Starting - 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.
Riding Formation – 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 have required more distancing between cyclists in a group than traditional riding formations would dictate. See the OCA’s Progressive Return to Cycling Guideline (found at https://www.ontariocycling.org/covid-19-information/) for details as to any restrictions that may currently be in effect.
Changing to Single file - The Group Leader will decide whether traffic or road conditions merit changing to single file. Riding single file may not benefit either cyclists or motorists—it doubles the length of the group and this could make passing more hazardous if sight distances are poor. When single file is called, the inside riders put a bike length between them and the bike in front. The outside riders then move in ahead of the rider on their right. As soon as conditions permit, the group should revert to double file.
Alignment – When riding in double-file, ride side by side with your wheels level to your neighbour’s. Try not to pull ahead or slip behind (known as “half-wheeling”). Follow the rider in front, but with a slight offset to provide extra braking distance in an emergency. Similarly, when riding in single file, maintain your front wheel behind the rear wheel of the rider ahead of you with a slight offset, but do not half-wheel!
Rotating – General - The lead rider(s) should rotate frequently to avoid 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.
Rotating – Double File - The group usually rotates clockwise when the outside lead rider calls “ROTATE”. However, in cases where there are strong crosswinds moving from right to left, the Group Leader can direct that anti-clockwise rotation be used. With the default, clockwise rotation, the lead rider accelerates slightly to move up and across in front of the inside rider. Inside lead rider calls “CLEAR” when the outside rider is clear to come across to the inside position. Outside riders move up one place and inside riders back one place. The inside rear rider moves over to become the tail rider.
Rotating – Single File
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.
Hazards - The lead rider(s) 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.
Right turn – The lead riders call 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.
Left turn – The lead riders call 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.
Uphill - 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.
Downhill - The lead riders 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.