Group riding

Today’s coaches corner is looking at Group Riding.

When riding in a group, there are a number of things you should know, do and avoid in order to ensure that the group is safe, productive & effective. Here’s a basic guide.

Single line or two-a-breast?
A certain times you can look to adopt either riding position in a group. Knowing when & why will aid for a safer and more enjoyable ride.

Two a breast: the Highway Code openly encourages cyclist to ride two-a-breast. This is because it encourages cars to make a better judgement call when over taking rather than squeezing by with on coming traffic. Furthermore riding two-a-breast takes up less space compared to a long line. ITS NOT ILLEGAL so look to pair up in two columns as often as you can
NB: The Highway Code says that on busy roads or bends it’s not advisable but it also doesn’t state what a busy road or bend is.

Single line: moving into a single line can help large vehicles such as buses, horse boxes pass. The last man should shout out ‘car back’ to warn the group then shout ‘single line – large vehicle’. The group should then filter into a single line to allow the large slower vehicle to pass. A thumbs up or wave of thanks will be appreciated by the driver as you’ve shown acknowledgement to them. A single line is not to be mistaken for a pace line. See below

When riding in a group, you can work productively but taking time at the front of the group to set the pace. This doesn’t mean that the pace gets faster and faster, just that when you come to the front, you look to hold the set pace for a set period of time before allowing someone else to set the SAME PACE and so on and so on. The two systems are through & off and a pace line.

Through & off: using the two-a-breast format, the rider on the front left hand corner sets the pace. The rider on the front right STAYS BY THEIR SIDE and MATCHES the pace being set. After a short period the rider on the left eases back and the rider on the right moves past to then drift left to set the pace. Everyone on the right hand side moves up one place. It moves in a anticlock wise motion. The group then continually moves around HOLDING THE SAME pace. As you drop back, the last rider says ‘last man’ to indicate that no one else is behind. This then allows that person to move to the back of the right hand column. Sound more complicated than it is. You can save plenty of energy this way as well as taking your turn at the front.

Pace line: a pace line works in a similar fashion but the group is in one line (smaller group ideally). Positioned about 1m from the curb, the front rider sets the pace and then with a flick of their right elbow the rider behind moves past whilst the original rider moves a little to the left and slows down whilst the group passes by. The last man shouts ‘last man’ so the rider knows that they are to then follow that wheel.

Calls: loud clear calls are key to safety and awareness. CAR BACK, LAST MAN, SINGLE LINE SLOWING DOWN etc. all help so shout and be clear.

Overlapping wheels – this is when you ride beside the person in front but your front wheel is overlapping their back wheel. DANGEROUS – if they pull out to avoid a hole etc then you will clash wheels and possibly cause an accident.
Free wheeling – if you stop cycling to free wheel, your pace drops but the person behind might think you are about to stop so they might quickly break – causing a possible accident behind. Keep peddling but apply less pressure. If you are about to slow down, call out ‘slowing down’ ahead of it.
Standing up whilst climbing a hill – DON’T do this. You will suddenly slow down & if someone is following you wheel, they might crash into the back of you. Keep in the saddle and if you need to stand, then pull to the side and check behind you before you stand up. Be safe
TT bike on a group ride – this is a no no. The reaction time on a TT bike is slower – to change gears, brake etc. Leave the TT BIKE for solo rides or where you have a long pace line with big gaps.
Joining another group – if you catch up another group, then let them know you are passing ‘on your right’ and then the last man should say ‘last man’ so they know that no one else with be coming on by. On the other hand, if you join a group and fancy their pace, ask to join them until you peel off and always say thanks etc