12 Top-Tips for Club Riding with Ilkley Cycling Club

1. A club ride is not a race.
Thursday and Sunday club runs are NOT races. They are organised rides by ride leaders who should be respected at all times. On the return leg of a club ride there be the opportunity for an increase in pace but this via mutual agreement and respectful of other road users. If you want to race your bike then that is great and the club can support you in this. But NOT on a club ride.

2. Hand position on handlebars
When riding along in a group your hands should be on the hoods with your fingers, either first and/or index, resting on the brake levers ready to lightly feather the brakes as and when needed. If you are on the bar-tops you are too far from the levers to be able to react safely when required. The only exception is if you are down on the drops but again your fingers should be ready to pull the levers when needed.

3. Three abreast (especially descending)
We ride two abreast. Under no circumstance do we ride three abreast. Uphill, downhill or on the flat. It is dangerous to the riders around you, to motorists and to yourself. The biggest danger, apart from increasing the width of the group by 50%, is that the middle rider of the three has nowhere to go if there are any problems avoid. This happens most commonly on descents where some riders can feel the pace is too slow. Please be patient, you’re riding in a group and the safety of the group is most important, not how fast you can go downhill – save that untill you are on your own. This may mean feathering your brakes more than you would like to. In terms of the legal position, note the highway code (in rule 66 relating to cyclists) specifies: “never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends” See https://www.gov.uk/rules-for-cyclists-59-to-82/overview-59-to-71 for full details.

4. Keeping the pace of the group consistent and correct
This is really for the riders on the front, and can be a difficult one to master, but is probably the key aspect to making the ride enjoyable for all. The approximate ride speed is advertised by the ride leaders and you should be able to ride comfortably at this speed. If you can’t, choose a slower group. Ride leaders or other riders will request calls to “Mile-off” if a group member is struggling. If you are a better-than-average climber or stronger, you will have to compensate even more on any upward rises.. However, on longer climbs or descents it may be that it is best to just go at your own speed with a regroup at the top/bottom. It is important to look around you, see what’s happening in the group. It is always best to go a bit too slower than a bit too fast. Especially think about the half-wheeling point below when you are on the front. If you are with a more experienced rider and are unsure seek advice. Sometimes the problem is that you come to the front and get an adrenaline rush which increases your power output. So stay calm. Focus on the other aspect of riding on the front (see below). Also important is that other riders shout out if the pace is too high or too low. “Mile-on” or “Mile-off” are accepted calls which basically mean to increase or decrease your speed (mile-per-hour-on, or mile-per-hour-off).

5. Pushing-on slightly (on the front) when on flat areas and slight descents
Contrary to the above point, this further complicates the pace setting at the front, but if you are on a slight descent it can be tempting to free-wheel resting your legs. But the riders behind will quickly start to travel faster than you and they will then need to start feathering their brakes which gets all a bit twitchy. So best to keep the legs turning just enough to let those riders behind safely freewheel without needing to brake.

6. Eagle-eyed when on the front / looking round corners
When you are on the front you are the main eyes and ears of the whole group. Think about the group as a single body – the objective is to get everyone out and back safely. Stay eagle-eyed looking for dangers and be ready to call out. Because of where we ride observation, communication and 100% concentration is essential. If you are the rider on the left (at the front), then if the road is bending to the right you can probably see further round than the rider on the right. Again stay focussed and communicate. Conversely, if the road bends the other way (left) it is the right side rider who has best visibility. If you are not on “point” perhaps look ahead into the distance to see what other dangers are lurking. Also, don’t be tempted to turn your head to talk to your fellow lead rider – keep your head pointing forward – you’ll still be able to hear each other, and a temporary look sideways may mean you miss something ahead. This is actually something that you consciously have to think about as it is human nature to turn to face the person you are talking to. Don’t be put-off by all this responsibility – it is part of the group riding etiquette. You will be warmly thanked by the other riders in the group. When the time comes to change front riders, it is best (when the road is wide, quiet and observation is good) for the front right-hand rider to move in front of the front-left rider, and then call the group past while the two ex-leaders drop their speed and drift to the back of the group.

7. Regrouping after slight inclines / passing cars
Often splits in the group appear when the group has had to line out to get a car passed, or on a steeper rise where it is difficult to keep everyone together. In these cases be aware and steady it up for a while to let everyone to get back on. Once the group is all back together then the person on the back needs to shout “All ON”, and the message passed up to the front and then the pace can be slowly increased back to the required pace.

8. Calling out ALL hazards (and pass back through the group)
This should be well known and understood. “CALL OUT ALL OBSTACLES AND DANGERS!” and make sure riders behind you hear and pass back the message. Shouts of “gravel”, “holes”, “rabbits”(!?) etc. are the sort of things to call out, and pointing out the dangers is also helpful.

9. Getting cars past the group / calling through
This is slightly more tricky and perhaps even contentious. Normally, it is best for the group to line-out, single-file for cars to pass. But often this is not necessary and can even more problematic, especially in larger (longer) groups. A vehicle then has to travel much further in the “danger zone” passing the longer line of cyclists. So stay tight in pairs for as long as possible but recognise that there might be times when you need to line-out. So it is often better, if the group is riding tight (see point 12), for a car to quickly overtake when we are still two abreast.

10. Half-wheeling
This is especially important if you are riding on the front, but also important all down the line. When group riding and safe to do so look down. If your front wheel is ahead of your partners then you are half-wheeling. There’s some psychological factors that cause people to do it. Just keep checking and don’t do it.

11. Mudguards when wet
When it is wet it is a common courtesy of any group riding, and in line with the respect aspect of our club rides, that you will have at least a rear mudguard on your bike.

12. Keeping it tight and enjoy
Like Point 10 this is about your bike position relevant to your fellow club member. You need to be tight in line with then, close enough to put your arm round him/her, should you wish. If you feel the bikes coming together (generally not a good idea) then lean your shoulders into your partners to avoid bike coming into contact. Protecting your “personal space” is not allowed on a group ride. Don’t forget we are a single entity when on the road together. Happy and safe riding.

ICC Ride Coordinator 2014