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Global Cycle Rides - Safe Riding Guidelines

Introduction

As experienced cyclists we’re sure you are already familiar with group cycling etiquette, however as an international cycling community, welcoming riders from many different countries, GCR have created this guide to ensure an overall standard and understanding of safe riding practice on GCR rides.

Your safety is very important to us, so please read this document to ensure a safer and ultimately more enjoyable ride experience for you all.

Ride Leaders

Your Ride Leaders have been chosen for their ability to safely lead groups of both beginner and advanced road riders. The Ride Leaders have responsibility and final say to ensure your safety, and this is our number one priority. Having said that, they also want to have lots of fun, take you to the limits of your fitness, help you discover some truly fabulous sites, and experience cycling in a new city or country. (Note the term lead riders on this page, refers to the person at the front of the peleton, or lead wheel, leading the cycling group, and it does not refer to the GCR Ride Leader who is your guide. And as much as they could possibly be the lead rider the whole route, that is not their job.)

No Drop Policy

On all GCR rides, we have a no drop policy, which means we don’t leave anyone behind. We request that before booking one of our rides you have a minimum average speed of 22kmph or 14mph. If you are a slower rider, draft behind the other riders or the ride leader. If you are a faster rider, there will be plenty of opportunity to do Strava sprint or Q/KOM segments to get the legs burning, and we will regroup at the top of the hill or next junction. The ride leader will advise when it’s a good time to break loose and go for it.

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Bike condition

If you are riding on your own bike or have an existing rental bike and joining our ride without a bike included, please make sure it is in good working order. Badly maintained bikes are dangerous – an accident in a group due to equipment failure is much more serious than if it occurs solo. Make sure bottle cages are secure and hold bottles firmly – bottles jumping out on bumps can be quite dangerous.

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Spares

If you are riding on your own bike, at a minimum you should carry a spare tube, tyre levers and some form of inflation (pump/CO2 system). This will all be included if you have hired your bike through GCR.

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Lights

Use lights in dusk or cloudy conditions, and particularly during early morning or early evening rides when the light is fading. Reliable lights front and back are essential.

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No headphones

Under NO circumstances should a rider have earphones in – even if music is switched off. Group riding requires frequent communication for the safety of the group. If you turn up with headphones in your ears you should fully expect to be asked to remove them.

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Safety Before Strava

We all enjoy a dose of Strava competition and predominantly this is about achieving your personal best, but it is expected that safety will always come before Strava. Conversely, you’ll probably find many in our groups who are more than happy to assist in achieving the joy of a personal record.

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Helmets

Helmets that comply with the countries quality standard, must be worn on all GCR rides.

General Guidelines

Every GCR ride, will have a Ride Leader, to lead the ride, however, it is the responsibility of all riders in a group to consider and implement the following guidelines as both a matter of courtesy and safety

  • Descending:

    Whilst going downhill fast is fun, remember that descending in a group creates additional risks and so you should adjust your riding accordingly. Several guidelines apply for descents:

  • Centre Line:

    Under no circumstances should a rider cross the centre line of the road. Not only is it dangerous, but it encourages others to do the same. Remember that even if you think it “safe” to do so, another less experienced rider may choose to follow your line.

  • Ride close the shoulder:

    You should aim to descend as close to the shoulder as safe/practical. This allows other riders who may be faster descenders to pass you safely. If you hear a call of “rider back” or “move over” then you should move to the side to allow the rider to the rear to pass.

  • There’s no prize for first down the hill:

    As much as it is important for slower descenders to be courteous to faster descenders and move left, if you are a speed demon down the hill please prioritise safety over your need to break the sound barrier. A rider may be nervous going downhill and pressure from a rider behind them will make this worse. Be patient and accept that today may not be the day that you’ll set a speed record descending.

  • Ascending:

    Going uphill fast is much more fun that going downhill fast. Whilst it may seem silly to have guidelines for ascending, there are a few points of etiquette worth noting when riding in a group:

  • Dropping in:

    Sometimes the group will be ascending together, or in smaller groups. If you are a stronger rider and move to the front of a group it is only acceptable to “drop in” at the front if you are able to maintain a smooth and consistent pace. When ascending riders are often pushing themselves – if a rider drops in on the front of the group and then slows, this disrupts the flow of the group and requires the riders to make extra effort to move around the slowing rider who has dropped in.

