Wiggle Chain Reaction Merger Romance

Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles Romance put to the Test

The merger of the two biggest online bike shops, Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycle is now being put to the test by being referred to the Competition and markets Authority (CMA) in the UK. Reported on BikeBiz, they have noted that the CMA are surveying bike and Parts and Accessories suppliers who need to respond this week. 

Online retail can be a double-edge sword for bike brands. On the one side, online shopping in booming and it provides an opportunity to sell a lot of stock to this growing market. On the other, online shops compete with the traditional bricks and mortar bike shops and the distributers who are also vital for marketing the brand and customer service.

Suppliers can be pressured into discounting their stock for online retailers – it means lower prices for customers online while distributers and bike shops who have traditionally supported the brand pay more for the stock and have increasing online competition.

The Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles entity has not released details about changes and whether both brands will continue to operate independently. For customers, it is likely that the brands will remain separate and behind the scenes, management, supply-chain and logistics can be optimise.

 

Smarter Climbing Descending Cyclists

Clever Climbing and Smarter Descents for Cyclists

On the mountain stages for any cycling race, the road to victory is a combination of skill, experience and intelligence. Whether you are racing, training or riding with friends for fitness and pleasure, the importance of safety is amplified when it gets hilly. Higher speeds on descents and slow, inconsistent speeds while climbing can increase the danger of a bike crash. There are a few easy rules to reduce the risk and increase the pleasure.

In the free Cycling Essentials Bunch Riding Guide, the chapter on ascending and descending covers the four key considerations for bunch riding safety and etiquette on the climbs and descents.

 

Climbing Hills in the Bunch

A rider who starts too soon is on their own and can bonk. A rider who starts too late will miss the boat. Strategy, tactics, nutrition, skill, ability… and a multitude of factors affect performance. This goes for competition cycling, but also when riding with friends in a bunch.

For training and friendly bunch riding, it is often more enjoyable for riders to cycle at their own pace. This means that the bunch may split up and it is common courtesy for the faster riders to wait at the top of a climb. When there are lots of climbs, a designated meeting point should be selected. Allow time for the slower riders to recover.

If there is a long delay, consider sending a fit rider to check up on slower riders incase they have suffered a ‘mechanical’ and require assistance.

 

Racing up the hills

Fast riders who are held up by slower riders and don’t have the opportunity to pass are quickly frustrated, so make it easy for faster riders to pass.

While ascending, your reaction time and also the ability to move over can be affected by both concentration and the sheer effort, so thinking ahead makes sense. When climbing hills, try and keep to the side. If you are riding in a bunch, likewise, orientate yourself to the side so that there is space for other riders who want to pass.

When you are in a faster bunch and are approaching a slower bunch or slower riders from behind, call out and let the riders know that you are approaching and overtaking. It is good strategy to let them know how big the group is, for example the first rider may call “10 riders passing” and this ensures that the slower riders don’t pull out too soon. The last rider can also call out “last wheel” (or “last rider”).

 

Increase the Gap

 

In a good bunch riding in tight formation, the gap to the rider ahead can be quite small. This is an aerodynamic advantage but also demands a lot of trust and confidence in the skill of the riders ahead and that they are also looking out for obstacles that can be a safety risk to the bunch.

During the ascents and descents it is harder for a bunch to maintain consistency in speed and cadence. Going uphill, riders may have different abilities climbing but also different styles. Descents are fast and often involve braking and cornering which can be less predictable.

The rule of thumb is to increase the gap – the space to the rider ahead. When climbing hills, if the rider ahead suddenly gets out of their saddle to stand without warning, their bike will surge back. On descents, the rider ahead could brake earlier than you anticipate, but also react quickly to unexpected obstacles while cornering. Your safety is improved by increasing the gap to a safe distances, the faster the descent, the bigger the gap.

 

Be predictable

Accident easily occur when riders are unpredictable, the move out unexpectedly and unaware of riders approaching from behind or they suddenly brake.

Ensure that your bunch has a culture of calls and hand signals. If a rider wants to get out of the saddle and stand, they call “standing” or even if they take a drink, holding the drink bottle to the side so that riders behind know you are taking and drink and might slow.

Each rider in the bunch has a responsibility to ensure that the other riders are alert and know if there are any changes, such as to your position or speed.

Smart Cyclist Bunch Riding Crash Corner

How to Corner and Merge on a Bike without Crashing

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.

 

Doubling-up

 

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.

Cycling Rules for Bunch Riding

The Six Most Important Safe Bunch Cycling Rules

Cycling rules can save you from most of the preventable causes of crashes in the bunch or peloton. Embedded inside a group of cyclists, your visibility ahead is reduced to backsides and heads. The wheel in front can be anything from a meter to just centimetres away – the closer the better for drafting but riding too close gives you even fewer escape routes. Fellow riders on your sides and behind mean that each of your actions can cause a chain reaction which ripple through the entire bunch. 

A lot can go wrong, but there are a number of cycling rules for inside the bunch which can keep you safer and help you to avoid many of the situations which can cause a crash.

When you know the cycling rules and etiquette inside the bunch, if others don’t know it then there is still plenty of risk. It is important to openly discuss the cycling rules for your bunch, and to share them with new cyclists so that they know what to expect and how to ride safely in your group.

 

Cycling Rule 1 – Hold your line

This means, be predictable so that other cyclists can anticipate what you are doing. The easiest way to hold your line is to follow directly behind the cyclist in front.

The first example of NOT holding your lines is when riding inside the bunch and you veer left or right. This affects a rider beside you and all riders behind. This place added pressure on other riders to control their bikes and try and work out what you are doing. If you are on open roads and a vehicle is passing, a rider to your side may be forced out too far.

The second example is riding around corners two-abreast. If the outside rider cuts across the corner, they will cut-off the rider inside. Similarly, if the inside rider veers too far on the approach or exit, this can force the outside rider off the road. A dangerous situation for all which means slow a little and ‘hold your line’.

 

Cycling Rule 2 – Look Ahead

Inside a bunch with just the backside of the riders in front to look at, some riders focus their eyes down to the wheel in front. This is dangerous, it is easy to become fixated on the tyre and road and loose proper perception of everything around.

The correct approach is to look ahead, look forward which provides you with a broader field of view and peripheral vision. Though some of your view is blocked, you should be able to see the traffic situation ahead as well as spot the movement of the riders in front.

 

Cycling Rule 3 – Ride Smoothly

Although you are already holding your line, one of the biggest flaws of riders is to surge. Some cyclists pedal fast and reach the wheel of the rider in front, then stop pedalling or even brake. As the slow they have to accelerate again and it creates a surge effect which means that all riders following are affected and it often creates a concertina effect in the peloton.

Inside a bunch, each rider has an important responsibility to try and maintain a constant speed. The aim is to keep the distance between yourself and the rider in front constant.

If you need to make a drastic change – you need to call out to the other riders so that they can prepare.

 

Cycling Rule 4 – Make Small Adjustments

Following on from Cycling Rule 3 and riding smoothly, a peloton will accelerate and brake as the typography, terrain and traffic changes. Rapid acceleration can mean that riders behind are quickly left behind – if you are riding with a friendly bunch, you will want to keep together. Hard braking can be unexpected and lead to crashes.

The best approach are small / micro-adjustments. Rather than accelerating rapidly, keep it steady and constant to slowly build up speed.

To slow down gently and brush off a little speed there are a number of approaches:

Light Pedalling means you continue to pedal but with less force. If you stopped pedalling completely the deceleration could be too rapid, so light pedals is a gentle method.

Air Braking is sitting up higher in your saddle and allowing your chest to catch more air which slows you. This technique is often used on downhills as the following riders have a substantial advantage drafting and quickly start to accelerate and travel faster than the rider ahead. Sitting up can slow you and let you remain nicely spaced behind the rider up front.

Feather the brakes is very lightly applying the brakes to marginally slow you down. Very often cyclists on the road ‘ride on the hoods’ – their grip around the raised brake hoods and the index fingers on each hand resting on the brake levers.

 

Cycling Rule 5 – No Half-Wheeling

Half-Wheeling or Overlapping Wheels is when a rider is no longer directly behind the rider ahead and have edged up closely on the left or right side. Instead of keeping the distance to the rider ahead, the wheels are now ‘overlapped’. This is a very dangerous situation responsible for a lot of bike crashes. If the rider ahead moves unexpectedly, for example to dodge a pothole, they will hit the wheel of the rider following them, often causing both to crash.

