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Tuesday
Sep072010

Group Riding

Cycling in a group is one of the wonderful things about our pastime; like minded people socializing while exercising.

There are few sports where you can do this as well.

The picture on the left is a group doing just that; highly visible to other road users and riding two abreast as is legal in most places. 

The picture on the right is not a group ride in my opinion; it is a group of cyclists all riding as individuals on the same section of the highway.

A few strong riders are going “Balls out” at the front, tearing what could have been a group apart. There is no socializing going on.

If there is one complaint I hear all the time from the non-cycling public, it is that groups of cyclists ride three and four abreast blocking traffic. I am sorry to say this but in many cases it is true, I have witnessed it.

Here is a group of professional cyclists on a training ride. The important thing about this group is that they are taking less than half the lane and a car wishing to pass can easily see around them to determine whether it is safe to do so.

In this next picture, these riders are technically riding two abreast, but why are they taking the whole lane? What is with all that unnecessary wasted space in the middle?

Here is another large group of about twenty experienced riders; these guys have the luxury of a nice wide shoulder on this stretch of road, but even if the shoulder was not there they would only be taking half the lane and it would be easy for a passing driver to see around them.

Then there is this group. You could argue that this stretch of highway is three lanes wide on either side, so why shouldn’t a group of cyclists use the whole lane. Just because you can, does that make it right?

It is not that difficult to ride two by two in a pace line, it just takes a few like minded individuals to democratically decide that is what they want to do.

If you ride in a single pace line, the line is twice the length for a car to pass, and there is usually a rider dropping back from the front, so the line is still two abreast at some point.

A group like the one shown on the left can cover a lot of miles at a fairly good pace, and training wise is more beneficial to everyone.

I may leave myself open to criticism in saying this, but it seems to me that many want to look like professionals with the equipment and clothing but have no interest in trying to ride like a professional.

That is to take the time to learn to follow a wheel, and to ride in close proximity to others.

And socialize, even the pros do it in the middle of the peloton during the Tour de France.

 

Feel free to weigh in with your views on this subject

                         

Reader Comments (18)

Dave,

In the interest of safety, one must ask himself if he is comfortable riding with others of unknown ability in close proximity. This is a golden opportunity to coach others in the finer points of cycling. One racing club of which I was a member routinely sought out lightly or untravelled roads for the express purpose of peloton training. Another exercise taught by the USCF coaches was to put cyclists in a grassy field and teach them how to relax on the bike and touch wheels without crashing. A bent elbow and a relaxed grip are essential tools to peloton riding as is not putting one's head down. Learn to ride safe and by that, I mean predictably. Being part of a peloton is great, that is until your turn comes just as the group gets a headwind.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim

it seems to me that many want to look like professionals with the equipment and clothing but have no interest in trying to ride like a professional.

Sing it, brother!

I'm not a fan of group rides personally. My life is such that solitude is a rare commodity & I'm not going to spend six hours on a Saturday with yet more people yammering at me. But I appreciate that other people like it, and I like seeing a well-formed peloton out on the roads. And it kind of gets my dander up seeing packs of riders whose sartorial abilities surpass their cycling abilities.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Souders

Another insightful post. A town in my neck of the woods has signs along their roads noting that "all cycling laws are enforced". This is a direct result of cyclists riding as clueless as the drivers they share the road with. While out riding this last weekend I had to point out to numerous riders that they shouldn't be riding in the middle of the road while chatting with their friend who's riding 3 feet to their right. A group of 10-12 riders acting this way fills the road making it impossible for a following driver to see when it's safe to pass. (Along with just plain pissing them off.) Many of these folks were in full pro team kit and two of them thought I was being a pain in their butt for mentioning their transgression of common sense.
BTW, this same town doesn't enforce the "three foot" rule for cars passing riders.
At least that I've seen.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Baumann

Hi Dave, You hit the nail on the head. And so have the above commentors. I must admit most wannabees are just that. They go out on the weekends to "socialize" taking up the road and pissing off motorists. And like Steve mentioned above, if you call them on it, the response is usually the middle finger.
Well, no wonder motorists get ticked. Riding side by side isn't difficult. Once one has developed their spin it's rather easy to ride in a straight line as you mentioned Dave. I found by riding "rollers" at home really helps your spin and forces you to pay attention with a result of straight line riding. Unfortunately scratching your head and rubbing your belly at the same time is beyond most riders capabilities.
Dave you are also correct in that a well run pace line can rack up miles and develop speed as well as still being social. Great post Dave !

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Can't agree. If you leave room in your lane, drivers have this ridiculous and reckless habit of trying to stay on the right side of the centre line - even without oncoming traffic; if you take most of the lane, they have to wait, or pass in the other lane. Guess what, that's what's expected when there are slow moving cars or trucks, where the driver is much less vulnerable!

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjamesmallon

Have to agree with jamesmallon there. Nothing wrong with taking up the full lane.

