Guidance for riders

This guide is designed to help make our rides safe and enjoyable for everyone. We would like this guide to become common good practice by everyone, so that we can spend most of our time enjoying the views and chatting with friends

Ride Leader responsibilities. Our club runs are led by experienced and registered leaders who are responsible for choosing a good route and keeping the ride safe and well organised. The ride leader is the official representative of the club and they have a duty of care to members of the ride.

Shared responsibility – all riders. Group riding is a shared responsibility: we expect good ride discipline and good behaviour from all riders at all times. Riders should assist the leader by following their instructions and helping them as needed.

All types of cycle can be used. We strongly recommend riding with mudguards in winter: they keep you dry and they also stop spray from affecting other riders.

Make sure your bike is in good mechanical order and well maintained.

  • Check that your tyres are in good condition and pumped up, your brakes are adjusted and that your chain and gears are working smoothly.

You should be capable of mending a puncture and doing basic repairs yourself. You should not rely on other members to fix your bike. You should bring all the tools you need for basic repairs.

  • Carry a basic tool kit adequate to fix punctures and common mechanical problems.
  • As a minimum we suggest you carry the following tools: wheel release tool (if not quick release), spare inner tube(s), puncture repair kit, pump, tyre levers and a multi-tool or similar.

You should be prepared for changing weather conditions and for emergencies. Carry extra clothing, good lights, a mobile phone, water and money as needed.

  • Carry spare clothing suitable for the season. The weather can change on long rides, so don't overlook the need for warm clothing or waterproofs as it gets colder and wetter.
  • Carry good lights (front and rear) on any ride that might end in the dark, especially all evening rides and all winter rides. Check the batteries before you set out.
  • We recommend carrying a mobile phone for use in emergencies. We also recommend that you carry your address and details of an emergency telephone contact with you in a place (such as your pocket) where the emergency services would be able to find it. We provide blank cards you can use for this purpose: ask the membership secretary if you would like one.
  • Carry drinking water on all rides to prevent dehydration, especially in summer. We choose good refreshment stops, but you will still need something to drink along the way. It is also a good idea to carry some emergency food (e.g. snack bars) on longer rides.
  • And carry enough money for the refreshment stops and for any other expenses (e.g. train home in case of a mechanical failure).

Arrive on time: the ride will normally start promptly at the scheduled time.

If you are a new rider please introduce yourself to the leader. The leader has to register the names of all the riders before setting off. The rules are different for members and non-members.

If you are a Cycling UK member, the leader will simply add your name to their list. You may be asked to show your membership card. Members should carry their membership cards on every club ride.

If you are not a member of Cycling UK (CTC) you must bring a completed guest entry form (pdf) and hand it to the leader at the start.

The ride will be led back to the environs of the starting point at the end. Individual riders often disperse at their convenience and the ride may effectively end a few miles away from the starting point.

The leader should ensure that all riders are able to make their own way back before the ride disperses. The leader may ask another rider to guide you back to the starting point if it is inconvenient for the leader to return to this point.

We expect good ride discipline and good behaviour from every rider. This helps to minimise conflict with other road users and helps to keep our rides safe and enjoyable for everyone.

  • Ride at a steady pace (with a steady cadence) avoiding any sudden surges or slowing.
  • Keep a short gap between your front wheel and the cycle in front. Avoid any wheel overlap because a touch of wheels is likely to cause both riders to fall.
  • All riders (as practicable) should signal turning right or left so that all riders see the signal. Do not leave it to just the leader and/or back marker.
  • Look over your shoulder before starting, stopping or changing position to ensure it is safe to do so. Call out "stopping" or “slowing” before you slow down. Stop close to the verge.
  • Call out for dangerous road surfaces (potholes, gravel etc.) and point to the hazard with the left or right hand.
  • Call out for obstructions (posts or bollards, oncoming cyclist, walker, jogger, parked car etc.) and use the hand signal or call "on the left" or "on the right".

Riding in a group requires all riders to pay attention to both the leader and to their fellow riders. Everyone should help the leader to keep the group together, especially with a large group of riders.

Ride at a pace that keeps you with the leader and let him or her set the overall pace. The leader will ride at a pace that allows the whole group to ride together. It is accepted that some riders will use their own pace at times, especially on long hills, but the group should reform soon after.

  • If you do get ahead of the leader, stop and wait at the next junction as the group may not be going straight ahead.
  • At junctions, each rider should check that the following riders have seen and made the turn. And, if not, either wait at the junction or notify the leader.
  • Help the leader to get the group moving again by responding promptly as the group prepares to leave a refreshment stop.
  • Riders wishing to leave the group (either on route or at a stop) should notify the leader to avoid them being treated as "missing persons".
  • Try not to let riders drop off the back of the group and send a signal forward to the leader if you notice that riders behind you are being dropped.
  • If you are finding it difficult to keep up, do not wait until you are dropping off the back but tell the leader or someone riding with you so that you can be assisted. It is your responsibility to make them aware, especially if you are a new member of the group.

All riders should stay aware of the road traffic situation and try to be considerate to other riders and to other road users. Large groups should ride in a way that enables motor traffic to overtake or to pass safely and without causing undue delay.

Ride compactly and adjust your formation to suit the road conditions and to enable motor vehicles to pass safely and without causing undue delay.

