For those taking part in their first cycle race on the road or who are new to group training, there are a few points you should be aware of to avoid falls and to gain the confidence of others around you:
- Be predictable with all your actions.
- Maintain a steady straight line and avoid braking or changing direction suddenly, especially if contesting a sprint. Remember that there are riders following you closely from behind. To slow down, gradually move out into the wind and slot back into your position in the bunch.
- Point out and call out any road hazards ahead. These include potholes, drain grates, stray animals, opening car doors, sticks or stones, parked cars, etc.
- Do not overlap wheels. A slight direction change or gust of wind could easily cause you to touch wheels and fall. Pedal down hill when you are at the front of the bunch. Cyclists dislike having to ride under brakes. If you freewheel down hill you are doing as much good as sitting in your lounge chair.
- Stay to the left when in front to allow room for others to pass safely on your right, particularly in traffic. Pass other riders on the right hand side whenever possible.
- Be smooth with your turns at the front of the group. Avoid surges unless trying to break from the bunch. A group will travel quicker when turns are completed smoothly.
- Avoid leaving gaps when following wheels. Cyclists save about 30% of their energy at high speed by following a wheel. Each time you leave a gap you are forcing yourself to ride alone to bridge it. Also, riders behind you will become annoyed and ride around you, especially if the bunch is working together to break away or catch a break in a race.
- When climbing hills, avoid following a wheel too closely. Many riders often lose their momentum when rising out of the saddle on a hill which can cause a sudden deceleration. This can often catch a rider who is following too closely, resulting in a fall from a wheel touch.
- Do not panic if you brush shoulders, hands or bars with another rider. Try to stay relaxed in your upper body to absorb any bumps. This is a part of cycle racing in close bunches and is quite safe provided riders do not panic, brake or change direction.
There are a lot more minor points that could be mentioned here as becoming a proficient bunch rider takes time and experience to achieve. The most important point however is to be aware of others around you and respect other riders, your actions will have a direct response on theirs.