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Cycling Group Rides
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Cycling Group Rides

Finding Yourself a Compatible Group

Cycling invariably involves riding in a group, or bunch riding.

Riding in close proximity to other riders can be quite daunting and nerve racking if you’re not used to it, not to mention dangerous to yourself and others. Finding yourself in the wrong group, where you are out of your depth wont endear you to your riding companions. So you need to know a few basic rules.

So here’s a few tips to make your future cycling group rides a bit more bearable.

Every group has a different objective, so finding a group that suits you is the first thing. It’s no point joining a group which rides at an average speed of say 30kph, when your comfortable speed is 25kph.

If you’re new to cycling, then a bunch that rides at a social pace is a good place to start. Ask around your local bike shops, they will have information on the rides in your area.

Find out how far the ride is, and make sure you’re comfortable with that distance. Ask about the route, and whether the group stops to allow stragglers to get back on.

Once you know where they meet and at what time, get there on time or even slightly earlier. Introduce yourself to a few of the participants, and explain your situation and level of skill. Most groups don’t mind newbies tagging along, as long as they start at the back of the bunch, out of harms way. A sure way of getting offside with a group, is to start near the front, and have to slide your way back through the bunch at the first hill, because you can’t keep up. Start at the back and observe what goes on.

Be on time for the ride. Most groups will have a few minutes grace, but any longer and you’ll miss out. While they may wait for a confirmed member of the bunch, they certainly wont wait for an unknown newbie.

Most groups ride in pairs, so when you first start out, ride on the outside, i.e. not nearest the kerbside. This gives you some room to manoeuvre if anything should happen. However this does not mean you can ride in the middle of the road, you should ride as close to your partner as you feel comfortable with. Aim in time to have no more than 150mms (6 inches) between your handlebars and your partners.

Also you’ll need to ride close to the rider in front of you, follow your partners lead on this, and stay level with him.

This will be the hardest part of a group ride for the beginner, the need to stay together.The group works as long as everybody is in sync. If one rider gets out of sync and lags behind, especially if near the front, it throws the whole group out. A sure way to attract the wrath of others.

Get to know the signals used by the group, such as for when slowing down or avoiding objects on the road. These signals can vary slightly from group to group. Be constantly on the alert for changes in pace or for incidents that require sudden reactions. Don’t just watch the rider in front of you, but also the riders further up the bunch, so you can anticipate any unexpected changes.

Group riding is definitely challenging, and each group has it’s own dynamics. But as I said earlier, start at the back and pay your dues. learn the required skills, practice good safe riding techniques, keep out of trouble and soon enough you will be accepted as a regular member.

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