With the huge growth in recreational cycle events like Ride the Rakaia it is vitally important for everyone's safety that cyclists competing have experienced bunch riding and understand how to safely conduct themselves in a bunch.
The two key things to take on board are:
A good bunch will work together with cyclists taking turns at the front. Experienced cyclists working well in a bunch will only take turns at the front for about 10 seconds with someone ‘rolling over’ them to do their turn.
In recreational ‘fun rides’ like Ride the Rakaia you will find the bunches will be quite large and probably not that well organised. There may be some more experienced cyclists who do try to organize a bunch they are in – this is not only to makes things easier, but it is to make things safer!
If you get used to bunch riding not only will you enjoy your ride so much more but so will those riding with you!
There are lots of training bunch rides run by cycle shops and others that are have grown from a few mates getting together at the same place and same time each week to choose from. Please make the effort to find out about training bunch rides that you can do.
At the bottom of this page there are some suggestions.
The key advantage of bunch riding is it saves energy and enables you to ride at a higher speed. You can expend up to 30 per cent less energy by riding sheltered in a bunch!
Other advantages to bunch riding;
Following are a series of important points about bunch riding to ensure you enjoy your day out Ride the Rakaia.
When riding at the front of a bunch
• Road rules – when you are at the front you are responsible for everyone therefore follow the road rules.
• Vision – look ahead for on coming hazards
– Point and shout out them out to let others know.
• Consistent speed.
• Be predictable.
• Brake smoothly
– If you have to break faster – tell others
• Don’t swerve.
• Pedal downhill as those riders behind you will be sucked along in your draft and will have to continue to break if you stop pedaling
Following another rider
• Don’t overlap the wheel in front of you
• Ideally keep a metre distance from the rider in front
• Increase this if you are unsure of their experience or ability – or don’t follow them!
• Look up the road for hazards or where the road is going.
• Anticipate everything.
• Easiest place to ride is in the middle of the bunch and the bigger it is the easier it gets.
– Less wind
– Less fluctuations of speed
– Less chance of crashing
– Less chance of being pushed into the gutter or over center line
• However it takes confidence gained from experience to be able to ride in this position, therefore:
– Depending on bunch experience and experience of the bunch stay towards the front to keep out of trouble
Single file or double?
• Up to seven riders are more efficient riding single file
• Eight or more riders can ride effectively two by two
• If there is no wind ride up the outside closer to the middle of the road, pull to the road verge as you take the lead.
Riding in the wind
• The riders that are advancing to the front of the bunch should do so in the shelter of the riders that are getting over taken.
Riding uphill in a bunch
Keep your speed as smooth as possible.
• Don't stop pedaling.
• Possibly change up to a harder gear before you stand up.
• If you feel you are a weaker rider go to the front of the bunch. Other riders may pass you as you climb and you can stay on the back as you crest the climb.
• Many riders, even the experienced ones, freewheel momentarily when they first get out of the saddle to go over a rise or a hill. When doing this, the bike is forced backwards. Many riders often lose their momentum when rising out of the saddle on a hill which can cause a sudden deceleration. Also when following the wheel in front too closely when climbing may result in you falling.
• Practice your technique with a friend during a training ride. They can ride behind and let you know when you've got the hang to it. That's when the gap between their front wheel and your rear wheel doesn't narrow each time you stand or sit.
Summary for bunch riding
• If you are at the lead you are responsible for guiding the bunch.
• Obey the road rules.
• Be smooth and predictable.
• Look ahead.
• Communicate hazards to others.
Need to gain some more bunch riding experience? Check out this training course.