Cycling is a great sport. It is even better when enjoyed with others. However, when you mix people, speed and egos, trouble can be just up the road.
Road riding is fast. You are with others who may or may not be skilled in riding at speed with other riders. You are on a road where dogs, cars, people, horses, rabbits, etc. can come out of seemingly nowhere. When you obey the rules, and expect the unexpected, you increase the possibility you will come home with no chunks of flesh missing.
Ride leaders need to control the pack so everyone can have a safer ride. Almost nothing is worse than a messed up road ride. The beauty of the ride is gone, you are chasing or being chased, tempers can flare. Not a pleasant way to spend your time. On the other hand, a smooth running pack is a joy to ride in. A good ride leader and experienced riders are needed to maintain a good steady rhythm. We can all learn the rules of the pack in order to increase our safe enjoyment of a sport you can enjoy all of your life. The following guidelines and tips should be read and adhered to by all OCC group ride participants.
OCC Road Bike Etiquette Guide
New to group riding, or looking for some helpful tips? Check out our Road Bike Etiquette guide, produced by former OCC President Rob Narejko. This document is intended for the novice cycling enthusiast who rides, or wants to ride, in a pack.
OCC Group Ride Guidelines
- Ride smooth and steady all the time. No sudden, abrupt movements or over reactions to potholes, road debris, etc.
- Never overlap wheels - that is one of the prime causes of incidents on rides. However, it is good practice when following a wheel to be just slightly offset, i.e. 3-4”, so that if there is a sudden stop you don’t immediately slam into the wheel ahead. The offset gives you some additional space to recover. This does not mean you overlap - you are still riding behind the person in front.
- Don’t be that person who surges when it’s their turn to pull or leaves gaps in the rotation and finally never ever overlap.
- When you see someone committing a ride foul politely say something. We are all responsible for the quality of our rides. But be polite and do not yell.
- Never cross the yellow line. On roads without painted lines stay on one half of the road. On a 4+ lane road (2+ lanes in each direction) stay within the right-most lane and do not cross the dashed white line.
- Ride 0.5 to 1.0 m away from the white line or edge of pavement
Communication is essential to a good ride. Make sure you point to and call out hazards and traffic situations, but remember to do it in a polite way. Those in the mid-pack should pass these calls back so that everyone is aware. Here are the standard announcements used in our club:
- "Car Back" - warns riders in front that there is a car approaching from the rear and to single-up or move over to allow the car to safely pass.
- "Car Up" - warns the group that there is a car approaching from the front. This is especially important on hilly or winding roads where visibility is limited.
- "Single Up" - tells the group that riders need to be in single file.
- "Car Left or Right" - warning riders at intersections that a car is approaching and might cross the path.
- "Walker or Runner Up" - warning riders that there is a pedestrian on the group's side of the road
- "Tracks" - warns of railroad tracks
- "Road Kill" - kind of an obvious one
- "Hole(s)" - warning riders about dangerous (read: can cause damage or an accident) breaks in pavement. Riders can sometimes point instead of/in addition to calling the hazard, especially on roads with lots of holes.
- "Slowing" or "Stopping" - warns riders about a change in speed. Can be done with a hand signal, but calling this is helpful, especially if a sudden/unexpected stop.
- "On Your Left or Right" - warning riders that you are passing. Riders should always pass on the left, but if forced to pass on the right (to avoid a dangerous situation, for example) it should always be announced.
During a descent, riders should spread out farther than normal, and any paceline rotation should stop. If you want to be at the front of a decent, make sure you are at the top of the hill first! Passing each other on a downhill can be very dangerous and is discouraged. The group will regroup at the end of the descent (see Regrouping, below) so there is no need to push beyond your comfort level.
On all long climbs (such as the escarpment), the group breaks any paceline formation and riders can go as hard or as easy as they wish. We will regroup at the top (see Regrouping, below). Riders are reminded to always stay to the right, which is especially important on hills, and pass on the left only.
Regrouping is necessary to ensure the pack stays tight and all riders are accounted for. If the group becomes too spread out, the ride leader can call for a regroup at the next intersection. Here are a few guidelines:
- Regrouping is mandatory after all long climbs and major descents so that riders are not pushed beyond their comfort zones.
- All riders must wait at the regrouping spot. Under no circumstances should anybody soft pedal down the road.
- We never regroup in a manner that is unsafe or would obstruct traffic in any way. If the shoulder is too narrow, on a blind corner, or otherwise unsuitable, the group should continue until an appropriate regrouping spot is identified. All riders should pull off the road or as far to the right as possible to avoid blocking traffic.
Generally-speaking, the final few KM stretch back to the meeting point (e.g. south on Appleby Line, east on 1 Side Road, south on Fifth Line) is a free-for-all when riders can push it as hard as they want, or take it easy and cruise. Going hard is optional, not compulsory. These sections are generally quieter stretches of road with no intersections, and since they end at the parking lot, no regrouping is needed. There are other sections of road that are common Hammer Zones (such as 3rd Line south of 15 Side Road), which the ride leader will indicate on the ride. On those mid-ride stretches, there is always a regrouping at the next intersection.
For the majority of our 'recreational' rides (Groups 1-4), we ride in either a single-file paceline or a rotating paceline. Here is a description of each:
When we are on a 2 lane road (1 lane in each direction), in general, if there are higher volumes of vehicles present, we endeavor to ride single-file. Roads that would fall under this category include sections of Derry, Campbellville, Britannia, Tremaine, Guelph Line, etc.
For 2014, we are introducing a standardized rotation when we are riding two-up so that we have consistency among the groups. The paceline format we have decided on is a 'social' or 'conversational' rotating paceline. It gives everyone an opportunity to lead for as long/little as they are comfortable with. It also means we are never more than two wide on the road, so it lends itself to a safer riding experience.
This video provides a great overview of how to ride in a rotating paceline (although note that on our rides, the lead riders can stay in the front for a longer period of time):
How to Ride in a Group
If you're new to group riding, or need a refresher, check out this YouTube video. It's a good intro to group riding. It's also worth watching some of the other videos of this channel: