Cars and motor vehicles pose a significant risk to cyclists, but so do other bike riders. The risk of serious injury is the same so there are a few simple rules to follow to ensure that riders in a bunch are safe… and efficient.
Efficiency is one of the biggest advantages of riding in a bunch (as well as socialising). When the bunch is a coherent group and all riders, from the lead through to the riders at the back, the bunch is faster and it is simply more enjoyable. In comparison, a disorganised bunch creates surging which makes the riders at the back work harder, it is stressful and there is an increased risk of crashing.
This article on avoiding crashing in the bunch follows on from the The Six Most Important Safe Bunch Cycling Rules and covers cornering, merging into single-file and crossing to two (or more) riders abreast.
How to Corner without Crashing
In a bunch when the riders are cycling with two or more abreast, the rule for cornering is to “Hold Your Line.” The most efficient path through a corner is to start wide, cut across the corner and then end wide, but when riding alongside others, this is a dangerous tactic. Both the inside and outside rider can cut another off so instead need to ride two-abreast (or three or four) around the corner. The rider on the inside has a shorter path while the rider on the outside takes a longer path.
If you are riding single-file, you can afford to take the most efficient path (starting and ending wide while sweeping across the apex). However riders need caution by allowing more space to the rider in front. If the rider ahead slows or choses a different ‘line’ through the corner, you need to remain behind and avoid suddenly appearing next to the rider when they are not expecting you.
How to Merge / Single-Up
When a bunch need to change from two (or more) abreast and form a single line, usually the call “Singles” or “Single-Up” is given and passed through the bunch.
The riders on the outside of the lane need to provide space so that the rider who was along-side, can then ride forward and into the slot. This zip-lock format of merging is safe and efficient, the onus is on the riders to leave enough space and also to ‘close the gap’ and ensure that the tight formation and speed of the peloton is retained.
When a bunch changes from single-file to two-abreast, a call of “double-up” is called. A tight-knit bunch may anticipate that it is safe to ride two-abreast and no call is given.
The lead rider remains on the ‘outside’ and the next rider then moves out and alongside the lead rider. This pattern is repeated with every second rider moving out of formation and then up along-side the rider who want in front.
Riders towards the rear can quickly find a big gap in-front due to the acceleration so need to be aware of closing the gap while lead riders should aim to maintain a constant speed to avoid splitting the group.
Safety in Communication
Bike crashes can be bad luck, but they can also be caused by a lack of awareness and communication. In a racing environment, even when the finish line is in sight, the etiquette is still important, unexpected moves can bring scores of riders down.
GCN have some detailed cornering advice in their video – How to Corner like a Pro.
For more on bunch riding and paceline formations, technique and etiquette, download the Free Bunch Riding guide.