Guidelines for road cycling in a group
So you’ve been invited out on a group road ride!
But…. you’re a little intimidated because you are a newbie road cyclist. You should be! It is fast paced, you will be riding close to someone else’s rear wheel (and someone will be close to yours). The slightest ‘wrong move’ and you all go down. Road rash is not good, to say the least broken bones. And it is not just other cyclists you have to deal with, it is cars/buses/trucks!
Always be a little fearful
This will keep your senses heightened and remind yourself to follow a few group ride safety ‘rules’. These are general rules that are unspoken. But be sure, if you don’t follow basic safety rules, you will not be asked out again, and possibly asked to leave the group while riding. Group riding is fun! But it is not fun if someone gets hurt unnecessarily. Experienced road cyclists that aren’t used to riding in a group need to be reminded that they need to pay attention to these rules as well.
Training for GranFondo Niagara Falls has been a personal challenge this year with finding small windows of random opportunities to jump on my bike for quick road rides. This means I have been spending most of my time riding alone. I did get out for the VIP GranFondo group ride in the Spring (which was excellent), but that was awhile ago and I quickly became used to only having to worry about myself when riding. Not needing to pay attention to a wheel to follow I would enjoy the beautiful scenery that we have here in Niagara. To say the least, I would daydream and think about the work that I still had to do when I got back to my desk.
So when a friend invited me out for a group ride, a few group rules were shared.
- Pay attention - no daydreaming, no looking at the cattle in the field… etc. Keep your senses alert.
- Point out obstacles on the road - when you seen an obstacle that should be avoided on the road, point to it when you pass to give the ‘heads up’ to the riders behind you. This could be grates, gravel, pot holes, ‘road-kill’, etc.
- Use hand signals - use cycling hand signals to show when you are turning left, turning right, slowing down, or stopping. Hand signals will also be used when pointing out obstacles (#2). There are some variations (not the comments in the reference links below) but they are close enough that you will be able to communicate with one another to stay safe. Watch what the other guys/girls are doing in the group and follow. If you have a question, ask.
- Stay tight - stay close to the wheel ahead so the pack stays nice and tight (aerodynamics), but only close enough that it is safe. Watch what the rest of the group is doing.
- Eyes ahead, even when chatting - This is a social time as much as a fitness/training ride BUT when you are having a conversation, you need to keep your eyes looking ahead to watch for hand signals and make sure the wheel is always a safe distance ahead of you.
- Hands close to the brakes - have your hands in a position that you can quickly reach your brakes in the riders ahead have to stop quickly.
- Know your physical limits - when invited out on a ride, these are three important questions to ask to see if this is a group ride you should be joining. Remember that it is much easier to rider further and faster in a group, but make sure you will be able to keep up. How far will we be going? How fast do you usually go? What is the route?
- Pulling the line - Everyone has to take their turn pulling the front of the pace-line. If you are new to a group stay a few riders back to watch how long everyone is pulling. Usually there is a time limit they will typically stay out front. In a more relaxed group there are a few stronger riders that will sometimes stay out in front longer. Watch for their hand signals that they (double pace-line) or he/she (single pace-line) asks that you come through and they will drop to the back of the line. Always make sure you drop back when it is safe to do so (i.e. watch for passing cars, bends in the road, obstacles, hills, etc)
These are some of the guys that I have the privilege to ride with from the Lake (Wainfleet, Ontario) We did 72 km that day (couple weeks ago), and last weekend we did 95 km. Our pace is usually 30-35 km/hr.
Most of us will be doing the GranFondo Niagara Falls event, so it has been fun training together!
I had a chance to test out my blog ambassador GranFondo Cycling jersey and bib-shorts. They are nice! Being comfortable sure does help on those longer rides :)