People who have never gotten on a bicycle with a group of likeminded individuals and raced from one end to another will find it difficult to understand the dynamics of a road race. To them it probably looks like a cluster of similarly attired cyclists pedalling along long stretches of road towards a common destination. For those who have experienced the thrill of competitive cycling, it is a highly calculated sport that requires physical strength and mental dexterity like few other sports. In addition to this, there is also a massive amount of team strategy required, not to mention competitive road cycling etiquette.
The Fundamentals of a Peloton
You are part of a pack – The first rule to observe is that you should attempt to find your way into a pack mentality. Learn to manoeuvre as part of a cohesive group as you deal with the other riders being practically on top of you.
Forget about strategy for a while – If it is your first race, don’t even worry about applying strategies, just stick with the group and keep the finish line in mind. In case you were wondering, a peloton is what the main pack of riders in a race is called.
Be predictable – Predictability is a good thing in bicycle racing. Try not to suddenly increase or decrease speed and don’t make erratic moves. Do your best to ride along the same lines as other riders, especially if you haven’t done many races.
Your front wheel is your responsibility – Try not to crash into other riders. Instead of making it your mission to get ahead, rather err on the side of caution. Do your best to predict what the riders in front of you are about to do, and act accordingly.
Don’t Forget to be Polite
Besides the basic rules, you will also find a range of unspoken rules pertaining to etiquette on the road. There is no definitive list, but here are three of the most important etiquette rules:
1. Don’t overtake when another cyclist has a toilet break – Everybody has to answer nature’s call at some stage and this is not an opportunity for other riders to get ahead.
2. No breakaways when refuelling – It is not a respected move to sneak away and take the lead while cyclists are busy relaxing and reloading at stops. The polite thing to do is to take breaks at the same time before continuing with the race.
3. Don’t pull to the finish line at the end if you’ve been cycling in the bunch – Cycling as part of a closely knitted pack makes cycling easier. If you have been cycling in this way for most of the race it is rude to pull ahead as you are approaching the finish line. Good etiquette demands that everybody takes a turn at pulling at the front, or remain in the bunch until the finish line is crossed.