What the heck is the etiquette for group/club rides?
From hand signals to braking distance, lingo and snacks, there's more to group riding than you might think. Here, The 5th Floor superstar, Aoife Doherty, tells all…
Group riding is BRILLIANT for many reasons. It’s super sociable; it motivates you to get out there (even when the weather is shite); you learn from the group and you have lots of likeminded people to to hang out with for a coffee or beer afterwards.
However, if it’s your first time riding with a bunch of people, all that time-honoured pointing and calling can be daunting. For the essential nuggets you need to feel comfortable in the pack, we’ve turned to group-riding master Aoife Doherty.
1. Try not to worry about keeping up
Group rides are about riding together, so there should always be a regroup if things split up (it’s cycling etiquette). Most groups will regroup to give everyone a chance to recover, stretch, take a photo, eat etc.
If you’ve been ‘dropped’ (translation: fallen away at the back of the group), this will be where the group will wait for you to catch up.
We’ve all been that person at the back, so really don’t worry if that’s you.
2. Look ahead
Always look ahead and over the shoulder of the person in front of you instead of at the person in front of you. This will help you see what’s coming up (cars, traffic lights etc) and help you anticipate what you will need to do next.
3. Avoid erratic movements
Always feather your brakes rather than slamming them on – unless it’s 100% necessary – and try to keep a consistent cadence (pedal stroke). The smoother everyone’s movements are, the closer and more smoothly everyone will ride together – and that's the holy grail of group riding.
4. That pointy shouty stuff
If you’re not familiar with hand signals and call outs, do a little research beforehand or ask the group leader. Hand signals are basically there to help you communicate with the group as you ride. The main hand signal is to alert riders behind you about potholes, grates and an uneven road surface by pointing down to them. And when it comes to calling, your fellow riders will probably call ‘car up’ to let you know that there’s a car coming towards you and ‘car back’ if there’s one coming from behind.
It’s easy to forget to fuel yourself with good, regular snacks, particularly when you get chatting. I always pre-open bars or make a little pouch with nibbles (broken bars, dried fruit, jellies) I can easily access in my pocket. Getting fuelling right takes time and practice and depends on conditions, so always err on the side of caution to begin with by eating regularly until you find the right balance for you.
6. Ride tight
Riding closely together (and usually two by two) is the most efficient and safe way to ride. It maximises the benefit from drafting and means the group takes up less space on the road for passing traffic. If you don’t feel comfortable riding in the middle of the group, drop to the back so that you feel you have more space. You will soon get your confidence and will reap the benefits when you sit in the middle (especially if it’s windy).
7. Be prepared
Always bring a pump, tyre levers, a spare inner tube or two and a multitool. Before you leave the house, it’s also worth doing a few quick checks.
Check your tyres are free from grit/glass/wear and are pumped up appropriately (I like to ride about 80PSI, as a slightly lower pressure gives you more grip in slippy conditions). And ensure your chain is lubricated and gears are running smoothly.
8. More is better
The big thing to remember is that most clubs are actively trying to get more women into cycling, so they're all really keen to make sure your first group rides are friendly, accessible and enjoyable.
To accommodate this, there will usually be introduction or beginner rides hosted by your chosen club. There will also be information on the club’s website about the average pace of rides so you know the level you need to be at before you start.
Being tense uses up valuable energy, makes you less supple and adaptable on the bike and strips enjoyment from any ride. Enjoy the natural ebb and flow of riding in a group. It'll help make you faster and you'll have more fun doing it.
Let us know on our Twitter feed if you have any other tips for cruising with your club