Overtaking other cyclists: Is it rude?

When I overtake a fellow cyclist I often wonder what they are thinking. Are they thinking “What a jerk showing off?” or “I want to go that fast”.

After averaging some pretty ludicrous distances while researching the London Cycle Routes eBook I have definitely become a much faster cyclist. I typically cycle a couple of gears higher than I use to. It also takes a much tougher hill to slow me down. This, as you can imagine, is a great side benefit of the number of miles I’ve covered on pedal power. You might have noticed similar results after a few weeks of heavy cycling.

So, inevitably I find myself needing to do a lot of overtaking of fellow cyclists. But a small part of me thinks overtaking is a little rude. Perhaps I should hang back and just take it easy. After all I’m not trying to prove anything and I don’t want to make a fellow cyclist feel bad. However, this doesn’t help the situation as I like going fast. In fact I struggle to maintain a slow speed more than I do a normal speed.

This conundrum hit me hard last week when I was cycling back home from Camden. As it’s a short ride I was enjoying giving it some speed. At some point I came across a couple of fellow cyclists. The first was a must overtake as I can’t even cycle that slow. The second however was doing a decent enough speed. So I was stuck in limbo while the two voices in my head battled it out for what to do. (Does voices in my head make me sound crazy? Probably.)

On the other side, when it is me being overtaken I see it as a challenge. I find myself wanting to race up to that person and overtake them again.

What do you think? If you frequently overtake other cyclists do you ever wonder what they are thinking? Or if you enjoy going at a slow speed what do you think when someone overtakes you?

Overall I should probably start focusing more on life’s real problems rather than these silly thoughts!!

Join 10,221 fellow cyclists who are subscribed to the London Cyclist newsletter

Sign up for our free newsletter to get...

  • Advice on the best cycling gear
  • A Friday roundup of all the latest London cycling news
  • Exclusive content not available on the blog

Subscribe today, and get exclusive access forever! (It's free)

*No spam, ever!

As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.


76 Responses to Overtaking other cyclists: Is it rude?

  1. DrD 09/03/2011 at 8:25 pm #

    A late comment….I was knocked off by someone overtaking badly – just through the lights, narrow road, lots of potholes, lots of commuting cyclists & cars….I cracked a rib…he just said…oh sorry mate, did I cut you up…and cycled on his merry way. Having said that, I like overtaking – as long as it’s safe.

  2. Mattouli 14/03/2012 at 10:56 am #

    I try not to go through red lights, purely as it seems to give drivers a “them and us” mentality which seems to have got worse in Aberdeen the last few years…

    As for overtaking I’ve recently taken to saying “morning!” as i go past…

  3. Ailema 26/04/2013 at 2:36 pm #

    I’ve never really minded being overtaken. There are a bunch of cyclists out there who are more advanced and have faster bikes than me, so it’s hardly an issue if they want to overtake, as long as they do it safely.

    If I’m cycling behind someone who’s slowing me down and it’s safe to do so, I generally overtake without thinking twice about it. There isn’t really any need to get competitive about it.

  4. Belle 12/12/2013 at 6:50 am #

    I think overtaking is fine and very necessary as long as it is done safely and as I ride on canals a lot, I find that saying loudly ‘passing you on the left/right’ really helps.
    I don’t mind if I am behind sometimes or ahead – as long as no one is sitting on my tail and I am not stuck behind a bunch that are slower -basically it’s much less stressful to ride alone.
    I do think it isn’t helpful to feel like you’re in a instant competition once someone passes you though, riding unprofessionally isn’t a race, racing when not in a controlled area is dangerous and selfish.

  5. Glen Burmeister 19/02/2014 at 6:44 pm #

    Hi. I have the same thoughts as you on a regular basis. I set two world records where I cycled for an average of just under 120 miles a day over a 39 day period. Being very competitive, I would always try to catch cyclists that I could see ahead. I always wondered what they were thinking as I overtook on a 14kg steel touring bike (20kg+including the loaded panniers). I will only overtake if I’m positive I can stay in front. It doesn’t bother me at all if anyone overtakes me. What are your thoughts on overtaking someone after they’ve overtaken you? I’ve been known to do that a few times. Ha! Ha!

