Group Riding Guidelines

Group Riding Guidelines

Sometimes known as cycling etiquette or the unwritten rules; these vary from club to club, some are simply good manners, others are safety related. The guidelines help fulfil the aim of group cycling, which is for everyone to have an enjoyable, sociable ride.

  • Arrive at the start at the allotted time; if you arrive late you have kept everyone else waiting.
  • Make sure you have a rear mudguard in wet weather; it keeps the rider behind clean and your bum dry, so you don’t mess up the café seats.
  • Always carry as a minimum a spare inner tube, tyre leavers and a pump. Even if you don’t know how to use them, somebody else will. A full list of recommended tools and spares is on the website.
  • Make sure you have the means to get home in the event of bike or legs failure – i.e. a mobile phone or a train or taxi fare.
  • Always carry ID and emergency contact details in the event of an accident.
  • Wear bright visible clothing and bring a waterproof. It is advisable to wear a helmet as riding in a group is more likely than solo riding to result in falling off due to a touch of wheels.
  • Follow and support the Ride Leader; respect their decisions. Don’t start suggesting other routes. If you want to lead, volunteer another day.
  • Tell the Leader or somebody in the group if you want to leave the ride, otherwise we might wait ages for you at the next turn.
  • Tell the Leader or another rider if you want to stop for any reason, so we can wait for you.
  • Pass information like ‘pothole’ or ‘going left’ or ‘singling out’ down the group as the riders at the back may not hear the instruction from the front. Pass information up the line if a rider is ‘off the back’ of the group or is stopping.
  • Don’t ‘half-wheel’, that is riding half a wheel in front of the person next to you – this just makes them try to go faster than they want to and can end up as an all-out ‘race’. Pace yourself to that of the group.
  • When ‘holding a wheel’, that is following closely behind to be dragged along in the slipstream, don’t overlap your front wheel with the rider in front’s rear wheel – if they swerve you will be knocked off and, in the process, knock someone else off. Also, keep your front wheel about 4 inches to the right or left of the rear wheel in front. How close to ride to the bike in front will depend on your ability and experience – it can be just a few inches. But allow more space when descending, on steep climbs, for wet and slippery surfaces, in heavy traffic and for inexperienced riders.
  • When riding on the front ease up as you ride out of a bend or turn, or up a hill, so the line of riders behind you does not stretch, allow the riders at the back to keep up. Check every so often that there is nobody being left behind. Slow down if gaps appear.
  • On occasions the Ride Leader may call for riders to single out and tackle a long hill at their own pace, waiting at a safe place at the top.
  • Don’t rely on others to make your decisions on the road; keep your eyes on traffic, turnings, and other cyclists as if you are cycling on your own.
  • On occasions, when riding 2 abreast, the Ride Leader may call for a rotation of riders on the front. This is done by rolling through. The front right rider moves ahead into the front left position and all the right-hand line of riders move up one position. The rearmost left rider moves into rearmost right position. This may be regularly repeated about every 2 or 3 miles so everybody takes a turn on the front and can be used so everyone gets to talk to everybody else.
  • If the pace of the ride is comfortable for you, take a turn on the front. Move off the front before you tire by communicating to the rider alongside you your intention and following the rolling through process.
  • It can be difficult to judge the pace suited to the group when riding on the front and it’s easy to unintentionally lift the pace or even pull away from the Group. Do respond to calls to ease up and keep checking that you have not ridden off the front. Inside wind conditions allow more space between riders to prevent a gust causing a collision.
  • When descending steep hills allow extra space, several bike lengths, between you and the rider in front and consider singling out for safety.
  • Eat when we stop so you don’t get ‘the bonk’ or ‘hunger knock’ and slow down dramatically halfway through a ride.
  • Drink during the ride and when we stop for the same reason.
  • Ride smoothly and use brakes very gently when in a close group, also avoid sudden movements, otherwise you’ll take someone else off.
  • If you clear your nose or throat on the road, make sure you are well away from other riders!
  • Say thank you or wave to motorists who stop and wait to let you through, say hello to other cyclists to encourage them in our sport.
  • On occasion drivers behind may be repeatedly sounding their horns and driving aggressively. There is nothing to be gained by responding with gestures – they are likely to be ignorant of the Highway Code.
  • Do NOT use iPods or MP3 players; you need your ears for safety as well as sociability.
  • Don’t ride on aerobars in the group, ride with your hands near enough to apply the brakes when required.
  • When riding on the public highway, riders must obey the Highway Code. Rules 59-82 are the most relevant to cyclists. Note Rule 66: “Never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends”. Note that the code does not define how narrow or how busy or bendy a road needs to be for the single file rule to be applied. If singling out reduces the safety of the group (i.e. tempting cars to overtake on a bend), then it is sensible to continue two abreast.
  • If the group is larger than 8 and cars are trying to overtake consider breaking into two groups if safe to do so leaving a gap between the two for a car to pull into during an overtaking manoeuvre. If a vehicle has been patiently following the group for a long time i.e. on a long ascent, consider pulling over where safe and convenient to do so to allow the vehicle to pass. Note Rule 169: “Do not hold up a long queue of traffic, especially if you are driving a large or slow-moving vehicle. Check your mirrors frequently, and if necessary, pull in where it is safe and let traffic pass”.
  • In the hours of darkness ensure you have legal front and rear lights. Turn them on. Make sure rear lights are not too bright to blind following riders. Use constant mode NOT flashing mode unless you are riding at the rear of the group.
  • Should off road sections occur, riders will usually need to default to single file, slower speed and be widely spaced. Note that calls and signals will not be possible on more challenging off-road sections.

