Once you have been riding in a group for a while, here are more advanced tips about Group Riding that will help you enjoy your ride.
BE PREDICATABLE WITH ALL ACTIONS
Avoid sudden braking and changes of direction and always try to maintain a steady straight line. Remember that there are riders following closely behind. To slow down, gradually move out into the wind and slot back into position in the bunch when you have less speed. By putting your hands on the hoods on your brakes you can “sit up” and this will allow your body to slow you down by utilizing the wind resistance.
Ride safely and try to stay off the brakes. If you are inexperienced or a little nervous about riding too close to the wheel in front of you, stay at the back of the group, gain confidence and practice your bunch riding skills.
When the pace eases, don’t brake suddenly, instead ride to the side of the wheel in front and ease the pedaling off, then ease back into position again on the wheel. Practice on the back and soon you will be able to move up the line with a partner.
ROLLING THROUGH – SWAPPING OFF – TAKING A TURN
The most common way to take a turn on the front of the group is for each pair is to stay together until they get to the front. After having a turn on the front (generally about the same amount of time as everyone else is taking), the pair separates and moves to each side (left and right or the right side if your riding at the front alone), allowing the riders behind to come through to the front. To get to the back of the peloton, stop pedaling for a while or ease off to slow down, keep an eye out for the end of the bunch and fall back into line there. It is safer for everyone if you get to the back as quickly as possible.
BE SMOOTH WITH TURNS AT THE FRONT OF THE GROUP
Avoid rushing forward (surges) unless you are trying to break away from the group. Surges cause gaps further back in the bunch which affect the riders at the back as they have to continually chase to stay with the bunch.
CHOOSING WHEN TO COME TO THE FRONT
You and your partner need to do some planning when you get on the front so that when you roll through you come off at a place where the road is wide enough for the group to be four-wide for a short time. With some planning, it is often possible to come off the front a few hundred meters earlier or later to avoid a dangerous situation and avoid unnecessarily upsetting motorists.
ALWAYS RETIRE TO TEH BACK OF THE BUNCH
If riders push in somewhere in the middle of the bunch rather than retiring to the back after taking a turn, cyclists at the back will not be able to move forward and take a turn of their own. Remember that riding in a bunch is about all riders sharing the workload and accidents happen down the back of the bunch as well.
Pedal downhill when at the front of the bunch as cyclists behind you will want to ride with their brakes on consistently.
HOLD YOUR WHEEL
An appropriate gap between your front wheel and the person in front is around 50cm. Keep your hands close to the brakes in case of sudden slowing. Sometimes people who are not used to riding in a bunch will feel too nervous at this close range – riding on the right side is generally less nerve-racking for such people as they feel less hemmed in. Watching “through” the wheel in front of you to one or two riders ahead will help you hold a smooth, straight line.
DON’T LEAVE GAPS WHEN FOLLOWING WHEELS
Maximise your energy savings by staying close to the rider in front. Cyclists save about 30 per cent of their energy at high speed by following a wheel. Each time you leave a gap you are forcing yourself to ride alone to bridge it. Also, riders behind you will become annoyed and ride around you. If you are in the bunch and there is no one beside the person in front of you, you should move into that gap (otherwise you will be getting less windbreak than everyone else will).
DO NOT PANIC IF YOU BRUSH SHOULDERS, HANDS OR BARS WITH ANOTHER RIDER
Try to stay relaxed through your upper body as this helps absorb any bumps. Brushing shoulders, hands or bars with another rider often happens in bunches and is quite safe provided riders do not panic, brake or change direction.
RIDING UP HILL
Many riders, even the experienced ones, freewheel momentarily when they first get out of the saddle to go over a rise or a hill. When doing this, the bike is forced backwards. Many riders often lose their momentum when rising out of the saddle on a hill which can cause a sudden deceleration. Following the wheel in front too closely when climbing may result in you falling.
Do not become obsessed with the rear wheel directly in front of you. Try to focus four or five riders up the line so that any ‘problem’ will not suddenly affect you. Scan the road ahead for potential problems, red lights etc, and be ready.
LEAD IN FRONT
Remember when you are on the front, you are not only responsible for yourself but everyone in the group. When you are leading the bunch, try to monitor potential problems and give plenty of warning of impending stops or changes of pace. Make sure you know where you are going.