Neutral warm up
From the the start of a ride, and for at least a mile, it is suggested that every ride have a short warm up, even for the drop groups. This time is a chance for everyone to get into a groove before dropping the hammer. Remain as a single unit, double paceline and at a conversational pace. For evening rides, some riders have just driven straight from work and hopped on their bikes. Morning rides, everyone is just getting moving for the day. It is also in the interest of everyone’s safety to get organized getting started.
Do not run red lights and stop signs
Please consider the safety of your fellow riders and do not enter an intersection that the whole group cannot safely pass through. Come to a stop at all stop signs and red lights and only when it is safe for the group to enter the intersection should the lead riders then proceed. We have had way too many instances of people in the front of the group blasting through an intersection and the back of the group having to stop quickly to avoid oncoming traffic. If you need to impress everyone with how strong you are, do it in a safe place and not by endangering the whole group by pulling out in front of a car! You are not impressing anyone by making an ass of yourself and putting others at risk.
Remember that it is a group ride and not a race, accept that traffic will often be a factor.
Treat motorists with the respect you would like in return
Please try to remember at all times on the road, that you are representing the image of cycling to the non-cycling public. It unfortunately only takes one bad encounter with a cyclist for motorists to assume a negative opinion of everyone who rides a bike. Treat cars with respect and courtesy and do your part to convey a positive image of our sport, to motorists. That being said, please ride as close to the right side of the road as safety allows unless you are passing a slower moving rider. Before moving out into the lane to pass, check for vehicles or faster riders approaching from behind. Under no circumstances should we be riding in the middle of the road, impeding the flow of traffic. When approaching a stop sign or red light, DO NOT swarm around a vehicle waiting at the intersection. Allow the vehicle to pass through first and get out of your way, and then proceed. Whenever possible, look for safe passing opportunities and wave cars waiting behind you past. Many drivers are nervous or anxious about passing you safely and very much appreciate being waved by.
Signal turns and road hazards
Again, in the interest of everyone’s safety, make your best effort to alert those behind you of upcoming turns and road hazards. Simple hand signals are the most effective. If there is a turn coming, hold the appropriate arm out and point in the direction of the turn. If there is debris in the road, simply point at it to indicate the area to avoid. Yelling is not necessary. If you yell out “hole” and a rider 3 wheels back can’t understand you, now you have people looking over their shoulders for a car or looking around trying to figure out what’s going on instead of clearly avoiding the hazard which you should have just pointed at.
Do not disrupt the paceline aka PULL THROUGH
A good group ride should operate like a well oiled machine. This becomes increasingly important as the speed of the group increases. In general, riding smoothly and predictably is crucial to the safety of the group. Everyone should know their place, know what is expected of them and do their part to fulfill their part in that cohesive unit. In other words, unless you are sacrificing yourself to play the role of rabbit by attacking off the front, you should be working smoothly with the rest of the group. That means not creating more work for those around you by allowing gaps to open, failing to pull through, and generally failing to ride in a smooth and predictable manner. If you do not intend to take your turn on the front, you should be sitting on the back and allowing those rotating off of the front to fall back in line in front of you. If you find yourself working up through the rotation and you fear you lack the minerals to take an effective pull without getting dropped, then take a “token pull” and rotate off of the front smoothly without disrupting the progress of the group. There’s no shame in staying off of the front, just don’t create more work for those around you in the process and don’t stay off of the front for the whole ride and then attack at the end.
Choose your appropriate group
This is one of the biggest challenges for new to group riding cyclists. Generally speaking there are four ‘group levels’, each with an associated average speed and an expected amount of climbing, with policies on regrouping, or ‘dropping’ slower riders. Though each ride organizer will adjust these according to their group makeups, as a basic rule of thumb the levels sort out to the following:
- A = 19+, Drop, Serious Climbing, Self Supporting
- B1 = 17+, Drop, Climbing, Self Supporting
- B2 = 16+, No Drop, Climbing, Likely has control riders
- C = 15+, No Drop, Rolling Hills, Likely has control riders
- D = 14-, No Drop, Lightly Rolling Hills, Should have control riders
The D groups are the truly new rider groups. These are geared towards getting started, and a wide range of bike styles. Pacing tends to be low, under 14 mph average. The C groups are generally designed to be a welcoming and non-intimidating ride for newer, or slower riders. A B2 group is usually intended to be a recreational group ride with a steady but friendly pace with regrouping spots to allow the group to stay together for the duration of the ride. The A and B1 rides are generally competitive race practice rides. If you are consistently attacking off of the front of the B1 ride, it is time for you to step up and join the A ride and allow those who belong in B1 to work together and improve rather than making the B1 group too fast and less safe. Inversely, if you are consistently getting dropped early in the A ride and and/or are unable to pull through in the paceline at least periodically throughout the ride, then you should maybe try riding B1 to contribute to the paceline there and help those gaining experience and fitness in the B1 group learn to work efficiently as a group. You only get stronger by pushing yourself and doing more work in the B1 group will translate to more fitness and skill benefit than getting frustrated and not contributing to the faster group.
The most important thing to remember when riding on the road is to use common sense and courtesy. We will never completely avoid the occasional inconsiderate motorist, but by doing our part, we can at least take pride in the fact that we are not perpetuating the problem. By setting a positive example and placing importance on the safety of those around you, we can work to make the sport more enjoyable by all who share our love of riding bikes!