Everyone has to start somewhere, and the Club Run is the ideal place to learn how to cycle in a group. When you first head out with the club, ride with their slowest group. If you find it too easy, you can move up over the following weeks until you find your right level. It’s better to underestimate your ability than to really struggle and be put off.
The pace of the group is dictated by the slowest rider. The group may split up on climbs, but faster riders will wait, and you’ll regroup at the top.
If a member of the group notices someone being dropped off back, this should be communicated to the ride leader. It is then the ride leader’s job to take action to keep the ride/group together.
Ride two-abreast when it is safe to do so – this way the group is a compact unit which can ride efficiently, but easily move to single-file when needed (for example to get past an oncoming car when the road is narrow).
Communication is key to a safe group ride. Roads are full of traffic, rocks, signs, potholes, parked cars, animals, pedestrians, etc. and visibility is limited for the cyclist in a pack. It is important to communicate to the riders in the group of any potential hazards by shouting and pointing out hazards.
Hand-Signals: It is not imperative that all the cyclists in the group point out the same hazards or signals. As long as a few do then this is normally sufficient (and the leading two always should). If you are a beginner or unsteady, then it is far safer for the group to keep both hands on the handle-bars than it is to point things out.
The purpose of these signals is that riders can continue to ride at a steady pace and can ride round the smaller obstacles without constantly having to brake (and sudden braking causes most incidents).
The thing you are most likely to see is where riders point down in the direction of an oncoming rock/hole. If the two riders both point to the ground between them, this signifies there is small obstacle (such as a pothole) that they are going to ride one either side of.
If the rider on the left points to their left, it means there is something to their left that they might have to ride slightly to the right of to pass – and if you are behind them then you will have to take the same line if you also want to avoid it! Similarly the rider on the right might indicate a similar obstacle to their right.
These signals allow the group to ride at a constant pace.
You will also see a rider pointing or waving behind their lower back. If they are pointing right (the most common) then it indicates that the whole group will have to move to the right to overtake a large obstacle such as a parked car.
Shouts – warnings you are likely to hear include:
- Car Back/Behind: there’s a car approaching from the rear of the group ride
- Car Front: there’s a car approaching from the front of the group
- Rock/Hole/Gravel etc : there is a hazard in the road
- Rider(s) Front: there is a group of cyclist approaching from the front of the group
- Clear: perhaps at a junction this is called when there is nothing coming and you know you can pedal through (although you should always check yourself, your own safety is your responsibility, not anyone elses)
- Slow or Easy– potential hazard ahead, control speed (but don’t brake sharply to a standstill)
- Stopping – we are going to have to stop – there is a hazard we can’t ride round or a stop sign.
To be safe it is important to ride smoothly, don’t over react, avoid hard braking, be alert as to what is going on up the road in the front of the pack, and anticipate what traffic will do.
Stay alert at all times. Hold your line. Don’t overlap wheels (this is sometimes called half-wheeling) or stretch or vary the pace of the group. Don’t ride up on the inside of your line. Don’t look back. Relax!
Focus on the rider(s) ahead. Look at the helmet in front rather than the back wheel. Beware of potholes in the road. Don’t brake unless absolutely necessary. It actually gives a whole new dimension to cycling as it makes it a team event – you have to communicate, support and trust each other, and everyone’s safety is in each other’s hands.
Introduce yourself to the rider alongside you before they do. We are a friendly Club.
Bring some spares, and dress appropriately for the conditions (there will always be someone on hand to give you advice on this!).
We ask everyone to have respect for their fellow riders and other road-users.
Let’s not forget that we do this because we love cycling, so let’s do it with a smile on our faces. A cheery “hello” to a passing group helps spread the fun to everyone else.