Group rides are the heart and soul of cycling. It’s where riders learn the basic skills of riding in a group like how to draft, ride shoulder to shoulder, paceline and work together. Go frequently enough to the same group ride and you won’t have to reintroduce yourself each time and you will soon be making plenty of new friends. However, when some riders feel they have something to prove or you mix the speed and egos of the group, trouble could surface. To ensure you are one of the riders everyone looks forward to seeing it’s important to know the etiquette and the unspoken rules of the ride.
1. Show up on time and prepared
There is nothing more annoying than waiting around for late riders so be punctual for the group ride. Come prepared as well with sufficient food, water, money, identification and a flat kit so you don’t have to rely on others during the ride. Sure, it happens that you are running late or may forget something time to time but don’t make it a habit.
2. Don’t surge or attack the group
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A good way to get the wrong reputation on a non-drop ride is to up the pace to the point riders are struggling and dropping off. If you are feeling strong and want to prove it don’t lift the pace to the point it blows the group apart. Instead, sit on the front and take long, steady pulls. Everyone will be grateful and that way the whole group won’t have to slow up and wait for riders who have shelled out the back.
3. No half-wheeling
In a double paceline, don’t ramp up the pace to the point that the rider next to you is always trying to keep up. Half-wheeling can be very aggravating so ride handle-bar to handlebar and not half a wheel ahead of the rider next to you.
4. Help keep the group together
If the group does break up and your legs are feeling great, help pace the riders who have fallen off the pace back up to the group. You can also let the riders at the front know that maybe the pace needs to be ramped down a notch or two if the group is to stay together for the duration. Let others in the group know if you or another rider is suffering from the pace, while this doesn’t apply to drop rides, it’s nice to keep everyone together and ensures new riders don’t get dropped in an unfamiliar place far from home.
5. You don’t have to pull
If you are new to a group or don’t feel confident holding the pace, don’t feel like you have to take a pull at the front. If you do end up taking a pull don’t be shy to make it short. Don’t slow the group’s pace down just pull through quickly and slot back into the draft of the group instead of burning all your matches just to fall off the pace later in the ride.
6. Ride predictably
Safety is essential to enjoying the group ride. Keeping a steady pace and riding predictably can help ensure an incident free ride. Try to avoid breaking heavily which could catch riders behind you off guard. Through corners, keep your line so as to not cut into the trajectory of others. Don’t weave or dodge suddenly which could result in wheels touching and make sure to shoulder check before making any movements that could impede other riders.
7. Use hand signals
The use of clear hand signals to let other riders know about potholes, road obstructions, debris or turns is one of the best ways to make the ride go smoothly. Letting everyone in the group, especially those towards the back, know when there is an obstacle will make it less likely any ride-ruining incidents occur. Remember if you are in the middle of the group to pass on the hand signals. Pointing to holes or debris on the road will also help at minimizing flats on the ride. If there is no time for a hand signal or it isn’t safe to use a verbal signal which can be equally effective especially if you are about to stop suddenly. Riders at the back also have their part to play letting others in the group know when there is a car approaching.
8. Use caution navigating busy streets
While navigating out of the city onto quieter roads, traffic can sometimes be an obstacle the group needs to clear. While leading the group, don’t squeeze into gaps between stopped cars that are too narrow for others to follow or could become dangerous if the vehicle begins to move. When approaching an intersection with a light, make sure the whole group can safely clear it before committing to crossing through. Obeying the rules of the road will also make sure your group is predictable to drivers.
Does your group ride have a particular etiquette or quirky rules? Tell us about it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.