For those new to group cycling in races, touring events or on club runs there are plenty of unwritten rules, traditions and techniques that are quickly acquired and will make the experience safer and more enjoyable for all.
Here is a brief summary:
- The group rides in two abreast formation. Pair off in twos and rotate at the front every couple of minutes or so. The frequency of rotation depends on the size of the group, the weather, pace etc. Riders will often call 'up and over' to indicate that the riders at the front should rotate.
- Maintain a steady straight line.
- No sudden movements. Be predictable with all your actions. Avoid braking or changing direction suddenly. Likewise, don't get out of the saddle abruptly. It could cause the rider behind to hit you.
- Lead riders should use hand signals to indicate stopping or turning as well as clearly audible shouted instructions.
- Riders at the rear should warn of approaching cars, particularly on narrow roads.
- Point out and call out any road hazards ahead. These include potholes, drains, speed ramps, animals, parked cars, opening car doors, wet or icy road surface, etc.
- Don't overlap wheels. A slight direction change by the rider in front could easily catch you out. If you 'touch wheels' with the rider in front it's tough to keep upright.
- Make sure to keep pedaling down hill when you are at the front of the group so that the riders behind don't bunch up behind you. It can be a bit fraught if everyone has to reach for their brakes.
- Be smooth with your turns at the front of the group. Avoid surges. Stay alongside and don't increase the pace to move a half wheel ahead of the rider alongside. He/she will have to speed up to maintain the two-by-two formation and the speed will escalate unnecessarily. Don't acquire a reputation as a 'half-wheeler'!
- Don't sprint up to take your turn at the front. Move up smoothly with a small increase in pace and ease that pace ever so slightly when you move alongside.
- Avoid leaving gaps when following wheels. Cyclists save a huge amount of energy by following in the slipstream of the rider in front. However, don't become mesmerized by the rear brake of the rider in front as you concentrate on staying close as there's a good chance you'll ride into it! Keep looking well ahead to spot hazards and terrain changes.
- When climbing hills, avoid following a wheel too closely. Many riders often lose their momentum when rising out of the saddle on a hill which can cause a sudden deceleration. This can often catch a rider who is following too closely, resulting in a fall from a wheel touch.
- Don't panic if you brush shoulders, hands or bars with another rider. Try to stay relaxed in your upper body to absorb any bumps.
- Wear a helmet on all club spins and make sure your bike is in good working order.
- Use mudguards in winter as a courtesy to other riders.
- Bring a minimum of one spare tube, tyre levers and a pump. A second spare tube and a multi tool can be useful too. Also, bring some money in case you need emergency food supplies and a mobile phone in case you get stranded.
- Bring plenty of water or sports drink.
- If the spin is going to be more than two hours, make sure to bring food. Start eating after about an hour and a half. The golden rule is to eat 'a little and often'.
- Relax and don't forget to have fun!
There are loads more arcane rules and jargon that separate road cyclists from the rest of the planet. You'll pick them up as you go.