Rules of Group Riding

Thursday, June 16th marked the first training ride with Cycling BC’s newest program – Cycle Fit One and Two.

The purpose of the program is to prepare new cyclists to ride a Gran Fondo in 12 weeks time.  Gran Fondo means “big ride” and literally that is exactly what it is.  A Gran Fondo is typically over 100kms but the distance can range considerably with each “ride”.  The purpose of the ride is to build a community for cycling enthusiasts to ride together as a group on a safe, protected road.  It is not a race but if you want to enjoy the experience, it definitely helps to train so you are physically prepared for the distance.

Rules of Group Riding

Being physically capable of riding over 100kms is not all that is required to make it to the finish line. When you are riding in a large group, it is important to understand and use the proper cycling etiquette for your own safety as well as for those riding with you.

The first thing to remember is that you are NOT ALONE.  This seems self explanatory but many cyclists forget that when they are riding in a group, they are responsible for all of the immediate cyclists behind them.  Anyone riding behind you cannot see what you see.  All they see is your back tire and spandex butt.   This means that you must alert the cyclists behind you to upcoming dangers and to what you are going to do to react to these dangers – BEFORE you do it.  The 4 most common things a cyclist will point out are:

– Right or left hand turns

– Stops (lights or signs) or slowing down for any reason

– Something in the road that might cause them to fall such as potholes, glass or large     objects

– Moving over to avoid cars, pedestrians, medians, etc

As soon as the lead cyclist sees one of these dangers, they must alert the person behind them.   Like a chain reaction, each person then relays the message to the person behind them so everyone can make the necessary adjustments.  The easiest way to alert the other riders is to yell or shout out what you see.   But if want to avoid miscommunication, use hand signals (and yes there are 5 hand signals for each of the dangers I have listed above).

The second most important thing to remember when riding in a large group is to react “predictably” without any sudden changes in movement or direction.  Any sudden movements will not allow enough time for your friends behind you to make the same correction and will generally result in a crash and pile up of riders.

If you are riding “predictably” this means that you are using your brakes only when you are predictably stopping or slowing down.  Brakes should be applied slowly and gently so each rider behind you can respond to your change in speed.   If you are drafting and risk passing the rider ahead of you, attempt to change your speed by: not pedalling, moving slightly right or left of the rider ahead of you, or sit taller in the saddle which will make you more resistent to the wind.  If none of these techniques are enough to slow your down, then apply the brakes  very gently so the rider behind you doesn’t crash into your change of speed.

If each rider is checking and monitoring their speed to match the rider in front of them, there will be lots of small adjustments within the group.  These small adjustment means that the most dangerous place for your tire is “half wheeling” the tire in front of you.  “Half wheeling” means that your front tire is crossing/passing the back tire of the rider in front of you. This tire position is sure to put you in a crash sooner or later as you never know when the rider in front of you needs to move right or left to avoid an object or slow down.

As you will soon discover, riding at the front is both physically and mentally challenging.  As the first rider you are breaking the wind for all of the riders behind you and alerting them to everything you see.   Every group will have their own rules for how long you are allowed to stay in this position.  But generally, if the wind is very strong you will usually only pull for 20-30 seconds.  If it is an easy long ride with very few winds, you may pull for 5 or 10 minutes depending on your strength and the level of the group.  Stronger riders will typically take a longer pull and weaker riders will either not pull at all or quickly rotate out after only a few seconds.   The length of your pull will mostly be determined by how well you are able to maintain the speed of the group.

If you are looking to gain group riding experience email me today to sign up with Cycing BC  Cycle Fit One or Two Program at  http://cyclingbc.net/cyclefit-2/ready-to-ride/.  Registration is open!

See you on the road!

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