For me, one of the best things about cycling is being part of a community of like-minded souls. Cycling has enabled me to connect with people I’d never normally have encountered, helped me form friendships and opened my eyes to other people’s way of thinking. As a cyclist, I feel like I’m part of a global network of bike nerds who I can rely on should I ever need to. I can feel right at home wherever I am, surrounded by potential friends united by a common interest.
When I upped sticks and left London several years ago, one of the first things that I did when I arrived in Devon (after visiting Ye Olde Cyder Bar and eating a pasty) was to look up the local cycling club, knowing it would mean instant friends in my new area.
I had no idea that Sunday rides with the cycling club were ‘a thing’ and I had no idea about group riding etiquette...
Mid Devon Cycling Club, one of the largest clubs in the country turned out to be absolutely fantastic, providing not just friends, but training advice, support, motivation and a sense of belonging. The other thing the club gave me was an introduction to group riding – before heading to the South West I’d never been on a ‘club run,’ nor had I even heard of one.
I had no idea that Sunday rides with the cycling club were ‘a thing’ and I had no idea about group riding etiquette. In in the interests of keeping my new friends rather than being cast out into the wilderness I did some fast learning.
So what’s the scoop with group riding etiquette? Well, quite simply, it’s all about being safe, polite and considerate, and who wouldn’t want to be any of those things? As riding with pals is so much more fun than solo, so let’s get up to speed on how to behave on a club run to ensure you make and keep some riding buddies.
Try to ride in a consistent manner without suddenly swerving from side to side, braking suddenly or accelerating.
Try not to let a large gap open up between yourself and the rider in front.
Don’t overlap wheels
Don’t put your front wheel next to someone’s back wheel – if they move to the side you’ll be knocked off.
Pick a ride that’s suitable
Generally, group rides will advertise their average speed, so be realistic about how fast you are. If you bite off more than you can chew and find yourself struggling at the back, don’t give yourself a hard time but consider switching to a slower ride next time. At the other end of the scale, if you find you’re much stronger and faster than your fellow riders, don’t be tempted to up the pace unless you want to annoy everyone!
If there’s a car in front, say ‘car down,’ to warn people. ‘Car back’ means there’s a car behind you.
Ensure your bike is road worthy and be self-reliant. Always take a spare tube, a pump, puncture repair kit and multi-tool. And make sure you know how to use them.
Warn about hazards
Communication is key to keeping group rides safe. If you spot a hazard on the road in front, point it out to the riders behind you. If there’s a car in front, say ‘car down,’ to warn people. ‘Car back’ means there’s a car behind you. Listen for people’s calls and repeat them to those next in line.
Don’t ‘half wheel’
Half-wheeling is when you keeping inching your front wheel further forward than the person you’re riding next to, forcing them to increase their speed in order to catch up.
Wait at turns
Some group rides stop at the top of hills for the slower riders to catch up, other rides don’t. But you should always stop at intersections if the ride has become fragmented.
Take your turn at the front
‘Wheel sucking’ refers to riding close behind someone all of the time to take advantage of their slipstream. It makes sense to ride ‘on someone’s wheel’ to conserve energy, but never taking your turn on the front is really frowned upon.
Don’t speed up when you’re on the front
Keep a steady speed when it’s your turn to lead.
Be courteous to other road users
Follow the Highway Code. Ride two abreast where it’s safe to do so and single out when cars need to pass you.
Be courteous to each other
Please, oh please, don’t blow ‘snot rockets’ that might land on the person behind you. It’s disgusting.
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