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How to Ride in a Group

Every Clapham Chasers member is expected to know the techniques and etiquette of group riding and abide by them in every ride. This makes our rides safer and more enjoyable. These techniques are demonstrated and practiced in the intro ride, but it's always useful to remind ourselves of them every now and then. In this page you will find the basic techniques to move within a group, the calls and signals you will need to use to communicate with the other riders in your group and a few etiquette rules.

Riding in a group is more than just riding together. Riding with friends can be fun and social and makes the ride more enjoyable, but there are mainly safety and performance reasons to ride in a group.

When cycling, up to 80% of the effort you put down the pedals goes to overcome wind resistance when you face the wind directly. But when you ride behind another rider, the shield they provide can save you up to 30% of the effort needed to go at the same speed. So, riding in a group effectively will save you effort and you will be able to cycle faster, for longer.

Also, when you ride in a compact, well disciplined group, you are able to navigate the hazards of the road better.

Safety first

Riding in a group to maximise the benefits of drafting comes with its own set of risks, as it implies riding in close proximity of the rider in front of you and of those around you. To minimise the risk of riding in close proximity, it is essential to observe three key areas.


Respecting the riding formation provides a reliable and consistent environment in which to ride safely.

Staying in formation and moving along the group using the right technique will prevent unexpected moves that can surprise fellow riders or expose them to hazards.


Reduced visibility poses a risk. Riders that are not at the front will not be able to see what's in front of them. Communication is essential to keep everyone aware of hazards on the road.

We communicate via a combination of hand signals and voice calls.


Some rules are essential to keep the ride safe and efficient. Others are simply common sense whilst riding in the company of others.

This list of dos and don'ts will provide you a guideline to ride safely and civilly in a group and save you from being that person...

Riding in Formation

Riding in a group allows us to benefit from the shield riders in front of us provide to minimise the effort we make while riding. But the proximity to others and reduced visibility mean we need to apply extra care when riding in a group. Also, the benefits are realised when the group rides tightly together. Sprinting off the group, riding too wide open or moving randomly up and down the group can break the group discipline and mean increased risk or unnecessary effort.

So it is key that you know how the formation works and try to stay in formation for the duration of the ride, moving along the group using the techniques shown below. Whilst riding on a group you should try to:

  1. Stay in formation and move according to group technique.
  2. Avoid surging at the front, whether it is when you take your turn or leaving a junction, a roundabout, etc. Riders behind you will need an extra few seconds to leave the same junction and you will be miles ahead, with a completely scattered group.
  3. Stay aware of riding conditions, always keeping some attention on the road and to calls and signs from other riders.

An exception to the general rule are climbs and descents. There are different levels of ability and fitness within a group, and no one should try to ride a descent faster than they safely can. Similarly, some riders will take more time to get to the top of a climb. In these cases, it is ok and recommended that the group separates, but after the descent or when reaching the top of the climb the pace should be brought down or stop to allow for the other riders to catch up.

Standard Group Formation

The ideal formation for a group ride is riding two abreast in a group no larger than 8 riders. Such a group will ride in 4 rows of 2 riders each, occupying a similar space on the road as a car, and making ir easier for a car to overtake swiftly.

However, in certain circumstances it will be safer to ride in single file, as when riding on a narrow road with traffic.

Keep the group formation and avoid sudden or random movements within the group.

The riders at the front will be taking most of the effort, so it's fair to share the workload and replace frequently the riders at the front. To do so, when called by the leaders, the group will rotate using the technique shown on the side.

Single File

When the riding conditions require it, it will be necessary to move from two abreast into a single file. This can be due to a narrow road, road furniture on the side, oncoming or overtaking traffic, etc.

ANY rider can call for the group to move into single file and EVERY rider must obey the instruction for the safety of all.

To move from two abreast to single file, we use the process shown on the side.

It is important to remember that a group ride is not a race, and attempts to move to the front when riding on the outside line or to keep your position while riding on the inside line, not creating space for the rider next to you, can leave riders exposed to oncoming traffic and create unnecessary danger.

Single File Rotation

As when riding two abreast on a double line, the rider at the front will be making most of the effort. Everyone will benefit from taking turns at the front so that the workload is shared.

The principle is similar to that of rotating the group when two abreast, as shown on the diagram on the side.


Whilst riding in a group it is essential to keep good communication with fellow riders, so that everyone is aware of the riding conditions and is able to take appropriate action.

The two means for communicating information in a group are hand signals and voice calls. Every rider has the responsibility to call out any hazard or change in the riding conditions, such as slowing down or changing direction, and every rider has the obligation to propagate that signal or call up or down the group.

The picture below, courtesy of British Cycling, shows the main hand signals in use in our rides.


It is essential that you repeat the below down the group so everyone can see.

