Group Riding Etiquette
Arrive in Time: Have yourself and your bike prepared so the ride can start as scheduled.
On our weekly rides we normally ride in a formation of two riders next to each other, two parallel lines from front of group to the back – the front positions are very responsible/crucial positions in the group and only experienced riders familiar with the route/riding etiquette should ride up front.
To keep a steady riding formation/speed it is important that you try to avoid free-wheeling (not pedaling) at any time when riding in the group. Always keep rotating the cranks even if you are not putting any force/power on the pedals.If you stop pedaling riders behind you will assume you are slowing down (almost like a break light on a car) and it will result in a chain reaction (domino effect) and the speed will be unsteady in the group. The group will be like an elastic band, contracting and stretching which makes riders sprint then brake to maintain the group integrity.
While riding at this level, be prepared to become fatigued quicker than you are used to, so you should anticipate this and make an effort to maintain concentration through the remainder of the ride so that the bunch remains safe for everyone.
If someone encounters a problem, either mechanical or physical, which forces them to stop, someone should stop with them to ensure they have a companion to help them catch up to the group again, or to stay with them until further help arrives. It is not safe to be out alone on the highways.
There are usually support vehicles for the Rides. These vehicles are driven by volunteers and they follow the group to help out if needed and to warn other road traffic of the presence of cyclists.
Keep a close watch far enough ahead so that you can see and point out obstacles early enough to allow yourself and those behind you to smoothly avoid them. Pass on Signals to other riders as our groups are fairly big. Ride predictably. The riders in the lead of the group must give signals to the rider’s behind. You can use signals by hand or your voice (like “hole “for a hole in the road or “left turn” for a change of direction) to give or pass on signals. Signals coming from the front should be passed on to the riders behind you.
Always expect that we have new riders in the group which are not aware of the route so they need to know where to go. Crashes occur when you swerve quickly to one side to avoid a hole and you bump the rider beside you or the rider behind you. If you swerve quickly to avoid an obstacle, the rider following you will not have time to avoid it. You don’t want someone to do that to you, do you?
Look to where you want to move to before you move. This goes hand-in-hand with moving smoothly and being predictable whenever you decide to change positions within the group. Remember, if you make a quick, unexpected move, the rider behind you will be the one who crashes when your rear wheel hits his or her front wheel.
Be especially aware of faster riders approaching from the rear when you move laterally. Look sideways and behind you. Even if you’re riding a few inches to the left of the white line on the right side of the road, don’t think someone won’t ride up on your right in the gravel on the shoulder. Expect the unexpected and you’ll be ready for anything.
You still get plenty of draft if your front wheel is a foot or two behind the wheel in front of you. This gives you time to react to whatever the person in front of you does. This also means not overlapping your front wheel with the rear wheel of the rider in front of you, except when riding in an echelon in a crosswind. Remember, if the rider in front of you moves into your front wheel, YOU are going to crash, not the rider in front of you.
Just because you see the racers in a peloton riding with their handlebars a couple of inches from their neighbouring rider’s, doesn’t mean they ride that way all of the time. The rougher the roads and the less experienced the riders, the farther apart everyone should stay for safety’s sake and for peace of mind.
Because many of the roads are, shall we say, less than ideally smooth, it makes sense to keep your handlebars a foot or so from your neighbour's. Also, many of the riders on the social rides do not possess the riding skills necessary to recover from bumping bars. Ride where you’re comfortable. If you find yourself riding next to someone who rides too close for your comfort level, calmly and smoothly move away and back to another spot in the group.
When you stand up to pedal, push a bit harder on the pedals as you stand to keep from moving your bike backwards and into the front wheel of the person behind you.
Use your brakes lightly and sparingly. Adjust your speed by small changes in your pedalling cadence rather than using your brakes. Avoid strong braking. If you need to stop (flat, dropped water bottle, etc.) yell STOPPING and SLOWLY move to the right side of the road, looking first, and applying your brakes very lightly.
You’re in the back of the bunch and decide to move up to the front. Move up slowly, keeping far enough to the side of the riders you are passing to keep from hitting them if they suddenly swerve to avoid an obstacle. As in driving your car in traffic, when moving up in a pack, watch several riders ahead to get an idea of what may cause the rider closest to you to move into your path.
Hold your line through corners. Unless you’re way out in front or behind everyone else, avoid cornering like you’re racing, i.e. swinging wide then cutting to the inside of the corner, especially on left turns where you cut the corner into the left traffic lane. Many of the corners contain sand or gravel in the inside so it’s best to hold your line and stay in the car wheel “lanes” where there is less debris. Corner smoothly being aware of others in the group around you. You want them to do the same for you.
