When riding in groups, there are some fundamental rules you need to adhere to. Cycle coach,and Coast To Coast ambassador Stephen Cunningham explains. 

There’s something great about riding along in a group and that’s why the Coast to Coast ride appeals to so many. Not only is it a whole lot of fun, it can help you ride faster and further, with up to 30% less effort needed if you do it right!

That said, riding in a bunch can sometime be somewhat annoying or indeed dangerous if fellow cyclists don’t follow the ‘unwritten rules’. There’s certainly a bit to know about bunch riding, so I’ve jotted down a few pointers below.

BE PREDICTABLE

If you find yourself riding in a bunch, the most important thing to think about is being as predictable as you can. Avoid any sudden movements, changes in speed, sudden changes in direction and always maintain a steady straight line. It’s best to think about the effect ANY of your movements will have on the riders behind or alongside of you.

PAY ATTENTION TO BOTH RIDERS AND POTENTIAL HAZARDS BY LOOKING AHEAD

Being alert and aware of the riders and hazards around you cannot be emphasised enough. I see so many riders in a group only looking at the wheel in front of them and relying on that rider to point our hazards, parked cars and so on. Take it upon yourself to take responsibility for your own safety and also the others behind you. Even when I’m 10 wheels back from the front of a group, I’m looking ahead of the peloton to what is coming up, and I’m prepared well before someone calls out the hazard. This is a sure fire way to be ready for anything.

Brake carefully and only when absolutely necessary. Remember every sudden change in speed you make in a group will have a huge effect on those behind you. If someone does slow in front of you, instead of grabbing a fist full of brakes, think about moving to the outside of your line to avoid hitting the wheel.

DON’T RIDE DIRECTLY BEHIND ANOTHER RIDER

NEVER ride directly behind the wheel in front of you. It’s far safer to be slightly off to to the right or left, depending on which way the wind is coming from. If they brake or jolt back from getting out of the saddle, you need to have a quick escape route! And remember our reaction times as just the same if we’re walking along OR riding at 50kph, so adjust the gap in front of your depending on your speed. Remember also to be very mindful of the traffic conditions, if you’re riding through the hills on a narrow road, practice merging into a single file so to allow cars to pass by safely. There’s also no harm giving a wave to patient motorists while merging into a single line, you may even receive a friendly toot or wave in return!

BE CONSIDERATE WHEN OUT OF THE SADDLE

If you find you need to get out of the saddle when climbing, be sure to remember the riders behind you. Many riders, even the experienced ones, freewheel momentarily when they first stand up, with the bike jolting backward. If this is something you’ve seen or you have a tendency to do this, aim to accelerate slightly just before you stand up, so as to create a little gap between you and the rider behind. Another technique is to maintain the pressure on your pedals to avoid any kick back. You may even be applauded by those behind who will observe your impeccable bunch riding technique :-).

Finally, enjoy your time in the group and don’t let the potential risks of bunch riding deter you. Practice is the key and getting the chance to ride in groups at the Coast to Coast is half the fun!
Happy pedalling, only a little over 4 weeks to go, so start getting out there and put together a few big weekend rides together!

Stephen Cunningham is the ambassador for Coast to Coast. If anyone interested in joining his Thursday morning sessions, known as Cunno’s Group Ride, let him know and he’ll give you all the details! steve@polkadotcycling.com