Before the internet, before custom bikes, titanium and carbon fiber, learning to ride was an apprenticeship. The goal was to become a member of the peloton, not merely someone who is sort of fast on a bike. You were invited to attend a group ride only if you showed interest and a willingness to learn. You were uninvited if you did not. You learned skills directly from the leader, as well as other experienced cyclists on the ride, who took an interest in riding next to you on your first rides. Here is some of what you learn on a true group ride:
- To ride for months each year in the small chainring.
- To start with a humble bike, probably used.
- To pull the paceline without surging.
- To run rotating pace line drills and flick others through.
- To ride through the top of a climb.
- To hold your line in a corner.
- To stand up smoothly and not throw your bike back.
- To give the person ahead of you on a climb a little more room to stand up.
- To respect the yellow line rule.
- To point out significant road problems.
- To brake less, especially in a pace line.
- To follow the wheel in front and not overlap.
- The ride leader and his lieutenants were serious about their roles, because the safety of the group depended on you, the weakest link. If you did not follow the rules, you were chastised harshly. If you did, you became a member of something spectacular. The Peloton.
Club Ride Rules & Guidelines
The purpose of riding in an organized group is to provide a planned opportunity for cyclists of comparable skill levels or aspirations to ride together, provide additional flexibility in selecting the routes, distance, and start time with the additional safety that a well-organized group inherently generates. This comes from within the group and from the outside. When a group rides in an orderly fashion, people don’t get in each other’s way, and the organization of the formation itself discourages cars from attempting to cut in or pass.
Once riding rules have been adopted by a club, EVERYONE riding in a club event is expected to follow them. Anyone violating the rules, and compromising everyone else’s safety, will be warned, and if their actions continue, will no longer be welcome to ride with the club. Failure to review the rules does not negate the responsibility to follow them.
The club welcomes riders of various levels of ability and skills and will try to accommodate everyone. New riders will need to identify themselves when new to group riding, and are not sure of their abilities, or have any other concern prior to the beginning of any ride. Honest knowledge of your abilities and good communication comes into play for everyone.
It is the immediate responsibility of the Group Leader to assist in maintaining the safety of the group. Ride rules are implemented for SAFETY and ACCOUNTABILITY. Riders not adhering to the ride rules, creating hazards in the formation, during a club ride, etc., these riders will be warned by a club officer or group leader and depending on the severity of their actions, will be removed from the club ride and shown/escorted to a route the rider can take back. Although the Club Officers and Group Leaders will do all they possibly can to assist with the safety of the group, it is ultimately the responsibility of each rider to insure their own personal safety.
- All Riders Must Wear an Approved Bicycle Helmet. Riders failing to comply will not be allowed to participate in any ride until they have and wear an approved helmet.
- All riders must wear their club kit to assist the Group leaders, road Marshalls and support vehicle to identify club members.
- All riders must have adequate liquid hydration and are encouraged to have food/fuel, repair items like spare tube and air supply. Cell phones are also encouraged.
- Any rider having a health or other concern must bring it to the attention of the Ride Captain and/or their Group Leader prior to departure.
- The Ride Captain will be one of the Club Officers participating.
- Ride Captains are overall responsible for the ride in the broad sense.
- They ensure that the minimum safety requirements are meant.
- Break down groups according to skill level as necessary.
- Identification of new riders and assign them to the appropriate groups.
- Have non-members sign the ride waiver in order to participate.
- Provide the pre-ride safety and route briefing to include route conditions and weather.
- The Group leaders have a thankless task for which they are not paid, listen to the Group Leaders if asked.
- All group rides will have a designated Group Leader (GL) responsible for the pre-ride accountability, during ride conduct and safety, and post ride accountability.
- A primary and alternate group leaders will be designated the week prior to a ride by the club officers and will rotate weekly.
- Group leaders must be fair and impartial.
- Group leader decisions are final as long as they are legally, morally and ethically correct and will reflect the principles of the club’s charter.
Group rides will be broken down into ability level groups Competition/Training, A, B, C on Saturdays, Sundays and other planned Rides. Pace outline is below for reference.
- “A” Is the fastest pace group requiring riders having an above average skill set for riding in groups under higher physical stress. This group is the fastest group with overall averages of 30 – 40 km/h with warm-up pace at about 28 – 32 km/p. The “A” group is not for individuals who have little group riding experience. Normally there are interval efforts where the pace is increased for a nominal period of time or distance as well as various “Sprint Points” where those that want to try and push themselves can do so in a semi-competitive effort. Be prepared to take care of yourself in case you cannot maintain the pace or distance of the intended ride. If you are ‘Dropped’ you may be able to join the “B” group if they are on the same route. There are a couple of re-group points that the group will wait at if necessary, if those that drop are reasonably close. Remember the “A” group is not a competition ride. Remain as a group throughout the ride.
