Article written by Mike Greenshields. Mike is a Graphic Designer at Rutland Cycling Head Office, a 2nd Cat road racer and a handy time triallist.
Have you been inspired by the pelotons of the Tour de France? Riding on your own is great at times, but riding as part of a group can make your cycling a lot more fun, enjoyable and sociable! To get maximum enjoyment out of your group riding there are a few tips and tricks you might need to know. But fear not! We've put together our top 5 tips for riding in a bunch.
As cyclists, we of all people know that the road can be a dangerous place at times. Minimising the risks to ourselves and those we ride, is essential to stay safe. Arguably, the most important thing that you can do to stay safe while riding is to communicate with the other riders in your group... and no, not the kind of communication where you chat away to your mates about the kale and almond smoothie you had for breakfast, or how your winter turbo training has put you in peak fitness to ride the fastest 15 miles you've ever done to the caf� for some carrot cake. Calling out potholes, signaling a change in direction, or letting other riders know there are parked cars approaching are just some of the things you should make a habit of communicating when you are riding in a group.
Here are some of the key signals you should know before going out riding in a group for the first time:
- Pothole - Call "hole" and point down to the side that the hole is on as you ride past.
- Car approaching from the front/back - "Car front/back."
- Stationary car - Swing your arm around behind your back and point to the right.
- Turning left or right - Call "slowing" to alert riders behind you that you are slowing in speed.
- When slowing down - Call "slowing" to alert riders behind you that you are slowing in speed.
- When coming to a halt - Call "stopping".
Take your turn
There is nothing more frustrating than when you are deep into your ride, plowing into a howling headwind, absolutely drenched in rain and on the verge of bonking having spent the last 20 miles grinding it out on your own on the front because the other riders in your group are saving their legs for the town sign sprint on next week's social ride. Pull your weight and take your turns on the front! Depending on the length of the ride this can be anything between 30 seconds to several miles, just make sure to let each other know how long your turns will be to avoid any confusion! There's only one excuse not to take a turn, and that's if you 'bonked', or in other words, hit the wall. Don't be afraid to tell the other riders in your group if you have nothing left as they will often slow the pace down, let you sit on and give you a helping push to get back home... we've all been there!
The key to riding smoothly in a group is to... you guessed it, ride smoothly! There's a few easy tricks to doing this, and you'll be out surfing around the bunch like a pro on the next club ride. Firstly, avoid using your brakes. There are some situations when you need to use your brakes to bring your bike to a halt, such as approaching traffic lights or when you hear someone call �slowing�. However, when you are riding at a consistent speed and need to slow slightly, ease off the pedals and you should start to slow. If you are using the brakes to slow then let the riders know, and avoid slamming on your brakes unless it's an emergency. You'll more than likely have a rider behind plowing into your rear wheel before flying over the front of theirs! That brings us nicely onto the second point of riding smoothly in a group, and that's to sit just off to the side of the rider in front of you. Should they hit the brakes hard, you'll have a bit more of a chance of avoiding a collision with their rear wheel. Other tricks to riding smoothly are to not be jerky with your pedaling, cycling in a straight line and don't swerve, indicate when you want to move positions, and be mindful of what and who is behind you when you get out of the saddle as your bike will slide backwards by a few inches!
Keep your head up and look forward at what's happening in front of you. Rather than staring at the wheel in front try and look through the riders ahead so you can see what's happening up the road. You'll be able to preempt slowing, turning and avoiding anything big and metal that may be stopped on the side of the road. Having a quick glance to the side to see where riders are behind you every so often, using your peripheral vision, will help you to make decisions, position yourself optimally and be able to let the riders ahead know if those behind you have dropped off the pace or taken a wrong turn.
Follow the rules of the road
When you are riding in a group you must always follow the rules of the road. You might be partial to jumping a red light when you are out riding on your own, but if you start jumping red lights on your local club run, no doubt you'll be firmly told not to come back! If you see the lights go from green to amber, restrain the burning urge to unleash your inner Greipel and sprint full gas to make it through. Chances are the riders behind you won't make it, so let them know you're stopping. A few minutes at a red light will allow you to have a rest, take on food and drink, and sit on your top tube looking as cool as you can in lycra. When you are riding in a large group, be considerate to other road users, ride no more than two up and keep to the left. You're still likely to encounter the angry transit van driver who wants to fight you all... but you'll have peace of mind knowing that you're doing the right thing!
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