A PERFECT Teaching Moment: Gone…or Not? You Decide…


The goal of this post is to get a pulse from cyclists about group riding; more specifically etiquette.  That means, getting your response and perspective will really be the most important part of this post.

The scene is a typical group ride on the open roads of rural metro Atlanta.  Your group had about a dozen riders, all about the same riding level (meaning the ability to ride at the same speed…that’s it).  However, on every little rise, roller or hill, you have one rider (we’ll refer to rider #1) who bolts up those inclines and immediately splits up the group…because not everyone can climb as fast as him.  Then, when he arrives at the crest of these inclines, he stops pedaling and even coasts down just about every hill, or he continues to pedal but never shifts up.  The point here is that because he is slowing down on a downhill, everyone behind him has to ride their brakes to stay behind him.  That can’t be fun…

Now, you have another rider (rider #2) who never stops pedaling, no matter what the terrain…especially downhill.  In addition to never stopping pedaling, he rides without any surges forward or any slow downs.  The elimination of surges, etc. for this rider results in riding sort of how I would describe you keeping your foot on the gas at the same spot while driving, even though the terrain goes up and down.  In other words, his speed changes with the terrain but the effort his engine creates stays the same.

Pay attention here, as I want to describe a visual scenario that occurs from these 2 riders’ styles.  Rider 1 coasts downhill but rider 2 continues to pedal.  That means rider 2 passes rider 1 on the downhill and starts the upcoming climb sooner (and at a faster speed) than rider 1.  But, because rider 1 surges up every hill, he eventually catches rider 2 somewhere near the crest of the hill.  In addition, because rider 2 keeps pedaling after reaching the crest, while rider 1 slows down, this creates a bad-forth passing between these 2 riders every time there is a downhill and uphill.  Got the picture?

About 10-12 miles into the group ride, rider 2 yet again passes rider 1, because it’s just after a downhill and heIMG_1210 hits the uphill at a greater speed than rider 1.  When he passes, rider 2 moves over to the right side of the lane in front of rider 1 and he quite a bit of distance back from rider 2.  But, because rider 2 typically surges up hills, he quickly closes this gap in front of him.  But, rider 1 has ridden on the right side of the lane from the beginning of the ride, while rider 2 has always passed him on his left side.  Oh, let’s throw in the mix that the group has been riding in a single pace line the whole time…except when riders are passing each other but they always move over back to the right.  Makes sense?

OK, here’s where I want to get your feedback and perspective on group ride etiquette.  When rider 2 passed rider 1 and moved back over to the right, rider 1 closed the gap but instead of passing rider 2 on his left side, he passed rider 2 on his right side…even though rider 2 was riding very close to the right edge of the road.  There was only room for about half of a handlebar to get through safely but rider 1’s handlebar wasn’t cut in half.  Rider 2 had to suddenly and abruptly jerk to his left, in order for rider 1 to not literally ram into him and cause a collision.  You can imagine rider 2’s panic and his heart rate kick up.

After rider 2 DSC03565calmed down from this near-miss, he rides up to rider 1 and tells him he should have never passed on his right; there was literally not enough room.  He also tells rider 1 if he wanted to pass him, that he should have done so on the left side, where the entire middle and left side of the lane is wide open.  But, instead of apologizing for the almost collision and almost guaranteed resulting crash, rider 1 blasts back by saying he has been riding on the right side the whole ride, as to say that just because he had been riding in this part of the lane, that it gave him the right to stay there and shove his way through on the right where there was no room.

So, here’s my questions to you:  

1.  should rider 1 have passed to the right of rider 2?  If so, why?

2.  should rider 1 have passed to the left of rider 2?  If so, why?

3.  Because rider 1 had been riding on the right side of the lane for the 10-12 miles, did that give him the right to never move but force his way through where there was really no room at all?  If so, why?

4.  What have you learned about passing riders during a group ride, especially in a scenario of riding in a single pace line?  Where did you learn it?

5.  Here’s the biggie:  What would you have done if you were rider 1 and wanted to pass rider 2 in this exact scenario?  Now, explain why?

When you respond, make sure your reply stays focused on the actions of both riders and not on what you think about the “person”.  I want to create healthy discussion.

OK, it’s your turn now.  Can’t wait to read your responses.  Oh, pass this post along to any cyclists you know; the more responses we get, the better.  Once I’ve received a good amount of responses, then I’ll continue this post with what I would advocate in this scenario…and why.  That may spark some more responses from you; ya never know.



