Cycling is a very personalised sport and we all have our own little ideas on bike set up, tyre width, seat height etc, but we all want to be safe when riding on the road and limit our chances of a crash with a car or another bike companion.
The transition for a beginner cyclist to join group cycling can be a daunting experience for both the new rider and the existing group! I guess the ideal scenario and possibly the way that this typically evolves is that the beginner cyclist generally finds a friend to ride with and gets comfortable riding close to another cyclist, from here they may meet up with other cyclists and form a micro group and next minute that person is in a group situation, however there can fundamentally be more to group riding than this and we will try to address a few areas which will help the novice and refresh all experienced riders of the etiquette of pack, group or bunch riding or as we hear in the big races the Peleton!
In most group situations dependent on the set profile of the ride as the group commences down the road they will automatically form a column of side by side riders or as commonly known as two abreast which some drivers will scream out the window of their cars that this is illegal and it is actually not!. There is a major responsibility of the very front riders to be the eyes and ears of every rider behind and this requirement is a far harder job than some think, there are many hazards to keep an eye out for and these may be glass, sticks, rocks, pot holes, over hanging branches, water sitting on the road or a car about to enter the path of the group which could have detrimental results.
The front riders will call these items out clearly and point where they are so the person behind can hear and the message is passed along the chain of riders sometimes with a melodic tone but none the less a very important tone. Picture a group of 40 riders tearing along at 45 kph and the front riders are chatting away and miss calling a rock, if one person behind hits the rock and comes down there is the potential for a catastrophe! The experienced rider can achieve all this while riding at a fast pace and holding a conversation with his mate and I guess there is a fine line here.
[quote_right]Group riding can be safe and one of the most enjoyable ways to belt out a good session[/quote_right]Half wheeling is another very dangerous position to be in for the rear rider, half wheeling is when the rider behind sneaks up on either the inside or outside of the rider in fronts rear wheel, if the rider in front moves quickly side ways his back wheel and the front wheel of the rider behind will collide and down comes the rider behind along with anyone behind him and this can be a tad embarrassing, not to mention dangerous! Don’t half wheel no matter what the circumstance and if you find your self in this position rectify it immediately.
Another important issue is tyres, there is no worse feeling than belting along with your group and you are in the middle and bang! A front or rear wheel blow out, this is a scary situation and can be managed reasonably well, the first thing to do is call out loud “puncture”to identify it is you, keep rolling, Do Not Brake, and ease off to the side of the road until out of harms way, if it is a front tyre move your weight to the rear of the seat and steer out, if it is the rear, try and stand out of the seat slightly and put your weight over the bars, I know this is a lot to do in 2 seconds but it can be achieved.
The condition of your equipment, especially your tyres and brakes are paramount to the entire groups safety and you are going to look like a muppet if you bring half the group down and you have a well worn tyre with more holes than a second hand dart board. This particularly is relevant when descending in a group, also do not over take unless you call which side you are going too and for mine, never overtake on the gutter side of the road anywhere in the world unless necessary.
Group riding can be safe and one of the most enjoyable ways to belt out a good session but remember that you are responsible for those around you and a poor decision could be a dangerous and expensive one, if your not fit enough or don’t have the experience or confidence, speak up and advise that you will sit on the back of the group until you develop the necessary skills and I’m sure you will be respected for this decision and if you are unsure ask an experienced rider for some tips or advice and under no circumstance chase and sit on the back of vehicles.
Good luck, Ride safe and think of others!