1. Single hand up

Rider is signalling that the group needs to come to a stop. Usually followed by the call ‘Stopping’.

2. Single hand up and down

Palm facing down, rider is signalling that he/she needs to slow down. Usually followed by the call ‘Slowing’.

3. Left arm signalling behind back

Signal the cyclist is about to move out into the road, e.g. to pass a parked car, to go round debris in the road.

4. Arm out left or right

Everyone in the pack needs to indicate when turning left or right. Can be used with the calls 'Left' and 'Right'.

5. Pointing at the road

This is to point out hazards such as pot holes, manhole covers etc. PLEASE copy this signal, it stops accidents and punctures. Follow by the call 'Hole', 'Hole left' or 'Hole right' for emphasis.


It is essential that you repeat the below down or up the group so everyone can hear.

“Car Up/Car Back”

Keep tight to the cyclist next to you and be prepared to cycle in single file.


As well as pointing out the pothole, a shot of “hole left” or "hole right" helps the group to avoid.


Usually accompanied by a hand signal. The cyclist in front needs to slow down for some reason.


Brake! Group will be stopping.


To indicate that a junction is traffic free. You must check yourself and not rely on others.

“Single file”

Get into single file safely and promptly.

Group Riding Etiquette

When cycling in a group we all have a responsibility to look out for others’ safety as well as our own. Here is a list of essential DOs and DON’Ts to remember to keep it safe while cycling.


Follow the Highway Code and wear a helmet at all times - it applies to ALL road-users.

Ensure your bike is road worthy, brakes are fully operational and that your tyres are pumped up to the recommended PSI.

Cycle a maximum of two abreast in 2 close parallel lines.

Ride with 1ft approx. between your front wheel and the back wheel of the rider in front.

Riders at the back of the pack to shout "Car back, single file" if there are vehicles behind. Listen and act on their calls and keep looking forward.

Lead cyclists to navigate and point out hazards in the road by either shouting or using hand signals. Listen to them and act on the calls, and most importantly, repeat them for the cyclist behind you.

Ride directly behind the wheel of the rider in front. If you cycle in the middle of the two wheels you WILL push the cyclist on your outside into the path of passing vehicles.

Brake as gently and smoothly as you safely can when riding in a pack

When on the front keep pedalling. If you freewheel everyone behind will have to brake.

Talk to each other. Point out either with hand signals or shouts, all potholes, manhole covers and other dangers in the road. Follow the hand signals and calls of the riders in front as they will have seen the danger before you.

Ride at a steady pace, keeping the pack as a compact unit

Check over your shoulder for other riders or traffic before moving out to the right

Be a leader. If you make a decision to pull out on a roundabout or junction, you need to call "Clear" or "Wait" to warn the pack of hazards.

If you are feeling tired let people know. Accidents happen when people are tired and lose concentration.

Dress in appropriate clothing for the weather

Bring everything you might need. Appropriate clothing for the weather, puncture kit, tyre levers, inner tubes, pump, multi tool (including chain tool), helmet, waterproof jacket, food, water, money, credit card, mobile, emergency contact details.



Overlap wheels, or nudge in between the wheels of the riders in front. You will come off if they move off their line

Ride on tri / aero bars in packs as you will not be able to brake or steer quickly

Make any sudden movements/changes in direction off your line when in the pack. You are responsible for the cyclist behind you, they are following YOUR wheel they need to trust you.

Ride off the front. This is a group ride, not a race. If you want to go faster then let the others know what you are going to do and if no one wants to join you then go off and enjoy your ride alone.

Stop pedaling if you are on the front, even on downhills. The cyclists behind you will read this as you slowing and could be forced to brake and bunch up.

"Zone out" on the wheel in front. Keep aware of everything that is going on around you, look ahead and that way you can avoid most hazards.

Whip round the outside of the pack to get to the front unless in an emergency. Shout up the pack any communication. If you do need to get to the front then make sure you check in front and behind for cars, remember three abreast will push you out into on coming traffic.

Pull out at junctions without looking, having heard the "Clear" call from a fellow cyclist. Check whether there is a vehicle coming yourself.

Throw litter. Keep your food wrappers and waste with you and dispose of them in a bin.

Engage with other road users aggressively. A challenged angry driver can cause more trouble than left on their own. Do, however, thank politely little signs of kindness by drivers or other road users. It'll encourage them to keep doing them.

Spit or throw a snot rocket in the middle of the group. Nothing wrong with doing it, just pull to the back of the group where no one can get a sample of your biological waste.

Keep chatting away unaware of the riding conditions and not passing signals and calls, etc.

Surge. Whether when moving to the front or exiting a junction, make sure that you keep the group together before upping the pace.

Bonus material

The videos below are a good complement to what riding in a group is about. There are plenty of extra materials on YouTube and on the British Cycling website if you are interested in getting more information.

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