When the Covid pandemic broke out, people worldwide had their fitness routines interrupted. Because of this, they needed to find alternative ways to maintain their fitness. A huge amount of people either took up or re-found their love of cycling to help fill the fitness void created by lockdowns and working from home. There were those who took to cycling as an alternative to the gyms that were shut down. Others in restricted travel areas turned to indoor cycling on wind trainers and online cycling platforms. Then there were some who bought a bike to spend time with their mates in the outdoors to escape isolation. Whatever the reason, the popularity of cycling escalated rapidly the world over.
The large increase in cyclists in a short period of time brought with it a new group of cyclists who continued through to post-lockdown. This group have now taken to the streets and actively participate in group rides, or ride alone on popular cycling routes. The big challenge now facing every cyclist on the road is how to bring the safety and skill levels of this inexperienced group up to speed.
Bike safety should always the number one priority for any cyclist or other road user. The goal of every ride is to return home safely. It is now up to the more experienced cyclists out there to help other cyclists, even if they have never met each other, to learn to ride together in a safe and orderly manner. To help with this huge task, we will share a simple guide of cycling etiquette for all riders to read and implement. If we can standardise cycling etiquette once again, we can help bring up the average skill and knowledge of every cyclist out there and make cycling a much safer pastime once again.
The Basics of Bunch Riding
- Communication: Learn how to communicate clearly and loudly. Learn, understand, and safely implement the basic hand signals for turning, obstacles, slowing, stopping etc.
- Visibility: Always have working front and rear lights as well as bright and preferably reflective clothing.
- Listen: Riders all throughout the bunch will pass on instructions and signals from the front to the back and vice versa. Listen to the call and pass it on loudly and clearly.
- Be alert: Don’t rely solely on the riders around you. Even the most experienced cyclists can miss something. Be alert for cars ahead and behind, obstacles and predict as much as possible the movements of the bunch.
- Eyes up: Never look at the person next to you while talking. It only takes a split second to run up the back of the person in fornt of you and take down the whole bunch. Always keep your eyes up and looking ahead.
- Stay out of aero: If you are a triathlete then never go into aero position while in a bunch ride. Always have your fingers always covering your brakes.
- Ride predictably: Call out your every move and brake/accelerate as smoothly as possible. Always hold your line and stay as far left on the road as you can.
- Overtake safely: If you are overtaking an individual or a group then call out “Riders Back” as you approach and always pass on the right. NEVER pass on the left. This is common safety etiquette and no cyclist will expect you on the left and you may be taken out.
- No half wheeling: Always ensure that your whole front wheel is completely behind the rider in fronts back wheel. This ensures that the rider in front can move left or right to avoid obstacles without taking you down.
- Obey the law: ALWAYS. Cyclists are bound to all the traffic laws as much as any other vehicle on the road.
The Basic Calls and Signals
- “Slowing”: If you need to slow down for any reason at all. This includes stopping pedalling, not just applying the brakes. Where safe to do so, this is accompanied by a hand dangling to the inside of the bunch with palm facing backwards, or the inside hand raised in the air with palm facing forwards and the hand is waved up and down almost like patting a dog.
- “Stopping”: If you need to stop for any reason. You may call “slowing” first then “stopping” if conditions change. Where safe to do so, this is accompanied by a hand dangling to the inside of the bunch with palm facing backwards, or the inside hand raised in the air with palm facing forwards and held solid.
- “Rolling”: When there is an event that people may be unsure if they will slow or go, the person at the front calls out “rolling” so everyone knows to keep riding and avoid slowing down. Where safe to do so this can be accompanied by the inside hand underarm throwing from the back to the front of your bike.
- “Clear”: When you are at the front of the group and you are going through an intersection or the group needs to move off the line and into the road. This call is so that the person behind you knows there is no oncoming traffic. There is no accompanying hand signal for this call.
- “Car Back/Rider Back”: Called by the person at the back of the bunch and relayed up the group by every person. This allows the bunch to know that there is a vehicle or cyclists about to pass the group you should maintain your line and avoid moving out to the right. There is no accompanying hand signal for this call.
- “Car Up/Rider Rider Up”: Called by the person at the front of the bunch and relayed down the group by every person. This allows the bunch to know that they are about to pass a vehicle or cyclist and they need to begin moving to the right. It is then the person at the back who must check for cars or cyclists coming from behind and call out “Clear” so that the bunch knows they can move. Where safe to do so this can be accompanied by the outside hand pointing at the object then the hand moving behind you back and pointing in the direction you are going to move to avoid the object.
- “Single file”: When it is required to force the bunch into one single line of cyclists to avoid any hazard or if the road narrows. Where safe to do so this can be accompanied by the inside hand being raised with the finger pointing to the sky.
- “Hole/Gravel/(Other object)”: When there is an obstruction on the road that all riders need to avoid hitting or rolling over. Where safe to do so this can be accompanied by either hand pointing directly at the object.
When riding in a group, the chances are that there will be a diverse range of ability within the bunch. There should always be a ‘Road Captain’ who is in control of the group, so be sure to talk about your own level of ability and any questions you have before the ride starts.
This is just a very small and basic list of all the safety requirements that you need to know when riding in a group. This log could go on for many pages if all the rules and scenarios were to be mapped out. The best thing to do is join a local group and learn from them. The key takeaway is to remember that riding safely is all about communication. Make sure to voice your concerns or questions if you don’t feel comfortable riding at the front or the back of the group. Similarly if you believe that any adjustment needs to be made in terms of pace or any unsafe behaviour within the bunch.
You are there for your group just as much as the group must be there for you. If you have any questions or concerns, please drop us a line at our Melbourne triathlon club and we will happily find an answer for you.
Happy and safe riding to you all.