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Riding in a Group

group ride

Summer is here and the riding season in full swing for us at ICE HQ. We regularly set off for a lunchtime ride around our local area; it’s a great way for us to chat, relax, get some fresh air and get the blood pumping. After a few years of leading these rides I’d like to share some tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Social cycle rides should be just that – social! Of course we know each other pretty well at ICE, but the last year has seen lots of new employees. Before their first ride I have a quick chat with the new-comer, checking out their experience, fitness and letting them know the plans. It’s important that they feel confident that they know the plan, and know they will be well supported by the whole group. Through the ride we all check on each other to make sure that everyone’s having a good time and help can be requested if needed.

Before we set off I check that everyone is well prepared and the trikes are up to the ride. I always wear a helmet and bright clothing, at least one rear-view mirror, a bottle of water and pack a windproof jacket. For evening rides I insist that everyone has working lights (front and rear) just in case it gets dark before our return. The important thing is to stay safe and not get caught out – take a tool kit and make sure that pumps fit valves!

I like to work out a route well in advance and share it with key riders. Some routes will have difficult sections, such as traffic interchanges or hills were people may get separated, so I plan safe catch-up stops so that everyone can re-group, and identify short-cuts to get us home quickly if necessary. On longer rides I’ll also plan rest-stops, sometimes at a café or pub, so that people have a chance to grab something to eat and reflect on the ride so far.

Riding in a close group is great for a social chat, but it also takes practice; staying together without clashing wheels requires consideration and communication. Try to pick up the pedalling rhythm of those around you and let people know before you change speed or direction.

How you let people know about changes in speed and direction is another skill to be mastered. Some cycling groups have hand signals that everyone passes up the line, but this is a problem if the hazard is behind the group. We are lucky to ride in quiet traffic conditions, so a clear shout from one rider to the next does the trick for us.

Some of these tips may seem dry and possible over-the-top, but they are important to keep the ride enjoyable for everyone. Riding with a group is more than just sociable; it’s an ideal way to learn more about the pastime, gain experience and confidence, and inspiration for your next big ride.

Ben Dickinson