Riding in a group

Riding in a group can be a daunting experience at first, but with experience and a few pointers, it can become a lot less scary. Riding in a group and being able to closely follow the wheel in front is a skill, but it’s one that is easily learnt.


There are a few things to know to ensure riding in a group is safe, for you and your fellow cyclists, so here are some pointers for riding in a group.

Advanced group riding skills


If you’re used to riding with others and are comfortable with basic group riding skills, it’s time to take your group riding up to the next level with some advanced techniques. These techniques are ideal for road racing, breakaways and team time trials.


The two most commonly used advanced techniques are the ‘through and off’ and the single pace line. These are both used to keep a high pace over flat or rolling terrain, and most groups alternate between the two, depending on the number of riders and the type of road.

Tips for riding in a group


Don’t overlap wheels with the rider in front


This is the golden rule of riding in a group. You want to ride closely with the wheel in front, as close as you feel safe doing to best benefit from the slipstream effect, but you don’t want to overlap your front wheel with their rear wheel.

That way danger lies. That’s because if the rider in front suddenly moves across the road your wheels will collide and the likely outcome is a crash, that could take out not you but the cyclists behind you as well. This is one of the most common causes of crashes in the professional peloton.


Ride steady and hold your line — and no sudden braking


This is the golden rule of riding in a group. You want to ride closely with the wheel in front, as close as you feel safe doing to best benefit from the slipstream effect, but you don’t want to overlap your front wheel with their rear wheel.

That way danger lies. So hold your line and avoid sudden side-to-side movements. You may need to change direction for an oncoming hazard of course, which is why you should be looking well ahead of such hazards and move smoothly around them with plenty of time, after communicating to the rider behind with a hand signal or verbal warning that you intend to move out into the road.

If you do need to move out from the pace line ensure you indicate to the person behind you your intention to change direction.


Communicate hazards


When you’re following the wheel in front closely your view of hazards (potholes, holes, sunken drain covers etc) in the road ahead is obscured. So to help the cyclist following behind you, point out hazards either verbally or simply by using your hand and pointing towards the ground on the side of the road that the hazard will be coming from.


There are all sorts of hand signals you can employ for different hazards, from simply pointing to a hole, warning of parked cars by placing your hand behind your bike and pointing in the direction you intend to move, to placing your hand out with the palm facing down and making a dog patting gesture for slowing at junctions.


Stay relaxed


Finally, as much as it can seem intimidating at first, try and stay relaxed when riding in a
group.

Riding in close proximity to other cyclists with your wheels several inches from the wheel in front can seem scary on your first experience, and it’s common to tense up with nerves but try and stay as relaxed as you possibly can because you’re less likely to make a mistake or panic when you’re not holding the handlebars with a vice like a grip.
Relax and enjoy the beauty of a well-organised group.


Follow a wheel


Most groups ride in a double-pace line of two columns of pairs of riders. Unless you’re
riding on the front, you’ll be following the wheel in front.

Try to make sure you are actually following the wheel of the cyclist in front, don’t just plonk yourself in the middle.
You’ll get a better slipstream effect and it means two cyclists can ride alongside each
other.
While you want to avoid overlapping wheels as previously mentioned, it’s sensible to ride a little to one side – but still behind – the wheel in front so that if anything happens and the rider in front slows suddenly you can move to one side of them rather than colliding with their rear wheel.

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