- “B” Group “B” is focused on endurance riding and rider development. It is for those that have a moderate to higher level of fitness capable of maintaining a 25 – 35 km/h pace for 50 plus kilometres. Have the necessary riding skills in a group environment like that of the “A” group but not at the faster pace. The “B” group is not for individuals who have little group riding experience. Normally there are surge efforts where the pace is increased for a nominal period of time or distance as well as various “Sprint Points” where those that want to try and push themselves can do so in an unstructured semi-competitive effort. Be prepared to take care of yourself in case you cannot maintain the pace or distance of the intended ride. The “B” group will have a support vehicle that will follow behind the group and offer assistance if and when required. If you are ‘Dropped’, there are a couple of re-group points along the route. Remember the “B” group is social ride and remain as a group throughout the ride.
- “C” Group “C” is focused on general fitness and basic to intermediate riding skills in a group. It is for those that are getting back into cycling after a long break or starting out in group riding and have the physical fitness level that allows them to go moderate distances and a lower average pace than that of the “A” or “B” groups. In general, this classification will observe an average speed 18 – 28 km/h depending on the terrain. Rest stops and other periodic breaks are planned. The “C” group may include newer riders working on developing their skills and pleasure who don’t want the pressure of “slowing down” the faster groups. You are responsible to let someone, preferably the group leader know if you are having difficulty in keeping up with the group or are having a mechanical problem. This group is a “No-Drop” group and will remain as a group throughout the ride.
ALL Group rides will allow for a warm-up period/distance at a more moderate pace compared to the planned average speed for the particular ride. Group leaders will need to make the determination and brief the intent prior to the start of the ride.
- Pace Outline
Speed / Average
|40 to 100+||28 to 32 km/h||40 km average on flat terrain
35 km/h average on rolling/hilly terrain
30 km/h average on very hilly terrain
|Every 25 – 40 km|
|40 to 100+||20 to 28 km/h||35 km average on flat terrain
28 km/h average on rolling/hilly terrain
25 km/h average on very hilly terrain
|Every 25 – 40 km|
|15 to 25 km/h||28 km average on flat terrain
23 km/h average on rolling/hilly terrain
18 km/h average on very hilly terrain
|Every 15 – 30 km|
* Distance will be determined by point of departure for the ride and weather conditions
- In general there is a “No Drop” policy for groups A, B, and C. The goal is not to leave anyone out on their own. Riders should not overestimate their ability or fitness level. Better to try a group you are sure about the pace than overextend yourself and get dropped.
- The “A” and “B” groups may have riders getting dropped for a number of reasons based on the higher efforts put in. It is best to have another rider who has knowledge of the route and more experience stay with the rider(s) that get dropped. If a rider cannot make it to the next regroup point to join their original group they have a few options.
- They should continue to the next regroup point or rest stop, whichever is closer and wait for the next group to arrive and finish the ride with them.
- Stop where they are and wait for the next group to pick them up.
- A club member or two who know the route may be assigned to accompany the rider separate from the group. This may be necessary for larger groups.
- The “C” group has a no-drop policy in effect. If a rider for whatever reason needs to go at a slower pace, then they must let the Group Leader know so they can make a determination as to the best course of action. There are only three courses of action:
- The group as a whole slows the pace until the rider has recovered and is able to go the planned pace.
- A club member or two who know the route may be assigned to accompany the rider separate from the group. This may be necessary for larger groups.
- A club member or two who know the route may be assigned to accompany the rider to the next regroup point or rest stop until the following group (if there is one) catches up with them.
Group Ride Conduct (The typical scenario for a group ride will follow or include the items below at a minimum.)
- Initial ride brief to include overview, goals, safety issues to include any known road or traffic issues as well as any weather concerns, and group leader introduction.
- Insure all participants have and will wear an approved bicycle helmet at all times. If anyone does not have a helmet and another one is not available, those persons will not be allowed to participate in the ride.
- Identify new riders and abilities.
- New riders are responsible for identifying themselves when they are new to group riding, are not sure of their abilities, or any other concern they might have prior to the beginning of any ride.
- Group leaders will assist by placing them into the closest matched group.
- Identify non-club members so they can review and sign the one day liability waiver. In the event that someone does not want to sign the waiver, they will not be permitted to participate in any club event until a waiver is signed or they become a member of the club.
- Break down who is riding with which group so group leaders can get head count prior to departure.
- Identify and match youth and new riders with a chaperones or buddies and assign to an appropriate group based on level of ability and skills.
- Explain plan ride route if needed.
- Reinforce staying with the plan. Riders that want to leave the group once the ride has begun must let the group leader know so they can maintain accurate count and not think they have “lost” someone. Riders that fall back and want to ride with a slower group may do so. Just let the group leader know. It is best to wait for another group at either a planned regroup point or a planned rest stop.
- Regroup points and stops are provided for the planned route as well as explained. Stops are planned and executed. Regroup points or rest stops will allow the last rider in the group to arrive and have a minimum 5-minute rest. Group leaders are responsible for the group. Individuals are responsible to let the group leader know if they are having problems or anything else that might be a concern or safety issue.
- Regroup points are also on an as needed basis. In the event a rider falls back, the group will (if not already slowing down) stop at or slightly before the next turn/intersection in a safe manner. Wait for the rider(s). Determine if there are any concerns. Continue the ride.
