Group Rides 101

  • Thinking of joining a group ride or just want a refresher on group ride etiquette and safety? Group rides are a great way to improve your fitness and speed as well as make new friends. If you are training for a century, a bike camping trip or would like to start racing, this is a great way to help you prepare.


    Memphis Hightailers offers a number of rides for their members.  


    Be Prepared

    Here’s a checklist for what you need to go on the group ride:

    1. Helmet
    2. Check tire pressure, following recommended PSI.
    3. Lube chain as needed
    4. Flat kit – pump/CO2, tire levers, 1-2 extra tubes, patch kit, multi-tool
    5. Bike computer (optional) – a great way to track your rides
    6. Mobile phone
    7. Cash (comes in handy for muffins, coffee, snacks, tire boots, and post-ride drinks)
    8. Water bottles – 1-2 depending on the length of the ride.
    9. Energy – Avoid bonking and throw a gel or two or energy bar in your pocket.
    10. Have a cue sheet or the route programmed into your Garmin, especially if it's a "drop" ride. 
    11. Don’t be late – always better to show up a little early and meet your fellow riders
    12. If the ride is at night, remember to bring your front and rear lights!
    13. Leave your ear buds or headphones at home.
    14. Leave your aero bars at home too. Not safe on a group ride.


    Photo Courtesy of Shawn Conley


    Know About The Ride

    Do you know the pace? If it’s faster than your normal pace, have a backup plan or know their route in case you get dropped from the group.


    Is it a “no drop” ride? The group will help if you struggle to keep pace or have a flat. If you are just starting out, you’ll probably want to find a group ride that is “no drop” with a slower pace to help you adjust to riding with a group.


    Photo by Yasmeen Schuller


    Group Etiquette


    Know and follow the laws

    • Most group rides won’t blow stoplights or break the laws. We will follow the rules of the road.


    Photo by Zach Schneider


    Be alert to your surroundings, using call-outs and hand gestures to warn fellow riders

    • If you aren't as familiar with the hand gestures and call-outs, follow the lead of the group, repeating what people are saying and doing.
    • Turns e.g. "right" "left" usually with hand signals.
    • Slowing down "slowing", speeding up, stopping "stopping". If you tap your brakes, call it. Also, "rolling" if the light changes and the group is riding through the intersection. People will also communicate an all clear with "clear" and add "rolling".
    • Don’t coast in a paceline.
    • Learn the hand signals and use them when you ride in groups.
    • Pot holes, potential dangers and obstructions on the roads (you'll usually hear "hole" or "glass" and the person will point at it) 
    • Call out mechanicals/flats so the rest of the group knows you need to stop.
    • Warn of glass, gravel, and holes (tends to be a literal call out like "glass" while pointing to the location)
    • Cars – “Car up” “Car back” “Car left/right”
    • If there are sprint points during a ride, communicate clearly before it begins so that people that are new to the group ride will be prepared.


    Hold Your Line – Keep You And Others Safe and Crash-Free

    • Maintain pace
    • Avoid swerving or unexpected moves
    • Ride a line parallel with the edge of the road
    • Don’t make abrupt changes or turns
    • Keep your hands on the handlebars – sure, you’ll need to reach for a water bottle or snack on occasion but when riding, keep focused and connected
    • Avoid changes in speed, avoid braking except when it’s time to stop. Sit up or move out of the line into the wind to subtly slow yourself down and make sure to communicate your intentions before you do
    • Don’t overlap wheels (your front wheel to a fellow rider’s back wheel)
    • Don’t look back (this can cause you to inadvertently swerve your bike)
    • Look up at the rider ahead (not down at their wheel)
    • Watch for hand signals a few riders ahead – you may not have enough time to react to the rider directly in front of you. Don’t get fixated on what’s directly in front of you, pay attention to peripheral vision and everything around you


    Photo by Yasmeen Schuller  


    Here's a video reviewing Group Ride Basics by BikeRadar:


    Once You Return Home

    • Change out of your kit and take a shower right away
    • Wash your kit (recommended to hang it dry)


    Take this quiz on “Group Dynamics” at Bicycling Magazine