Dave you come across as somewhat pro-car in this post. It's not as if these people are going out to ride at ridiculously low speeds and in huge numbers to intentionally piss car drivers off like Critical Mass riders do.

Drivers can have some patience like the rest of us...

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLee

I'm a bicycling safety instructor in California. In situations where the lane is not wide enough to safely share with a vehicle, I recommend cyclists control the lane. This means they ride toward the middle of the rightmost lane. Squeezing to the right on lanes that are not wide enough to share tends to encourage motorists to squeeze next to the cyclist, passing with insufficient space for safety. In situations like the photo above that is black and white except for the riders' jerseys, I would say they are riding appropriately. If the lane isn't wide enough for one cyclist to safely share with a car (3-5 feet from parked cars, 3 feet of passing space, and 8 feet for large vehicles or buses for a total of 14 to 16 foot wide lanes) then it is certainly not wide enough for two cyclists and a vehicle to share. In cases where a cyclist is controlling the lane, I don't see any problem with cyclists riding two abreast since the motorist would have to change lanes to pass anyway.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermeghan

I ride quit a bit up north of San Francisco where it is easy to find the two lane country road as depicted by the fourth picture from the top. I think the important thing is to know the street and know the traffic that flows on it. In that picture, I can easily see riding as they are riding, only to be sure to notify "car back" if someone is coming upon you and everyone moves aside accordingly. But no need to ride on the right side of the road if the traffic doesn't warrant it.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermaltese falcon

The article is insightful and I agree, we should avoid blocking traffic flow. It only adds to driver vs cyclist tension.

However, your photos do not support your argument well. The photos used to show cyclist out in the road have no shoulder. Although they are not tightly bunched, they wouldn’t save much space by doing so.

To me it is more about judgement. You know the area you ride in, judge when you need to be tucked into the shoulder. Busier areas require different techniques than country roads (the kind where you won’t see a car for hours).

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNick

I wouln't try using a full lane in Los Angeles unless there are "Sharearrows." Just the other day someone told me about a group on Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu taking up a lane and irrate weekend drivers honking and swearing at them for blocking the highway. Maybe you can get away with it in your town, but in Los Angeles you might be in the obituaries. Even the Los Angeles Mayor was "right hooked" on Venice Bl. in a bike lane on a weekend ride by a taxi (who fled the scene) which resulted in the Mayor falling and breaking his elbow.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Brian,

I do live in Los Angeles. Because of the danger of the door zone in the narrow right lanes all over the city, I am frequently forced to control the lane for my safety. I ride PCH extensively and taking the lane is the only safe option, honking or not, in many areas.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermeghan

You've hit the nail on the head with this post, Dave. Chapeau.

The comments regarding position in the lane are interesting, and probably have some merit. But let's not overlook his other point, and that is to look organized and like the group knows what it's doing. A group that is scattered all over the road and is not riding a disciplined double paceline is confusing to motorists, impedes their ability to safely pass, and just plain pisses them off.

And those pissed off motorists can/will hold a grudge and potentially take it out on us when we're riding solo. Like observing traffic laws, image is very important when dealing with those in cars.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBig Mikey

The world if full of wankers.....Many of them ride bikes.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrump

I think Grump makes a good point. As for controlling the lane, that is the safest approach I've found when descending at high speeds (>35mph) . As other's have said, if I stay right then, like as not, someone will try to squeeze past me, even on a curve with double yellow lines.
I woud enjoy riding more pace lines but it seems as if every time I get involved with one it turns into a sausage fest with everyone continually upping the pace. Maybe I need to start hanging out with a less fit (or more sensible) crowd.

September 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterskylab

Great post and you hit the nail right on the head. It's all a matter of skill. Many "pro looking" riders have no idea how to ride in a group.

Riding with a fast group with people that know what they're doing is one of the coolest feelings in all of cycling.

September 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

Bravo Dave. I understand the mentality of being aggressive to be safe. However, I just as often see this behavior either as a lack of skill, training, or hubris.
There are more stupid and strong riders rather than fast and smart, even in racing oriented clubs.
As for riding on PCH, (pacific coast highway) my old club has lost more than one on the stretch between Santa Monica and Malibu. Quick slide repair over the decades has made that stretch dangerous for bicycles, autos drive at freeway speeds with no shoulder in sections. It used to be a great place to ride.

September 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjorgensen

The road rules in my part of the world require motorists to move wholly into another lane when passing another vehicle, a category which includes cyclists. But many motorists try to illegally pass in the same lane. Cyclists who use the whole lane are helping motorists obey the law, as well as avoiding the risks of riding too close to each other, especially when they don't have advanced riding skills.

September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Good post and so true. Ill disciplined cyclists are a nuisance and give the rest of us a bad name. They ride with an attitude that they own the road and motorists can go to hell. They are a danger to themselves and other road users. I'm a cyclist and a motorists and it really annoys me when i come across an ill disciplined group dominating the whole road. They're just selfish riders.

September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

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