Group Ride Etiquette

May 4, 2011

I was chatting with a new customer in the store the other day and he started asking questions about an article I’d written when we first opened the shop.  I had just come back from a number of different group rides around Austin and was amazed how different the groups behaved while on the road.  Now, when I first started cycling I had the privilege of riding with a group of experienced racers who thought it their responsibility to teach proper group riding etiquette to the new members of the group.  I never realized how important that lesson was.

Group rides aren’t races, or chances to show how strong you are.  As best as possible, maintain the integrity of the group by keeping a steady pace and by watching for people getting dropped.  Nobody likes being dropped off the back of the group to face the wind alone.  The following rules of the road apply to all Southwest CycleSport rides.

  • Obey all traffic signs and signals – Blowing through red lights and stop signs is a recipe for disaster and makes all cyclists look bad.  Remember, no cyclist has ever won a battle with a motor vehicle.  If in doubt what the laws are, check out http://www.biketexas.org/cycling_rules.html
  • Maintain the smooth flow of the group – It is each rider’s responsibility to maintain the smooth flow of the group.  When riding in a group, sudden movements of any single rider can be disastrous.  This means that abrupt braking, swerving, or any type of erratic riding is dangerous to everyone.  While leading the group, each rider must make his or her own best judgment regarding how long to lead.  The proper way to pace yourself is to maintain the same speed as the former rider at the front, pulling longer if you feel strong, shorter if you can’t keep the pace.  If the speed is obviously beyond your capability, then you should stay at the back and tell each rider to ‘pull-in’ in front of you as they move toward the back.  If you need to stand, do so smoothly by keeping a steady pressure on the pedals thereby preventing you from moving backward relative to the rider behind you.  Lastly, pedal down hill when you are at the front of the group; No one likes to ride under brakes.
  • Never ride more than two abreast – In Austin we are blessed with many roads that have very wide shoulders – Bee Cave, 360, Southwest Parkway, 620, etc.)  Riding two abreast is perfectly appropriate where there is a wide shoulder.  On other roads with little or no shoulder, single file is the only safe way to ride as a group.  To repeat: NO cyclist has ever won a battle with a motor vehicle.
  • Never “half wheel” – Do not overlap wheels.  A slight direction change or gust of wind could easily cause you to touch wheels and hit the deck.
  • Stay to the right – Lead riders should stay as far the right side of the road as is safe.  Pass on the left side only.  Never, ever pass on the right.
  • Ride Predictably – Riding erratically or unsafely endangers everybody in the group, not just yourself.  Make it easy for other riders as well as vehicular traffic to anticipate your next move.  Do this by riding in a straight line, keeping a consistent pace and by feathering your brakes.  The leading rider is responsible for alerting for potholes, grilles, parked cars and other hazards.  Point out and call out any road hazards ahead.
  • Stay Focused – Keep an eye on the road ahead and other riders around you.  Be attentive to audible and hand signals by riders warning others of pedestrians, potholes, parked cars or other roadside obstacles.  Anticipate sudden moves by other riders as they swerve or brake hard to avoid an obstacle.
  • Stay off aero bars – Aero bars are appropriate for time trials and triathlons; They are not appropriate for group riding.  Stay off your aero bars if you are drafting in a group.  If you must use your aero bars slide a few  bike-lengths behind the last person in or lead the group.
  • Call out mechanicals – What began as a group ride should end as a group ride.  If you experience a flat tire or other mechanical issue call out to the rest of the group.  We will help you get it fixed and get back on the road.
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