How to cycle in a group

Basic Group Riding

Introduction

If you’re not used to riding in a large group, rolling away handlebar to handlebar with other riders can be intimidating. However, with some knowledge of what to expect, the experience will be fun, sociable and unforgettable.

Safety is always our first priority and if you are unsure when you turn up to a ride, seek the advice of the “group leader” or another club rider. We are a very friendly bunch and most of us picked up these guidelines from riding and chatting with more experienced riders!

The video below is a great introduction to the basics of group riding:

Changing up

On the majority of roads we ride, we will be 2 riders abreast. This is to ensure we do not snake too far along a road (10-12 riders in a line take up a huge length of road and are difficult for other road users to pass) and allows riders to spend time “on the front” working hard and then to drop back and get a little respite.

Circular Paceline

To do this safely, every couple of minutes, the rider on the front right of the group slowly overtakes the person to their left and slots in infront of them. The line of riders on the right all then steadily move up one position, giving a change of rider on the front right. The diagram above is from the continent, so shows this process in the reverse of how we ride in the UK! The time spent on the front can be altered to accommodate terrain, weather and rider ability. it is perfectly acceptable to miss a turn on the front by going through and asking the person who is on your right to move through again – but only if you are feeling weak or out of your depth…..

Communicate

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).

Be aware

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

Rides take place on roads that are open to traffic and, even with those 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. Also, when you come to a feed station, no matter how relieved you are to see it, don’t veer across the road.

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 and some of your own 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.

Wheel suck

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. 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.

 

Advanced Group Riding Techniques

 

Through and Off

Our Thursday night chain-gangs are ridden in the through and off style.  This is exactly like the technique described in the Changing Up section above, except that it happens continuously (just as shown in the diagram) rather than the riders on the front changing every few minutes.  The video below has some great tips on riding through and off well:

Team Time Trial (TTT) Style Single File Paceline

In the run up to the Silverstone team trial events, or when there are too few riders to do through and off effectively, the group may ride as a single file paceline.  Each rider typically does about 30 seconds on the front and then flicks their left elbow to tell the rider they are pulling off.  At that point they move over to the right and slow slightly to let the rest of the group past and then accelerating to rejoin the back of the line. This is well illustrated in the video below from 3:30 minutes onwards:

Cat-and-Mouse, Sprints and Other Race Training Techniques

The Thursday night Screamer and Development rides may include sprints and attacks too.  The ride leaders will give a briefing on how that will work.

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