Riding Safely

· 6 minutes read

Mixed ability in a group

Although we try to break the groups into riders of similar ability, whereas this may apply to riding strength, it doesn’t always apply to riding skill. So invariably, each group may have a mixture of skill and strength. It’s better to start with a slower group if you are not yet confident in group riding, even if you are a strong rider.

Taking the wind

We should all be aware of the benefits of slipstreaming and to try and take your turn at the front if you can, however stronger riders should spend more time on the front. To get the benefit of slipstreaming, you need to be less than a bike length behind the rider in front. 

How close to ride

If you are new to group riding you may feel uncomfortable riding too close to begin with. So if that’s the case then lay off the wheel in front a bit more, let the rider next to you know that and ask advice from the ride leader or more experienced riders in the group. We all have to learn. As you build confidence and start to ride closer, then also ride a little offset, soyou’re both behind and slightly further out. That way you can go around the rider in front in an emergency. You can also see down the group a bit better and anticipate problems ahead.


If you do not know what this means, then ask the ride leader.Basically it means one of the two riders on the front is always pushing thepace ahead of the other and not keeping both wheels level. It is very bad formand if your partner on the front is half-wheeling you then you should feelcomfortable in telling them. Also if you see someone half-wheeling you shouldask them to stop.

How to come off the front

This varies depending on the type of ride, be it chaingang or clubrun. 

For a clubrun there are a few options and you should be clear which you are using by confirming with the ride leader. First agree you are going to change by talking to your partner on the front, then shout back to say you wish to change by saying “change” and also indicate by a rotation gesture with your hand. There are three options which should be agreed before the ride. The first is to split apart by the rider on the right moving out into the middle of the lane and then allowing the train behind to move through in twos, then the two of you rejoin at the back. The second is the rider on the right moves ahead of their partner and the rest of the group the pass them both and then you both join at the back. The third is a slow chaingang in which the rider on the right moves ahead of the rider on the left and then moves over to the left and just the single line behind moves forward, so you all change partner. This is often used when there is a strong headwind and so each rider spends a few minutes on both the right side and left side at the front.

For chaingang please refer to the details at https://bristolroadclub.com/chaingang-etiquette


Braking suddenly is very bad news in a group. Everyone should ride as predictably and fluidly as possible, with no sudden accelerations, decelerations or swerves. If you feel uncomfortable with the riding of any rider in the group, you should either tell them that or express your concern to the ride leader and ask them to talk to that rider. In the event that you do have to brake suddenly you should shout loudly that you are doing so. You must bear in mind that with a mix or disc and calliper brakes in a group that over braking can cause crashes. Never brake when you are asked to slow down for others to catch up, just ease off the pedals a bit and reduce your speed gradually. 


Having confidence in how those around you ride comes from good communication rather than expert bike handling. Make warnings simple and loud and repeat them all the way down the group. More experienced group cyclists use a kind of spoken ‘shorthand’ – coupled with simple sign language. Here are some examples.


• Car down/up/back – there’s a car coming from the front/behind/behind

• Easy – back off the pace, there’s trouble ahead

• Out – swing out to get around an obstacle, like a parked car

• In – move in towards the side of the road and single out


• Hand out to one side – we’re turning right/left

• Hand sweeping behind the rider’s back – move in or out, in the direction of the gesture

• Hand patting downwards, or simply held out palm down – slow down

• Cupped hand swept forward or a flick of the elbow – come past

• Finger pointed at the ground – pothole/obstacle 

Pace and size of groups

As the summer progresses, we will have more riders and generally wewill try to have a fast, medium and slow group each time, ideally with no morethan 12-14 in a group. The number of groups may increase as needed depending onnumbers. There should always be someone leading the group and that person willsay where you are going and dictate the pace. If you are on the front youshould always be aware of the situation behind you, be it dropped riders ormechanical problems. This specifically applies for clubruns and chaingangsdefined as medium and slow pace. However in the fast groups you may likely getleft behind if you can’t match the pace, so make sure you know where you aregoing.


We all have to clear out noses from time to time, but please do thisin a way that doesn’t transmit your snot to someone else. Ideally leave ituntil you are at the back of the group or use your sleeve. 

Most importantly, do not put yourself in a position whereby you feeluncomfortable in the group. If you need help or advise, please ask for it.

Ride safe everyone!