The continued success of Britain’s pro cyclists is inspiring a boom in participation across the nation. There have never been more opportunities to ride a bike – be it for fun or sport – and British Cycling is at the heart of this growth. As the national governing body for cycling – as recognised by the UCI, the international federation for the sport – British Cycling also works hard to represent cyclists’ interests at all levels, including campaigning on important issues like road safety.
There are few things more exciting than lining up alongside thousands of other cyclists at the start of a sportive like the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100.
Over the next few months it’s important that you put in plenty of training to prepare for the challenge ahead and, while fitness is a major part of riding a great sportive, you also need to feel comfortable riding in a group.
To get the most from the event, ensure you are suitably prepared with enough training as well as the skills to enjoy the occasion and be safe. For comprehensive tips and advice on how to ride and prepare for a sportive, there is no better place to start than British Cycling’s Insight Zone: www.britishcycling.org.uk/insightzone.
Remember, as a cyclist you are representing everyone who rides a bike and you have a responsibility to act in a considerate manner to other road users and the communities you ride through. It is important that cyclists respect and obey the rules of the road and therefore promote cycling and cyclists in a positive way.
By following some basic guidelines when you ride, you will play a part in establishing a mutual respect between cyclists and motorists, therefore enhancing the reputation of cyclists with other road users and also creating a safer cycling environment for yourself and fellow riders.
Positioning in the road
There are two riding positions you should use when riding on the road. These are usually known as ‘normal’ and ‘taking the lane’ or, technically, ‘secondary’ and ‘primary’ (diagram 1).
The secondary position is the left-hand third of the lane – where possible approximately 1m from the kerb. This ensures that you can be seen and that drivers can safely overtake you, but have to manoeuvre to do so. If you are riding at the front of a group, use the secondary position as, if you ride in the gutter, you’ll be forcing everyone else to follow you, increasing the likelihood of hitting obstructions such as drain covers and of picking up punctures.
The primary position is in the middle of the lane, making you most visible. This should be used to prevent you being overtaken at inappropriate moments, leaving you free to turn, pass parked cars, change lanes etc. When riding in this position you should be travelling at a speed that matches the flow of traffic and ride considerately by moving into the secondary position when necessary to let traffic pass. The shift between secondary and primary positions is a constant process as the environment and situation change.
Side Roads & Parked Cars
It’s recommended that you ‘take the lane’ (primary position) when passing a side road on your left (diagram 2). This enhances your visibility, especially for drivers approaching the junction from the side road who will usually be looking in the middle of the lane for other motor vehicles, not necessarily for cyclists. It also deters any impatient drivers from overtaking, rushing up to the junction and turning sharply in front of you; sometimes referred to as being ‘left hooked’. You should also try to leave plenty of room when passing parked vehicles (diagram 3) and watch out for doors being opened or pedestrians stepping out.
Changing Road Position
If you need to change direction or change your position in the road, always look first to check it’s safe to do so and then, where applicable, make a clear signal to alert other road users and/or pedestrians of your intended action.
Hold your line and position in the road. Do not weave from side to side.
Obey Road Markings
Road markings apply equally to you as a cyclist as they would if you were in your car. Never cross solid white lines in the middle of the road and always obey stop lines at junctions.
Obey Traffic Lights
Like all areas of the Highway Code, cyclists are required by law to obey all traffic signals. Stop at all red lights and remain behind the solid white stop line. There are sometimes marked boxes for cyclists but, if not, do not be tempted to creep forwards. Even if the direction you are going appears to be clear, wait for the lights to turn to green before moving off.
Always try to look ahead down the road and anticipate any potential obstructions or dangers – like potholes and pedestrians – so you do not have to swerve suddenly to avoid them. When riding in a group, constantly look around and don’t mindlessly follow the wheels as awareness gives you time to communicate your actions to others. If you know you need to change lanes, or have a right turn approaching, look and move early.
Stay Off the Pavement
Unless clearly marked as a shared cycle/pedestrian lane, cycling on the pavement or any footpath is illegal and dangerous both for you and pedestrians. If you need more confidence to ride on the road, consider getting some cycle training from an organisation like British Cycling or Transport for London.
Unless signalling, always keep two hands on your bars and maintain a relaxed but firm grip. Keep your hands in a position where you can easily and quickly operate your brake levers in a safe manner.
Riding Two Abreast
Riding two abreast is the safest and most efficient way to ride in a group as you are more visible, however, the technique should be used appropriately. Never ride more than two abreast on the road, and show consideration to other road users by riding in single file on narrow or busy roads when motorists are struggling to overtake.
Group Riding Etiquette
For many cyclists, especially those who often train alone or in small groups, being on the road with hundreds, or even thousands, of other riders can be overwhelming and intimidating. The British Cycling Insight Zone offers plenty of great advice and instructional videos on every aspect of group riding from the world’s best cycling coaches. You could also think about joining a cycling club if you’re looking to gain more group-riding experience before Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100.
Remember the following key points when riding in a group to ensure you are following standard group etiquette and that you and your fellow riders are safe and know what to expect.
The most important factor to successful group riding is communication. Make sure you know the meaning of – and always pass on – any verbal signals through the group. As well as obvious shouts such as “slowing” and “braking”, others to be aware of are “car up”, meaning there is a car ahead to be aware of, “car back”, meaning there is a car behind and “single out”, meaning to adopt single file. Be aware that there are local variations of these shouts, so use your eyes as well. You should also be familiar with common hand signals, which you can check out at www.PrudentialRideLondon.co.uk/handsignals.
Stay relaxed in the group but constantly look around and don’t mindlessly follow the wheels ahead of you. Look past the riders in front to get a heads up of the road ahead.
Always look first and let the riders around you know before moving within the group.
Obey the Rules of the Road
You’ll be cycling on closed roads at the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 but most sportives use roads that remain open to traffic and, even if roads are closed, there’s no guarantee that there won’t be some traffic – such as emergency vehicles – on the route, so ensure you ride accordingly. Follow the basic rules of the road, respect junctions, ride considerately and always stay on the correct side of the road.
Ensure your bike is well maintained as misfiring gears or poor brakes can make you a liability in a bunch. Carry suitable spares, clothing and food and drink so that you are self-sufficient.
Be Consistent & Predictable
Your movements will affect everyone in the group so hold a straight line, always overtake around the right-hand side of the group, don’t grab your brakes, and try to accelerate gradually. If you get out of the saddle, don’t let your back wheel drop back. When you come to a feed station, don’t veer across the road to get to it.
Avoid Half Wheeling
If road conditions and traffic allow, you will often find yourself riding two abreast. Maintain an even pace and stay level with the person next to you. Do not constantly up the pace whenever a rider draws level with you – this is known as ‘half wheeling’ and is frowned upon by other riders.
Don’t Wheel Suck
Don’t always sit among the wheels and avoid your stint on the front. Even if you just put in a few turns of the pedals, your efforts will be appreciated. Even if you’re finding the pace easy, don’t get on the front and put the hammer down. Try to keep the pace and effort consistent.
Groups will change, fragment and reform as the ride progresses. Expect larger groups on flat sections but, on longer climbs, the groups will break up. Similarly, on descents riders will tend to string out to give more time to react at higher speeds.
For comprehensive advice on how to ride, and prepare, for your next sportive, visit www.britishcycling.org.uk/insightzone. If you’re not already a British Cycling Member, Ride Membership is perfect for sportive riders. Join now at www.britishcycling.org.uk/membership.