Bunch Riding

If you don't do anything else, please watch this video from Complete Performance


Riding in a bunch is one of the most important skills you can learn as a cyclist. Bunch riding can be the most enjoyable experience if done right, but it can also be a huge pain if people in the group don't understand the rules and can be just plain dangerous and not much fun.

With the huge growth in recreational cycle events like Around Brunner 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:

 

  1. You need to get used to riding in close proximity to other cyclists, with people following you closely while you follow someone, and with someone either riding next to you off your right or left shoulder, and
  2. rolling forward in a line and doing your stint of work at the front of a bunch.

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 Around Brunner 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 organise 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;

 

Discipline

  • The discipline of riding in a well-organised bunch means your efforts are better controlled and makes it easier to stay focussed.
  • You are more visible
  • Riding in a bunch can help to improve safety by making the entire group much more visible to other traffic, especially from behind.
  • You have someone to talk to
  • Because you are expanding less energy you hopefully have some energy to talk to those around you – maybe to plan your attack? Or just have the chance to say ‘great work’ or ‘where’s Jacksons Pub?’ or ‘are we there yet’?

Following are a series of important points about bunch riding to ensure you enjoy your day out Around Brunner.
 

  1. Be predictable with all your actions - Avoid sudden braking and changes of direction. Try to maintain a steady straight line – called the pace line. Remember you have riders following closely behind you – called ‘on your wheel’. To slow down rather than using your brakes, gradually move out into the wind and slot back into position in the bunch.
  2. This is the main reason people get into trouble!!! Always Hold your line - no sudden braking or swerving.
  3. People on front of the bunch provide the eyes and ears for the bunch. They must point out dangers on the road and communicate changes of directions and intersections. Just like being in a good relationship – communicate in a bunch, verbally and with;
  4. Hand signals & verbal directions: the people on the front are responsible for initiating these, but the signals & verbal directions must be relayed down the bunch by everyone.
  5. Don't ever look behind you – you must remain focused on the wheel in front and on the road in front of the rider in front of you and if possible on the three of four riders ahead of the one in front of you.
  6. This is obvious but needs to be stressed all the same - Obey the road rules and always keep as far to the left as possible.
  7. Don't overlap wheels: try to stay about 50cm behind the wheel in front of you. If you overlap make sure your wheel is on the outside of the wheel in front so you always have a bail-out option. Sometimes people who are not used to riding in a bunch will feel too nervous at this close range so that is another reason to get out with friends to practice it, then join in on a training bunch ride.
  8. Try to ride as smoothly as possible -try to be in a similar gear to everybody else, avoid sudden accelerations & do not let gaps open up in the pace line. NEVER brake suddenly!
  9. Rolling through - swapping off and taking a turn – a well organised bunch will be working well together in two rows with either the inside or outside row moving forward to a point when it’s your turn at the front of the group. After having a turn on the front (generally about the same amount of time everyone else is taking), you move forward and across to either the left or right (depending of which side you moved up from) and slowly take your place moving towards the back of the bunch as someone will come across in front of you. It is important you are smooth with turns at the front of the group - avoid surges unless you are trying to break away from the group. Surges cause gaps further back in the bunch and will mean it is not efficient and riders will get upset there are gaps that will mean extra effort is required to fill them.
  10. Don’t panic if you brush shoulders, arms or even the handlebars of another rider – Just try to stay relaxed in your upper body and go with the moment – don’t over react, panic, brake or change direction and it will be okay.

Riding skills
• Where your head goes your bike will follow
• Ride straight and don’t swerve or you may hit others or make those that are following you to swerve also.
• Peripheral vision – look out the corner of your eye to see where other riders are, don’t turn your head to look or you will swerve in the direction that you are looking.


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.


Bunch positioning
• 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 centre 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.