  • Larger groups (more than about eight riders) should split up into smaller groups and create a gap to allow motor vehicles to pass more easily. The gaps should be big enough (minimum of 4 car lengths) to enable motor traffic to pull in safely and overtake in two stages.
  • Each group of eight or so riders should ride as compactly as possible, either riding in pairs or riding in single file depending on rider confidence and road conditions. Never ride more than two abreast, except when passing.
  • If a vehicle is clearly having difficulty overtaking, perhaps because of very narrow roads or impeded view of the road ahead, then the group should select the nearest safe place to stop and wave the car past.

The group formation depends on rider confidence and road conditions and there are no definitive rules for when to ride in pairs and when to single out.

  • The group is more compact if riding in pairs so that cars do not need to travel so far to overtake and get clear.
  • When there is plenty of room to overtake the group (e.g. when there is a white line down the middle of the road) riding in pairs is generally preferred.
  • Change to single file on busy roads or on narrow roads where passing cars cannot give a wide enough clearance or if it is otherwise dangerous for vehicles to pass.
  • Always single out quickly if the leader or backmarker calls out: defer to the leader's judgement.

This section describes the common hand signals that are used when riding in a group. Make yourself aware of these hand signals and the associated calls that are used, as they are an important element in riding safely together as a group.

These signals should be quickly passed down the line as successive riders echo the original signal.

Turn left or Turn right

Left or right hand extended out to the side. This basic hand signal should be used at all times. You should get in the habit of signalling whenever you are cycling on the public highway. But it is essential to signal clearly when riding in a group to warn other riders before you turn.

Slow Down

One hand up and down as if gently patting an invisible dog. This shows that the group is slowing down or just to ease the pace back a bit. This signal is often accompanied with a call of ‘Stopping’ or ‘Slowing’.

Hazard

Pointing down at the road sometimes with a circling motion. This indicates an obstruction or hazard on the road such as a pothole or drain cover that needs to be avoided. Be sensible with this signal and only point out major obstacles that should be avoided. This signal is often accompanied with a call of ‘Hole’ or ‘Gravel’.

Obstruction

Waving and pointing behind back. This indicates that there is an obstruction such as a parked car or pedestrian and that the whole group needs to move in the direction indicated to avoid it. This signal is often used when passing a walker or another cyclist on a narrow path (in either direction). It is also useful when passing a lone parked car or other obstruction in the road. This signal indicates "moving right" or "moving left" rather than turning right or turning left.

This section describes the common warning calls that are used when riding in a group situation. In some cases, the call is accompanied with a hand signal.

Pass warning calls quickly up and down the line so that everyone follows suit.

Part 1: Essential calls by all riders

Stopping!
or
Slowing!

Call out before you apply your brakes to warn the others riding behind you. Call when you see riders ahead braking, to warn the other riders. If possible indicate with a "slow down" hand signal at the same time. If you brake without letting those behind know your intention they can easily run into you.

Hole!
or
Gravel!

Any pothole or gravel that could cause a rider to fall. Be sensible with this call and only point out major obstacles that should be avoided. If possible indicate the position with a "hazard" hand signal so that following riders can steer away from it by either pointing or adding to the call "on the left!" or "on the right!".

Post!
or
Bollard!

Any obstruction in the path that could be hit by a rider. Call out these obstructions as you approach and call out every time (err on the side of caution). Better to call out more often because these obstructions are easy to miss in a group and a collision is always serious.

Puncture!

Call out if you, or someone near you, has a puncture to let the other riders know and pass the message to the leader. The group will wait while you repair it (you will probably be given help). You can use this same call to report other mechanical problems that require you to stop.

Part 2: Command calls by ride leaders or backmarkers

Single out!

A call from the Ride Leader or backmarker when a column of cyclists riding two abreast blocks cars from passing safely on narrow or busy roads or when riding round bends. This applies to both passing situations: overtaking cars or oncoming cars. Relay this call quickly (before you move) to ensure that the move to single file is executed quickly and safely. When singling out, the inside rider of each pair should normally move forward, allowing the outside rider to slot in behind.

Open Gap!

A call from the Ride Leader or backmarker or a rider at the split point to ask a large straggling group to split into two groups with a wide gap (minimum of 4 car lengths) between the groups. This is done to help motor traffic overtake the group in two stages.

Horse!

The group is about to pass horses and special care is needed. When approaching from behind, draw attention to your presence by calling out a greeting to the horse riders. Avoid ringing your bell as that can upset some horses. Pass as widely as possible and the last person past can inform the horse riders that all are past.

Part 3: Additional calls by all riders

Bike!
Walker!
Jogger!

(new) The group is about to pass another cyclist (or a walker or a jogger) on a narrow path. Call out as you approach and if possible indicate which side they are on with an "obstruction" hand signal so that following riders can move to avoid them.

Car behind!

There is a motor vehicle coming up behind the group. Riders should move in and single out if needed. Pull in to let the vehicle pass if it is getting too delayed.

Car ahead!

There is a motor vehicle approaching the front of the group. Riders should move in or single out to allow the car to pass safely.

Car left!
or
Car right!
or
Clear!

These calls may be used when the group is joining or crossing another road. "Car left!" or "Car right!" means that a vehicle is approaching from the left or right and riders need to stop. Only call "Clear!" if you can see that the road is completely clear in both directions. If the situation changes and traffic appears, immediately shout "Car left!" or "Car right!".

Moving in!
or
Moving out!

Call "moving in!" if you want to move in and join a line of riders (e.g. in response to a "single out!" command). Similarly call "moving out!" if you want to pull out to overtake. If you move without letting those beside you know your intention they can easily run into you.

Other reading

The Highway Code
Cycling UK Guide to Group Riding (pdf)