For those taking part in their first cycle race on the road or who are new to group training, there are a few points you should be aware of to avoid falls and to gain the confidence of others around you.
The most important point, however, is to be aware of others around you and respect other riders, your actions will have a direct response to theirs.
Another important aspect is “click in pedals” for those who are new. It is recommended to practice “clicking” in and out of your pedals in a quiet area to gain experience as most people tend to fall off their bike!
Stay focused and attentive
- Constantly watch the road ahead and other riders around you.
- Be attentive to audible and hand signals by riders warning of pedestrians, potholes, parked cars or other roadside obstacles.
- Anticipate sudden moves by other riders as they swerve or brake hard to avoid an obstacle.
Follow traffic rules
- Obey the road rules: Especially at traffic lights – if you are on the front, and the lights turn orange, they will definitely be red by the time the back of the bunch goes through the intersection and you will be endangering the lives of others if you run it.
- Be alert for pedestrians, especially for children, who might suddenly dart into the street.
- Make it easy for other riders as well as vehicular traffic to anticipate your next move.
- Ride in a straight line, keeping a consistent pace. Avoid sudden braking or changing direction.
- Don’t stand out of the saddle without warning. A momentary pause in your pedalling can mean your bike drops back into the bike directly behind you.
- Don’t slam on your brakes. If you need to slow down a bit, adjust your speed by feathering your brakes.
- Stay to the left when in front to allow room for others to pass safely on your right.
- Always overtake another rider on the right-hand side whenever possible.
- Be smooth with your turns at the front of the group. Avoid surges unless trying to break from the bunch. A group will travel quicker when turns are completed smoothly.
- Avoid leaving gaps when following wheels. Cyclists save about 30% of their energy at high speed by following a wheel. Each time you leave a gap you are forcing yourself to ride alone to bridge it. Also, riders behind you will become annoyed and ride around you, especially if the bunch is working together to break away or catch a break in a race.
- When climbing hills, avoid following a wheel too closely. Many riders often lose their momentum when rising out of the saddle on a hill which can cause a sudden deceleration. This can often catch a rider who is following too closely, resulting in a fall from a wheel touch.
- Do not panic if you brush shoulders, hands or bars with another rider. Try to stay relaxed in your upper body to absorb any bumps. This is a part of cycle racing in close bunches and is quite safe provided riders do not panic, brake or change direction.
Use hand signals
- Use straight arm hand signals when you are turning. Bend your arm at the elbow when you are slowing down and call out “slowing” at the same time.
- Also, use hand signals to point out road hazards such as potholes, glass, parked cars alongside the road and other obstacles you might encounter during a group ride.
Stay out of the way of vehicular traffic
- Avoid vehicular traffic by riding on the left side of the line separating the road from its shoulder.
- Be careful not to ride too deep into the road shoulder, as there tends to be debris like broken glass, rocks and other road hazards there.
Riding two abreast
- Riding two abreast on most roads is safe and legal provided that you are not more than 1.5metres apart (Australian Road Rules Rule 151(4) Oct 1999).
- Ride single-file when the vehicular traffic is heavy, if there is little or no shoulder on the road, you are going over the crest of a hill, road works or weather conditions are poor eg thick fog, heavy rain.
No overlapping wheels
- As you ride in a group, avoid overlapping wheels (riding with your front wheel next to the rear wheel of the bicycle in front of you). This way, if the rider in front of you suddenly swerves in your direction, he or she doesn’t take you down as their rear wheel smacks into your front wheel.
- Pedal downhill when you are at the front of the bunch. Cyclists dislike having to ride under brakes.
- Don’t ‘half-wheel’ the rider next to you, stay parallel to them.
Sign language and etiquette
- “Car up” indicating cars ahead.
- “Car back” indicating cars behind.
- “Lights” indicating a change in traffic lights ahead.
- “Holes” indicating any potholes or other gaps in the road.
- And the all-important “Stopping!”
- Call out at traffic intersections: Generally, the call will be “clear left and clear right” if there is nothing coming at a turn and “car” if there is something coming.
- Broken glass; which is to shake your hand, palm facing down.
- Stopping: a stop sign with your hand
- Moving right: (usually around an obstacle like a parked car, or when passing a slower pelaton) point right with your left hand behind your back.
- Pointing out hazards on the road, such as rough asphalt, potholes, debris etc. is another important signal.
- Cycle within your limitations and enjoy each ride.
- Practice makes perfect: work on the things you don’t do well, such as getting in and out of the cleats, braking suddenly, drinking a bidon of water while riding etc.
- Select a pelaton of cyclists with similar ability: There is nothing more futile than killing yourself in the pursuit of leisure.