Rules and Etiquette for Riding in Groups
NWV wants riders to gain maximum enjoyment from their group rides whether highly energetic or social. All riders do so at their own risk, but experience shows that adherence to these rules and etiquette will create the safest possible environment in which we can all enjoy our cycling. The rules and advice incorporate long-standing practices and will be familiar to all experienced riders. Whilst they have been drawn up to help members who have never ridden in a group, we would like everyone to make a point of reading and following them. We have taken the opportunity to include items of general advice that may help new or relatively inexperienced cyclists. Ahead of all the other suggestions below always remember the Highway Code, rules, regulations and laws of the road apply. You’re responsible for your safety so ensure your bike is road-worthy and you’re confident riding on the open roads. We recommend you wear a helmet for your own safety and wellbeing.
Safety and Risk Management
All riders take part in the group runs at their own risk. Those risks can never be totally eliminated but can be minimised. Senior club members will be happy to offer general advice. They will politely point out any deviations to the rider(s) concerned and seek compliance. If they believe that a rider’s conduct is putting others at risk they have the authority to exclude the offender from the group run and will subsequently report the circumstances to the club committee who may wish to take further action. Consider your own insurance needs. In particular ensure that you have Third Party (Public Liability) insurance that covers you whilst cycling. Although this is not a legal requirement, the current “sue everyone for everything” attitude makes insurance essential. You should consider joining either the Cyclists Touring Club or British Cycling – membership includes both Third Party insurance and free legal assistance should you need to claim against someone else.
Warning Calls When Riding in a Group
These calls and signals are universal to all experienced cyclists – please use them at the appropriate times.
- “Car up” or “Oil up” There is a vehicle coming up behind the group.
- “Car down” or “Oil down” There is a vehicle approaching towards the front of the group.
- “Single out” A call from riders at the back of the group when a vehicle is unable to pass the 2 abreast column safely. This call must be relayed forward by everyone to ensure that the move to single file is executed quickly and safely. The standard procedure is for the outside rider to drop back behind the inside rider. The call “single out” alerts everyone to the need to slow up and create spaces in the inside file.
- “Clear” and “Car” on Left/Right” This call lets following riders know at junctions, when the group is joining or crossing another road, whether or not the road is still clear. If the group cannot stay together the first ones across ride slowly until the others catch up.
- “Hole” Any pothole that could cause a rider to fall. If possible indicate where it is so that following riders can steer away from it and not into it. Do this by either pointing or adding to the call “on the left (or right).”
- “On the Left/Right” A general warning of some kind of hazard – usually parked cars or pedestrians. For hazards on the left, an alternative warning is to put your left hand behind your back, pointing to the right, away from the hazard. Give way to pedestrians – they can feel intimidated by cyclists just as we sometimes feel intimidated by motorists.
- “Stopping” “Slowing” “Easy” “Right Hand moving in an up and down action”. If you brake without letting those behind know your intention they can easily run into you
- “Puncture” Let the others know and they will wait while you repair it. (You will probably be given help).
- “Horse(s)” The group is about to pass horses and special care is needed. Pass as widely as possible. Make sure that both the horse and rider are aware of your presence and if you are approaching from behind call out. “keep pedalling slowly as you pass to keep noise from your freewheel and gears to a minimum” Pay attention to any request by the horse rider – they know the temperament of the horse and its likely reaction to a group of brightly clad cyclists.
Finally – Let others know if you are unable to keep up, have a problem or have decided to leave the group. Always pass the instructions along; if a rider cannot keep up, the leader needs to know.
- Ride steadily. Keep a steady line and constant speed while in a group. Any sudden change is magnified as it reaches riders at the back and so can have dramatic consequences.
- No racing. You can race to your heart’s content in organised competitive events but please not on group runs. Do not overtake the rider/riders at the head of the group. If you have to, then do not push your way back into your original position but rejoin at the back of the group as soon as possible.
- Ride two abreast where it as safe to do so but always be prepared to single out when necessary. Ride immediately behind the rider in front – do not overlap either forwards or sideways. Overlapping forwards gives you no chance to avoid the rider in front if he swerves or falls, and overlapping sideways results in the group presenting a three abreast profile. Never ride more than two abreast.
- When approaching a hill anticipate the gradient and change gear in good time. Missing a gear change on the steep bit can bring you to a sudden halt – not a good thing for the riders behind you! Ride safely at all times. Follow the requirements of the Highway Code as they apply to cyclists and guidance from your leaders.
- Treat members of the group and other road users with courtesy. Acknowledge with a wave courteous behaviour by other road users. (Many oncoming motorists will slow down or stop when they meet a large group of cyclists, whilst others allow the whole group to join or cross a major road). Do not “wave through” a following vehicle that is waiting to overtake – let the driver make this decision. This will avoid the risk of being held responsible if the overtaking results in any form of accident.
- Do not react to bad driving incidents with gestures or provoke retaliation. Remember a road rage motorist has a one ton weapon!
- Ride with the group which best suits your ability. It is usually better (and less embarrassing) to start low and build up. If in doubt senior club members will be happy to advise. It is sometimes nice to try an easier group, especially if you are a bit off colour. It is considered bad manners to hold back a strong group when an easier group is available. Visitors and potential members are welcome to try the rides free of charge but should be encouraged to apply for membership.