How to ride safely in a Group

Riding in a group

There is no more effective way to become a motivated cyclist than finding a good Cycling Club or having a regular training partner. Riding with others has several other benefits including improved safety and efficiency from slipstreaming.

Drafting saves as much as a third of a following rider's energy, while the rider or pacemaker at the front also saves about 5 per cent of his/her effort.

Slipstreaming (also known as drafting or pacing) is riding or sheltering behind fellow riders, to save energy. It allows the cyclist to keep up with far faster riders and travel at speeds they wouldn’t normally reach as an individual. Riders take turns at the front of the group, and after doing their stint, move to the rear to take advantage of the shelter being provided by the group.

It is estimated that this saves as much as a third of a following rider's energy, while the rider or pacemaker at the front also saves about 5 per cent of his effort by having someone behind him because of the way air closes in from behind.

So how close should you ride? Simply put, the closer you draft, the better the slipstream. However, riders shouldn't try to draft closer than is safe for their skill level. Beginners should leave about 3ft (91cm), and good riders leave around 1 to 1.5ft (30 to 45cm). The idea is to get as close as you can without the chance of touching wheels with another rider. Extra care should be taken when slipstreaming down a hill.



Group cycle riding tips:

· Listen to the ride leader’s instruction throughout the ride; Do not pass the leader unless advised it is ok to do so.

· Do not overlap the rear wheel of the rider in front.

· Do not undertake (pass on the left) another member of the group

· Try to maintain a consistent pace if at the front.

· If increasing the pace, do it gradually with an eye to keeping the group together.

· Signal your intentions by hand or voice if you are about to change positions.

· Go hard on the more difficult sections but don't forget to regroup.

· Don’t take to the front only to slow down.

· If the group does get split, ride slow until the rear group has caught up.

· If riding into a headwind, make changes at the front more frequently to share the workload.

· If needing to stop, make the others in the group aware.

· Make sure the group wait for anyone suffering a puncture or any other difficulty.



Be predictable

This is the key to all bunch riding. This means no sudden movements in any direction, as the cumulative effect of this is the same as cars in the fast lane of the motorway. Keep it smooth. As you might be riding with people whom you haven’t ridden with before, assess your level in the group and of those around you. If you appear to be the more experienced bunch rider, keep in mind to give the less experienced the room they need. Their reaction time might not be as quick as yours.


Keep your line

Don’t weave across the road; keep your relative position from the edges of the road even when cornering as a bunch. Remember that it may mean that you may need to go through a pot hole – a sudden swerve could take out the whole bunch behind you. When coming past someone and moving in front of them be sure not to cut them up.


No sudden braking

Any changes in speed become increasingly more difficult to deal with the further behind you someone is. If there is a reason for the group to stop, keep your relative position and don’t use it as an opportunity to overtake riders that have slowed or stopped in front of you.


Announce hazards

There may well be occasions where situations demand that you call out a hazard to avoid incidents. Bear in mind that there could be riders several metres behind you who cannot see the hazard. This could be anything ranging from a dog or horse running out in front of the bunch, to accidentally dropping a bottle in the middle of the bunch. Call “Dog”, “Horse”, “Bottle” and if you have dropped a bottle don’t stop suddenly, allow the rest of the group to pass 1st.


Horses

Horses have 360 degree vision so can see what is behind them without turning their head. Therefore, when approaching Horses, make the rider aware that you are there before cycling too close, to avoid spooking the horse and potentially causing injury to yourself, the horse and the rider.



Signal

Where there are situations that need pointing out such as turning, stopping, potholes, glass, train tracks, you can do by signalling. The signal is passed from rider to rider going back.


Climbing

When you stand to get out of the saddle, your bike will move back slightly (or a lot in some cases). This can cause riders behind you to crash. Make sure that when you stand you don’t push the bike back, and exert slightly more pedal pressure to keep the speed constant.


Descending

If you are on the front, keep pedalling. This prevents having riders behind you having to ‘sit on their brakes’ which is extremely irritating! Typically the front few riders keep pedalling and the riders behind will freewheel or soft tap. Keep both hands firmly on the bars, preferably on the drops – you stand more chance of keeping your bike upright on the drops when hitting a hole or bump at speed.


Close the gaps

Don’t let gaps develop between you and the rider(s) in front. It is far more efficient for you and the group to keep the spaces filled.


Introduce yourself

If new to a group, introduce yourself to your fellow riders before they do. When you are talking keep looking forward – just as you should do when driving in a car.


Don’t look back

The most common novice’s mistake. Most riders, when they look back, change their line and speed causing chaos and also don’t see what’s about to happen. If you hear a crash behind you, keep looking forward and the bunch will naturally slow and stop.

The leaders and also the experienced riders in the group will periodically look behind to make sure the group is together.


Puncture

When this happens raise your hand so that riders behind can see that you are an obstacle and can avoid you. If it’s a front tyre keep both hands on the handle bars and let someone else signal for you, especially when going downhill. It is very dangerous to take a hand off the handlebars when you puncture in the front. Use the back brake predominantly. Don’t stop until the bunch has completely passed you. Move to the side of the road





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