Is group riding the best part of road cycling?

Ryhmäajo on parasta maantiepyöräilyssä!
Road cycling is enchanting! Once one has experienced the lightness and speed of a road bike, he wants more. Rather sooner than later. Road cycling trips tend to get longer and this leads to better physical shape. Improved fitness on the other hand enables longer and longer rides and hence the virtuous circle has been created. Despite seeking new routes to provide variation to the hobby, most road cyclists still find themselves riding the same roads over and over again. After all, new and uncharted roads are quite rare. Also, cyclists’ own thoughts may become too familiar when cycling the old familiar routes day after another. So, what can one do to refresh the precious hobby?

Group riding is an important part of road cycling

Riding alone is only half of the road cycling experience, if even that. The competitive history of the sport has always been about big mass start races where the whole characteristics of the sport builds upon team tactics and drafting (ie. riding in paceline). Riding in a group is therefore an inseparable component of road cycling and it is not only applied to racing. Group riding also offers a great way for a recreational cyclist to juice up the hobby.

Times flies and distance folds

Road cycling with one friend is group riding already. While riding with a friend, sometimes you chat, sometimes you don’t. Even occasional discussions make the time fly and usually common talking points are not hard to find. After all, you share a mutual interest in road cycling. Another thing in group riding that makes the time fly is the requirement of concentration. When riding in a tight group, one has to be focused on riding. While keeping focus in drafting, changing turns and occasional chit-chats, the time truly dashes and even a 100 km ride goes by so fast that one has to rub eyes when looking at the cycle computer after the ride.

Adapted time perception is of course not the only advantage of group riding. A concrete and measurable benefit is speed that is signifigantly higher than when riding alone. Speed comes from the draft ie. decreased air resistance in the group. All riders in a group, except the front rider can save their strength and energy and therefore ride at a higher average speed.

Skills required in group riding

So, it is beneficial and fun to ride in a group. There are anyhow certain skills that all members of the group should know in order to enable safe and smooth group riding. These skills are:

  • Drafting: Riding close enough to the rider in front so that air resistance benefit is obtained.
  • Hand and voice signals: Hand gestures and call outs are used for communicating and warning other riders about turning, slowing down, stopping and pointing out movements in the group and potholes and other damages on the road.
  • Changing turns: The front rider of the group is changed frequently in order not to exhaust anyone in the group. There are multiple ways to perform the change depending on whether a single or double line is used. By the way, you should never ride three or more abreast if the road is not closed from other traffic!
  • The duties of the front rider: The rider breaking the wind is responsible for adjusting the speed of the group, showing hand signals as early as possible and navigating the group.

Best way to learn group riding skills is to opt in your local cycling club’s group rides or organise your own group with cycling buddies. Education on group riding, as well as on other road cycling skills, is available on where you can find online courses and training groups for all kinds of cycling. On Making Sense online course you will learn all group riding skills from hand gestures to front riders duties and from turn changing tactics to proper group for selection.

Saimaa Cycle Tour offers a lot of group riding possibilities

Saimaa Cycle Tour offers a lot of possibilities to ride in a group. After all, thousands of cyclists will be participating in the event. And that is a great thing! You will most definitely find new friends to ride with even if your own buddies woudn’t be participating this time. In a group this 300 km effort will go by stunningly fast, believe me. And remember, a Saimaa Cycle Tour experience shared with a friend is at least a double experience!

Group riding checklist

Keep focus!

Act foreseeable. Communicate a lot and repeat all signals.

Do not half wheel. Your front wheel on the side of the rear wheel of the rider in front of you is always a dangerous combination.

One line or two lines, never three or more abreast.

Enjoy the ecstasy of the group ride!