Bunch Riding Etiquette

Please see the Event or Risk Management Plan (‘EMP’) for specific details regarding the organization of this specific cycling event.

Traffic signals including red light are sometimes not observed by cyclists, however cyclists expect other vehicles to respect their position on the road. If a cyclist’s conduct reflects an observance of the road rules and consideration to the other users, cyclists will benefit from a safer and more enjoyable environment in which to enjoy their sport. VetRide asks that you carefully observe and obey the road laws and that you are courteous to all others who share your use of the road.

That said riding with a group during a recreational cycling event, is one of the best ways to enjoy cycling, as it provides extra motivation and the opportunity to participate in conversation ‘over the handlebars’.

It does require concentration on particular skills with your bike and an awareness of how riding as part of a peloton operates, according to the required rules of the road and some generally accepted bunch-riding techniques.

Some commonly used signals are (do not overuse signals so as to add risk, use your voice in the first instance and apply common sense):

  • Left turn. Straighten your left arm and hold it out horizontally from your body
  • Right turn. Do the same as the left turn signal, but with your right arm.
  • Stop. Extend your arm as if signaling but bend your forearm at a 90-degree angle at the elbow.
  • Slowing down. Keeping your arm straight, hold it a 45-degree angle from your waist. You can use your left or right hand for this move.
  • Leaving the front of the peloton. If you wish to cease being at the front of the group and wish to go to the rear, signal your intention by holding your arm horizontally from your body and angling your forearm toward your waist. Use either your left or right arm to indicate which direction you’re going, and hold the signal for three seconds before moving.
  • Railroad crossing. Hold out your arm horizontally from your body and swing your forearm toward and away from your body repeatedly.
  • Moving objects. Hold your arm up in the air at a slight angle from your body. Use your left or right arm depending on the location of the obstacle.
  • Road hazards eg potholes, glass, unsealed surfaces, parked cars. Before reaching, gesture or point to the obstacle and slightly rotate your arm.

Calls to alert those cycling with you and other advice:

  • ‘Stopping’                                    A red light is approaching or other reason to stop.
  • ‘Car Back’
  • ‘Car Up’                                        There is a car parked or pulling out in front.
  • ‘Riders’                                        The bunch is approaching or being overtaken by other riders.
  • ‘Clear’                                          The intersection ahead is clear.
  • ‘Flat’                                             Cyclist has a flat tyre and requires assistance.
  • ‘Off the Back’                              Advice that a rider cannot keep up and has been left behind.
  • ‘Dropped’, ‘Toast’ or ‘Bonk’      Advice that a rider is ceasing or taking up a slower pace.
  • ‘Back On’        
  • ‘Standing’                                    Advice that you are going to stand, carefully because it slows your pace.

Group Riding Skills:

  • ‘Position on the road’  –   It is imperative that riders do not ride more than two abreast, try to keep their handlebars parallel and that any group as required by the road safety rules, keep as close to the left of the carriageway as is practicable. Never block traffic and always keep at least 100 metres between the front rider and the cycling event lead vehicle (so as to allow room for vehicles as large as a B-Double truck to pass and pull in safely). Do not make room for a passing vehicle, unless sufficient space is clearly able to be created.
  • ‘Keeping your line’  –   A very important skill of being able to follow the line being ridden by the riders immediately in front of you and always move smoothly and predictably in doing so.
  • ‘Front wheel awareness’ –  Requires continuous awareness of the position of your bike, the traffic ahead and particularly your front wheel and those of other riders. Allow a safety margin beyond the arc drawn by your wheel and make adjustments accordingly, anticipating changes in direction and speed. Ride on the hoods or in the drops with two fingers on the brakes and always have a thumb below the handlebar, in readiness for bumps. Use shoulder contact rather than elbows to recover from touching or leaning towards other riders. Never chop in or pull in suddenly, in front of another rider.
  • ‘Keeping a Pace’ – If dropped maintain whatever pace you can manage, the group speed may drop over time and enable you to get ‘back on’.
  • ‘Avoid the accordion or elasticity effect’ – With the variable pace of the various bunches of riders in the peloton, adjustments are required, with those at the back needing to accelerate more quickly. (those at the front can be slowed or stopped, however this tends to cause unwanted bunching). Within the group make allowances for this variation in how you adjust your speed.
  • ‘Getting in front of the game’ –  To avoid being dropped on an upcoming hill or to account for future acceleration, move up towards the front of the group, so that when the challenge comes you have the capacity to fall back but without being dropped. Do not take front position unless you are able to maintain the pace. Alternatively move up at stoplights or as you leave rest stops.
  • ‘How to move up’ –  The easiest way to move up is around the group rather than finding gaps through the bunch and in order to help cope with the free air wind resistance, get behind other passing riders when it is safe to do so.
  • ‘Responsibilities’ –  Your position within a group is determined by how strong a rider you are and if you are part of the first group in a bunch, as part of the rotation, you will be expected to ‘take a pull’ or turn at the front, into the wind, where the up to 70% benefit of being in an echelon is lost.

You will also be expected to keep and close a ‘gap’; that being a space equal to one bike length. If you leave more than a ‘gap’, expect a rider to fill the space. If you are in a rotation and the rider ahead of you pulls out, thereby leaving a gap of more than six feet, try to close the gap. If the pace is too high indicate that you need some help and after signalling, pull out of the rotation and drop back.

  • ‘Your position in the group’  –  Where you position yourself in the group will determine how you need to ride to stay in the group. The area near the front but out of that rotation of riders at the front is the position with the most even pace. Many riders will work just hard enough to try to be near the front without actually being at the front for this reason; this also happens to be one of the safest places in the group. The middle of the group can be crowded but offers excellent slip streaming or draft. Accelerations in the group’s pace are more noticeable here. The back half of the group offers the most beneficial draft, but changes in pace can require more extreme accelerations.
  • ‘Re-hydration’ –  Even riding for an hour in cool conditions can require the replacement of fluids lost through perspiration and you will need to drink some water, either when you stop or if necessary whilst you are riding. The latter requires some extra skills and drinking with one hand means you will be steering, shifting, and braking with the other hand. It is important that you are comfortable in grabbing, drinking from, and replacing the bottle without looking at what you are doing.
    For maximum control, drink with the left hand while controlling the bike with the right hand. Keeping your right hand on the bar gives you more control than you’ll have with your left. If you need to shift gears as you drink, the rear derailleur (which is shifted with your right hand) offers finer adjustments in gearing. Similarly, if you need to brake suddenly, the rear brake offers more easily modulated braking power; a big pull on the rear brake won’t send you over the bar the way the front brake can.

PLEASE NOTE: The content above and all that contained on this site is only by way of recommendations and is not intended to replace professional advice regarding road safety or any other aspect of cycling, nor does it offer an assurance that you will not be injured in implementing any of the suggested practices referred to herein. Any person or body who chooses to practice the advice offered does so at their own risk and the VVAA, VetRide, the authors and all those organisations associated with the website shall not be liable for any loss or damage howsoever occasioned and whenever it may arise.