  • Steady pace:

    If you are riding in first wheel on an ascent, and intending to stay with the bunch (as opposed to attacking the hill) you should aim to ride a smooth and steady pace. Riding erratically (accelerating briefly and then dropping pace) ripples through the group and makes for an unpleasant ascent as riders have to keep altering their tempo and effort.

  • Standing on your pedals:

    Be aware that most people tend to decelerate slightly as they move from sitting to standing unless they make an effort to avoid doing so. If you are in front of other riders as you stand up, there is the chance that your pace will momentarily slow. This creates a risk that following riders will run into your back wheel. Being conscious of this and practicing a smooth transition from sitting to standing will help avoid this happening.

Group Formation

The general rolling formation of the group is to ride in 2 by 2 formation, and there are a few naming conventions that are used to refer to various positions in the group:

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Stay in-line

Riders should sit directly behind the rider in front of them. In simple terms, your front wheel should be directly behind the rider in front or slightly off to one side. If this is not observed the bunch becomes unnecessarily messy and tends to “spread” across the road. Aim to ride close to the rider in front – i.e. within a half metre of their back wheel. This takes practice but keeps the group tight.

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Side by side

Pay attention to the rider on your left or right and aim to ride in line with them. This keeps the pairings in the group tight and avoids the group getting messy.

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Never overlap wheels

Under no circumstances should you ride with your front wheel overlapping the rear wheel of the rider in front. The simple reason for this is that if the rider in front moves sideways they will hit your wheel, usually resulting in both of you crashing and causing injury:

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Avoid Half Wheeling

Half wheeling is different to overlapping wheels and refers to a situation where – typically on the front – one of the paired riders moves forward of the rider to their left or right. This then leads the other rider to “catch up” to restore an even pairing; half wheeling generally refers to a rider repeatedly doing this.

Half wheeling is irritating as it leads to inconsistent pacing throughout the group. If tempo needs to be adjusted (for the Ride Leader thinks that the tempo of the group should be higher) then the appropriate way to do this is by talking to the paired rider and agreeing to adjust tempo.

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A tight group is a good group

Side by side, in line and tight is how a group should be formed. Riders should avoid leaving bike lengths between them and spreading out across the road – the impact of poor group formation ripples through the group.

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Be predictable

Riders should behave in a predictable manner. This means that you are conscious of those around you and do not move erratically or suddenly. This is especially important in situations where there are changes of speed. It is dangerous to move suddenly across the road – always move in a predictable way when changing your line. Look before you move!

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Position in the group

As a general rule for a standard group ride, it doesn’t matter whether you sit in third wheel or eighth. However, on sections of a ride where the tempo increases significantly, leading to a flowing rotation of the lead wheel, riders should either be prepared to take their turn on the front, or slip back in the bunch to ensure a smooth transition of the front of the bunch.

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Taking a Turn

A subject that seems to get quite a bit of debate, is when should riders take a turn on the front and for how long. There are a few general guidelines that may be useful in judging how or when to ride up the front:

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Observe How the Bunch Moves

On longer rides take a little time to observe the practices of the group and how it works. This will greatly assist in managing your position in the bunch – regardless of whether you want to sit in or come to the front.

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The Accidental Turn

If you’re in the first few wheels of the group, you may well find yourself accidentally on the front of the bunch due to riders rolling off in front of you. If this is the case and you’re not used to it, don’t panic – simply aim to maintain the same speed/momentum either for as long as you wish, or until the first safe opportunity for you to roll off in turn presents. The focus should be on maintaining the safe progression of the bunch and moving predictably. If your turn only lasts 50 metres, no one cares so long as you ride smoothly and predictably.

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Length of Turn

There is no right answer to the length of a turn – most people can judge when their stamina is fading and they need to roll off. Be aware of the general tempo of the bunch as you come to take a turn and aim to maintain that tempo. The length of the turn is less important than being smooth in setting tempo when you’re on the front and how you roll off.

