The Basics of Riding in a Group
Like many activities we participate in, everyone has their own opinion about what cyclists should or should not do when riding with others, or when riding alone for that matter. So take any recommendations you read or hear, including those below, as general guidelines. The most important thing to consider is your safety and that of other riders or vehicles on the road. When in doubt, it's better to over-communicate than to under-communicate, whether it's a pothole in the road or an approaching freight train. Ride Safe!
That said, the "guidelines" below are echoed in numerious publications and websites. You'll seldom go wrong by incorporating these guidelines into your riding habits.
Group riding takes practice. Riding with other cyclists all around you may cause you to feel trapped.
It is most important to create your own safety zone. This may vary depending on the speed and ability level of the people you are with, so be flexible. Let others know of your anxiety— they may also be new at this.
Your responsibility in a pack or a loosely organized group of riders includes:
- Be aware of others around you.
- Communicate well in advance. Use gestures in combination with verbal commands.
- Ride with your head up. Look down the road; not at the person in front of you.
- Maintain control and speed of your bike, even going downhill.
- Know your limits. Crashes can occur when inexperienced riders do not have bike-handling skills to make quick decisions in a pack.
- Safety starts with you. Group mentality is not always safe. Expect to stop at all red lights and stop signs—it is the law! Each cyclist is responsible for verifying that the intersection is clear.
- Adjust your safety zone to fit the conditions of the road, weather and traffic. Always plan an escape route.
- Never overlap your wheels with another cyclist.
- Do not use aerobars in a pack.
- Be aware of how weather will affect your bike. Riding in wet conditions requires slower speeds and greater breaking distances.
- Be respectful of other riders. Help others when needed.
The video below provides some great info for riding in a group. Don't be put off because this group appears to be "experienced" or "racing" cyclists. The same guidelines apply for recreational ridrers.
Again, the "guidelines" below are general thoughts echoed by the majority of cyclists. Adjust them based on your own experience and be mindful that we ride, generally, because we enjoy it. Over-zealous guardians of "cycling etiquette" can be just as unwelcome as cyclists who are not courtious to other riders or ride erratically.
Cycling Etiquette: When you are riding with many other riders, there are some cycling customs and etiquette points we all must follow.
- Riding safely in big groups requires a mature and positive frame of mind. Always ride smart, ride safe.
- Riding safely in big groups requires communicating with other riders around you. (Be sure to check out the tips below)
- Maintain your personal space; avoiding close proximity to other bikes.
- Avoid sudden sideways movements while riding in a group; be predictable and always hold your line.
- Be considerate of slower and faster riders around you; remember that this is a fun ride, NOT a race.
- Be careful, signal, and let others know when you’re slowing or stopping.
- Passing and being passed is a critical skill. Please review the passing tips.
A final point, we are all ambassadors for cycling, in general, and the Tulsa Bicycle Club, specifically, as we travel along the roadways and in our communities. Leave a good impression when you ride with others.
Ride Tips - Passing
Passing on a bicycle is a two-way process. As a general rule, the passer has primary responsibility for a safe pass; however, both the passer and "passee" have a few simple responsibilities to make a pass safe and friendly.
The passee(s) should:
- Be aware of approaching riders (look behind and listen! NO headphones); consolidate to single file to allow a safe pass;
- Acknowledge calls to pass; saying "Thank You" is a GREAT way to do this!
- Maintain a steady speed and hold a consistent line-don't suddenly slow down or speed up as you are being passed, and don't swerve.
The passer(s) should:
- Let the other rider know you're there as you get close;
- Slow a bit to allow buffer space; communicate "Rider up, slowing" to your group; groups should only pass as a single line;
- Check the road behind to ensure no approaching vehicles, making sure there is enough room for everyone to safely pass;
- Call "Passing on you left" after the other rider has acknowledged your presence, indicating number of riders in line if passing as a group is very helpful and appreciated;
- Move left to allow adequate space as you come around and smoothly accelerate to your previous speed to make the pass;
- Allow plenty of room before pulling back in to the right so as to not cut off the passees;
- If in a line, the last rider should indicate "Last rider."
Here's another video providing some good insight into passing safely. Again, whether you're a recreational rider or a hammerhead, the same guidelines apply. And be particularly mindful of passing when on a shared use path like those along the River Parks.
Ride Tips - Vocal Warnings
You needn't "shout" at other riders when letting them know what you see ahead or are planning to do. But a reasonable amount of verbal communication can prevent accidents and alert others to potential hazards. Verbal communication is most important when you are riding close to others or in a pack as visibility for those behind you may be obscured. Excessive verbal communication can be as irritating to other riders as no communication. Try to strike a balance considering the experience of other riders in your group.
- Slowing - When someone announces "Slowing!" it means that there is something causing them to slow down. This could be a traffic light, slower bikes or some road hazard. Prepare to slow down, tap you brakes and repeat the alert to indicate that you've heard the warning and to alert those behind you that you are also slowing down.
- Stopping - When someone announces "Stopping!" it means they are stopping. If they are just pulling over to fix a flat or rest, you should prepare to pass (see tips above). However, this could be a stop light or major road hazard, so you must be prepared to stop. If necessary, tap your brakes while repeating the alert to indicate to others that you've heard them and to alert those behind you that you are also slowing to a stop. It is important not to slam on your brakes, especially if there are others behind you!!
- Hold your line - When someone announces "Hold your line," this means that you need to steer a straight line as best you can. In most cases, the person is attempting to pass. If you swing out or don't keep your bike steady, you could cause trouble for the other cyclist.
- On your Left - When someone announces "On your left," "Passing," or something similar, it means that they are passing you on your left side. You should be riding towards the right side of the roadway unless passing, so there should little room for anyone to attempt to pass on the right. NEVER PASS ON THE RIGHT yourself.
- Car Up - This is a verbal caution to beware of an approaching vehicle and to stay right. When you hear this, repeat the call so that others know that you are aware of the approaching vehicle and to alert others.
- Car Back - This means that there is a vehicle coming up from behind. Move to the right as safely possible to allow them to pass. Repeat the call so others ahead of you also know about the car.
- Holes - When someone indicates "Hole," "Bump" "Road kill," or something similar, they are warning of road surface hazards that could cause you problems. Generally they will also point to the hazard. Be prepared to avoid these hazards without swerving into other riders. Again, repeat the warning for those behind you.
- Cracks – Riders will call “Crack” when there is a crack parallel to your direction of travel. These cracks can catch your wheel and cause a spill. Many riders will wave their left or right arm forward and back with their palm facing their body to let riders behind know which side the crack is on. Pass the warning back while signaling with one hand if you can. Spot the crack and move over if needed, as smoothly as possible to avoid it.
- Gravel - This warning means there is gravel in the road. They may also indicate gravel on the side of the road by waving their hand palm down over the side with the gravel. Ride around the gravel when possible, although you can ride through it safely if you hold a straight line. Gravel in a corner warrants caution when turning. Slow down and keep the bike more upright by pushing with the outside hand as you steer through the turn.
NEVER call CLEAR at an intersection, driveway, or other location where two traffic streams merge or intersect ...
You may hear less experienced riders call "clear" when approaching an intersection. Though well-intentioned, it is each rider's responsibility to determine whether it is safe for them to enter an intersection, whether passing through or turning. Do not rely on others for this critical determination; your safety is paramount and only you can determine whether you can safely turn or pass through an intersection!
It IS appropriate to alert "Car left" or "Car right" as you approach or pass through an intersection to assist riders behind you as they approach an intersection.