In this situation, if the rider behind left a gap then the rider ahead is able to move safely left or right, even without warning.

The cycling rules and etiquette can vary between riding groups, generally a more skilled bunch is able to rider closer together and leave a small gap. A less experienced bunch, or a bunch with a lot of unknown riders should leave a larger gap to the rider in front for safety. In either group, following braking a rider in the bunch who brakes late may find themself half-wheeling and should immediately correct by braking. If necessary, call out to the rider behind that you are slowing.

 

Cycling Rule 6 – Moving Out

Inside the bunch each rider had a position and needs to keep to their position – not only will it make the peloton more efficient (for aerodynamics), it is far better for the safety of all when each rider keeps in position and you can anticipate their actions.

However it can be time to move out of position when there is a paceline (rolling peloton) and each rider takes turns at the front. Perhaps you are tired and can’t keep up to the rider in front so need to move to the back. Or perhaps the traffic situation has changed – there is a hill coming up and you want to give other riders space.

If it is time to move out, signal your intentions, a hand signal may be sufficient for some groups or even a verbal call. Look around to ensure the coast is clear and move out to allow the rider following you to move into your position. The intention is to minimise disruption to the rest of the cyclists.

 

Any more Cycling Rules?

On this page only the rules specific to your riding behaviour inside a group are covered though to be a good, safe an courteous cyclist there is more you need to know. In the Cycling Essentials series these are being covered, you can also find a more comprehensive compilation of cycling rules and good biking etiquette in the Free Bunch Riding guide.

Find and join cycling bunch

How to Find and Join a Cycling Bunch

Joining a cycling bunch is a rewarding way to enjoy cycling and make it a social activity – After all Cycling is the New Golf. It gives you time to connect with others and compare bikes and gear). Your aspirations could be competitive or social and there are a few things to know when joining a bunch. Firstly we will look at finding a bunch and secondly the etiquette for joining onto a cycling bunch of unknown riders. 

How do you find other riders? You probably already know if you are a mountain biker, road cyclist or into other styles of cycling and this (of course) is a good starting point. Here are a few places to start – and remember that it does take some effort on your part which includes going out of your comfort-zone to find the right group of riders.

 

Finding a Cycling Bunch and Riders

 

Colleagues and Friends

Probably the easiest way to start is with colleagues and friends – talk about cycling and pretty quickly you will find out who else rides, and plan to go for a ride together. You can also get referrals from your connections to cycling groups – it is always nice to have an existing connection.

Your Local Bike Shop

Good local bike bikes shops often have shop rides and some even have teams connected to the shop. For the bike shops, they are an excellent way to increase loyalty among customers – and in turn, customers can join regular local rides. Some shops will have different rides, such as monthly rides for beginners and weekly rides for more advanced riders.

 

Your Local Cycling Club or Bicycle User Group

Cycling clubs are generally for competitive cycling and often members will cycle together during training rides which may be organised by the club or independently by members who enjoy cycling together. Some clubs offer recreational membership for riders who are not interested in competing and social rides.

Bicycle User Groups (BUGs) are often recreational and accommodate riders of all ages and abilities. These are a good avenue for riders who are interested in cycle tours in the local region. BUGs may also be orientated towards cycling advocacy and engaged in building or fostering cycling routes in the local area.

 

Online Bunch Ride Finders

There are hundreds of online website which connect cyclists, simply turn to Google. Cyclists will also turn to local cycling forums to reach out to others and connect and other cycling interest groups. While there is often a disconnect between virtual / anonymous communities and the real world, take time to understand and judge a group. Also be aware that a stranger or group of strangers online will not necessarily follow-through and be as reliable as in real life.

 

Etiquette for Joining a new Cycling Bunch

Whether you have found a brand new bunch of cyclists to ride with or your are out on the ride and want to join onto a group of riders, there are a few things worth knowing.

The first is that there is a lot you don’t know. This includes how well each of the other cyclists can ride in terms of fitness, bike handling skills and regard for others. You also don’t know the etiquette of the group – for regular cycling bunches, they may have their own protocols and make assumptions for all riders.

If you have organised to rider with a new group, take a few moments before setting off to discuss etiquette. For example if you are a beginner rider without experience riding the planned route, let this be known. Often there will be a ride leader or senior rider who provides guidance for the whole group – it is worthwhile connecting with them.

