So you are a keen cyclist and are now looking to take part in your first race, join a club or attend a local reliability ride, but are nervous about the amount of riders that will be around you. You may want a few tips and pointers on how you can start as you mean to go on.
Be smooth – Staying smooth is key to making it safe for you and others. Concentrate, if you see a gap forming as the pace goes up a bit don’t feel the urge to surge forward in a panic. Smoothly close the gap and bridge it evenly. This way the rest of the pack have a better chance of keeping up and staying calm whilst keeping an even pace throughout. Often you will find a change in pace throughout the ride so anticipating this and riding accordingly is helpful. This also applies to moving from side to side! Try to stay within the group. Strange or sudden movements within the group may have them all wondering what’s going on and make others nervous.
Point out road hazards – Know the cycling code. Things like pot holes, grids, road kill, parked cars, walkers, runners, slower cyclists, fallen trees and big puddles should all be pointed out. When there is a big group the riders in the middle of the peloton or at the back cannot see the hazards like the front of the group can so make sure the warning is passed through the whole group.
Wait at junctions and traffic lights – Be thoughtful of others. Just because there may be enough time for you to get out of the junction doesn’t mean everyone can. Wait for a safe gap in the traffic and shout clear when it is clear to go. If you are in a social ride wait for them to catch up. No one wants to be sprinting like Peter Sagan to catch back up at every junction! The same principle goes for traffic lights. Don’t jump a red light or try and squeeze through without the rest of the group. This can be dangerous and shoudl be avoided.
Don’t brake suddenly – Sudden braking in a group can be dangerous. If you spot sudden braking, shout up and warn others of the sudden stopping. Try to apply brakes as smoothly as you can without compromising your own safety.
Ride neat and tidy – Single file or two abreast. Try not to leave big gaps between riders. Keep it as neat and tidy as you can and don’t ride all over the road. If it is a busy road the group may opt to ride single file. In other circumstances when it is safe to do so, they may ride two abreast. Again keep this neat and tidy. Try to follow suit. This does require some concentration so focus on the road and the group, rather than chatting away or looking at the lovely scenery.
Don’t overlap wheels – This is where riders can be taken down. If you start overlapping the wheel in front then you are at risk of touching the wheel in front and bringing you down. This also may knock the rider in front off course and overlap the wheel in front of them too. One person going down can bring the whole group down so be aware of this. Try to keep in line and a safe distance away from the wheel in front.
Look behind – Before moving up or out from the group. Remember there are more than just yourself on the road. Look behind before moving up to the front or moving back. There may be a car coming past or another cyclist deciding to do the same thing. You don’t want to collide.
Relax and enjoy it! Last but not least, Relax and enjoy your ride. If you are relaxed you will have better reactions and see more of what’s going on around you. After all, you are riding for fun!