If you were to do a Google search on training etiquette you would probably come across a whole raft of articles describing good ‘bunch etiquette’. You would undoubtedly find suggestions like; holding your line, not half wheeling, hand signals and calls. Pretty much all the standard stuff you need to do when training in a bunch.
However, there is a whole different side to training etiquette that is seldom discussed, what to do when you encounter someone else training on the same road as you are.
Now, its quite common to see a lone rider jump on the back of a passing bunch and try and hang on for a while. Sure that can be fun but before doing this you really need to stop and think for a second. How with this impact the training of the other people.
While there are too many scenarios to cover specifically, here are my suggestions for good training etiquette:
- If you come across someone who is obviously in the middle of an interval/effort, steer clear of them – especially if they are on a time trial bike. Don’t sit on their wheel and under no circumstances should you pass them and then sit just in front of them.
- If you’re doing your own interval at the same time as some else then just give yourself a little more room, perhaps by delaying the start of your effort, so that you don’t mess up each others sessions.
- If you get passed by a bunch it’s not an automatic invitation to jump on the back. It’s fine if someone invites you to jump on, but in the main just remember you were out on a solo ride to start with so no harm in just continuing on in that manner. The bunch should be out of your way quite quickly. Note: the obvious exception to this is if you are deliberately meeting the group en-route.
- If you’re doing a time trial session then try not to get mixed up in any bunches you encounter. Time trial bikes/aerobars and bunch rides are seldom a good mix. If you come up behind a small bunch while doing an effort then you need to decide whether to pass or sit back. If the group is going at a similar speed then try and hang back as passing them will only put you just in front and it’s pretty easy to get mixed up. If the bunch is going slower then by all means go straight past – just not if you’re about to finish your effort.
- If you’re in a bunch and get passed by a rider – especially someone on a time trial bike, then let them be. Sitting on their wheel or continually yo-yoing with them (overtaking them and then getting overtaken again when you slow down) is just plan disrespectful and can be very dangerous.
- Giving way to other bunches. Just because you’re in a bunch doesn't mean you are allowed to break the road rules. There are times that two bunches meet at an intersection. Normal road rules should be used to determine which bunch needs to give way. Just because your in the ‘so called’ fast bunch doesn't give you the right to plough straight through the intersection. Slow down and give way, just as you would expect a car to do for you.
- Keep left. Sounds pretty straight forward but it’s a lot more dangerous to overtake a rider who is sitting too far out from the left edge. Sure, it’s ok to move out a little if there is glass or other debris but stay as far left as possible so that if other riders need to pass they can do so safely.
- Call out when passing a rider. If you’re in a group and coming up on a lone rider (or smaller group) then don’t just fly by. Call out to let them know your coming and to let others in your group know that there is someone ahead. Note: if you get passed by a bunch and get the ‘rider up’ call it’s not an invitation to speed up or jump in the bunch. It simply means keep left and hold your line.
- If someone jumps on your wheel uninvited then simply ask them to desist. This one can be quite contentious and everyone will have their own preference on whether they mind if someone sits on their wheel. The main thing is that if you do mind then be polite about it. Sometimes speeding up or slowing right down is enough to signal to the person to desist, however if that fails then just sit up and politely ask them to give you some space.
- Conversely to #9 – if you’re the type of rider who likes to just sit on random groups or riders, please first consider whether they will want you there. Differing skill levels, ride purpose, etc can all lead to issues and don’t underestimate the feeling of personal space people have when they are riding alone. Cycling is one of the many joys in life and it’s great to do it with a group of friends but it’s also great when you’re after some solitude and there can be nothing worse than having do deal with someone sitting on your wheel at these times.
Some examples I have encountered of bad training etiquette.
- While motor pacing riders it’s quite common that we pass a lot of riders. It’s also quite common that these ‘passed’ riders try and jump on the back of the bike too. This is extremely dangerous. Apart from the obvious insurance issues, the skill required to ride at speed behind a scooter is something that requires practise. It’s almost impossible for me to stop or indicate to the rider to desist without endangering the riders or disrupting their session. So, if you get passed by someone who is motor pacing then please leave them alone.
- Time trial training. For some reason people just love sitting behind someone who is in the middle of a time trial interval. That feeling of going fast while sitting in the, albeit reduced, draft seems to be irresistible to some people. However, consider the situation. The rider in front will not be able to brake quickly, they will not be able to signal any obstacles on the road and they may change direction to avoid said obstacle without any warning whatsoever. Their speed, while quite constant, may change at any point – especially if they are completing intervals to a set duration and they may not even realise that you are sitting on – making everything even more risky. As with the moto example – if you see someone doing a time trial interval then stay clear of them.
- Hill reps – not looking around at the bottom of a hill. This one can be very dangerous and usually occurs when someone, who is doing hill reps, encounters someone who is not. The rider doing the hill reps gets to the bottom, slows down and performs a u-turn to resume climbing. The problem is they don’t look for anyone coming down the hill behind them and they fail to indicate their intention of slowing down and turning. The second rider then has to take evasive action (usually at speed) to avoid a crash. Conversely if you’re the second rider, never assume that an unknown rider in front of you is going to keep going at the bottom. It’s always best to be safe. Slow down and make sure of their intentions before you fly through the bottom of the hill.
Above all please remember to respect all other road users, cyclists and drivers alike. The more we all get along the better it is for everyone.