So you’ve got that shiny new bike and are chomping at the bit to get out on the road and enjoy the wind in your face and fresh air with your riding buddies. After all, bike rides are more fun with friends. But maybe you’re a little nervous about riding in a group for the first time. We’ve got some helpful tips for both newbies and veteran cyclists.
Cycling Safety Gear
First and foremost, wear a helmet. Protect that noggin. There is a wealth of data to support the effectiveness of wearing a helmet while cycling. You won’t look “less cool” by wearing a helmet. (See https://helmets.org/stats.htm#effectiveness) Also, lights mounted on the back and front of your bike will help increase your visibility to drivers. Set your lights to flashing mode to boost their effectiveness.
Consider the Route and Speed
Ask questions about the route you’ll be following and average speeds the group maintains and whether it’s a “no-drop” ride, meaning that no rider gets left behind. Group rules and etiquette can vary, so ask these questions before rolling out.
Hand and Vocal Signals for Cyclists
Knowing the correct hand signals for turning left, turning right, slowing, and stopping can mean the difference between a safe, fun ride and a disaster. Also, use words with hand signals to alert others. For example, when pointing out potential road hazards, if possible, also shout, “Coconut!” or “Runner!” before you get to those hazards. Check with the group to see which signals most riders use before you head out. Here is helpful information from the National Highway Transportation Administration that illustrates hand signals for cyclists: https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.gov/files/8009-handsignals.pdf
Spacing, Drafting, and Passing in a Group Ride
Riding a bicycle close to others can be a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be, as long as you pay attention. For example, don’t let your front wheel overlap the rear wheel of the rider in front of you–any slight movement could be dangerous for everyone. Also, don’t constantly tap your brakes in a paceline. Use your body to slow you naturally, by sitting up higher for a moment, for example. Use your brakes if you need to stop suddenly, but constant brake tapping can also be dangerous. When you pass other riders, always pass on the left, and be sure to call out, “On your left!” Finally, there’s no shame in hanging at the back, if you don’t feel confident enough in your group riding skills to “pull” the group.
Rules of the Road for Cyclists
Remember: follow the rules of the road when riding a bike on the road. Cyclists are required, by law, to follow the same rules of the road that anyone driving a motor vehicle must follow. Each state has slightly different laws regarding cyclists, so check local laws for differences. And, for the love of other cyclists, don’t be that person. Many drivers really seem to dislike sharing the roads with us–please don’t give them more reasons.
Bikes Palm Beach has one of the best, beginner-friendly group rides every Saturday morning (weather permitting), a no-drop ride that averages between 17-20 mph and is about 30 miles round-trip. Don’t worry–we stop halfway for a few minutes for snacks and a pit stop. We roll out every Saturday at 7 AM from the shop.
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