Maine Coast Cycling Club: Group Riding

Ride Leader Notes

  1. Arrive early to coordinate pre-ride activities.
  2. Leave yourself time to formulate your pre-ride discussion.
  3. Be available to answer questions about the ride, mileage, stops, food etc.
  4. Ride leaders should be familiar with the ride leader guidelines and be able to cover these points in a 2 min pre-ride talk.

Pre-Ride Talk

  • While participants gather in, take the opportunity to assess their bikes and their suitability for that particular ride,
    • If they have not participated in a club ride before, you might casually ask them questions
      regarding their current riding status: i.e., how far they’ve ridden, what pace etc., and
      determine if they might have a problem keeping up with the group.
    • Although it might seem unfair to turn back a rider at the start or at some point before you
      get too far along on the ride, it would be more of a burden to hold the group up every few
      miles waiting for that person to catch up.
    • If they are physically unprepared, lack adequate water, snacks, spare tube, pump, railroad
      pass or their bike is poorly maintained, it would be equally unfair to leave them stranded,
      even with a cue sheet.
    • If you don’t carry a cell phone, you might want to ask the group who has one.
  • The following group riding skills should be made clear to all riders:
    • Impress upon the group that cycling with a group, as opposed to cycling alone, requires
      special cycling skills. Provide an experienced rider to help them.
    • Safety has to be one of the major concerns of group riding. There is a certain cycling
      etiquette, or rules of the road, which need to be followed.
  • Describe your ride as advertised in the bulletin, including distance and pace (cruising speed).
  • Announce your drop policy.
    If you do not intend to drop riders, ask all riders to look out for each other. Also, announce where you intend to wait for lagging riders. Regardless of the level of ride that is planned, it is important to inform participants what
    to expect in terms of a drop policy.
  • Emphasize predictable, single or double line riding attentive to local traffic laws and common
    sense. Do not bunch up at lights or while riding—maintain the line.
  • Notify the group that you’ll be indicating your intentions by using hand and voice signals, such
    as stopping, slowing left turn etc., and calling out conditions such as holes, glass, doors etc., and
    expect them to do the same.

    • By not doing so, they might deprive a rider behind them from reacting to a dangerous
      obstacle and might cause injury or damage to their bicycle. On the other hand, make
      riders aware of their need to focus on their own in situations such as going through
      intersections or turns by not always following the group blindly.
    • Discourage riders from “pace busting.” They break the ride tempo and compromise group safety. If they go to the front, other riders may follow and the ride leader will no longer maintain control of the ride.
    • If riders operate in an unsafe manner or are disrespectful to the ride leader or other riders,
      they should be asked to leave the ride.

Group Etiquette and Rules

  • Etiquette
    • Be predictable
    • In a group, your actions affect those around you, not just yourself.
    • Riders expect you to continue straight and at a constant speed
  • Use signals
    • Use hand signals to indicate turns and point out hazards to other,
  • Give warnings
    • Announce turns before the intersections to give riders a chance to position
    • Try to avoid sudden stops or turns except for emergencies
  • Change positions correctly
    • Announce passes on the right clearly as this is not a usual maneuver
    • Announce hazards
      1. Announce potholes and other hazards so others can avoid them
      2. Call out the hazard and point down to it, either left or right
  • Watch for traffic from the rear
    • The last rider should frequently check for overtaking cars
    • Announce “car back” clearly and loudly
    • It is also helpful to announce “car up” on narrow roads or when riding two abreast
  • Watch out at intersections
    • Leader should announce slowing or stopping at intersections if necessary.
    • Cyclists should not follow others through intersections without scanning
    • Each cyclist is responsible for checking cross traffic; if you must stop, signal
  • Leave room for cars
    • Good relations with motorists is the responsibility of every cyclist
  • Stop off roadway
    • When stopping for a mechanical or regrouping, always move clear off the road
    • Always yield to traffic in the roadway
  • Ride single file
    • It is illegal in Maine to ride two abreast.
    • Groups will be double file at times. Keep in mind that it’s the group’s responsibility to be single file when being overtaken by traffic.
    • Group rides should NEVER be more than two across.

