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Bunch Riding Rules

Have you ever wondered why people who ride in packs are constantly yelling and screaming things at each other? They are actually adhering to one of the many rules of riding in a cycle pack that reduce the risk of accidents occurring.

If you plan to ride in a group you should read the list of rules below. That way you will gain the confidence of those you are riding with and hopefully stay upright during your ride.

Here are the rules:

Rule 1

Share information by passing directions along to riders behind or in front. This is important not only in regards to hazards on the road ahead like potholes and car doors opening but also for hazards behind and to the side like cars trying to overtake and swooping birds (often the job of riders in the middle or the rear of the pack).
Everyone in the group is responsible for sharing information. Calls should be passed on and pointed through the pack in a loud and confident voice.

Rule 2

Riders, unless otherwise instructed, should ride side by side. The riders should be parallel, which means your handle bars should line up with the handle bars of the rider next to you.

Rule 3

Don’t overlap wheels with the person in front of you. A slight direction change or gust of wind could easily cause a touch of wheels.

Rule 4

Be predictable with all actions. Maintain a steady straight line and avoid braking or changing direction suddenly. Remember, there are riders following close behind.

Rule 5

Pedal down hill when at the front of a bunch. This minimises braking of trailing riders.

Rule 6

Avoid leaving large gaps when following wheels.

Rule 7

Ensure wheel axles are locked properly. A loose locking can mean your wheel may move when you stand to sprint or climb, subsequently locking the wheel and causing a fall. Additionally, ensure the locking lugs are not exposed (always closed inwards). That way there is less chance your axle will become unlocked if your wheels clash with another bike. The wheel locking point is particularly important if you are driving to the start of the ride and removing one or both wheels in transit.

Rule 8

Helmets must be worn at all times. Absolutely no excuses.

Rule 9

All traffic rules must be obeyed including stopping at lights.

Rule 10

No riding on aero-bars in bunch rides (including on the front of the pack). This is because of the reduction in bike control that comes from riding in this position.

Rule 11

Do not ride with drink bottles in rear/behind the seat carriers. This is because they tend to pop out when you hit bumps in the road, providing a potential road hazard.

Rule 12

The whole bunch stops for all punctures and mechanicals.

Rule 13

ALWAYS carry 2 x spare tubes, tyre levers and a pump or 2 x gas cylinders.

Rule 14

Lights on front and back when dark, even when you are inside Centennial Park

Rule 15

Carry a full water bottle with you. For any ride over 90 minutes food must be taken.

Rule 16

Bring money with you in case you need to get a taxi or need to make a phone call.

Rule 17

Make sure you are in the correct gear when taking off from lights. I.e. an easy gear. Incorrect gear selection can lead to a loss of balance when starting off and also the person behind you may collide with you if your take off speed is slower than anticipated.

Other Tips

As the group evolves, attracting less racing and more recreationally oriented riders who may lack the necessary skills to ride with utmost safety in a bunch situation, it is vitally important to learn this art whilst out training on the busy and sometimes dangerous urban streets.

The only way you can learn the skills is to practice. However, I am sure that practice without basic knowledge of the responsibilities of bunch riding will get you no where. So here is a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’:

1. The correct formation
Riders should pair off in 2 by 2 formation. You should not sit directly on the wheel of the rider in front. Try to maintain about a 30cm – 60cm distance off the rear of and slightly off to the side of the rider in front.
The reason you offset slightly is to get better vision down the line, giving you more time to react to any problems.

2. Sitting the wheel
You should not focus on the rear of the wheel of the rider in front. By focusing on the person you will be more aware of what is happening in the bunch. Try it. It wont take you long to judge the distance between you and the rider in front.

3. Position on the road
There is no way that motorists will ever become more courteous towards riders, however, we have clearly defined rights that in simple terms allows riders to occupy a full lane, ride in pair formation and have the same responsibilities as motorists.
Riding too close to the gutter also can create problems for riders. Slipping off the roadway into the gutter can bring you down as you try to get back over the lip of the gutter. Great skill is required to hop out of the gutter, so if you find yourself in this position, slow down and stay in the gutter until it flattens out. Then exit at an angle.

4. The lead riders
The two riders on the front have a huge responsibility. They must set the pace, call all road obstacles and warn the bunch of any traffic changes. When approaching a set of lights the lead riders have sole responsibility in making the call. It will either be “lights…stopping” or “rolling”. When entering a roundabout or turning at an intersection the lead riders must call “clear” or “car coming”. All calls should be relayed down the line.

5. The tail Enders
The riders on the back also have a huge responsibility, particularly the rider on the right hand (outside) side. This person must call the bunch across lanes or warn of trucks, cars etc that are approaching when on narrow and/or single lane roads. When crossing over lanes the call is either “wait” or “over” or if it is not safe to change lane “singles” meaning every stay in the lane and goes single file. It is important that the instruction is relayed up the line and when crossing over the bunch moves as one (The rider at the back making the call moves first and the rest follow). On a narrow single lane road the last rider must warn of cars behind. A call of “car back” is a simple call that all should understand.

6. Avoiding holes, rubbish, obstacles, other riders etc.
You must call all obstacles – this means calling and pointing but don’t take your hands off the handle bars if you don’t think it is safe to do so. Just calling isn’t ideal, especially when it’s windy or lots of traffic.
Calls and pointing out of “holes” “rubbish” “glass” etc must be done from the front 2 riders and every subsequent rider in the pack right down to the back of the pack.

Another problem involves the ‘roll back’ when getting out of the saddle, particularly up an incline. Do not stop pedaling during this action since you will fall back a fair way, straight back into the rider behind who generally has to break hard or undertake a sudden swerve. Prior to getting out of the saddle make sure you are at the top of your pedal stroke and keep the pressure on the pedal.

In summary, being fit and capable to hang onto the bunch is not enough. Without taking away the enjoyment of the ride it is imperative that every rider hones his or her skills. If you want to improve ask one of the more accomplished riders. If you are not sure, stay down the back until you are confident enough to join the bunch. If you are nervous or lacking confidence, for the safety of others and yourself, it is best you get used to pack riding in a pack in Centennial Park before you venture onto the road.