Tips for Cycling in a Group

riding-in-the-park-2-croppedIsis Cyclists rides are intended to take you along (mainly) quiet roads, discover new places, chat with like-minded people, and above all have fun. However, we do share the road with other users, particularly of the four-wheeled variety. Here we give a few tips on what to expect on an Isis ride, and explain the part that we ask our riders to play in making the experience both enjoyable and safe.

Getting ready…

First of all, make sure that your bike is roadworthy: e.g. your chain is well oiled, the brakes function, and the gears change smoothly. Second, have a good breakfast – or at least bring something to nibble en route, as we may be riding for one-and-a-half to two hours before reaching the coffee stop.

Role of the leader and sweeper


At the start of the ride, the leader will ask you to sign the register and to give the phone number of an emergency contact. She will gather everyone together to give essential information about the route and appoint a sweeper to bring up the rear.

If there are more than 12-15 riders, the leader may split people into two groups and appoint a leader and sweeper of the second group.

During the ride, the leader will keep an eye on how the group is progressing. She’ll slow down or stop as appropriate to wait for slower riders and to discuss any problems with the sweeper. After traffic lights and junctions she’ll pause until everyone is present and has had a chance to catch their breath.

The sweeper will ride at the pace of the rear-most rider and will alert the leader (usually by passing a message up to the front) if someone has a mechanical problem.

You can help the leader and sweeper by…

  • Letting them know if you are getting tired and need to stop for a while.
  • Letting them know if you are leaving the ride before the destination.
  • Following the guidelines below to watch out for your fellow riders and cope with motor vehicles and horses.

Watching out for your fellow riders


  • isis-medium-ride-aug2014-007Leave enough space between you and the rider in front to stop in an emergency (like the “two-second” rule in driving).
  • Don’t stop suddenly: if possible, shout “stopping” and give the slowing-down signal.
  • Warn riders behind of potholes or other hazards by pointing if it is safe to do so. Shouting “on the left” or “on the right” is another way to draw attention to possible hazards.
  • At a junction, ensure that the person behind has seen you turn. If in doubt, stop and wait.

Coping with cars and larger vehicles


  • Never ride more than two abreast; drop into single file on narrow or busy roads when cars need to pass.
  • We normally use “car up” to mean that a vehicle is approaching from behind and “car down” to draw attention to vehicles coming from ahead. Sometimes we use more specific words such as lorry, bus or large vehicle to give extra information.
  • When a rider behind you shouts “car up!”, move into single file (unless the road ahead is wide and clear of oncoming traffic). If you’re riding two abreast, the inside rider should move up so that the outside rider can tuck in behind her. Please pass on “car up” and “car down” messages.
Copyright Lee Atherton

On some roads, vehicles have difficulty overtaking long groups. In such cases, leave 30-metre gaps every 5 or so riders, as instructed by the ride leader or the sweeper.

  • Always wave to thank drivers who slow or stop to let us by. And if a driver behaves badly or uses their horn inappropriately, remain calm – don’t shout or gesticulate at them.
  • Whenever you stop, pull up off the road if possible.
  • Passing a horse and rider

    Horses can be very spooked by bicycles, and so we need to take extra care when alerting their riders to our presence, whether overtaking them or passing them in the opposite direction. It’s much safer to call out than to ring your bell and/or jam on your brakes (in case they squeal).

    If the horse gets spooked, then stop and allow it to calm down a bit. When the rider indicates it’s safe, overtake (or pass) wide and slow.

    Thank you – and happy cycling with Isis Cyclists!