How to Cycle in a Group

Cycling as part of a group can be one of the most enjoyable and pleasant experiences for any cyclist when done correctly. When done badly it can be frustrating and hard work. Here a few tips to help anyone, new or with some experience already, to understand how to have a safe and enjoyable group spin.

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Before the group spin

(These rules apply to solo spins too)

Ensure that your bike is safe to use by performing the following quick safety check :

  • Clamp the front wheel between your knees and try to twist the bars left and right.
  • There should not be any movement.
  • Place your hands on top of brake lever hoods and push down.
  • Again there should not be any movement.
  • Pull both brake levers as tight as you can.
  • The lever should not come in contact with the handlebar when under full pressure.
  • Check that both front and rear wheel axle skewers are tight.
  • Pump your tyres to between 100 and 120 psi.

What to bring with you :

  • A pump
  • At least one spare tube (2 tubes are even better along with a puncture repair kit)
  • Tyre levers
  • Water bottle (2 bottles if the spin is going to be over 2 hours)
  • Food if it is going to be a spin over one hour
  • An emergency gel to get you home if you experience the dreaded hunger knock
  • Money for a coffee or a coke

During the group spin

The group dynamic

  • Groups ride in two lines (two abreast)
  • Riders on the outside line roll up to the front and over to the inside line
  • Turns at the front usually last between 2 and 5 minutes
  • At the front of the group the rider on the inside maintains their speed whilst the outside rider speeds up slightly before moving in ahead of the inside rider and resuming the original speed
  • The riders at the front stay side by side with each other. One rider should not be half a wheel ahead of the other.
  • If you are struggling a little it is OK to stay sheltered at the back but you should not then ‘attack’ or ‘pass out’  the group towards the end of the spin

Safety

  • The riders at the front must always shout out the obstacles that are up ahead.
  • A pothole on the left should be called as ‘Left’ or ‘Hole left’ on the right ‘Right’ or ‘Hole right’, or in the centre between both front riders ‘Centre’ or ‘Hole Centre’
  • Traffic Islands, parked cars or any other obstacles can be called as ‘Left’, ‘Right’ etc.
  • These shouts must be passed back down along the group
  • Riders at the front on narrow roads should shout ‘Car back’ when a car is approaching and riders at the rear should shout ‘Car up’ when a car is passing out from behind.
  • When rising from the saddle to stand on the pedals it is important to be conscious of not ‘throwing’ your bike back on top of the rider behind. Change up one sprocket into a harder gear as you rise from the saddle and you will maintain your momentum.
  • The riders at the front must always be aware of the number of riders behind them when approaching roundabouts and junctions. Allow enough time to brake gradually and always be aware that whilst there may be enough time and space for one or two riders to ‘make it’ the decision to ‘keep going’ should be made whilst allowing enough space for the entire group to proceed safely.

Shelter

  • Riding in the shelter of a group uses 30% less energy than riding alone or at the front facing the wind
  • To get the most benefit from this shelter your front wheel must be within 12 to 18 inches of the rear wheel in front of you.
  • In a group, out on an open road it is best to be in two lines directly behind each other.
  • Try to avoid large gaps opening up as this has a knock on effect back down along the group. It also negates the benefit of sheltering behind the riders ahead.
  • The riders at the front should ride up hills at a steady pace that allows everyone to stay within the group as much as possible.
  • If someone is under pressure it is good to shout ‘steady’ to alert those at the front to reduce the pace slightly.

Descending

  • Having a steady pace up the hill should be accompanied by a continuous effort down the other side.
  • Riders, especially those at the front should not freewheel down hill.
  • By pedalling down hill you get more of a workout. It also gives better bike control.
  • Pedalling downhill also reduces the build up of lactic acid which will begin to accumulate as soon as you begin to freewheel.
  • You should always look where you want to go. Look ahead towards the exit of corners, to the side of potholes etc.

Eating and Drinking

  • It is important to feel comfortable eating and drinking in a group. Otherwise you will run out of fuel.
  • If you are uncomfortable taking your hands off the bars in a group begin by just regularly bringing your right hand up to touch your left shoulder. This allows you to get comfortable cycling with one hand in a group without veering sideways.
  • You should be sipping from your bottle every 10 to 15 mins.
  • On longer spins you should be snacking every 30 mins.

Punctures

  • If someone punctures they should raise their hand or shout ‘puncture’ to alert those behind them.
  • Then drift to the back of the group before stopping.
  • Pull in at a gate or somewhere safe in off the road
  • It should be on a straight and not on a bend or corner
  • One person should stop with the person who has punctured and the rest of the group should ride about 2km up the road before returning to collect them at which stage the new tube should be fitted and the person should be back on the bike.

Enjoyment

  • Whilst the focus may be on improving fitness, the real benefit of a group spin is enjoying the social aspect of meeting like minded souls with whom you have something big in common.
  • In a group you will go further than you may have thought possible at a higher average speed than you imagined, for the same effort as a slower shorter solo spin.
  • Out on the road it does not matter if you are a doctor or a ‘doley’ everyone is just a cyclist.

After the group spin

Recovery

  • Recovery begins as soon as you get off the bike. Eat a sandwich, drink a recovery shake or whatever you like the taste of. You recover 20% in the first 20 minutes if you do this, and then 10% per hour after that.
  • Don’t sit around in damp sweaty clothing. Get straight into the shower or get changed to avoid getting a cold or a saddle sore.
  • Put your feet up for a while, you’ve earned it 🙂

 

 

Barry

www.thecyclingblog.com

5 thoughts on “How to Cycle in a Group

  • April 1, 2015 at 10:03 am
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    Great article!

    One comment though – shouting ‘car back’ in any group I’ve been in has always been the equivalent of ‘car up’ (ie. announcing a car overtaking the group). Most groups I’ve ridden with announce an oncoming car with a shout of ‘car down’.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  • August 8, 2016 at 2:35 pm
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    This is great, I’ve just sent it to my mum and sister, I have an electric bike now so I can finally keep up with my 67 year old mum, yes I said it right!

    Reply
  • January 24, 2017 at 6:41 pm
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    I think that ‘car up’ is the international for a ‘car up ahead’ ‘ car back’, is a car back or behind, it makes sense, if someone tells you to look back- what direction do you look? Just my 2cents having ridden in 12 different states in the USA, and Canada, and South America as well as Germany-

    Reply
  • January 25, 2017 at 1:37 am
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    Barry.
    All that advice is dead on everybody take on board. One other thing which is not discussed too often is when somebody want to have a leak its a problem when one person wants to stop and the rest are not ready yet and they are a mile away when one is finished. Comments please. Liam.

    Reply

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