When it comes to cycling as part of a group, you have to look out for each other and be able to respond to each others’ actions. Most importantly, keep calm and in sync rather than having a frustrating experience.
Let’s get group cycling right, the first time around. If it’s not your first time, you maybe should check that your skills and attitude to the task of group cycling are beneficial to yourself and the group…
- Remain steady: Speed, line, control and pressure. Being steady isn’t just about the pace you keep, it’s about the line you travel in and the pressure you apply to gears and brake. Be in control of yourself, your vehicle and the riding situation you’re in. If you don’t remain steady you can affect others. Sudden braking will make you unpopular with those riding behind; a steady pressure on pedals will ensure spacing is controlled between riders. Remember, a pace line is happy when the pace is steady.
- Be aware of hazards: Be the eyes and ears of your group, particularly when in front. If leading, you’re responsible for those following – announce potholes, unsafe traffic ahead and other dangers. Be vocal when approaching intersections. Equally, riders in the pack should keep alerting those further behind – always be on your guard and vocal.
- Avoid visual fixation: It takes great care to avoid this, but it’s vital for #1 and #2. Avoid fixating on something – usually the wheel in front of you. Be comfortable looking around when riding your bike and look through the riders and traffic ahead of you to watch any developing hazards. In time, you will “just know” when the wheel in front of you is closer than you would like it.
- Know your limits: Not strong enough to lead or too tired to keep up? Don’t maintain a position if it’s going to hold others up / make you struggle more. Let stronger cyclists pull in front of you. Make sure egos don’t get in the way and be steady – keep the pace of the line, if you’re required to lead the group. Those tired riders won’t care for your egotistical 2mph speed increase.
- Be in the right group: There are various groups you can join, with three main ones. No-drop rides mean that a rider is never left behind when they’re struggling, guaranteeing that an experienced rider will be nearby. Drop-in rides are determined by the individuals and goals of a group, i.e. a slow ride will be started if the riders are fairly new to group racing. Often, such rides go in groups to ensure nobody is unaccounted for. The third “group ride” is a race, which is the fastest and most aggressive ride, for experienced cyclists only. Check out local bike shops, groups and online networks for your nearest group ride!
- Predictability is key for yourself and the group! Every rule is about being predictable – being able to read others and to be read yourself is vital to a smooth group ride experience. Keep steady and never do anything “unexpected” as it will affect everyone and potentially cause accidents. As a group, take care to stick together and maintain a level of integrity about your ride. Stop and start together, don’t take up the road but follow each other in a parallel line.
Our other advice would be basic, but equally important – provide emotional and vocal support to riders who are struggling or newcomers to the group. Always be punctual when arriving to the group ride meeting point – have your gear and psyche ready for a good ride!
If you have some group rides you’d like to share – or some additional tips – please tweet us at @UKBikeBus.