Role of Lead Riders / First Wheel

The “first wheel” or lead rider refers to the one or two riders who are at the very front of the bunch. If you have never ridden with a bunch, you are encouraged to observe first the specific duties of these riders and note the following:

  • Tempo of the Group:

    The ride leaders set the tempo of the group. The primary objective is to ride as even a pace as possible and to keep the group moving at a steady, predictable pace. This is particularly important when on rolling terrain. As a general guideline most people, when inexperienced in group riding, ride too hard uphill and too easily on the flats and downhills. Remember that changes of pace cause a “rubber band” effect further down the bunch and lead to a messy and disorganised bunch.

  • Eyes of the group:

    The lead riders are the eyes of the group. It is very important to lengthen field of vision when riding on the front of the bunch and look several hundred metres up the road, checking for obstacles and changes to traffic/road conditions.

  • Signalling Obstacles

    Ride Leaders are expected to signal obstacles on the road surface (rocks, sticks, potholes, etc), as well as environmental obstacles (parked cars, traffic islands, road narrowings, etc). Anything that presents a hazard to an individual rider, or will affect the dynamics of the group should be clearly called out. A number of common hazards and appropriate signals are outlined below:

    • Rocks, sticks, potholes:

      Anything on the road surface that is likely to impact a rider should be signalled by pointing at the obstacle, and verbally indicating the type of obstacle (stick, rock, hole, etc) and its location (middle – between riders, left or right). For example, a rock on the road that is in the centreline of the bunch should be pointed at and called as “rock middle”.

    • Stationary vehicles:

      If there is a parked car either within the lane in which the bunch is travelling, or close enough to be a hazard, the lead rider/s will signal the presence of the vehicle by swinging their left arm behind their back (indicating riders should be moving towards the right) and calling “car left” or “car right” or as appropriate.

    • Changes to Road Conditions:

      At times there will be a change in road conditions – such as lanes ending, roads narrowing, etc. Lead riders will keep a keen eye up the road and observe changes to conditions that will require action from the group and call early to give the group the time to prepare to navigate the change of conditions.

  • Traffic Signals / Control:

    One of the most important roles of the Lead Riders is to help the group navigate traffic control – predominantly intersections, traffic lights, roundabouts, etc. There are some specific guidelines that should be adhered to:

    • Lead Riders Call:

      It is the lead riders responsibility – and call – as to how to navigate a given circumstance. This is particularly relevant to riders in second and third wheel who should communicate with first wheel if they feel that they may not have observed the traffic conditions properly, and should not make independent calls of their own unless critical to the safety of the group as this leads to confusion and potential accidents. Ride Leaders and lead riders should give strong consideration to the size of the group and err on the side of caution. Some basic guidelines include:

    • Adjusting Pace of Group:

      As the group approaches any circumstance that may require the group to stop, the lead rider/s will consider the size of the group, current pace and ability to stop the group if required.

    • Red lights:

      All riders in groups are to stop at red lights at all times.

    • Orange (Amber) traffic lights:

      Where a group is relatively small, the group is moving at a fast pace and/or where there is insufficient time to safely stop the group, the lead rider/s will assess whether the entire group can safely make it through an intersection without stopping. In such a case, the lead rider/s should call “Rolling” and the group should roll through. In all circumstances, the first option should be to stop the group.

    • Approaching intersections (e.g. roundabouts):

      As the group approaches an intersection where visibility is limited, the ride leader should slow the group so that it is moving slowly enough to provide to assess the conditions and, if required, for the group to stop safely should it be unsafe to proceed.

    • Collapsing to single file:

      There may be times – either called by last wheel (see below) – or due to changes to traffic conditions (eg approaching a bridge where the shoulder narrows) that it is necessary to collapse the usual 2×2 formation into single file. This should be achieved by calling “single file”. If it is safe to do so, it is advisable that the Lead Rider actually increases pace – this will have the natural effect of stretching the group and provide room for riders to slot into a single pace line.

Role of Last Wheel / Tail Riders

Whilst the lead riders have a responsibility for what is up the road, last wheel has a responsibility for managing issues approaching the group from the rear (usually cars). A few specific responsibilities for the last wheel include:

  • Calling approaching cars:

    If a car is approaching from the rear, and is likely to overtake the group, then the last rider should call “car back” loudly. On such a call, the group should make every effort to condense into a neat and narrow formation.

  • Calling single file:

    Alongside the call of “car back” the last wheel should also make an assessment as to whether there is sufficient room for the car to pass safely or whether the group should collapse to single file. If there is insufficient room, the last wheel should call “single file”.

