Radfahrer in der Gruppe - Rennradgruppe Team Sauerland SKS - Foto von Claudia Hauf

Want to go from lone wolf to pack cyclist? Cycling is your thing, but you don’t know how to join a cycling group?

When you ride alone, you can set your own pace, focus just on yourself, clear your mind. All of this is true. BUT, when I ride in a group, I can take my performance to the next level. We motivate each other, push each other and encourage each other when things get tough. Riding in a group can make you more creative, too. You might try out new routes that you wouldn’t even have thought of by yourself, which means you continue to push your personal limits. It’s the only way to keep improving your personal performance. And what I find most important of all is that we are a community, a team. We arrive at our destination together, all of us incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished. 

– Team SKS Sauerland: Performance Manager Lennart Bechheim

5 tips to get started with group cycling

Already have a road bike and the saddle is your second home? Do you usually train alone and would like to experience the power of riding in a group? Getting started with group cycling might seem a bit intimidating at first, but once you’ve taken the plunge, you’ll never want to miss a group ride again. Here’s how to make the switch from lone wolf to pack cyclist…

Joining a group

Step 1: Never without my team

Find like-minded cyclists! There are two ways to go about it. Either you put together your own team and start a cycling group or you find a club or team near you that you can train with. Some sports clubs offer cycling and other organizations have been specifically designed around group cycling. After doing a bit of research you’re sure to find the right fit somewhere near you. You can also check out Facebook or forums that are dedicated to cycling. What are the advantages of joining a group? Members of a group will have differing levels of experience, which makes it easy for newcomers to feel at home. In a cycling group there’s no need to worry about keeping up because professional trainers and riding the slipstream means that no one leaves the pack. Cyclists with similar performance levels are placed together depending on the size of the group.

Tip: Talk directly with the trainer about what you feel you need and what your options are.

And, if we’re being honest, doing sports in a group is just more fun than doing it alone! Encouraging each other and having fun is a crucial element of cycling as a team. Shared experiences during your rides builds trust within the group, you grow together and you get to celebrate your victories together, too.

Step 2: Rules, rules, rules

Before you join a group, you should really get to know the rules. And not just the rules of the road, but also the hand signs and calls that are used in group rides.

Step 3: Realistic goals

Set realistic goals. What are realistic goals? You need to define your goals as precisely as you can. Using the popular SMART principle can help.

Ask yourself the following questions and answer them honestly:

Is my goal specific?
e.g., I want to participate in race xy with my group and cross the finish line together.

Can my goal be measured?
e.g., I want to cross the finish line with my group and finish under the top 10.

Is your goal practicable?
e.g., are you ready to do all that is necessary to achieve your goal?
Depending on how you answer this question, you might want to reconsider which group is right for you.

Is your goal realistic?
If the race is in a week, your goal is not realistic and you won’t achieve it.

Does your goal follow a timeline?
e.g., set a date for achieving your goal and plan in smaller goals that you can use to gauge your progress along the way.

This method will help you be more specific about your goal and stay motivated.

There are three factors that make riding in a group a success. Fun, communication and safety. Why is safety important? It’s simple. You’re on the road with a team and there are rules you need to follow to make sure everyone else on the road stays safe. Once you’ve got safety covered, you can focus on having fun.

Infographic Bike - Three components are particularly important when cycling in a group: fun, safety and communication
Infographic – These three components are particularly important when cycling in a group.

The 5 key rules:

1. Responsibility
The policy ‘Everyone is responsible for the people they are riding with’ is key to riding in a group. Things that might work for you when you ride alone might not work in a group. If your calf cramps up when you’re riding in a group, which is no problem when you’re riding alone, you need to let your team know so that no one is put at risk. This is an unspoken rule, because putting on your brakes without warning or even standing up in your saddle can throw off the person behind you and impact the entire group. In this situation, it’s a good idea to move to the back of the pack.

A general rule of thumb: Ride carefully and avoid potential hazards. It’s the best way to make sure you have a great time riding with your team.

2. Formation
The rules of the road state that a group of cyclists has to ride behind each other unless the group consists of 16 or more cyclists. At that point, the group is considered to have reached critical mass. Once critical mass has been reached, the group can split up and ride side-by-side in two rows. The group should stay as far to the right as possible so as to not put oncoming traffic or their own team members at risk. It’s therefore general practice to ride in either a single row or in two rows.

