The one main problem many new riders have with group riding is there are no manuals on how to do it. Many times, we hear of new riders not knowing what to do. To many experienced cyclists, it seems common sensical, but to others, they seem to think that there is some sort or arcane law system regarding rides with more than one person.
In the greater Southern California area, we have an abundance of good weather which allows a cyclist to find a group ride every day of the week and almost every day of the year. Some rides are fast and for experienced riders only. Others are slower and shorter, and for the more novice cyclist. Road group rides generally do not use bike paths, but instead, stay on the road.
The lack of a legislative body governing cycling is part of the allure of cycling: there’s an immense amount of freedom. While there is no legal aspect to group riding, over the 100+ years that cyclists have been riding in groups, some rules have evolved. We call this, etiquette. What follows over the next few articles is the collective wisdom of the group.
If there were any written, enforceable rules, there is one rule that would over-ride all others in every group situation. Almost all the other safety rules… er… guidelines for group riding are derived from this one, simple rule:
“Do not cause accidents”
To yourself or (especially) to others. Ride safe.
Adhering to this rule is almost completely achieved through the principle of being predictable. Predictable riding does not allow for sudden, erratic movements, forward, backward, left or right. If you’re riding in a straight line, you are to continue riding in that straight line. Don’t suddenly swerve to avoid an obstacle without warning. If you’re riding at a set speed, continue at that speed. Don’t suddenly brake without warning. Be predictable. Riders around you will know exactly where you’re headed so they can ride around you. This allows them to be safe, and to not crash into you, either.
If, for some reason, you feel the need to violate this principle (only for the benefit of the group, i.e.: safety), you must give as much warning as possible. A nice, loud, “Stopping!” or “Braking!” would suffice.
There are certainly more techniques, and they’ll be covered later on. But for now, take a swig of this one rule, swish it around in your mouth, and thoroughly digest it.