Group cycling has become increasingly popular over the last while – and to be fair, there’s nothing quite like heading out with a gang of mates on a nice long spin on a sunny Sunday morning (if the weather plays ball!).
The company is nice – presuming you’ve picked your fellow riders carefully! – and a bit of buffering from the wind is no bad thing either, but cycling in a group is not all upside. Many cyclists will know roads that aren’t equipped for one cyclist, never mind a veritable peleton, so when it comes to group cycling it’s important to consider some of the different issues you might encounter.
With a little preparation, and awareness on the road, you’ll find few better ways to pass an afternoon – but before you saddle up, there’s a few things to think about…
Have clear methods of communication
Verbal or non-verbal, it doesn’t matter; communicate up and down the line in ways that everyone will understand. Whether it’s traffic about to merge or a pesky pothole up ahead, your group needs to know what’s going on around them, and being able to give clear messages and indications is paramount. Cyclingireland.ie have some great guides to signs and signals for cyclists to use when out in groups.
Hold the line – always
You need to always cycle in a steady, straight line, following the person you’ve designated as the lead rider. Motorists and other road users will find it far easier to anticipate – and react to – your group’s movements if everyone’s singing from the same hymn sheet. On a similar note, if you’re changing lead riders, try to do it in the smoothest, safest manner possible – fanning out en masse can be a recipe for disaster.
The rules of the road still apply
Cyclists are bound to the same rules of the road as every other road user – and being part of a group doesn’t change that. On any national public roads in Ireland, you should never be cycling with more than two cyclists abreast; you should also be prepared to split and single out to facilitate other traffic.
Bigger groups will need to split up
If there’s a particularly big group of you out for the day, you’ll need to split into smaller teams. Cycling clubs are excellent at doing this properly, dividing riders according to speed and ability. If you’re not part of a cycling group, it’s well worth a try; you should consider it to actually get some experience of group cycling in a safely manner that’s not going to compromise you.
Time your trip
This might seem obvious, but a bit of planning goes a long way. Unless there’s some major event on, traffic congestion should be far lower on Saturdays and Sunday mornings – hence why you’ll see so many groups out and about early at the weekend. If you’re planning on heading out with friends as the summer approaches, try to ensure your spins won’t coincide with rush hour traffic, and check the local press so you’d don’t ride straight into a festival crowd or something else to throw your day awry!
It’s still on you
Always remember that even when you’re in a group, your own personal safety and responsibility rests with you. Don’t assume that your colleagues will always spot dangers lurking, and exercise the same levels of awareness and vigilance you would when riding on your own.