Riding in a group doesn’t come naturally to everyone – and can be a steep learning curve. Do it right and you will save energy, benefit from safety in numbers, and enjoy the team camaraderie. Get it wrong and you could ruffle some feathers, or even cause a crash. We at Bikmo know a thing or two about group riding, and what to look out for. Here’s our top ‘do’s and don’ts’ to make sure you stay on your bike, and on the right side of other riders.
1. Signal like a pro
Keep an eye out for signals from other riders, and be ready to react depending on what it is. Potholes, road debris, cars and slowing down are the most common reasons for signalling. Thanks to British Cycling, here are some great illustrations of the main signals to remember (full article here).
Pointing down at the road sometimes with a circling motion:
Indicates an obstruction or hazard on the road such as a pothole or drain cover that needs to be avoided. Be sensible with this one and only point out major obstacles that should be avoided. 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.
One-hand as if “gently patting an invisible dog”:
This shows that the group is slowing down or just to ease the pace back a bit.
As well as watching for signals, you should remember to pass them back by repeating them swiftly, and be ready to initiate a signal if you are in front of the pack! It’s always a good idea to vocalise the signal as people further back in the group will hear this before the signal makes it’s way back.
2. Be predictable
When you’re riding in a tight pack, any sudden movements such as hard braking or erratic turns can quickly cause an accident. Be smooth and predictable, using the right signals at the right time, and you’ll get on well with your group and enjoy the team effort. If you’re overtaking other cyclists (that feels good), it might be nice to give a friendly warning by shouting ‘on your right’, especially if the road is narrow.
3. Look ahead
Don’t just watch the bike immediately in front of you, things happen too quick to be able to react when you’re riding at speed. You should also keep your eye on the road and riders 10-20 metres ahead to spot and anticipate upcoming signals, or movements, and get ready to change your speed or make a manoeuvre.
4. Group etiquette
You’ll probably find there is a huge mix of riding abilities, and those with similar speeds will group together. For the more serious faster groups, it’s generally accepted that you keep up with the riders in front and not allow big gaps to form in the pack, otherwise, those behind you will have some catching up to do and you may force them out of the group. Equally – don’t get so close that your wheels overlap with the bike in front, as that’s when things can go wrong.
Remember to do your stint on the front too. Quietly tagging onto the back of a fast group and holding on for 30 miles is not cool if the group is trying to make good progress together! That said, you may find that your group is quite relaxed and this etiquette is dropped. Try to gauge the group dynamic.
5. Ride within your limits
If the ride is a big step up in distance for you, or you’re aiming to get round quicker than you did last year, then go for it – push yourself. But know your limits, and stay just the right side. If you don’t feel comfortable with the speed of your group, then drop back and find a group that suits your pace.
Perhaps most importantly of all, remember that you’re not the only people on the road. The roads are open, and drivers like predictability so they can move around you. Be nice to them, and (most of the time) they will be nice in return.
If you do get caught up in a bit of rough and tumble, cycle insurance will get you back on the saddle quickly. Bikmo insures all types of rider, getting covered is straight-forward, and includes accidental damage and theft plus lots of other benefits.