Watching La Vuelta or the Giro? How do the Pro Cyclists cycle in a Group? Learn how and improve your Cycling Performance.
We are all watching the Giro d’Italia or la Vuelta a España right now and are often amazed at the great bike handling techniques the riders have, not just high speed descending a mountain like the Stelvio, but actually cycling in the peloton.
Riding in a group of cyclists does take skill and experience and so here are some cycling tips in order not to knock anyone off when gruppetto riding and improve your cycling performance. Group cycling is a fantastic way to connect with people and make friends with like-minded folks so master some of these tips to fully participate in this fun and social activity.
We have run group cycling tours for almost 2 decades now, and get asked by people nervous to join group rides, how to cycle in a bunch. Here are some top tips for riding in a group.
Read time: 5 min
Consistency is the Key to Cycling in a Group
When biking in a group, be predictable and solid in your rhythm. This is probably the number one tip. Be consistent in your pedalling speed (cadence) and don’t make other cyclists second guess where you are going on the road. Keeping an even pace is what you want to avoid that crash situation.
Top Tricks on how to Ride Together
Hold your Line
It is really disconcerting to be cycling beside someone who is wavering all over the place on the road. Keep a straight line and maintain the same distance between yourself and the rider next to. Think about the line the other cyclist, say on your inside, has to take, especially on a curve or an obstacle in the road and change your position accordingly.
Follow the Wheel in Front
The best group riders can literally cycle with their front wheel only cms from rider in front’s rear wheel. This is a skill learnt over time, that lets you effectively conserve energy by riding in the slipstream. It is an important one to learn to prevent the group splitting up if the pace increases. Experience, confidence and knowing your other riders’ styles will let you build this skill.
Keep your hands on your brake hoods
Yes, sometimes the unexpected does happen and that consistency is disrupted, and you need to brake suddenly or swerve to avoid hitting something. The Pros in the peloton always have their hands on their hoods (sometimes a finger resting over the lever) as a quick reaction for braking. It’s always needed in a group rides, especially descending and on the flat in a chain gang.
Warning Cyclists Behind is Key when Biking in a Group
Be vocal, warning other cyclists behind you about obstructions like potholes, broken glass, is so helpful to maintain a smooth ride and avoids others swerving suddenly due to the unwelcome surprise of cycling over glass. Use hand signals to point/show obstructions on the road, etc. Be the “eyes” for those behind you. Familiarize yourself with each group’s signals before getting on the saddle.
This also is valuable when stopping for lights, avoiding that funny sight for onlookers to see the domino effect of cyclists crashing into each other, but not so much enjoyment for the cyclists behind. Shouting a clear “Stopping!” makes awareness immediate.
Warn chatting cyclists behind or in front about any traffic with a “Car Back”, “Car Up” to keep people focused.
Tips for Leading at the Front of the Peloton
If pulling at the front, and going through lights, take a confirmation from the group, “Everyone on?” Then slow down accordingly if some have had to stop for them to catch up. This also works the same if someone has had a mechanical or is just pooping out a bit. If behind, let the leader at the front know, “Rider off” or “Mechanicals”.
To get to the front, always pass on your outside (say, “Passing” if necessary), then cycle with the head rider to get to their pace, then pull ahead of them in order they can now move back.
Keeping that pace at the front of the cycling group takes experience
Adjust your speed at the front to pull the group, not creating your own breakaway or making them suffer trying to keep up with you! The point is to keep everyone together. It is a team effort remember. Keep a constant speed, as any great variance will cause you to hear some cursing as people have to keep braking or powering up.
Signal for a change of position
If hills aren’t your thing, or you are tired leading, and you are at the front, there’s no shame in dropping off the head in order not to slow the group down. Either shout for someone else to take the lead, or if agreed, signal with your elbow for someone else to come through. The best group riders take turns at the front, as anyone who cycles knows, it takes much more energy when riding at the front, especially into a head wind. Constantly changing position keeps cadence high and allows the pace to remain the same by letting everyone conserve/recover their energy levels.
Let’s have a moment of silence for those stuck in traffic, on their way to the gym to ride their stationary bike.
Safety First when Cycling
A key rule is always ride within your comfort zone. If you are uncomfortable riding in a big group, ride with a colleague first and slowly build up your technique.
Two abreast (side-by-side) in a group is standard, but be considerate to other road users and the safety laws. If the road narrows out or you approach a tight bend, then ride single file. Always be a good cycle ambassador by obeying all road Highway codes.
What to Bring on a Group Bike Ride?
Come prepared to be self-sufficient. So that means spare tube, pump and tyre levers, plus your mobile phone. Depending on the weather, it is always good to carry arm warmers / gilet / spare layer / waterproof and it’s recommended to have an energy bar or gel in case you do start “bonking” (pooping out) mid ride.
Now you are ready to Ride with your Group!