Group Cycling Etiquette – Rules of Thumb

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    This is pulled out of the archives of DC Tri and is courtesy of former Club President Marc Schneider:
    Marc writes:
    There are 3 topics that I am going to address.
    1) Group Ride Etiquette – General
    2) Drafting Etiquette – Technical
    3) Paceline Etiquette – Technical
    4) Hand Signals/Group signals – non-official but generally used

    1) Group Ride Etiquette – These are general in nature and apply to topics 2 and 3 as well.
    -DO Wear a helmet. NOT NEGOTIABLE. You want to argue about it, go home as you will not ride with DC Tri. If you forgot it, go home and get it.
    -DO Bring enough food and drink to complete the route.
    -DO Have tubes, patches, CO2 or a pump to repair your own flat
    -DO Coordinate start location, rides to and from, course or route beforehand. Know where you’re going in case (a) you’re separated or (b) need to plot a course change. Don’t rely on the ride leader to provide cue sheets the day of the ride.
    -DO Show up on time, don’t expect more than 5-10 minutes of waiting on someone.
    -DO Bring ID, cell phone, and money on the ride
    -DO Know the number of someone to call if you need help (i.e. – you crashed, bumped your head, and we need to contact someone for you) Asking to call your sister and not knowing the number doesn’t cut it
    -DO If there is a crash, assess damage and if you are responsible, offer to pay for repairs. If you beleive someone caused damage to you, discuss it and make arrangements for repairs
    -DO Stay with the group or notify the general leader of the group in advance if you are leaving the ride, cutting it short, or desire to ride on your own
    -DO Share your food or drink with someone in need
    -DO Share your tube or air with someone who needs it. If you are the one who needed it, ensure you replace what you borrowed to the person from whom you got it from. Someday this will happen to you.
    -DO Bring enough gear to suit the weather. Be convertible for changes.
    -DO If you don’t know, ask. There is no shame in not knowing. There is shame in not knowing and not asking and finding out the hard way.
    -DO waive to other cyclists and drivers.
    Do Nots
    -Don’t do pretty much the opposite of anything above
    -Don’t…more like NEVER! overlap your front wheel with anyone’s rear wheel
    -Don’t think you are going to ride with DC Tri without a helmet.
    -Don’t leave anyone behind. Everyone has a responsibility to the group and to let the leader know if someone fell off the pace.
    -Don’t expect food, tubes, gear, or air. Someone will offer it to you but realize that it is now at their risk if they have a flat or nutrition need. Also, expect to pay to replace the tube, food, air or return the gear, clean preferably.
    -Don’t offer your tube, air, gear, if you aren’t prepared to part with it. You may not get it back.
    -Don’t be aggressive with cars or drivers. Regardless of who is right you lose. The car is much larger, faster, and better insured that your bicycle.
    -Don’t be crazy in traffic or in the city. Generally respect all traffic laws.
    -DO NOT ride over the yellow line or in a second lane if there is multiple lanes

