Another way to push your riding to a new level is to get involved in a group training ride. Riding in a bunch can be the most enjoyable experience if done correctly. Group rides are a great way to give you confidence when riding in larger groups.
GROUP RIDING RULES
The advantage of riding as a bunch or peleton (French word for an organised group of riders) is that as an organised group you can ride further and faster than individual riders or a non-organised group.
You will expend up to 30 per cent less energy by riding sheltered in a bunch, as riders in front of you overcome the wind resistance. By taking turns at the front, all riders can share the effort and longer distances can be covered.
However, bunch riding can also be a huge pain especially if people in the group don’t understand the rules or don’t do their fair share of the work. Everyone needs to know these rules for the safety of all riders.
Group rides can be filled with varying levels of experience. Cycling can be particularly tough because so many people these days pick up the sport later in life and have fitness from other sports. Cycling in groups requires much more than fitness.
There are no written “rules” to group or bunch riding, but there are many ways to conduct your riding adn etiquette that have been widely adopted. Here are a few of the main ones.
When you are new to a group ride just sit back, watch and follow. It’s much better for everyone if you sit at the back and understand what that particular group does. No one will fault you for this. Alternatively, if you get up to the front, disrupt the pace of the group and perhaps make wrong turns on a ride you’re unfamiliar with, you will be scolded! Just like any other situation in life, no one likes a leader who doesn’t have the trust or respect of the group.
Sit close to the rider in front of you. The whole point of riding in a group is to catch the draft behind the other riders. Riding in a group can save you up to 30% energy compared to riding in the wind. If you’re not riding in a tight bunch then the peloton effect is wasted. if you leave too much of a gap between you and the rider in front, someone will probably pass you and fill the gap.
HOLD YOUR LINE
Hold your line and ride predictably. It’s important to watch the wheel in front of you, but equally important to watch the riders three, four, five and six positions ahead of you. This will help you anticipate any sudden movements that might be made. If you can see a sudden movement coming from the riders in front, you can adjust accordingly without panic.
DON’T OVERLAP WHEELS
This is one of the golden rules with riding in a bunch. What this means is that your wheel needs to be behind the wheel in front of you. Don’t put your front wheel in a position so that it is in front of the rear wheel of the rider in front of you. If that rider swerves suddenly, you will go down and bring down everyone behind you.
IF THERE IS A CROSSWIND
If there is a crosswind you will be on the downwind side of the cyclist in front of you, but still behind. There are more advanced formations to help efficiently cut through the wind that may require overlapping of wheels, but even the pros can get caught out in this situation and end up causing a crash.
POINT OUT OBSTACLES
Point out obstacles such as parked cars, loose gravel, broken glass, holes, rocks or debris on the road, calling out “hole” etc as well as pointing is helpful in case someone is not looking at your hand when you point. It is just as important to pass the message on, not just letting those close to the front know.
Don’t use them when riding. Multiply this rule by a thousand when you’re out on a group ride. Your sense of hearing is just as important to your safety as your sight is. Most of the time you can hear something is wrong well before you can see it. When on a group ride you’re not only compromising your safety, you’re putting everyone else in danger as well.
DON’T USE YOUR AERO BARS IN A BUNCH RIDE
Never use your aero bars in a bunch ride – not even if you are at the front. Using aero bars means that your hands are away from the brakes. Aero bars are for time trial use only.
OBEY THE ROAD RULES
Especially at traffic lights – if you are on the front, and the lights turn orange, they will definitely be red by the time the back of the bunch goes through the intersection. You will endanger the lives of others if you run it.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
Don’t jump into the middle of a small group without asking them if it’s alright. Many times people are just out for a casual ride and don’t want the company of strangers sitting on their tail. Either pass them or sit well behind.