Group Riding Skills


  • Do not overlap your front wheel with the back wheel of the rider in front of you.
    • This is the number 1 reason for falls in a group ride.
    • If the lead rider swerves to avoid a hole or obstacle, the REAR rider will fall!
    • Every rider is responsible to monitor her/his own position.
    • Look at the lead rider’s helmet or beyond, and become acquainted with the correct
      distance of body-to-body.
    • Often referred to as “half-wheeling”.
    • The rider that is ahead has the right of way.
    • Ride right! Ride safe! Don’t overlap wheels!
  • Moving into the line for traffic:
    • When you hear “Car Back”, you should be IMMEDIATELY looking for a place in the right hand line. Call out “Car Back” to pass it up the line.
    • It’s important for the first person in line to maintain the pace or even speed
      up. This prevents the group from bunching.
    • If you have a rider to your left you should make a space for him.
    • Remember that cars will overtake the group quickly so we must get into
      line quickly but safely.
  • Be Smooth and Predictable
    • No sudden accelerations or slowdowns!
    • If a gap opens in front of you, try to close it gradually
    • Sharp braking should be used ONLY in emergencies
    • Do not move out to pass the rider in front of you without checking to be sure that you don’t have another rider in your ‘blind spot’ (coming up behind you on the left)
    • Riders should verbally communicate upcoming stop signs: “SLOWING”, “STOPPING”
    • If you’re getting too close to the rider ahead:
      1. Soft pedal
      2. Sit up higher to catch more of the wind
      3. Move over slightly to catch more of the wind (but don’t overlap your front wheel
      with the next rider’s back wheel, and again, watch out to be sure there is not a
      rider coming from behind who you would be cutting off)
      4. Try not to coast – when the riders behind you see you coasting, they will slow
      down too and cause an accordion effect
      5. If all of the above do not slow you down enough, feather your brakes
    • It’s better to roll over minor obstacles like small holes or sticks than to make a sudden
      move over or slam on your brakes.
    • Go to the back of the group to drink, eat or adjust clothing. When in the midst of the
      group, keep your hands on the handlebars at all times.
  • Communicate
    • Hand signals and verbal signals
    • Right turn, left turn
    • Slowing, stopping
    • Pointing at obstacles and calling them out (you need to point before going by the obstacle
      or you are not giving the rider behind you enough warning)
      1. “Hole”
      2. “Rough Road” v. “Car Back”, “Car Up”
    • Move over for obstacles ahead (example, “Walker up”)
  • Hills:
    • The front person should pedal on downhills, or else everyone behind will be catching up to them too fast.
    • The group may need to slow down after uphills to allow slower riders to catch up.
    • Be careful when standing to climb when riding in a group – this can jerk your wheel back into the rider behind you
  • Know Your Limitations
    • If you’re not strong enough or too tired to take a turn at the front, stay near the back and let the stronger cyclists pull in front of you instead of making them go to the back of the line.
  • Don’t Leave Stragglers
    • If you get separated at intersections, as a matter of courtesy, the lead group should soft pedal until the rest have rejoined.
  • Relax
    • Bike riding is fun! Relax and enjoy the ride.
    • It will allow you to be smooth and responsive.
    • It not only saves energy, but it makes bike handling much more effective.