- Breakaways and sprints
- Everyone understands that group rides are just that “Group Rides”. Anyone that wants to or decides to go off of the front may do so, but the group will not necessarily chase them.
- If there is a group that wants to conduct a “Renegade” type of ride, then they will need to depart early so as to not interfere with the other groups. This will also allow follow on groups to “pick up” anyone who gets dropped.
- Sprints and breakaway’s are not discouraged but should be briefed prior to departure if they will or there is a possibility of occurrence
- In the event of mechanical breakdown or a flat tire the Support Vehicle if available will stop and provide assistance as necessary and bring the rider back to the group alternatively the group involved will stop, provide assistance as necessary, and then continue as a group. “A” and “Renegade” types of groups may or may not stop to provide assistance. If another group comes upon an any rider who has a mechanical problem, flat or safety issue it will be the discretion of the group leader whether to stop or not. In these events the group leader will have the group stop in a safe location and provide assistance.
- There will be 2 support vehicle per planned club ride
- What are the rules re support driver
Safety / liability issues:
- STOP signs and traffic signals. By law, bicycles must follow all motor vehicle laws and regulations. Do not run stop signs. When in the lead and you determine the road crossing is clear, make sure it is clear for the whole group to cross safely. Following riders should always double check crossing an intersection and not just relying on the rider in front of them to make sure it is clear.
- Wearing of an approved bicycle helmet is mandatory for ALL riders participating in ALL club rides or any riding event the club is a part of.
- Listening to iPods, MP3 Players
- Knowledge of new riders and abilities
- Riders will ensure that their bicycles are safe and serviceable. If a bicycle appears to a Group leader or Ride Captain to be a safety hazard to self or others, he/she has the responsibility to deny that individual inclusion into the group ride until the problem has been rectified.
Group Ride explained:
Leading: Riding on the front of the pack is a position of responsibility. Not only are you the eyes of the group, but more importantly you are the one responsible for making decisions that affect everyone else on the ride. What may be safe for you may not be safe for the other riders behind you. Running red lights, splitting cars, squeezing through traffic, etc., forces everyone behind you to do the same thing. Set a pace that is appropriate and keep the pace steady and smooth. A group bike ride is NOT a race. You are not to “attack” off the front or try to show everyone how strong you are. That’s what races are for.
Holding a line: To avoid overlapping wheels, ride as if you are on rails. Use verbal and hand signals to avoid obstacles in the road. Ride smoothly and predictably, do not accelerate or brake too quickly and announce when you are stopping or slowing. Do not at any time sprint ahead and disrupt the flow. Even if there is a corner coming up, stay side by side and go through the corner like a well-oiled machine. Riding with your bars ahead of the rider beside you is called “half-wheeling” and is a major faux pas. It’s up to you to keep up with the speed of the slower rider next to you. Try to keep to the side of the road, there is no need to take over the whole lane and annoy car drivers.
Following: There should be NO gaps in a group ride. As soon as you see a gap, fill it by riding into the space in a steady and controlled manner.
Peeling off: When you are tired of riding at the front and feel it is time to go to the back, make sure the rider beside you knows this. Once you have both established that you are going back, check briefly that there isn’t someone overlapping your back wheel, then both riders slowly and gradually move to the outside and let the group come through the middle. Do not suddenly veer off to the side, peel off in a steady and controlled manner.
Too tired to go to the front: If you do not want to go to the front, sit at the back and let the riders coming back from the front of the group slot in ahead of you. It is not acceptable to work your way up to the front of the group and slow down because you don’t feel strong enough to be at the front. If for whatever reason you do find yourself at the front, go through and take what is known as a “token pull”. You go to the front for a couple seconds, agree with the rider beside you that you are both peeling off, and go to the back.
Moving in a group: If you need to go to the back of the group, or need to move out away from the side of road because the road is damaged (for example), just steadily move in whatever direction you want to go in. The key to all group riding is to do things gradually and steadily. Even if there is a rider right next to you as you pull out to the side of the road, if you do it gradually, the other rider will naturally have time to move over with you. If you do anything sudden you will likely cause a crash. This is also very important when “peeling off” and “filling a gap”.
Obstacles and hand signals: All obstacles should be warned of by a simple hand signal. When you see an obstacle in the road ahead of you, put your hand down and give a signal that lets the riders behind you know if which direction they should go to avoid it. Traditionally a quick wave of the hand will suffice. It is NOT acceptable to yell, then weave around it at the last minute. If you only see the obstacle at the last minute, ride through it! Better to get a flat than to take down the whole group. An obstacle worth pointing out is one that will damage a bike or person behind you. Don’t point out manhole covers unless they are deeply set in the road, or leaves or small cracks in the road.
Slowing and adjusting speed: You should ride ever so slightly to the side of the rider in front of you; so when they slow down, you either stop pedaling and start to slightly overlap your front wheel with their rear wheel, or you touch the brakes gradually, once again using the “wheel overlap” as a buffer zone so as not to slow down too suddenly for the riders behind you. This is probably the biggest crash causer on group rides.