The concise version
1. Turn up before start time.
2. Make sure your bike works.
3. Take spare tube, pump and multi-tool.
4. Take drink and some chow.
5. Point out hazards.
6. Ride sensibly.
7. Dont get dropped.
The maximum number of bikes owned is s-1, where s is the number of bikes that would result in separation from your partner.
The long version
I started writing this thinking it would be short and concise. some hope. You may get bored reading this so don't let that or any of the rules put you off going on a ride there are a lot of extremely experienced riders who don't know the half of this.
- Nominate a ride leader for each group keep an eye on the pack. If the pack gets spread out, the leader is expected to slow the pace.
- Introduce yourself to the rest of the group. Agree the pace at which you are all happy to ride
- Remember how many people are in the group and ensure the group stays together.
- Agreeing a pace is difficult, people have completely different ideas of what they're capable of, what pace they ride at, and particularly the difference in speed of a group.
- Ride at the pace agreed in the group: these are training rides, not races.
- Ensure the group re-forms if split up by traffic lights or during a climb.
- Make sure you put regular "tempo" own pace segments into the ride - normally up longer hills, but having at least 1 or 2 on slight descents / downhills will help keep the heavier guys interested. On hills the group will have to split unless the strongest guys are so prepared to sandbag that they'll ride up very easily. Just regroup at the top of the hill before the next junction.
- Either stop at a safe point on the roadside or slow until the group re-forms.
- Ensure no rider is to be left behind unless they decide to leave the group. Look out for each other as it is no fun being left on your own, especially in winter.
- Hold an actual wheel, do not ride 10yards off the back
- Let the rest of the group know if you decide to leave the group
- Talk to each other. Point out either with hand signals or shouts, all potholes, manhole covers and other dangers in the road that could cause punctures or accidents. Follow the hand signals and calls of the riders in front as they will have seen the danger before you and then you can all communicate down the pack.
- Voice ones of Easy / Stopping / Clear / Car Up / Car Down / Car Back / Hole
- Hand signals Point at Hole / Waft at obstructions / hand flicking behind back to the left or right / hand straight up in the air.
- If you are the back of the group and can see someone dropping or being dropped it is your responsibility to call to the cyclists in front that the pace is too high. The pack must communicate this up to the front. The lead cyclists will not be aware if you start to drop. Ask them to slow down, it is your ride too.
- When asked to "ease up' or "slow a little" do not brake suddenly. Gentle ease your pace by pedalling less hard or freewheeling for a moment. Look at your speedo - if someone is being dropped you probably only need to reduce your speed by half a mile an hour to allow them to stay on.
- Ride at a steady pace rather than surging keeping the pack as a compact unit. It's a long steady ride not an intervals session.
- Carry inner tubes, tyre levers and a pump or CO2 that can get your tyre up to road pressures also a mini tool might be useful. Bring enough food and drink to get you all the way, even without the tea stop
- No more than 2 abreast. Call "single up" or similar as well as "car back" if a car needs to pass and can't when you're in a double line. . If a car is approach ahead on a narrow road, it may also be appropriate to go single file, in which case shout "car up".
- Dont ride on tri bars whilst in a group/make sure your brakes are covered
- When riding in a pack, look at "shoulder level" of cyclists in front of you to allow you to see what is occurring ahead of you ? as in further up the road than just the cyclists in front of you. Fixing your gaze on the back tire of the person in front of you doesn?t give you enough time to react should the entire group slow down!
- Ride your bike in such a manner as to not offend motorists, pedestrians, etc. While not required, a "thank you wave" to a motorist who yields to the pack does make friends! A "hi" to a youngster that we pass may encourage the youngster to begin cycling.
Close formation riding
Riding on level ground your front wheel should be within 50cm of the back wheel of the bike in front. This takes practice to get comfortable with. You should also be close enough to touch the rider next to you. Your handle bars should be level with the person to your left/right so if you do swerve into each other your handle bars will not interlock or get tangled in the various cables.
By riding in close formation it makes the group easier to overtake and increases the draft benefit for the weaker riders in the group.
On downhills you may prefer to leave a bigger gap to the bike in front and when going uphill beware of moving from a seated position to standing out of the saddle, this action results in pushing your bike backwards into the rider behind, so try to be aware of riders around you.