All riders should read through the Worcester St. John’s Group Ride Risk Assessment and the Ride Leaders Guidelines found on the club website

Learn the calls and use them.

‘Car back’        Car approaching from behind (Some old guys might shout ‘Car up’ or ‘oil up’) This does NOT mean you need to single out, it’s just safety information

‘Car front’       Car approaching from the front (Some old guys might shout ‘Car down’ or ‘Car on’)

‘Hole left’        Pothole on the left (Similarly ‘Hole right’)

‘Middle’           Something to be avoided by passing left or right of it.

‘Underneath’    Unavoidable holes, trenches, dead animal, or animal dung.

‘Gravel’             Loose stones on a bend or in the road

‘On the left’    Parked cars, walkers, slow cyclist etc., the need to move out and pass.

Stopping’       Stopping for a junction, a puncture, put jackets on, etc.

‘Slowing’         Slowing before junction or hazard but may proceed without stopping.

Horses’           We always slow down and warn horses and riders of our approach, then pass wide and slow and listen to any instructions from the horse rider.

Single’             Change from two abreast to single file. This is done by the person on the right dropping into a gap behind the person on the left. The front riders may need to accelerate, and the rear riders slow down to stretch the group and create gaps between riders to allow the right-hand riders to drop in.

Double’           Move back into a two abreast formation, this is the default riding formation used 80% of the time. When there is a large group it can be safer to remain two abreast to prevent vehicles overtaking.

‘Going left’     Turning left, similarly ‘Going right’ and ‘Straight on’.

‘Clear’ or ‘OK’     Indicates to following riders that it is safe to pull out at a junction. (Don’t rely on this, check for yourself)

Car’ or ‘Car left’ or ‘Car right’ indicates the approach of cars at a junction and it is not safe to pull out.

Easy’ or ‘steady’     Slow down the pace a bit to allow others to keep up or catch up.

Glass’              Broken glass in the road

‘Leave a gap’  Split a large group into two to allow cars to overtake

‘Roll through’     When riding 2 abreast. Instruction for the front right rider to move ahead into front left position and all the right hand line of riders all to move up one position. The rearmost left rider moves into rearmost right position. This is repeated about every 2 or 3 miles so everybody takes a turn on the front and gets to talk to everybody else.

‘Puncture’      A rider has punctured and will be stopping. Group must find a safe place to stop.

It’s everybody’s responsibility to make sure we don’t leave anyone behind; let the leader know if a rider is ‘off the back’, i.e. is 10 or 20 yards behind the main group.

Hand Signals

Apart from the normal Highway Code signals, cyclists have additional signals for fellow riders.

Pointing down and left (and sometimes shaking the hand) means a pothole or hazard on the road surface on the left. Similarly, right.

Left arm bent behind the back and pointing right indicates a hazard such as a parked car on the left and the need to move out.

When indicating right or left make sure the arm is horizontal and can’t be mistaken for pointing out a pothole. Keep the hand flat and vertical for best visibility.

Slowing down right-hand gentle moved up and down accompanied by ‘Slowing’ or ‘Stopping’.


Further information can be found at:

Lastly – don’t get hung up on these guidelines; everyone makes mistakes, but at least you know what they are now.

Document: 2017-10-26 v4 MS

Coronavirus Update 29th March 2021

The Club is following the advice of its governing bodies including British Cycling, Cycling UK, MTBO, CTT.  For Club group rides and activities over 6 riders, British Cycling’s guidelines are the most detailed (currently found on pages 9, 10 and 11 – but frequently updated)

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