3 responses to “A PERFECT Teaching Moment: Gone…or Not? You Decide…

  1. I posted to your blog, but not sure if it went through so I am posting your questions and my answers here 🙂

    1. should rider 1 have passed to the right of rider 2? If so, why? I was always taught that you NEVER pass on the right! I have had it happen to me and it was scary!!! 2. should rider 1 have passed to the left of rider 2? If so, why? I don’t know the rule for this one, but I always thought that if you are in a pace line you should stay there unless you have a mechanical, or some other “issue” that warrants you getting out of the pace line and that you should announce your intentions so the one behind you who is drafting is prepared. Again, I have been in a pace line where suddenly the guy in front of me gets out of the pace line and because I was not prepared I lost the draft and had to work hard to get me and the ones behind me back with the group. 3. Because rider 1 had been riding on the right side of the lane for the 10-12 miles, did that give him the right to never move but force his way through where there was really no room at all? If so, why? NO! 4. What have you learned about passing riders during a group ride, especially in a scenario of riding in a single pace line? Where did you learn it? I have only been riding for 12 years and have never had formal training (which is why you and I still need to chat about coaching me), but I have come to believe that if you are in a pace line, there should be no passing and that if you are at the head of the pace line you don’t stay there till you drop. I was taught that if your mph starts dropping 1-2 mph it’s time to signal you are ready to rotate. Chris Petit years ago used to practice a 30 pedal stroke pace line rotation with our group. So the head guy would lead for 30 pedal strokes and then drop back to the end of the pace line and we rotated just that often so the group got the idea and it was SO MUCH FUN to go approx. 26mph and not have to work so hard!!! The group had many different levels of fitness which is probably why he had us rotate so often, but I will never forget how everyone in that group felt accomplished and sufficiently challenged. 5. Here’s the biggie: What would you have done if you were rider 1 and wanted to pass rider 2 in this exact scenario? Now, explain why? If I had wanted to pass him, I would have let him know I was passing on the left, however, if I was in a pace line I would NOT pass him because where would I go? AND, the people behind me would lose the draft. Again, I am not well versed so I may be way off, but am excited to learn if I am incorrect.

  2. 1. No. Rule is to pass on left. Cars don’t pass on the right. It is never safe that way and takes the rider by surprise.
    2. Yes. Always pass on left for same reason as above.
    3. No. Seems like he was not being considerate of the other riders. The group should work together as best it can. It im should not be a competition or rally for placement.
    4. Pass on the left. USAT rules. Penalties apply in races if you overtake someone on the right.
    5. Announce that he is passing on the left and overtake the rider in front. When an announcement is made it is courtesy for the slower rider to allow the other to pass.

  3. Coming from my experience as a rider, both on a racing team for 1.5 years and a casual group rider off and on over the past 2 years in the Atlanta area, and speaking in the group riding scenario presented:

    1.) The rider should not pass on the right unless there is sufficient room to do so and announces that he is passing on the right hand side. Generally (be it running on a trail, riding a bike or driving a car) in the US slower traffic is told to stay on the right and passing etiquette says to do so on the left.
    2.) If the roadway was clear to pass on the left, yes the rider should have passed on the left, and it would also be courteous to state that he was doing so, on the chance there is an obstacle in the road the rider on the right (2) would know someone is there and not quick swerve and hit the passing rider (1). Again, going with what culture in the US has taught us, slower traffic should stay to the right while faster traffic should pass on the left when safely able to do so.
    3) Absolutely not. Just because you have been in one place the entire time doesn’t give you the right to maintain that position. This isn’t a battle for position to determine a race finish and compromises the safety of the entire group (even in a race it would but those a different monster all together).
    4.) I learned from both group and team riding that when possible you pass on the left if in a single pace line unless otherwise unsafe to do so. The only time to pass on the right is when the lead rider of the pace line pulls off the front, they typically will drift back on the left side as the entire line continues on the right passing them, keeping the integrity of the pace line intact.
    5.) Having been at times both the rider with surges and the rider with the (mostly) consistent output, I’d pass on the left and announce that I was there. Again, in a race, that would be different, I’d do what I could to gain the greatest advantage, but in a casual group/training ride I always pass on the left if I have to pass and it is safe to do so.

    Also, in my responses, I am assuming that the group has fallen slightly behind the 2 main riders of discussion, if for no other reason than fear of getting caught up in any turmoil the two might cause, and seems to be the typical case on group rides which I have attended when one or more riders fit the descriptions presented.

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