How to ride in a group

Riding on the road in a group as part of a club run can be a new and difficult skill for riders to pick up for the first time as riding in a group is so different from doing a ride on your own. From hand signals to position on the road there are so many things to think of it can appear daunting at first but if everyone follows the same guidelines and looks out for each other then riding in a group on the roads can be one of the safest places to be.


The list below is designed to help new riders ease into a club run and to remind more experienced riders of the conduct to show on the road making club runs more enjoyable and safer for everyone.


Before the ride

  1. The night before a ride, check your bike over to ensure everything is in full working order, if the forecast is rain and you have them fit your mudguards, this will keep your shorts dryer on the ride and will allow the rest of the group to avoid the spray and have clear sight of the road ahead
  2. Pack the items you'll need to take with you, these should include:   Tyre levers, pump and at least 1 spare inner tube. A folding tyre is also useful to take especially when hedges have recently been trimmed. Snack food (Cereal bars, Energy food/ gels or money to be able to buy something if hunger kicks in during the ride). A multi tool is also useful as you never know when you might need to adjust/ tighten a part of your bike.
  3. Clothing- Cycle helmets are required for all our sessions. Dress appropriately for the weather conditions forecast for the day. Wearing layers will allow you to remove or add layers on during the ride once you start to warm up/ get cold. Wearing two cycling shirts will give you more available pockets in which to store the kit that's not required.


Positioning during a ride:

Ride 2 abreast around 15-25 cm from the rider next to you and around 50cm- 1m from the rider in front at all times unless travelling on A class or narrow twisty roads where riders should revert back to single file. When changing for 2 abreast to single file allow gaps to open between yourself and the rider in front and then gradually ease over to the left and into the gap, sudden movements or braking will cause others in the group to take drastic action and could cause a crash. If you're willing to create a gap for a rider, tell them what you're doing and when it's safe to move across into the gap. Remember it's good to talk.

Sharing the workload 
Now if we were to stay in the same position and order during the ride then the riders at the front would be exhausted, so to share the work we move around the group normally the lead rider on the right hand side will tell the left hand rider they wish to get off the front, the left side rider will ease down (not applying brakes) to allow the right hand rider to move ahead,
once this has happened the rider then moves over to the left and the rider who was behind now moves into the forward right hand position. At the back of the group the opposite happens with the rider at the back moving to the right hand line to start there process of working towards the front of the group. Riders at the front should remain in the saddle and remain at a steady and even pace. Stay on the front as long as you like but this should really only be for 1-2 mins or much less if you're feeling tired.

How to ride safely in a bunch

Riding in the second row back from the front will allow you to travel at much greater speed and with less effort than you would normally be able to sustain on your own due to the shelter from the wind that is being offered from the riders in front of you riding in the correct maximum shelter position can see you ride at 30% less energy than the rider in front and when you have a large group just think how much energy you could be saving by sitting out of the wind.

The only downside to having all this shelter from the wind is that your vision of the road ahead becomes obscured. This is where trust and courtesy from the other riders around you will allow you to remain sheltered but also safe as the riders at the front should shout out commands or give hand signals that indicate any potential danger ahead.
As a rider in this situation you should sit with your hands on the tops of the bars or brake hoods to make you taller and aware of what's going on further up the road rather than literally the rider immediately in front. This will give you more space and time to be able to react and pass on information to your fellow riders.
Riders at the back can shout instructions forward to ride single file if the traffic behind builds up or if a rider has a mechanical problem/puncture requiring the group needing to stop.

It's therefore vital that all riders pass on instructions up and down the line in order to ensure EVERYONE knows what is going on, Here are just a few of these instructions/ commands:


  • Left hand behind back and shout "on the left" = This indicates that were passing an object in the way (such as a parked car)

  • Left or right hand pointing down at the road = this indicates some kind of hazard that riders should try to avoid such as a pot hole, gravel or glass. Your hand should copy the rider in front and stay pointing down until you pass the obstacle.

  • Shout "Car Up" = This call should come from the back of the group and means there is a build up of traffic behind, on this command riders should allow gaps to open in front of them without using the brakes and move into a single file formation.
  • Shout "Car down" = this call should come from the front and is used when a car is heading towards you. Again riders should allow gaps to open up in front and move into a single file formation.
  • Shout "Easy" = This call again comes from the front and can include a flapping type action with the arm to indicate that the whole group will need to apply there brakes as were coming up to a junction or red traffic light, line of slow moving traffic.


The Highway Code

Unsurprisingly enough the rules of the road also apply to cyclists therefore riders should NEVER ride through a red light, always give way to traffic on the right at roundabouts and junctions.

This is particularly important on a club ride as members will be wearing BCDS kit, are a mobile advert for the club and should therefore show the club in its best light.

If you're the lead rider when approaching a roundabout or junction you shouldn't pull out until there is sufficient room for the whole group to move across. If visibility is obscured you should move out when its safe for you but keep looking and tell the others to either wait if a car is coming or "ok" if it's safe to come over. Each rider should do the same and keep the pace very slow until all riders are safely across and back into formation.

If  a rider shoots through a gap because it's safe for him/her do so without considering others and the rest of the group followed without looking it could easily result in a major accident.

Overall communication is key to being able to ride safely and efficiently in a group. Nobody wants to come down in a bunch as the riders behind will often have nowhere to go but into the rider on the floor resulting even more serious injury. We're all in the same club doing the same sport, so let's look out for each other?