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 to (for example to get past an oncoming car when the road is narrow). On the roads, NEVER go three or more abreast, irrespective of how good the conversation is!
Communication is key to a safe group ride. Roads are full of traffic, rocks, signs, pot holes, 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 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 are 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, then it is to point things out.
The purpose of these signals is that the 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’re likely to hear include:
“Car Back” or “Up” (up your bum) : there’s a car approaching from the rear of the group ride
“Car Front” or “Car Down” (down your throat) : there’s a car approaching from the front of the group ride
“Car right” or “Car left”: car is approaching on the left of right of the group ride
“Hole”: there is a hazard in the road
“Walker/Runner up”: there’s a pedestrian on the road ahead
“Biker up”: there is a slower cyclist ahead that we are likely to overtake
“Clear”: perhaps at a junction this is called when there is nothing coming and you know you can pedal through
“Slow” – potential hazard ahead, control speed (but don’t brake sharply to a standstill)
“Stop” – we are going to have to stop – there is a hazard we can’t ride round
“Line-out” or “single-file” – asking that we move (whilst still keeping same speed) to single-file to for example let a vehicle past.
To be safe it is important to ride smooth, don’t overreact, 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.
Inexperienced rides who panic and touch a wheel may crash or cause a crash. You can avoid problems by practicing these simple rules:
Stay alert at all times. Hold your line. Don’t overlap wheels. Don’t look back. Relax!
Focus on the rider(s) ahead. Beware of pot holes in the road. Don’t brake unless absolutely necessary.
All of this may sound complicated at first but you will soon get into it. 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. But you will find it one of the most enjoyable elements to riding in a club.
Ride safe and have fun!
Corsham Cycling Club