“Do you guys want to ride in a group? You gain around 20% efficiency”. I’d never been asked to ride in a group before, it felt new and exciting. But what is this strange foreign concept of cycling in a group? Well, I was about to have the ropes shown to me by a much more experienced cyclist.
We quickly formed in to a group or, if you are in to your Tour de France, a bunch. Two riders at the front and two of us at the back. Out of our group, the three of us had no idea what riding in a bunch involved.
The experienced rider started calling out turns coming up and any obstacles. For example he would shout “pothole” and then point it out. This would give us time to manoeuvre around which was useful when you couldn’t see far ahead of you.
The key element we all quickly realised was to be predictable. It wouldn’t help the rider next to me if I suddenly swerved and neither would I be able to stay on the wheel of the rider in front, if he kept moving in and out of the saddle and shifting his position on the road.
The experienced rider would occasionally shout out “single file” and we’d form in to a line. This was when it was a narrow road or the conditions were less predictable.
As we were in a small group we didn’t need to pass the instructions down. However, a little like a Mexican wave, you would normally shout out what the rider in front has called out.
Signalling your intentions
There are a lot of hand signals in group rides such as indicating your directions, indicating for people to move in or for someone to overtake you.
In our first little group ride we mostly relied on calling out instructions. Such as “Approaching rider” if you wish to overtake. Then as you overtake you shout “passing on your right”.
Things can get much more advanced than this. For example selecting where you want to position yourself in the bunch and spending some time at the front. However, the best way to learn these is to head out on a group ride with a cycling club and observe what others are doing.
My first group riding experience was a lot of fun. You could instantly feel the difference in wind resistance the moment we formed in to a bunch and it felt good to work as a unit as opposed to battling it out on your own.
I came across the video below which explains a little more about group riding. If you have any tips as someone who has more experience in this area then please do leave them in the comments.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.