    2) Drafting Etiqutte – this is going to be a little technical for some
    Reason’s to consider why to learn how to draft:
    -Drafting is legal in Road Races and ITU Triathlon. Accept that it is something you need to learn to do well. It will save injury, cost, loss of training time recovering or replacing.
    -Drafting can make you a stronger cyclist and better at handling your bike in close quarters
    -Drafting can allow weaker riders to ride along with stronger riders and make for a better ride all around, especially when going long
    -Drafting is different than a pace line and there are some different “rules”. Drafting is using the wind break from another rider to lessen your effort. Pace line uses drafting but is a solitary line of riders. Group riding is what you know as the peleton or bunch and is a mass of cyclists and can span from the curb to the lane line.
    -Focus your complete attention on the person in front of you. Those to the side are less of a threat and those behind you are responsible to keep clear of you
    -DO maintain your line. This means to follow the person you are drafting unless you are moving to pass, attack, or follow an attack. In a turn with a group, this means follow the line a similar distance from the curb as you were while going straight. DO NOT “CUT THE CORNER” as you will wipe out all inside and behind you.
    -If you you move out of a draft, do so with the realization you may cut someone off coming up from behind or to the side. Move deliberately but with a quick look and show signs of your intentions.
    -Follow only as close as you are comfortable. If there is a gap and someone fills it, accept the additional draft, do not fight for it.
    -Hold the wheel/draft of the person in front of you or get out of the way. See moving out of the draft above. If you cannot maintain the draft with the pace, let others pass before the gap is too large to cover.
    -Regaining the draft – if coming forward from the rear, DO NOT JUST CUT IN the line or group. If there is a gap, point to the spot you want in and join slowly. Or, slowly ride in closer to the group or line and you will benefit from the draft without disrupting the organization. If the rider near you is uncomfortable, it is accepted they will drop back to let you in.
    -Keep pedaling. Yes, even downhill. It prevents large gaps from forming as terrain changes and ensures you can respond to quick accelerations.
    -Follow an attack. If you are drafting, move out and follow as someone attacks. If you can’t keep pace, others will cover. Don’t expect the lead rider to be able to move up and keep pace with someone coming out of the draft to attack.
    -Take you turn “pulling” the group. Not all riders are created equal but if you spend the entire time drafting, you will annoy those who are working harder and you won’t get stronger or used to being in front.
    -If there is an accident – If it is behind you continue for a bit and slow down cautiously. If the crash is in front of you, HOLD YOUR LINE as best you can. Slow down as rapidly as you can but HOLD YOUR LINE. Check for injuries, damage, and regroup.
    -While in the draft of another cyclist, DO NOT USE YOUR AEROBARS. Aerobars are acceptable only if you are lead cyclist of the group and only if you are reasonably steady on them. Some “roadies” will disagree with the most common comment that you provide no draft. Tough is my response to that but use best discretion and apply your level of competence on the bars to dictate if you should be on them in the lead. The reason for this is, all riders behind you are to keep clear of you but if you are all over the road on bars, you put the other rides in danger. As you move out of the draft from the lead, get off the aerobars.
    -DO NOT PANIC. The pace may be fast, your heart rate may be through the roof, you may be claustrophobic at some point in a large group. HOLD YOUR LINE. Drift out and recover. Do not sharply exit the group.
    – DO NOT apply your brakes. If you have to, do so with only little effort. Too quick of a brake maneuver can cause a crash.
    -DO NOT ride over the yellow line or in a second lane if there is multiple lanes. The idea of a group of riders is to look and feel like a car while on the road. There is strength in numbers and if all stay together as a mass, cars can pass more quickly and safely.

    3) Pace Line – again, this may be technical for some
    -A pace line is much like what you see in a team time trial in the Tour De France. It is a solitary line of riders, often on aerobars, drafting in very close quarters to maximize efficiency. The lead rider “pulls” for a time, distance, or until fatigued. Then they move out of the line and drift to the rear as the pace line rides past. At the end or in a selected gap, the rider regains the draft and follows until the next turn to pull. It is also very dangerous. What you see are cycling professionals. This takes tremendous practice and doesn’t mean you can hop out on the road and draft while on your aerobars with just anyone.
    -Why a pace line? In some cases it is best to be a single line so traffic may pass the group. It is practical for a group of only a few riders.
    -Why not a pace line? It isn’t appropriate for a very large group. If the group desires to pace line ride, it should split to smaller groups or form multiple pace lines of a few riders.
    -Generally, the rules for a pace line are a little more strict than general drafting with a group. You should follow a bit closer as you don’t have as many riders to block wind. You should be very attentive to only the rider in front of you and apply anything that is listed in drafting above.
    -Some things that occur with a pace line:
    Gaps – Fill gaps slowly. If you cannot, let others behind you come forward to assist.
    “Wagging” – this occurs towards the rear of the line. It is caused by inattentiveness by members of the line or by the leader. In either case, it is magnified in the rear as riders attempt to maintain the draft of the rider in front do to their lateral movement. This can be minimized by HOLDING YOUR LINE
    Bunching and Sagging – sudden changes in speed can cause bunching or sagging. Generally for bunching, do not apply brakes, simply drift out of the draft to slow down, continue pedalling and allow speeds of different riders to return together. This protects the riders behind you who are much closer. For sagging, simply continue to pedal and fill the gap slowly allowing the riders behind you to keep up with the incresed speed.

    4) Hand Signals / Group Signals
    – Group slowing – for a stop light, intersection, or another reason – an open hand placed in the small of the back or to the side. Often followed by comments to the effect.
    – Group stopping – for a stop light, intersection, or another reason – a closed fist placed in the small of the back or out to the side. Followed by comments to that effect.
    – Group turn – usually the commonly accepted hand signals pointing in the turn direction.
    – Road Hazard/s – usually indicated by the lead or person in front of you, pointing down on the side of which the hazard will pass by the rider in front of you. This includes potholes, cars, cones, road cookies, debris, and so on. For multiple hazards or on each side, a one handed signal of an open hand “wobbled” side to side. Usually, a voice comment to the type of hazard.
    – Car – an open handed closed finger signal on the side of the hazard “ushering” you the opposite direction. Voice comment to the hazard usually accompanies.
    This is a work in progress and will be updated periodically. If I left something out, you have issue with something or have a question, email me or post. I will respond in time.
    Be safe gang. It’s important.

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