past a driveway without a right turn lane, make sure that you are aware of right turning motor vehicles next to you or behind you.
  • Try not to block right turn lanes when you or the group is going straight.
  • When making a left hand turn give yourself plenty of time to move to the left turning lane. Better to slow traffic than to swerve over at the last minute.
  • This may be controversial/debatable, but most cycling safety advocates recommend that you do NOT give a “clear” or “ok” signal when going through an intersection without a stop light. While it seems like a courteous thing to do, each rider should make their own determination that it is safe to proceed through the intersection based upon his or her understanding of the conditions, their speed, etc…
  • Don’t cross the center line, especially around blind corners.
  • Be visible – bright or reflective clothing, flashing tail lights, etc…
  • Do not confront motorists – they are bigger than you.

Safe Riding around “others”

  • Dogs, small children, skate boarders, visiting tourists (especially those off-leash) are unpredictable. Warn other riders and give them as wide a berth as safely possible.
  • When you see a deer cross the road in front of you, look for the SECOND deer. There is usually more than 1.
  • Rumor has it that barking at squirrels gets them to move.
  • Railway tracks, cattle crossings, gravel, pine needles, leaves and painted road stripes (when wet) are very slippery. Point them out to other riders and try to ride upright and straight over them.

Tips for riding in a straight line

Riding in a straight, predictable manner is a key cycling skill. Practice holding your line on your own by simply riding on the white line (away from traffic) without deviating to either side. Relax your neck, shoulders, arms and even your jaw. Tight muscles fight the bike’s natural slight movements and make things worse. You tend to overcorrect, and then overcorrect the overcorrections.

Don’t look at the white line directly in front of your wheel. Instead, focus 30-50 feet up the road. This smoothes and straightens your bike’s line and stops the urge to correct each waver.

When you can ride the line for long stretches, try doing it as you reach for your water bottle, take a drink and return the bottle to the cage. Resist looking down. The cage location needs to become ingrained. If you have to search for it you’re likely to swerve.

When taking a hand off the handlebar to reach for a bottle or something in a rear pocket, place the other hand on the bar top close to the stem. The bike will be more stable and body movements will be less likely to steer it off line.

Now try looking back. The trick when glancing over your left shoulder is to relax the right arm and bend the elbow. This equalizes the force against the two sides of the handlebar, keeping the front wheel straight.

Here’s a couple of fun video’s that will show you how to put some of these ideas into practice:

How To Ride In A Group – An Introduction
How To Be A Gentleman/Gentlelady Cyclist