The leader will announce that the group is starting and moves off slowly. Riders soft pedal until the entire group is in formation, at which point the speed is increased.
The traditional format for road cycling groups, where permitted by provincial traffic laws, is double file, changing to single file if traffic and road conditions dictate. Riding double file makes the group more visible and encourages motor vehicles to pass with more clearance.
Nevertheless, the health safeguards implemented as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic require more distancing between cyclists in a group than traditional riding formations would dictate. For the 2021 season, OBC rides will exclusively use single-file formations, with two-metre spacing between riders. This will reduce - but not eliminate - the drafting benefits of riding in a group in order to protect the health of all ride participants. See the OCA’s Progressive Return to Cycling Guideline (found at https://www.ontariocycling.org/covid-19-information/) for more details.
When riding in single-file, follow the rider in front, but with your front wheel behind that rider’s rear wheel, with a slight offset to provide extra braking distance in an emergency. Do not edge forward so that all or part of your front wheel is beside the rear wheel of the bicycle ahead of you - that is a very dangerous position, known as “half-wheeling”.
The group should rotate frequently to minimize fatigue. If you are tired, rotate through the front quickly. If you feel comfortable in front then spend a little more time there, but don't “hog” the front – group members remain best engaged when rotating regularly.
The lead rider initiates a rotation by calling “ROTATE”, pulling out to the left and slowing slightly, so that the group can move ahead without accelerating. It is the lead rider’s responsibility to determine when it is safe to rotate. In some circumstances, a clockwise rotation may be preferable – for instance on roads with a wide shoulder and heavy traffic. In such cases, the lead rider would call “ROTATE” and shift to the right side of the lane, allowing the group to pass on the left without needing to leave the bike lane.
The lead rider calls out hazards such as bumps, gravel, and roadkill, when they are unable to take a line that enables the group to spot the hazard. Point out the position of the hazard so that following riders know on which side to pass. The group riders relay this information to the riders behind.
The lead rider calls for the turn and the group riders relay this through the pack through hand signals. The tail rider should signal the turn for any trailing traffic. Stop if required, and then proceed as traffic permits. If it is not necessary to stop, coast through the turn with right pedal up.
The lead rider calls for the turn and the group riders relay this through the pack through hand signals. The tail rider determines when it is safe to take or cross the lane, signals the turn to following traffic, and instructs the rest of the group to move across the lane. Riders move across the lane from rear to front. This manoeuvre is repeated as necessary for multilane roads. Stop if required, and then proceed as traffic permits. If it is not necessary to stop, coast through the turn with left pedal up.
Gear down and proceed uphill, maintaining formation if possible. However, if the formation breaks up, e.g., on long or steep hills, riders should stop or soft pedal at the top of the hill to regroup. Do not leave slower riders behind — they may have difficulty catching up.
The lead rider must continue to pedal—the group riders will tend to catch up because of the benefits of drafting.
The tail rider indicates when a vehicle is overtaking or slowing down to follow the group (call out “CAR PASSING” or “CAR BACK”). As a general rule, the tail rider should not signal to the motorist when it is safe to pass; it is best left to the judgement of the motorist.
Separation Between Groups
To assist motorists to pass safely, we must ensure that there is enough distance between groups to allow a motor vehicle to pass and return to the lane. This both optimizes the safety of the groups and acknowledges the rights of other road users. To avoid the formation of a large unmanageable group, two groups should not join up.
When approaching a single rider or slower group from the rear, check that the way is clear, call out “PASSING”, and then pass, allowing plenty of room. If there is oncoming traffic or the lane is not wide enough for both groups side by side, the group should wait until it is safe to pass. If there is following traffic, the tail rider should indicate that the group is going to pass (left turn signal). The leader of the front group should assist the group behind to pass, if necessary, by slowing the pace a little.
The lead rider will call “STOPPING”. Gear down, stop pedalling, and brake gently. Move completely off the road when stopping to chat, fix a flat, etc.
Lead rider or group rider calls “SLOWING”. Stop pedalling and prepare to brake. Riders slow down in order from rear to front to avoid catching the rider ahead.
This is a riding formation used by professional cyclists to optimise performance in cross-winds. In an echelon, all riders draft by offsetting to the left (or right) of the rider ahead of them. Echelons are not to be used for OBC group rides: they are only suited for the closed roads used in professional races.