The more popular cycling gets, the more people want to join in. If you’ve ever wanted to try riding with a bunch but the “rules” seem a bit mysterious, just remember two words – awareness and etiquette.
Get a group of people on bikes together and you all need a heightened awareness of each other to stay safe.
Because you’re following someone, you can’t see what’s ahead of them and the people behind you can’t see what you can see. So bunch riders are constantly calling and signalling to each other.
The etiquette here is simple.
Call “slowing” or “stopping” and hold one arm behind you with the flat of your hand extended backwards. That gives people behind plenty of warning before they all run up suddenly behind you.
If you’re near the front and see cars approaching, call “Car up” or “Truck up”. If you’re at the back and hear cars come up behind, call “Car back”. This way everyone knows the state of the traffic.
Point out and call hazards. Holes, glass, sticks, gravel, debris and road kill all need to be avoided safely. Kangaroos and dogs on the loose need to be passed warily. The bunch might need to slow or stop depending on what the animals do, so everyone needs to be ready to do that.
Calling and signalling is one part of bunch awareness and etiquette. Keeping your pace smooth and your line steady is another.
When you’re at the front keep pedalling at a steady rate so people behind don’t have to accelerate to catch up with you. Speeding off the front can break up a group very quickly.
If you’re on the front going down a hill, keep pedalling even though it’s tempting to have a rest and freewheel. The people behind you enjoy the benefit of drafting behind you, so if you stop pedalling they’ll have to ride the brakes all the way down the hill.
If you get out of the saddle going up a hill “take your bike with you” as one very experienced rider says. That is, take care that your bike doesn’t go backwards into the rider behind you when you stand up.
There are techniques for changing over the leaders in a bunch that are more easily explained on the road. All you have to do is ask and people are always happy to explain. It’s all part of being aware of each other.
See you on the road soon, God willing.