TeamCBC Cycling Tip – Group Rides: The Hows and How Nots by Kurt Ehlert (Part 2 of 2)

Group Ride Etiquette

This can be where the newbie rider might get in trouble, but these are the basic things to pay attention to.First things first – if you decide to go on a group ride, show up ready. Be on time. “Clip in time” is when the group is leaving, not when your car stops as you rush to get ready. Know the pace you are capable of, and don’t let your pride “force” you into a pace you absolutely can’t sustain. This causes issues for the group leader. Should she make the group wait, or let the group go without her so she can babysit you? Be honest. It makes the ride more fun for you and everyone else.

First rule of Fight Club . . . I mean Group Rides . . . is SAFETY. The leader, and every rider, must look out for everyone’s safety. The road is occasionally an unfriendly place. Angry drivers, dastardly potholes, dogs – they can all present problems. But the group is safer than the individual if everyone concentrates on safety for all.

The Group Ride Rules

Obey traffic laws

  • Just because you have a cycling gang with you does not give you the right to run stoplights or stop signs.
  • *When leading the paceline, keep the pace.
  • If you are supposed to be average 17 mph, don’t go 22 mph on a flat section just to show what great condition you are in.
  • Are you a stronger rider than the average in your group? Lead longer, not faster.
  • How about if you are a weaker rider? Then lead shorter, not faster.
  • If you are really worried, tell everyone you don’t want to “pull” (lead) and they’ll be fine with it. Get off before you get to the front of the paceline.
  • Pace is especially important going up hills – seems to be the time when everyone in the front tries to take off. As leader, try to think of pace for the middle of the group, not just the front.

Don’t speed away after a turn

  • The group naturally slows on a turn. Running away when leading while everyone else slows up is poor form and splinters the group. It is a group ride, not a solo breakaway at the Tour.* Point out hazards
  • This starts with the leaders, who see potholes, gravel and branches first, but it should be passed down the line
  • There are hand signals for many common hazards, as well as when the lead is slowing, stopping, or turning
  • Use a verbal warning too if particularly dangerous situation – “Hole!” or “Post!

Call out cars

  • “Car up” if a car is approaching the group in the opposite direction.
  • “Car back” if in back of the group.
  • “Passing” if – you guessed it – a car is passing the group. This is key if the leaders are thinking of shifting off as they may move right in front of the passing car.*

Keep the group together

  • If a gap is created, call out “Gap” so leaders know to slow down
  • If separation occurs on a hill, make sure you let everyone catch up at the top

Stay off the brakes (as much as possible)

  • You slow down abruptly when you hit your brakes, which causes even more abrupt braking going down the line with higher risk of collisions in the group
  • Adjust your speed by pedaling cadence and force as well as by sitting up to let the wind hit you
  • Be aware of what is coming – if a hill is ahead, you can be aware the group will slow at the bottom of it

When going downhill as leader, keep pedaling!

  • This is NOT your time to rest!
  • You need to maintain your power so the group can efficiently follow you

Blow your nose at the back of the group

  • Not on to those near you if within the group

Don’t “half-wheel”

  • Do: Ride handlebar to handlebar with rider next to you, not a half wheel ahead
  • Don’t: Overlap your front wheel with rear wheel of rider in front of you
    • If they need to pull to the side quickly, they can hit you and go down


  • Standing slows you down abruptly and can screw up the riders behind you.
  • If you are going to stand:
    • Shift to an appropriate gear first.
    • Call out “Up” or “Standing” before you do it.

Help others with mechanical issues

  • Group rides are social – don’t sprint away when someone gets a flat. Help them!
  • Call out “Mechanical!” when you know someone has stopped so the whole group stops

No aerobars

  • Aerobars lead to unstable riding, even if you are experienced. They really have no place in a group ride (I’m looking at you, triathletes!). If the professional peloton only uses them on time trials, we don’t need them for a Saturday ride.

Last, but not least – say thanks!

There are plenty of nice drivers out there who let us pass through stops, wait for us, and treat us with respect. Give them a wave, or better yet, a signed “Thank you.”

Those are the basics, friends. Use them and make your group riding life most excellent!


Thank you Kurt for submitting this article!

Rick Bunnell

President, TeamCBC