From club ride to road race or a sportive, riding in a group can be a pretty intimidating prospect to face. You’re responsible not only for your own safety but also the safety of those around you. That being said, once you understand the mechanics, riding in a coordinated and synchronised group offers lots of advantages, including a shared workload. With the slipstream effect helping to reduce drag, you can ride faster with less effort. Not to mention, riding in a group is a lot of fun! So, be brave and trust that group riding is a skill any cyclist can easily acquire. Here are a few tips to help boost your confidence when starting out.
Don’t overlap wheels!
This is the number one thing you need to stay aware of at all times when riding with a group — your wheel should never overlap with the rider in front. You do want to ride as close as you can safely manage in order to benefit from the slipstream effect but overlapping is never OK. If you do, you put yourself and your fellow riders in danger because if the rider in front suddenly moves across the road your wheels will collide and it will likely result in a crash.
Keep it steady
Let consistency and predictability be your guiding principles. Any sudden or erratic behaviour spells danger for you and those around you. Hold your line as steadily as possible and try to refrain from any side-to-side movements. The best way to avoid having to make a last-minute move is to always be looking well ahead for any hazards. When you do have to move, give yourself plenty of time and make sure you communicate your intentions to other riders.
Communication is key
Speaking of communication, make sure you always warn other riders of any hazards and let them know when and if you’re planning to change your speed. If you’re new to the group, also be sure to introduce yourself and ask any questions you have about the ride. If you decide to leave early or turn back, make sure you let someone know.
No sudden braking
Related to being as predictable as possible, be aware that sudden braking is dangerous in a group. The cyclist behind you might not have enough space to account for your change in speed and could end up running into you. If you do need to slow down, indicate you’re slowing for a junction or hazard with either a verbal “slowing” warning or holding up your hand to the cyclists behind you.
Fill in the gap
You want to keep a tight formation, so if there is no one besides the person in front of you, you should move up to fill the gap. Likewise, if no one is alongside you and no one moves into a gap beside you, move to the back of the bunch, so that the next pair can move up the line.
Follow the rules of the road
When riding in a group, and especially when leading the group, it’s important that you obey the rules of the road. Regardless of how you might judge a situation when you’re on your own, you
have to consider the consequences your actions will have on the other cyclists in your group. Adhere to traffic lights, signage and always err on the side of caution.
Keep your hands on the handlebars
If you need to sit up to stretch or remove clothing, always go to the back first. While you’re in the middle of the pack, your hands should stay on the handlebars. It’ll throw off riders around you and puts you at higher risk of causing a crash.
Always hold your bottle to the side of your mouth while drinking, so that you never lose sight of where you’re going. It might sound obvious but keep in mind that every move you make while riding in a group should be strategic and deliberate.
Be a good leader
When it comes time to take your turn in the front, remember you’re responsible for the whole group. When you are leading the bunch, try to monitor potential problems and give plenty of warning of impending stops or changes of pace. Be ready to signal to the others if anything comes up, you’d want them to do the same for you.
Last but certainly not least, try to stay relaxed. Riding in a group is going to be both exhilarating and little scary but you’ll be less likely to make a mistake or panic when you’re not all tensed up and ferociously gripping the handlebars. Relax, enjoy your surroundings, and appreciate the beauty of the synchronized movement of the group.