In a new bunch, it can make sense to ride at the back and observe until you are familiar and comfortable with the group.

The Unknown Bunch

If you are riding solo and come across another bunch who are riding at a similar speed, it can be nice to join them however etiquette is needed.

Firstly, ask the riders if it is ok to join them. Some groups may prefer not to have unknown riders; they may be concentrating on training or may be wary of the riding ability of strangers. In this case hang well behind the group and if you choose to overtake, don’t slow down.

Similarly, a bunch that overtakes shouldn’t slow down and you can ask them to speed up or drop behind if they are distracting.

For a new bunch, it is worthwhile remaining at the back and some bunches may allow you to join but prefer that you don’t take part in the rolling paceline. If you are welcome in the group, do take your turn on the front of a rolling paceline and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Follow ride etiquette within the cycling bunch, pointing out obstacles and holes plus signalling your intentions. It is better to do too much, in the effort of safety, rather than not enough. And just as important, chat with the other riders.

Bunch and Paceline Formations

Paceline – Ride faster with the right paceline formation

The amount of energy a rider saves while drafting is usually quoted as 40%. It is scientifically proven that drafting in a paceline can save between 20 – 40% energy. This is substantial which is why you should notice that you need far less energy drafting. The energy savings will depend on the wind direction and speed, how far behind you are behind the rider in front and technique. 

A group of road cyclists riding together are usually called a bunch. The lead riders break the wind with following riders reaping the benefits. When the riders start to regularly swap the position at the front it becomes a paceline. The objective of the paceline is to move faster so this allows each rider to have a turn at the front before returning to the back to recover.

Paul Doherty of The Exploratorium provides more details on the science of drafting.

In cycling races a group of breakaway riders from different teams are forced to work together and start a paceline. A single rider however can ‘leech’ off the paceline. If they refuse to take turns at the front this can cause the breakaway group to slow down so the peloton can catch up, or it is to save energy for the sprint finish.

Pacelines are an important part of the strategy in competitive cycling. At the sprint finish for example, a lead-out is where a cycling team will align its riders in line to provide as much drafting cover for their champion sprinter as the race towards the finish. Each exhausted rider will peel off, one-by-one and done well, the champion sprinter is only on their own for the last stretch to the finish line. Such is the advantage of the lead-out that riders from other teams will draft behind champion sprinters and compete for line honours.

 

Doubles and Singles

Depending on the size of the bunch, the road and traffic conditions and the wind, a bunch will typically ride in single file or two abreast, doubles. For competitive events, a bunch can be much wider as riders challenge for positions towards the front.

For cycling on open roads, a bunch may need to change from doubles to singles to allow traffic to pass or move from singles to doubles when there is more space.

 

The Paceline

A paceline means that the riders in the group rotate position, typically each rider has a go at the front. Commonly the rider or riders at the front will peel-off and slowly move to the back of the bunch, the next two riders move up and take the lead.

The time at the front can depend on many factors, riders may choose to stay at the front until they need a break, there may be an allocated time (by the ride captain) such as 2 minutes or 5 minutes at the front (or based on distance) or riders inside the bunch may call the lead riders to ROLL if they feel that the bunch is slowing. When the lead riders decide to peel-off they may call ROLLING to inform the riders following and also give hand signals to suggest the riders behind need to move up.

A faster paceline technique is a Rolling Paceline (or Circular Paceline). Rather than lead riders peeling off, instead riders from the rear race up to the front and position themself on the lead and this pattern continues. It require more energy by the riders but is also a means that much higher speeds can be achieved so this technique is popular in team time trials.

The following short video is headcam footage of a rolling paceline.

 

Echelon 

An echelon is a paceline which changes formation to accommodate a cross wind. Wind is a significant factor which can slow a paceline down and rarely can a bunch rely on a perfect head-wind, tail-wind or no wind.

In the echelon formation, riders position them self in the wind-shadow and it may mean that the bunch becomes further spread across the road. If it is a double-paceline, the riders in the wind-shadow will all be protected while the cyclists facing the wind all have to work harder. The bunch can protect a rider and help them to save energy by positioning them well inside the bunch.

