Riders Opinion - Group Ride etiquette (specifically not a race)
Solo rides are great but its much harder to achieve that epic ride feel on your own. We ride for the joint experience and the support we give and receive within the group. It’s the motivation that gets us up in the early hours and pushes us to higher levels of fitness. The coffee, beer or story is so much better shared.
The dynamics of every group are different and the presence of just one rider can change it up very quickly. So know who you are and know the ride, for example a ‘drop ride’ means attacks will happen so be ready for them and make sure you know the way back !! Is the group a ‘Fast Ride’, ’Steady Ride’ or a "Recovery Ride’ rarely if ever do we use the term slow !!
It takes only a few minutes or miles to see who the leaders are in terms of pace and or organization. The organizer of the ride might not be the organizer during the ride.
Safety, I think we can all agree this is the single most important aspect which trumps all other factors. Safety from other riders, pedestrians, the road surface and of course internal combustion engined road users. I recently had the experience of being the safety driver for a Dubai group and after all these years it really opened my eyes to the relative speed differences and the massively precarious nature of the bike on well used roads.
Safety in numbers, safety in steady riders who communicate changes and have well planned signals goes a long way. It comes with the territory but the further forward in the group you’re riding the greater the responsibility to point out hazards. Remember the cyclist behind is relying on you every literally every second.
One of my personal concerns is the person who shouts out a loud exclamation at some ’none’ critical moment. Loud shouts should be saved for the emergency call to action. Milli seconds and instinctive reactions can count.
Rules, every group has them either written or informal. If you join the group know the rules and respect them, or you can expect short change in terms of friendliness.
Surging, possibly one of the most contentious issues, when practiced aggressively can be very painful, stretch the group and cause breaks. I’ve read and heard a lot about surging as you take the front, we’ve all done it we all do it. It bothers me more when I’m tired of course. So how to handle it. I think it comes back to the dynamics of the group and if riding in 2’s the person next to you.
This is not to be confused with increasing the pace, if you do this steadily it can be perfectly acceptable but only up to a point.
For most group rides surging too strongly is like a mini attack and really hurts the people towards the back of the group and could even be enough to drop the riders who have just pulled for you, not cool.
Half Wheel, this one is simple, just don’t do it! (unless you’re in a group which welcomes the constant pressure). Karma is the eventual outcome, one day tomorrow, next week, next year you will be on the receiving end of this painful and demoralizing feeling.
Lights, I would suggest on the road regardless of the time of day always use a light, bright and with ability to flash. However in the group always take the trouble to put it on steady mode, it can be distracting and a little dangerous to ride behind a strong light in flashing mode especially in the dark or rain.
The wind, one of the greatest benefits of the group of course is shelter from the wind. The ability to hold a steady line in the echelon that forms is crucial. Where ever you’re sitting in the group remember the riders in front and behind help them get the greatest benefit so they can be rested for their turn at the front. It's key to get the balance between too close and too far, if you take up too much of the road in a decent size group the riders at the back will be struggling for shelter and inevitably the group splits.
Following the wheel as the phrase suggests means to follow and specifically not to overlap. This is the number one cause of crashes. It requires constant awareness and concentration. If you see someone over lapping point it out it’s in the interests of everyones collarbones, elbows, kit and frames !!
Compliments these are great, we love compliments about our bikes, riding fitness and efforts just makes the whole experience more fun and give us more energy. Don’t hold back !! Give the Kudos !!
New riders every group constantly needs new blood of any age and skill set to keep the group fresh, challenged and growing. Make sure new riders know the rules, ride safe and welcome them to the rides, 99% of the time you want them back. Once they are confident in the group they contribute to the overall safety.