If you’re not used to riding in a group, it can be intimidating. However, with some knowledge of what to expect, the experience will be fun, sociable and unforgettable.
The most important factor to successful group riding is communication. Make sure you know the meaning of and always pass any verbal signals through the group. As well as obvious shouts such as “slowing” and “braking”, others to be aware of are “car up”, meaning there is a car ahead to be aware of, “car back”, meaning there is a car behind and “single out”, meaning to adopt single file. Be aware there are local variations of these shouts, so use your eyes too. There are a number of hand signals you should also be aware of (see illustrations below).
Stay relaxed in the group but constantly look around and don’t mindlessly follow the wheels. Look past the riders in front to get a heads up of the road ahead. Always look first and let the riders around you know before moving within the group.
Obey the rules of the road
All club rides take place on roads that are open to traffic and, even with those events on closed roads, there’s no guarantee that there won’t some traffic on the course, so ride accordingly. Respect junctions and always stay on the correct side of the road.
Ride consistently and predictably
Your movements will effect everyone in the group. Hold a straight line, don’t weave and always overtake around the right hand side of the group. Don’t grab your brakes and, if you stand out of the saddle, don’t let your back wheel drop back.
Make sure both you and you’re bike are prepared
Ensure your bike is well maintained as misfiring gears or poor brakes can make you a liability in a bunch. Carry suitable spares, clothing, money and a mobile phone. Also make sure you have enough food and drink so that you are self reliant.
Avoid half wheeling
If road conditions and traffic allows you’ll often be riding two abreast. Maintain an even pace and stay level with the person next to you. Do not constantly up the pace whenever a rider draws level to you. Known as “half-wheeling” this is definitely frowned on.
Don’t always sit amongst the wheels and shirk your stint on the front. Even if you just put in a few turns of the pedals it’ll be appreciated. If you really are struggling, let people in the group know. However, even if you’re finding the pace easy, don’t get on the front and put the ‘hammer down’ (A term used to describe someone riding at the front of a group at a hard pace). Keep the pace and effort consistent.
Don’t ride in the gutter
If you’re on the front of the group, don’t sit in the gutter as you’ll be forcing everyone else to follow you increasing the likelihood of hitting obstructions such as drain covers and of picking up punctures. Where possible, ride 1 m out from the curb.
Expect the group to change
Groups will change, fragment and reform as the ride progresses. Expect larger groups on flat sections but, on longer climbs, they’ll break up. Similarly, on descents, riders will tend to string out to give more time to react at higher speeds.
Hand straight up in air:
Group is stopping for a junction, puncture or because there is an obstruction in the road.
One hand as if “gently patting an invisible dog”:
Group is slowing down or just ease things back a bit.
Left or right hand extended out to side:
Direction of turn / change in direction coming up.
Pointing down at road sometimes with a circling motion:
Obstruction on road such as a pothole or drain cover that needs to be avoided. Be sensible with this one and only point out major obstacles. This signal is often accompanied with a call of ‘below’.
Waving/pointing behind back:
Indicates that there is an obstruction such as a parked car or pedestrian and that the whole group needs to move in the direction indicated to avoid it.