Ride in order to keep the group together. If you are on the front, don't accelerate hard out of junctions or over the tops of hills because you'll stretch out the group like a rubber band and the effort to close gaps will slowly exhaust the weaker riders. If you are in the pack, close the gaps quickly when they open. This may mean having to work hard for a short period - this is how you pay back those doing the hard work up front! Do not be offended when another rider tells you to close a gap, and if you don't feel able to do so then tell others so they can move up into your place.
Occasionally the ride leader may want to inject and interval or slightly faster section into the training ride, in which case he will let riders know (e.g. from here to the next village I want everyone to put in a hard effort). This may mean that riders may spread out to the pace they are capable. The idea however is not to give up if you can't keep up with the rider in front but to continue your effort at your ability until you reach a designated point. All riders will wait after a faster section to re-group.
- DON'T ride off the front. This is a group ride, not a race. If you want to go faster then let the others know what you are going to do and if no one wants to join you then go off and enjoy your ride alone.
- Unless of course there's a village sign up ahead, then sprint for it for all your worth...
- DON'T overlap wheels - riders should follow the wheel in front but not let their front wheel overlap the back wheel of the rider in front, it is the most common cause of a crash in a group. (if the rider in front needs to avoid an obstacle then he could swerve into your wheel if it is overlapping theirs). Instead, keep your front wheel behind and in line with the wheel of the rider in front.
- DON'T make sudden movements - braking suddenly or altering your course unannounced will create havoc for the riders behind you.
- DON'T undertake a rider (pass them on their left hand side). In the exceptional case that you have to make sure you let the rider know by saying "rider on inside" or "rider on left".
Other essential rules & skills
You have to be able to take one hand off the bars to drink, to signal and to look at the road behind you.
Have respect for other road users
In country lanes and heavy traffic, cars may find it difficult to pass. So the shout of "single file" will go up and the riders on the right will file in behind the rider to their left until the cars are past and it is safe to ride two by two again. Occasionally, it may even be necessary to pull over to let a queue of traffic past - yes, the highway code doesn't require it but it is the decent thing to do.
Slow down for horses and pass as wide as possible. A call (not shout!) of "Bike coming" or simply "Good morrow to you, beast mistress" will allow horse and rider to anticipate your sudden appearance.
Be aware of the people around you and that your movements will affect the entire group. For example, if you get out of the saddle on a climb, your back wheel will typically drop back six inches. Pedal continuously at a pace and cadence consistent with the riders ahead, and when it's your turn on the front try to maintain the pace of the group. It takes time to get used to but consistent riding is vital.
Listen, ask and be honest
Talk to people and take on board what they tell you. Don't be afraid to ask questions - everyone was a novice once. If you've any doubts about your fitness or handling skills, always opt for a slower group.
You'll only get the slipstream effect if you're tucked right in behind the rider in front. Leave too big a gap and you're short-changing yourself and the riders behind you. If you're nervous about clipping the wheel in front, ride six inches either side of it but take care not to overlap. Don't spend the whole time staring at the rear tyre of the rider ahead - you must look up every now and then.
Ensure your bike is well maintained and that you have a multitool, pump, tyre levers and spare inner tubes. Make sure you've enough food and drink for the length of ride planned and suitable clothing for any changes of weather. Also, if you don't know the area, carry a map - 99.9% of clubs have a policy of not abandoning people but if you lose the group for whatever reason, you should be able to find your own way home.
Don't be 'grabby' on your brakes
A good group rider will barely need to touch their brakes and hopefully those ahead will be the same. Changes of speed, either braking or speeding up, should be gradual.
If the road ahead looks clear, ride with your hands on the tops.
Don't Half wheel
If road conditions and traffic allows, you'll generally be riding two abreast. Maintain an even pace and stay level with the person next to you. Don't constantly up the pace whenever a rider draws level to you. This is very bad form and is guaranteed to draw lots of disapproving looks and comments.
Don't Wheel suck
Don't always sit among the wheels and shirk your stint on the front. Even if you just put in a few turns of the pedals it'll be noted and appreciated. But, even if you're finding the pace easy, don't get on the front and put the hammer down. Chances are you'll look back to find nobody has followed you and you'll hear mirth about the "typical triathlete".
If the ride is meant to leave at 8:30 then make sure you are there before so the ride can leave on time. Some people have to be back for family commitments and it's a bit annoying having ride time eaten away by people being late.
Fit mudguards, especially in winter or if the weather is bad. It's unpleasant riding behind people without mudguards if it's wet and all the shit is flying up off their back wheel in to your face.
Bike set up