 

For more on bunch riding and paceline formations, technique and etiquette, download the Free Bunch Riding guide.

Bunch Riding Peloton Calls and Signals

Bunch Riding Signals and Calls

In tight formation, unless you are at the front of the bunch while cycling, you have limited visibility and it is difficult, or even not possible to see what is happening up front. Of course this creates a risk situation for you as a cyclist and so bunch riding rule and etiquette need to work in your favour to help protect your safety. 

Communication in a bunch is through hand signals and calls (shouts). Often calls and signals are initiated by the riders at the front, but not always. Riders at the rear or in the middle can also make calls which are important to the safety of the entire peloton. The hand signals and calls make up for the impaired vision out front and should provide all of the information you need to ride and react safely in the bunch.

Regardless of who makes the call, it is crucial that every single rider passes this information on. Both voice calls and hand are repeated by each rider. In a bunch there is a lot of noise, the sound of bikes on the road, traffic and even the sound of the wind which can make a call by a rider a few lengths ahead or behind inaudible. Because sound is easily lost, it is crucial for each rider (and not just every second, third or fourth) to repeat a call and ensure that they need to slow down or stop or avoid an obstacle.

Some calls such as STOPPING have a hand signal which is supported by a verbal call. In the case where a rider needs both hands on the steering wheel, and it is unsafe to make the hand signal, the audio call fills in the gaps. On the other hand, some information may be passed on by hand signals alone, for example a parked vehicle ahead is signals with a hand behind the back and can provide sufficient information as the bunch slowly moves over to pass.

For more on bunch riding etiquette and safety, download the Bunch Riding guide.

Wiggle World's Biggest Bike Shop

Phew, Wiggle confirms that it is the Number One bike Shop

On the last blog post, we asked whether Chain Reaction Cycles had returned back to the top place as the worlds number one bike shop after their 2014 turnover was released and the term largest bike store used by media as well as themself. 

You never doubted that Wiggle would lose their lead, and their financial data is out – according to Bicycle Retailer (US trade publication), Wiggle has £179 million in sales in 2014 compared with £153 million for Chain Reaction Cycles (CRC). The most important metric is turnover, so Wiggle retains the claim of being the world’s biggest bike shop.

We reported that Wiggle list 12,000 products which is based on their inventory which is available to Smart Cyclist. This is just a fraction of the 66,000 products from CRC. Bicycle Retailer however reports that Wiggle have 50,000 SKUs – which are Stock Keeping Units, but again this doesn’t provide enough information to accurately use and compare because of product variations such as colour and size. For example, if Wiggle have 12,000 products and with variations there are 50,000 units, CRC have 66,000 products – but are these the ‘units’ and variations or are there four times the number of SKUs? This is not clarified.

While information for public release is generally carefully considered, and thus tends to be scarce, the report does however provide insights into sales in different territories.

…sales were up 26 percent in the U.K. and 20 percent in Europe over the period, but down 13.1 percent in the rest of the world.

Certainly currency exchange has a role, but also competition from the growing number of online retailers now servicing local markets (who can be competitive and offer even faster delivery).

What is interesting is the growth, CRC had 6% growth while Wiggle recorded 12% growth which is certainly a reflection on their continuing commitment to brand promotion and awareness.

Chain Reaction Bike Shop

Chain Reaction Cycles – again the world’s biggest bike shop?

This is confusing – a new report by the European bicycling trade publication Bike Europe talks about the ‘low’ growth of Chain Reaction Cycles (CRC), calling them the world’s LARGEST bike store. In this blog we recently looked at stats from previous years showing that Wiggle had taken over from CRC based on total sales volume: Has Wiggle beaten Chain Reaction Cycles to the Top Spot?

While it may just be simple rivalry, being the biggest, or the largest or the best is still a selling point. And perhaps it is just in the detail, with LARGEST being about range, they have just over 66,000 products for sale. This may… or may not include product variations (eg, black, white, silver or S, M, L, XL).

In comparison, Wiggle list just over 12,000 products, a mere 18% of the range from CRC. But considering Wiggle have recently been top-dog in sales turn-over, it certainly suggest that a broad product range alone is not the sole indicator of success. Until the reports for Wiggle are out, CRC probably are the Largest while Wiggle may remain the Biggest.