Infographic shows sequence of changing positions in a group of cyclists as a formation in 1 row
Infographic shows the process of changing positions in a group of cyclists as a formation in 1 row

 

Infographic shows sequence of changing positions in a group of cyclists as a formation in rows of 2
Infographic shows the process of changing positions in a group of cyclists as a formation in a row of 2

If you’ll be riding in two rows or in a critical mass, you need to get used to riding close to the cyclist next to you. It might take some practice, but once the group has built up trust, it can be a lot of fun. What you don’t want to do is fall out of formation and overtake the other cyclists. That’s not what riding in a group is about. The cyclist at the front of the pack sets the pace, which means they carry a lot of responsibility and should be treated with respect. Leading a group is also hard work, because the person at the front of the pack has to battle the wind. The person at the front also decides if and when to switch positions and uses hand signals to indicate any changes. This is particularly important during a race.

3. Safety
As I mentioned earlier, safety is the most important factor in riding in a group. Here are some rules that you might not be familiar with but that need to be followed according to sec. 27 German Road Traffic Regulations (StVO):

Cyclists in group consisting of 16 participants are considered as a federation - federation rules to it in the overview

A group of cyclists is only considered to form a critical mass if it can be recognized as such. Don’t leave any gaps!

4. Communication 

Safety is the most important factor and you can improve it with communication. Communicating with each other is key in making sure that the entire group rides safely. Misunderstandings can quickly lead to accidents or riders crashing into each other. As mentioned earlier, you really need to know the hand signals before you hit the road so that you can use them as needed.

The most important hand signals to know in group cycling:

1. Stopping:
If the lead cyclist raises their hand in the air, it means that there is an obstacle or other situation up ahead. Everyone needs to brake. In this situation it is especially important to signal in plenty of time so that no one has to slam on their brakes.

2. Rotation
When the lead cyclist is ready to move to the back of the back, they stretch out their hand and the group can ride past.

3. Changing direction

When the lead cyclist wants to change direction, they raise their hand above their head and point either to the right or to the left with their index finger, whichever direction they want to go.

4. Riding around an obstacle

If the group needs to ride around an obstacle, the lead cyclist places their hand on their back and waves in a certain direction. More specifically, if they place their right hand on their back and wave to the left, the obstacle is on the right and the group is going to ride around to the left.
If the obstacle is a hole in the road or a branch lying across the street, the lead cyclist stretches out their arm and points to the street. Obstacles like these can throw the entire group off balance.

5. Increasing distance between riders

To make sure no one bumps into each other, it’s important that you always keep enough distance between you and the person in front of you. If someone ahead of you makes a pushing gesture or snaps, it means you need to increase the distance. When you join a group, it’s a good idea to find out which of these hand signals the group uses most often. That way you can avoid any misunderstandings and focus on enjoying your ride.

Extra tip: Use the CEECOACH PLUS!
You and your new team can take advantage of the latest technology to make your communication within the group even more effective. Up to 16 participants can connect with the CEECOACH PLUS and use the secure connection to communicate with each other. It’s incredibly easy to use. Each rider wears a headset in their ear so that you can talk to each other, motivate each other, push each other and let the others know when it’s time to rotate. Even though it’s a breeze to communicate with the CEECOACH plus, you still need to make sure you know your hand signals, just to be on the safe side.

An extra tip from the experts:
We used the CEECOACH during season start with GP Monseré and gained a lot of valuable experience. My advice – make sure the whole team mutes their device so that you don’t hear noises from the other devices, like other people’s conversations, while you ride. If you want to talk to your team, just unmute your device and start talking. And don’t worry, it’s easy to do while you’re riding.

Find out more about the CEECOACH PLUS here.

The Golden Rule: Leave no man or woman behind
And now on to the last, but still very important rule. Team spirit is king when you’re riding in a group. You start off together and you arrive together. If someone’s bike breaks down along the way, everyone waits. If someone in the group is struggling to keep up, make sure that they can ride the slipstream. If there’s a climb up ahead, you wait. Don’t just start off when the last member of your group comes into sight, but wait until everyone has had the chance to take a short break.

Extra tip: Cycling in the slipstream of a group saves up to 50% of your own power

What not to do:

Now you know the most important rules that will make your experience cycling in a group a complete success. You might be wondering if there’s anything you should avoid at all costs. There definitely is. What not to do in group cycling:

Extra tip: Cycling in the slipstream of a group saves up to 50% of your own power

Summary:

Now that you know the most important rules and what not to do, there’s nothing more standing in the way of you and training in a group. Here’s a brief summary of the most important aspects:

1.  Make sure you’re well prepared so that you can really enjoy your ride.
2.  Make sure the group is communicating with each other effectively.
3.  Motivate each other to push your performance.

Have fun and enjoy your first group ride!

 

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