Some love it and some avoid it like the plague, but whatever your thoughts, if you are considering joining a cycling club or are already group cycling, there are number of ‘rules’ that need to be adhered to in order to make the experience pleasurable and safe for you, other riders and everyone else you come into contact with.
Where to start? Probably with safety, as it is imperative you get back from that ride wanting to get out again as soon as possible.
The greatest threats to cyclists are the increasing numbers of road vehicles, the shocking state of some of our roads and other road users, pedestrians and issues with your bike. Always ask if you’re unsure, as there is almost certainly someone knowledgeable in the group to assist with any issues.
And now to some tips on etiquette for riding in a group:
- Appoint a ride leader: If you’re riding with a club or an organised group there should be a ride leader who will have already detailed the route and rules of the group and the speed the group expect to average.
- Keep everyone on board: If the club are active in encouraging new riders to continue with them, they will need to ensure they do not leave anyone behind – a person to act as ‘tail end Charlie’ is essential in ensuring no one drops out of the group.
- Remain courteous to other road users (even when they’re not): Observing the rules of the road when riding in a group will ensure that other road users interact with the group in a courteous and friendly manner. Just remember that not everyone is courteous and polite, but if we stay calm and act in a correct manner we make those who may not be acting appropriately look foolish and not us!
- Only double up if it’s safe: Keep single file where the road is narrower, and only double up where it’s safe to do so. Most drivers don’t realise that it takes longer to pass a single file of cyclists than those ‘doubled up’ – but remember only double up when it’s safe to do so.
- Work as a team: Keep in the group and don’t fly off the front, searching for that next Strava segment. If you do want to try your luck, ask and make sure the ride leader approves. Think of what impression this may give to others in the group, especially those younger riders – set a good example!
- Keep communicating: Shout or point out obstacles, potholes, approaching vehicles or other road users. Every rider does not need to continue the shout, but every few riders will ensure all in the group are aware and keep safe. Likewise the ‘tail end Charlie’ needs to shout up the group if there are any mechanicals, so the group can wait whilst any problem can be addressed.
- Keep your distance: Keep a safe distance within the group and remember the closer you are the easier the ride due to the drag effect of the group. However, until you’re used to riding in a group it will be best to keep the distances comfortable, thus ensuring a safe ride for all.
- Know your limits: Make sure you don’t exceed your own physical limits and ride with the group thats speed is comfortable for you. Your fitness will get better the more rides you participate in, but too much too soon will probably dampen your enthusiasm and mean some painful rides back to the group meeting point.
- Beware of the ‘Bonk’: The worst feeling in cycling is the ‘Bonk’ – when your energy levels drop to such a level, through lack of sustenance, that it can be like cycling through treacle until you get the food your body craves. As suggested below – make sure you have enough food to sustain the effort you are going to put in on the bike.
- Be Prepared: It’s common sense to carry spare tubes, chain links, tyre patches and to know how to fix the most frequent problems. But also make sure you have food and a rain jacket to counter the ever-changeable British weather!
All the above pointers will ensure you ride safe and keep coming back to the club or group you choose and keep the steady stream of cyclists coming into the sport.
More importantly get out there, be safe and enjoy your cycling!