We’ve all been there – the newest rider in a group. As with anything, practice produces proficiency. We’d like to share a few tips for being safe and courteous on the bike so you and the riders & drivers around you can all get along! Cyclists are considered a vehicle. You must follow all traffic rules, meaning you must stop at lights and stop signs, obey road closures, have lights on your bike, wear a helmet, etc. Depending on where you live, there are several different regulations, so be sure to check with local government about specifics to your town or county.
AWARENESS: First and foremost, be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to other riders, cars, and pedestrians.
RIDE DIRECTION: Always ride with traffic, never against. Bicycles are considered vehicles on the road. Stay off side walks and behave like a car.
2 ABREAST: When the shoulder is wide enough, ride two-by-two and stay as close as comfortable to the rider in front of you. Riders move more efficiently, conserve energy, and can ride faster as a group. There is something to be said for a silent solo ride, but you will notice how much stronger you become when you learn to conserve energy and ride with the pace of the group! In a draft position, you should be less than a foot behind and a little to the side of the wheel in front of you. Ride single file in dangerous areas, busy roads without wide shoulders, and narrow roads.
GROUP RIDING: The “leader” of the ride is not necessarily in charge of pulling the whole group. If you feel comfortable taking a turn on front, communicate that to the group, and position yourself towards the front of the pack. If you don’t, position yourself in the middle or towards the back. When on the front, keep a steady pace. Do not overlap tires; your front tire should be behind the rear tire in front of you. You can be slightly to the left or right. Do not stare at the wheel in front of you; keep a soft stare on the space at the front of their bike. Be mindful of the body language in front of you – if he sits up, that means his bike’s slowing down. Avoid rapid deceleration (even small changes) and quick changes in direction. In particular, don’t coast or soft peddle while on the front, especially down hill. If you soft peddle on a downhill, the group “stacks up” behind you. Just be smooth and steady. Work on even, steady stroke pedals and practice straight cycling on your own by riding on white lines.
PACE LINE: When it’s time to pull off, signal the rider behind you with your right elbow and move right. When riding 2-by-2, pull off to the right (both riders go right). DON’T decelerate or coast just prior to pulling right…in fact, as very small, slight acceleration just prior to pulling off helps make the transition smooth. The right-front rider drops back first, followed by the left front rider and they float back so there’s 3 abreast for a short time. Avoid a 4 abreast situation at all cost – even for the briefest moment. If you’re the last rider in the pace line, it’s appreciated to tell the floaters “last rider” so she can duck behind you without cutting anyone off.
CARS ON THE ROAD: Most drivers are considerate of cyclists along the road and will give ample room when passing. Others, as many of you know, are not. To make sure we are all giving cyclists a good name, proper communication with vehicles is key. Use of proper hand signals to vehicles (differ slightly from group ride signals), coupled with observing the 2 abreast/single file guidelines will continue to ease the frustration of drivers sharing the road with us.
HYDRATION AND FOOD: Proper hydration is encouraged (20oz per hour). For rides over two hours, a stop to refuel is wise. Some rides will stop at a halfway point for this purpose, others will not. Know the ride you’re on before you leave and plan accordingly.
COMMUNICATION: Everyone is responsible for communicating to other riders. Not everyone knows the route and riders in the back cannot always see what’s coming. While a rider can hear someone speaking from behind, it is very difficult to hear riders who are in front. So when you speak to someone behind you, they may not be able to hear you (use hand signals). If you hear a verbal cue and you’re mid-pack, pass the word like you’re playing a game of telephone! If you are at the back, communicate the presence of approaching vehicles, and also when you take the lane for a group left turn. Communicate VERY LOUDLY and clearly.
- Index finger held overhead: move to single-file (i.e for a narrow bridge)
- Pointing to obstacles in road: gravel, potholes, dangerous cracks to avoid
- Sweeping hand behind back: move over, there’s an obstruction in the road ahead (physical or another rider)
- Open hand behind back: slowing
- Closed fist behind back: stopping
- “Car back”
- “Car up”
- “Rider up”
- “Rider back”
EARBUDS: Honestly, we all love some tunes on the road, especially when riding solo. But just like driving a car, you need to be able to hear the goings on around you. If wearing headphones, you will not be able to hear communications from other riders, approaching cars, or the dreaded loose dog running your way. Best to leave the earbuds at home, but if you must, wear only one at low volume.
WHAT TO CARRY:
- Extra tube or 2
- Pump/CO2 cartridge
- Lights if there’s any chance you can get caught in darkness
NO-DROP: Some rides are considered a “no-drop” ride to the halfway or turnaround point. Riders will wait for slower riders to catch up every so often at major turn points/intersections. If you need to leave the ride early, tell a few other riders at the start so that you’re not being waited for or worried about.
HALF WHEELING: This is a jerk move. Don’t do it. When on the front of a group, your handlebars should be even with the rider next to you. Half wheeling (pushing your wheel slightly ahead of the rider next to you) causes the pace of the whole group to continually increase. If someone is half wheeling, do not smack them or humiliate them, though we know this is what you might feel like doing. Just politely let them know!
BE SELF SUFFICIENT: Carry your own tools, tubes, etc. and learn how to do general bike maintenance like changing a flat or fixing a dropped chain. Carry your phone in case of emergency!
PROMPTNESS: Wheels on the ground at ride time. Always. Being late causes everyone else in the group to wait for you and possibly delay their plans for the rest of the day. As with any appointment, be on time. And by on time, we mean early enough to be ready to roll at ride time.
CRITICISM: We get it. No one likes to be told they are doing something wrong. Cycling is a strange sport. There is so much to learn about the sport itself, equipment, group riding, training, etc. Don’t take offense if a more experienced rider tries to share some tips with you as you’re riding. Chances are that person has some gory tale she can tell you of broken bones or skin left on the road, so keep in mind the seasoned riders are there to help!
BE NICE: A wave, a nod, or a few fingers lifted from your handlebars to say hello to other cyclists. A nice wave to a car who has given you the room you need to maneuver. A little nice goes a long way!