New to group riding? Follow these ‘unwritten’ rules and you’ll be peachy.
Show up on time | Give yourself ample preparation time so you can arrive a couple of minutes ahead of the scheduled start time, ready to roll. That means water bottles are full, you have energy bars, you have spares and you are fully dressed and ready to party.
Hold your line | Ride directly behind the wheel that’s in front of you and hold that line so riders around you can keep the group tight and calm. Looking forward (ie: not staring down at the wheel right in front of you) will give you more time to adjust for changes in speed and group lines. Try to be as predictable as possible.
Respect the crew and group leader | Let the organizers of the ride determine both the route and the pace. By all means, when it’s go-time and the pace picks up, get involved – but let the patron of the group determine when it’s go-time and when it’s time to chill and regroup. Turning early? That’s cool, but let a few riders know you have decided to head home.
Never half wheel | In a double paceline, it is generally recommended to ride handlebar-to-handlebar with the rider next to you. This helps maintain a consistent and safe distance between riders, ensuring better coordination and communication within the paceline. Half-wheeling, where one rider is slightly ahead of the other, can lead to issues such as uneven pacing and disrupted spacing for riders behind. It also constantly increases the pace as the rider next to you is constantly accelerating. There is no afterlife for half-wheelers.
Be nice | It’s a group ride. Not World Champs. Be polite. Say hi to people. If someone has a mechanical, stop and offer assistance. Don’t be a dick.
Snot rockets | Carefully swing out of the paceline or drop to the back to clear your loogie. If you can’t, then drop your head a little and direct the discharge straight down behind your handlebars so it hits the tarmac and not the rider behind you.
At the front? | Rad! Be smart and don’t ride in the gutter or on a line that is close to the cat’s eye or other road fixtures that make it difficult and dangerous for riders behind you. Also, right now the safety of everyone is your responsibility. Be an adult. Be smart.
Point and signal | Pointing down and to the left indicates to the rider behind you that there is a hazard of some sort coming up, on the left. It could be a pothole, glass, a parked car or a slower rider. Pointing helps the rider behind you prepare and avoid the problem. Likewise, at confusing intersections, it’s super polite and very smart to signal on the intended route. Just a simple dropped arm and pointing finger helps the rider behind you preempt the change in direction. You can also call it out, “Left” or “Straight”. Again, the more communication within the group the safer everyone will be.
Maintain the group’s pace | When you roll through to the front the priority should be to maintain the same steady pace. If you are feeling strong then by all means do a longer pull on the front. If you are a little broken then do a shorter pull, however, keep the pace unaltered.
In the group and needing to stand? | That’s fine but remember your cadence is likely to slow as you do so change down one or two gears to maintain your pace. If you don’t change into a harder gear, your pace will drop and you’ll do what is referred to as a “kickback”. The result is wheels overlap and it causes general chaos behind you.
Riding solo then a faster group rolls by? | By all means, accelerate and hop onto the wheel but you absolutely have to ask for permission to be there. If the group is far stronger than you, then you probably shouldn’t be there but if you absolutely need a free ride then you had better ask for permission to sit wheel. If permission is not willfully granted and the vibe is weird, then drop back and out of the group.
Think group | Be aware that your actions have group consequences. So, a few examples would be to not jump an amber light as you will likely split the group up. If you have to touch the brakes, be gentle. If there is a surge and you have to drop watts to stay in touch, a gradual increase in effort reduces the yoyo effect deeper in the group.
With frequent group rides, you’ll feel more comfortable in the bunch and be a lot safer if you follow these rules. Over time, they become second nature. Enjoy!