Make no mistake, these are both massive stores with a large customer base. The Bike Europe article talks about Small Growth of only 6% for CRC. They compare this growth to smaller (undisclosed) online bike shops which is where some criticism of this comparison is warranted.

At the top-end in a saturated market with fierce competition from direct competitors and new and niche players, growth is tough. Cycling is growing but the new bike stores, particularly outside of the UK with retailers who serve local markets and are an alternative for new buyers (to the big overseas retailers). Younger online bike stores can also afford to be more dynamic and cater to niche markets.

But critically, is exponential growth always the perfect measure of success – what about stability and sustainable turnover with stable or efficient profit margins?

A few interesting statistics, from the 2014 financial year reporting, the CRC turnover was £153 million with pre-tax profits of £4.8 million. The margins are low in the high turn-over world of online sales and it seems that Chain Reaction Cycles have been concentrating on streamlining – with much less overseas publicity and advertising as in previous years.

Bike Europe also reports that staff numbers have been reduced from 612 to 540.

 

Smart Cyclist Bunch Riding Who is in Charge

Who’s in charge in the bunch?

If you enjoy bunch riding, you will also know about the chain reaction effect. One rider brakes and the rest have to be on their toes and react quickly to avoid crashing. But it is more than avoiding crashing, it is about predicting what could happen, knowing what is happening and riding with the safety of other riders in mind – your riding error can have catastrophic repercussions.

In the Smart Cycling – Cycling Essentials series, the free Bunch Riding Guide outlines the approach for safe bunch riding, and this includes “Who’s in Charge”. So who is in charge… surely it is the Lead Rider?

Yes and no. Each and every rider in a bunch or peloton still has a responsibility to all other riders, both in the way they conduct them self and ride, as well as passing calls or signals through the bunch.

Let’s move to the back of the bunch to the Tail-end Rider. Far from just pulling up the rear, the rider at the back has an important role if the bunch needs to change lanes. As the rear most rider, they call-out to inform the bunch whether the bunch can move OVER or needs to WAIT. For multi-lane crossing the call may be OVER ONE or OVER TWO depending on what is safe. Each rider needs to pass this message forward to the lead rider.

In addition, the Tail-end Rider warns of vehicles approaching from behind, and usually provides an indication of the size such as CAR, BUS or TRUCK. If traffic is heavy, the Tail-end rider may also call to suggest that a bunch riding two abreast changes to single-file with the call SINGLE or SINGLE-UP. On hills or situations where riders fall off the back of the bunch, the Tail-end rider can request the bunch to slow or inform the bunch that the riders have rejoined with ALL-ON.

 

The Lead Rider

While all riders have responsibility in the bunch, the Lead Rider is responsible for many of the important calls and signals. And they have make the calls and signals with the safety of all of the riders in mind which means planning ahead and predicting danger scenarios. This is can be as simple and breaking early, slowing (calling SLOWING or STOPPING) and avoiding sudden braking within the bunch. It means slowing starting (after the bunch has stopped) to allow all riders to ‘get on’ and avoid the concertina effect.

Generally, the Lead Rider has to call early and ensure a constant pace which suits all riders with gradual changes (turning, swerving, slowing, accelerating). The Lead Rider often changes as it is a position which often faces the wind and allows the riders following to draft. When the rider signals their intent and moves over, the next rider in line generally takes the lead. These Pacelines, different formations and variations will be discussed in another post. What it means however is that each rider should be aware of their responsibilities leading the bunch.

One of the key safety requirements is to avoid and call out obstacles such as potholes, debris, parked vehicles, other cyclists and anything else which requires the attention of the bunch. For all of these obstacles, a call and often a hand signal is used which is then passed back but each rider. When avoiding an obstacle, the lead rider chooses a safe line with the assumption that riders will follow.

The Lead Rider also needs to make a judgement call at intersections and for changed traffic situations, for example informing the bunch whether to stop at traffic lights which change from green to amber or to ride through (on the understanding that the bunch is small enough to pass before it turns red. For larger bunches this can be tricky and riders in the middle may need to make an independent call to stop. In this case, riders in the front group should slow down to allow riders behind to catch up.

 

For individuals and non-commercial groups such as cycling clubs, the Bunch Riding guide is free to download, share and print. It provides a concise and visual overview of all of the key safety considerations for bunch riding.