  • Checking for approaching bunches:

    Whilst most GCR rides will vary in speed depending on the strength of the group, last wheel should keep an eye out for approaching bunches from behind. In the case that a bunch is approaching from behind, last wheel should call “riders back” and “single file”. It is a matter of safety for both bunches that a passing manoeuver is executed safely. We expect it of other riders, so we should lead by example. If you hear a call of riders back the bunch should immediately move left and into single file.

  • Calling “Over” – Lane Changes:

    There will be times when the entire bunch needs to change lanes – either to move from the shoulder of the road or across to the next lane (usually due to an obstacle or narrowing of the shoulder) or to move lanes (for example to prepare for a upcoming turn right or left.) It is the job of the last wheel to determine when it is safe for the bunch to change lanes and to call “Over” to signal the bunch should move right or left (depending on which country you are riding). Note that before calling “Over” the last wheel should ensure there is a clear lane all the way through to the front of the bunch.

Role of ALL Riders in the Group

Whilst first and last wheel riders have specific responsibilities, most of these guidelines equally apply to all riders in the bunch. All riders should keep their eyes on the road, and where possible ensure that they are looking up the road and not simply relying on the eyes and ears around them.

The most important responsibility of riders in a group is to ensure that calls and signals either from the front or the rear are relayed through the group. The call from the “front wheel” or Ride Leader isn’t much good if it isn’t relayed through the group.

Movement in the Group

There may be times during a group ride during which the lead rider will look for another rider to come to the front and take their turn. Different types of rolling moves are shown below. There aren’t hard and fast rules for the type of roll off or the length of time one should take their turn – these will be dependent on the environment and style & length of ride.

However, there are three key principles that all riders should use for safe manoeuvers:

  • Consider first your environment:

    Before any change of position in a group, look up the road and observe the conditions. Ensure there is adequate road space in the approach road to ensure that a movement can be executed safely.

  • Signal by hand and verbally your intent:

    Make sure those around you know what you are planning to do by announcing your movement and signalling with your hands. This ensures that riders to your side and behind you know what you are about to do. Communication is key.

  • Be Predictable and Smooth:

    Once you have signalled your intent, move smoothly and fluidly. Be predictable and do not move erratically.

Right Side Roll Off: countries where cars drive on the left side of the road.

In a right side roll off, the rider on the front right moves out to the right, creating space for the second wheel rider in the column to move forward and take their turn at the front. The rider rolling off will then generally allow themselves to drift back down the line of riders. The retiring rider should signal to the riders further back to re-enter the pace line. As a matter of courtesy riders further back in the group should create space for a retiring lead rider to re-enter and not make him/her move to the very back of the group.

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Left Side Roll Off: Same as above but in countries where cars drive on the right side of the road.

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If the road space is limited, rolling off to the left or right can create a bubble in the group that can be dangerous. As a result an alternate to a side roll off is to request a “roll through” in which the right pace line rolls around the left pace line as shown below:

 

Left Side Roll Through – In countries that drive on the right side of the road this is reversed and it’s a Left Side roll though.

Tempo Pace Lines

The movements shown above are used for standard rolling bunches. At times, the group will form a tempo pace line and as the speed increases this will frequently move to a single pace. Similar guidelines apply as above, with a few considerations:

  • Pull a Turn or Drop Back:

    When the group is moving at a high pace, it becomes even more important for riders to ride smoothly and at consistent pace. If you come forward as part of a rolling pace line, make an effort to take your turn – even if only momentarily – to ensure the flow of the group. Avoid dropping in on the front of the group and suddenly slowing. If you do not feel you have the legs, then allow yourself to filter back through the group.

  • Roll off:

    Be realistic about how long you can tow the group and consider rolling off before you’re too tired. This allows the group to continue in the same pace line and means that the entire pace line doesn’t need to come around the Lead Rider.

  • Let rolling-off riders in:

    When the paceline is moving at tempo, riders are often working hard to maintain their position in the paceline. However, as a rider filters back after taking a turn on the front, room should be made to allow the rider back into the paceline without having to go all the way to the back. The rider who wants to be let in should use hand and verbal signals to indicate intent/desire to enter the paceline.