Bicycles are considered motor vehicles and therefore are subject to the same laws. Also, it’s very good for public relations between cyclists and vehicle drivers if we cyclists obey the stop signs, especially when vehicles are present. Always watch the other riders around you at intersections with stop signs.
Some riders like to come to a complete stop while others seem content with simply slowing down to make sure no vehicles are approaching. If the riders in front smoothly slow to a stop, no problems will occur. If the front riders fly up to the intersection and brake suddenly, a crash is likely to occur when the riders from the rear fail to stop quickly enough. Again, be predictable, ride smoothly, look ahead, and let the riders behind you know what you’re going to do.
Which brings up what to do when a vehicle driver does something that you find objectionable. About 99.9 percent of the time, the best thing to do is NOTHING. Especially if someone in a vehicle zooms by you too closely for comfort from behind and yells at you. Gesturing something even worse the second time.
Even smiling and waving to them acknowledges that you noticed them, which reinforces their act because they were trying to get a reaction out of you. If you show them no reaction at all, it’s not fun and they may not do it the next time they pass a cyclists. Perish the thought that you can teach them anything by yelling or gesturing. You can only make things worse. DO NOTHING except IGNORE THEM.
Thankfully, this does not happen very often in our area. TIP – After the objectionable driver passes, don’t dwell on the negative experience and start talking about all of the other bad drivers you’ve encountered over the years. Forget the incident. Keep the conversation positive. Help everyone enjoy the beautiful countryside and the rest of the ride.
When riding into the wind, a rotating pace line is a fun way to keep moving at a higher speed while still getting to draft others. Echelons are very helpful when riding with a strong crosswind. Both of these specialized peloton manoeuvres require concentration, a great deal of cooperation and the smoothest riding you can muster. You can read how to ride pace lines and echelons in most of the bicycling how-to books but the best way to learn is to listen to the experienced riders in the pack and give it a try.
Stay calm, keep focused, ride smoothly and you will do just fine. And remember, you drop back on the windward side and move up on the leeward side.
It’s reasonably safe to have a drink from your water bottle while maintaining your position in the peloton, provided you are able to hold your position without swerving or slowing. Eating, especially when it involves opening the wrapper of your food bar, is best accomplished at the back of the pack where you can either ride with no hands more safely to open the wrapper or wrestle with biting the wrapper open. Put the empty wrapper in your pocket – Don’t Litter.
These are great for time trials but should never be used while you are riding in a peloton, unless you are the very last rider in the group. While you are steering with your elbows, you have limited control over the direction and stability of your bicycle as well as not being able to use the brakes. This is very dangerous for everyone behind you. Remember, the safety and well being of everyone beside and behind you is in your hands, so keep them on the handlebars while anyone is beside or behind you.
Everyone gets a runny nose or cough from time to time, be it from a cold or just cold-rhinitis (nasal irritation from cold weather). When you need to blow your nose or spit, be considerate of those beside and behind you. Move to the leeward side of the pack or, better yet, to the back of the peloton before blowing your nose or spitting. Remember, when riding 38 to 40kph everything you eject goes backwards quickly and far enough to land on fellow riders a considerable distance behind you.
Unless you’re on a training ride with other racers, group rides are social events where everyone wants to enjoy themselves. Think of it as a party on bicycles with your old friends and new acquaintances. What you talk about with the person next to you is your business but please remember that everyone is out for a pleasant time in the beautiful countryside.
Use your common sense when deciding what items you will need on any given Ride. Because of the extreme temperature in the United Arab Emirates, you should always carry sufficient water bottles, and refill them at all opportunities.
Also ensure that you have the correct spares and tools to repair/replace a punctured tube, including; tube, pump, tyre lever, and knowledge of how to do this.
If you are susceptible to sunburn, then also bring enough sun cream to last the duration of the ride. Riding in a peloton is like any other social event, only it is conducted at 38 to 40 kph on sometimes bumpy roads.
Your safe conduct, courteous behaviour and patience are always appreciated by everyone. Try especially hard to stay focused and safe toward the end of the ride when everyone is tired and not thinking as clearly. Have fun and help everyone else on the ride to have fun. Now turn your computer off and go riding.
Only two subjects come to mind that seem to be disagreeable to many riders.
Nobody likes to be told how to ride….even if they need it. Therefore, don’t offer riding advice to anyone unless they directly ask YOU a specific question. If you overhear someone asking someone else a riding question, refrain from jumping into the conversation with your own opinion.
Although almost everyone who has ridden for a while has “crash” stories, refrain from regaling new riders with the gory details. What’s old-hat to you may be very frightening to a new rider. Keep the conversations positive and up-beat and everyone will have a great time.