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How to cycle in a group
Introduce yourself to the ride leader if they haven't spoken to you - tell the ride leader you have not cycled in a group before and they will keep an eye on you or ask another rider to cycle near you.
It will be strange to start with but you soon be accustomed to other riders around you. Do not get too close to the rider ahead until you gain confidence. It is fine to chat to the rider next to you and this is one of the pleasures of cycling in a group.
Single file or two abreast?
On quiet country lanes we will cycle two abreast, but never more than that, and if a vehicle approaches we will move into single file. Usually, the inside rider slows down to create a space for the outside rider to slip into. On busier roads we will cycle in single file and your ride leader may instruct the group by calling "single file!" The ride leader may split a large group into two sub-groups at times, allowing space between them for vehicles to pass.
Normally, it is considered impolite to overtake the ride leader, although that is less well observed these days, but on hills it is best for riders to cycle at their own pace and for the group to regroup - see Waiting below.
If the group gets split up, say because of a hill, then wait at the next junction or at the top of the hill if it is safe to do so. If you are last then cycle on until you find the group waiting. They will NEVER leave you behind.
Jargon you will hear
When a car is approaching you might hear rides shout "car up", or if from behind "car down" - this can be confusing for newcomers - it was explained to me when I said it was confusing to just think I was cycling uphill even if I was going down! It is better to shout "car ahead" or "car behind" / "car back".
We use the conventional Highway Code hand signals for manoeuvres with some additions because when you are in a group it can be difficult to see the road directly ahead of you in time to avoid hazards:
Pointing at the ground indicates a pothole or obstruction in the road.
The left arm swung behind the back and pointing right indicates a pedestrian or other slow-moving hazard for which you may have to pull out towards the centre of the road.
Remember that you should only make hand signals when it is safe to take your hand off the handlebars.
If you have to slow down call out "slowing" or "stopping" so other riders know to react - do so gradually if it is safe. If you are passing then call to the rider in front.
Finally - enjoy yourself!
Show courtesy to other road and trail users and be a good ambassador for cycling. Be alert to what other riders around you are doing and do not get too close to them. If you wish to leave the ride, let the Ride Leader know first.
The Cycling UK website provides similar guidance and this page is worth reading.