Paceline and Drafting

  • Drafting
    • Following closely behind another rider cuts down on wind resistance
    • Only draft off of someone whose riding style or experience you trust
  • Paceline
    • A group of riders drafting off of each other is a paceline; the leader dictates pace
    • Front rider must communicate obstacles to riders behind; last rider watches traffic
    • Pay close attention to those ahead and behind; be able to react safely and quickly
  • Rotation
    • Riders in a pace line take turns ‘pulling’ the group along through the wind
    • To move from the front, check traffic, pull out to the left and move to the back
    • The second rider is now the leader and provides draft for allotted time or distance
  • Signals
    • Lead rider must signal debris and hazards in roadway as well as stops and turns
    • Point in direction of hazard and announce ‘grate’ or ‘gravel’ for other riders
    • Rear rider is responsible for signaling intentions to following traffic
  • Dangers
    • Do not draft on high traffic roads or roads with frequent intersection
    • There is very little room for error when riding very close to others
    • Crashing in a paceline has a domino effect, which may knock down riders behind you
  • “Pace Busting”
    • When taking the lead in a paceline do not surge or pick up the overall pace. Maintain the same speed as when drafting. As you take over you will naturally have to put out more effort. Learn to finesse your effort in order to maintain a smooth transition as you take over. If you are tired, make your turn at the front as short as possible. No one has to prove anything at the front. Check the speed on your computer when you are next in line. Keeps that speed when you take over.
  • Keep a constant distance to the rider ahead and adjust your speed by feathering your brakes as you continue to pedal. Maintain steady-as-she-goes, predictable, smooth pace. Close any gaps gradually and gracefully. Jumping to close a gap and then slowing down creates a yo-yo effect that adversely affects the entire group. Doing this all day will wear you out and get you yelled at by the cyclists behind you. Ride smoothly. Ride predictably.
  • When at the front of the group, pedal smoothly at all times, even down hills. You will need to keep pedaling on the down hills so that the bikes in back of you do not have to brake in order to avoid riding up your rear wheel.
  • When at the front of the paceline and it is time to pull off, maintain the same steady pace (don’t slow), check for traffic behind you, and then inform the group, “PULLING OFF.” Then, still maintaining speed, decisively move to the side and when clear of the paceline slide gently to the back of the line to pull in behind the last bike. Stay at the front only for as long as you’re directed, shorter if you are feeling tired. When a rider has pulled off and approaches the back of the group the last rider should call “LAST” so that the rider coming back won’t overshoot the group and have to chase to get back on.
  • Surviving a Strong Group
    • Riding in a group where the others are slightly stronger than you can be a good way to build fitness and learn how to go faster. Just be sure to follow these suggestions:
    • Most important is not to ride beyond your ability. You’ll eventually be so taxed that your bike handling skills will suffer. This makes you a danger both to yourself and others.
    • A good guideline is if you’re struggling so hard to keep up, that you haven’t been able to drink from your water bottle, the group may be beyond your skills.
    • Be familiar with group riding skills and etiquette.
      • Use drafting to your advantage.
      • If the group is riding in a paceline, make your turn at the front of the group very short.
      • Don’t feel obligated to stay there for two minutes just because the previous riders in front did that.
      • If you don’t feel up to even a short pull in the front, try recovering in the back of
        the group. Just be sure you let the riders who are rotating back know what you’re doing. Open up a gap to let them pull in front of you, and say, “Go ahead, I’m just sitting in”. As you get to the back of the line, begin to increase your speed gradually so you won’t need to sprint to get in the draft of the last rider.
    • Hills are often the spot where a rider will be dropped by the group
      • One strategy is to try to be toward the front of the group at the bottom of the hill.
        While other riders will pass you on the way up the hill, you may still be in contact
        with the group at the top of the hill, or close enough to catch up.
      • Be sure to pay attention to your map or cue sheet so that if you do decide to slow down and let the group go, you know where you are on the map.
    • Most of all, if you do get dropped don’t feel discouraged.
      • In the beginning you might only be able to keep up with a faster group for 20 or
        30 minutes. But making that effort will improve your fitness, and over time you’ll
        be able to hang on longer.
      • If you get dropped you don’t necessarily have to finish the ride alone – slow
        down, drink, recover, and give the riders behind you a chance to catch up.