    • Alam 10/11/2014 at 5:26 pm #

      Its not good etiquette, but I do it – that way if they see me again and have any ideas to overtake then hopefully they’ll think twice.
      Just a few minutes back a MTB’er overtook me on a hill then he came to a hill which I used to close my distance, then BAM, i switched gear up and dropped him.
      Id feel bad if he wasn’t wearing a hi-viz waistcoat.

  6. Jim 11/04/2015 at 12:24 pm #

    I would generally much rather people overtook me than kept behind me: when I know there’s someone behind me things get a lot more stressful as I become much more aware than every manoeuvre I make risks a collision.

    I do get annoyed at bad overtaking quite often, though – most often at junctions (“I slowed down for a reason, you idiot, and chances are I’m now stuck behind you because you aren’t actually going all that fast now we’re past the junction”). And occasionally other cyclists will pass me and leave rather less space than I’m comfortable with.

  7. PATRICIA GREEN 27/06/2016 at 8:32 pm #

    I ride a tandem with my husband and as we are not in any competition but out to enjoy the day, we sometimes are overtaken by a speedier cyclist. I have absolutely no problems with this but i do wish they would call out before they come past, as otherwise they are silent and I might just be sticking out my arm to point to a pretty garden or something. (I know I should be more careful – but on a quiet country lane………….)

  8. Rachel - cycling in SW13 10/11/2016 at 1:15 pm #

    It is sometimes dangerous. I was just cycling home and as I came up to the street I wanted to turn left on I started to move over (I’d looked over my right should about 4/5 seconds earlier) with no vehicles/cyclists in view) and a cyclist appeared quickly and quietly overtaking me on my LEFT (I thought you overtake on one’s right?!). I’m paranoid and do look behind often.

    My front tire clipped her rear and of course I fell off my bicycle. She did not apologize but shouted I should have signaled..I had not had the time to do so (and my arm would have hit her in the face as she had come up so quickly. Lesson learned. Cyclists are often rude and I will look out for those that sneak up on one’s left. (Is it legal/proper etiquette to do so?)

    Sorry for the rant..I only cycle a few streets away to work every day and this has put me off.

    • Owen Jones 15/08/2017 at 12:58 pm #

      It is generally safer to overtake on the right, unless the vehicle being overtaken is indicating to turn right, so the cyclist that collided with you was at fault.

  9. Floydee 08/05/2017 at 12:26 pm #

    Nice article which got me thinking. I think it’s how we approach cycling and our reasons for it.
    When I’m a daily commuter on my dutch bike and in normal clothes/suit, being middle aged, I have no problems with people overtaking me (including ladies on pink bikes!) as I’m not in cycling (uniform) clothes.

    However the other day, I tried out a friends (£3000) racing Cannonade bike, and there was a difference – I felt that no one should be overtaking me! Lol!

    As I stopped at lights, I could feel the other “racers” sizing me up at take off. And I’m sure I heard a snigger (or was that a gasp) from an old lady as she passed me on the outside on lady Pashley. Even a couple of kids on MTB felt the joy as they ‘scalped” me. I felt that, with the bike comes a certain domain. It’s like driving a Porsche and someone in a Smartcar feeling chuffed or even disdain at overtaking you.

    For me, (I can only speak for myself), it felt that the bike and the speed lycra was war paint for others to take me on. I know I should not feel that way but I did (strange?). Being a MAMIL is just not me.

    So I realised I do have a problem with being overtaken – as long as it’s safe and not as a snub. I’ll stick to my dutchbike and suit thank you.

    I must book an appointment with my psychiatrist…

Leave a Reply