Cycling in a group is a highly sociable pastime. It enables people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to come together, and it doesn’t need to be competitive. Most of all, it’s an excuse to meet like-minded people and share information about routes and experiences. And stops for refreshments or to enjoy a viewpoint make conversation easy.

It’s possible for all abilities to ride together and it’s easy to join a group from Pedal Power ACT – see the calendar for upcoming rides and join in.

This page is for people:

  • Who would like to try cycling in a group for the first time
  • Who want to know how to communicate important messages to others in the group
  • Who want to know how to ride in a pace line – single and double lines – for enjoyment and to save effort

To riders with some knowledge and experience, this information may seem straightforward, but remember that trying this type of cycling for the first time can be a bit daunting.

On this page:

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Preparing for you ride

You don’t have to have a ‘great’ bike when you start riding but make sure yours is roadworthy; as your breakdown could spoil the day for others. You will get advice and tips about equipment from others when you join a group. If you have no experience go to a reputable bike shop for advice. Carry at least a spare inner tube, pump and tyre levers – and know how to use them. You can learn roadside repairs at our maintenance course for beginners

Most groups continue regardless of weather, so dress appropriately and carry a waterproof. This is also a useful windproof layer if it gets cool or you stop for long.

Bring a drink bottle (or two) filled with water, and check whether you need to bring or buy food. Many groups stop at cafes or pubs; however you are advised to carry water and food.

When cycling, even with a group, always carry some form of identification and a phone number in case of an accident. On Pedal Power ACT rides you complete the cycling ride sign-on sheet and give some details to the ride leader.

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On the ride

Obey the road rules – you are a vehicle and they are for your safety and so that others can know what to expect.

You are responsible for yourself in a group. Your ride leader is usually a volunteer who has offered to share their local knowledge or cycling experience. Please follow their advice and instructions for everyone’s enjoyment and safety.

Look out for hazards and other road and trail users and don’t just rely on the person in front.

Riding in close proximity to other cyclists takes practice. Relax and enjoy the company but remain aware of others around you. Learn the communication signals given below – they are for your benefit and that of the others in the group.

Riding as a close group is enjoyable and enables easy conversation and takes advantage of the shelter from riders in front. It can take a while to get used to, but the best way to learn is to follow the example of those around you, especially experienced riders.

A group usually works well with cyclists riding two abreast. The Road rules specifically allows this. It is sociable and keeps everyone together. Single file is courteous and safer on some roads and trails. Our standard method of moving from double to single file is given below.

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Important things to do when riding within a group:

  • Be predictable with all your actions
  • Hold your line – no wobbling or riding from side to side
  • Ride at an even speed – use a smooth pedalling rhythm and change speed smoothly and avoid surging
  • Brake carefully and indicate to others when you are braking – by voice or hand signal
    Most crashes that occur in group riding result from braking – so follow these simple rules
  • Keep pedalling if you stand up – wait until you’re at the top of your pedal stroke and continue pedalling as you lift off the seat (otherwise your speed will change markedly as you stand up causing difficulties for the other riders)
  • Ride clear of the other bikes – at least a wheel diameter away from other bikes (with experienced riders that distance can be reduced)
  • Do not overlap your front wheel with the rear wheel on the person in front – striking the wheel in front can cause you to loose balance with dire consequences
  • Overtake other riders on their right – however, if there is plenty of room on the left, you may overtake on the left provided you advise the rider in front that you are overtaking on the left (voice) and they acknowledge having heard you
  • Look ahead – watch the shoulders of the riders in front and, if possible, look ahead of them (avoid looking down at the rear wheel in front of you as that can result in you not seeing hand signals and a change in direction until it is too late)
  • Stay alert – have an escape strategy
  • Communicate to the other riders and listen to their communications – always indicate your intentions before you do something and indicate any hazards on the pavement or ahead
  • Assist other group members if possible — the aim is enjoyment with sharing and support
  • Enjoy the company and the ride

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Communications within the group

Advise other riders of your intentions – use hand signals and a voice warning where possible (remember it can be hard for some people to hear voices especially when the wind is blowing in their ears)

Watch and listen to the communications from others as they indicate their intentions

Pass the signals on – they are intended for all in the group, so pass them on, up or down the group

At the front you are responsible for looking ahead and give early warnings of hazards – remember that those behind can not see the road ahead

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Calls and hand signals

Some groups use slightly different signals – but they have the same effect

Slowing’ or ‘stopping’ (voice)
Hand signal: open hand held backwards towards riders behind

Turning left / right’ (voice) – at an intersection
Hand signal: arm straight out indicating direction

Straight ahead’ (voice) – when riding straight through an intersection

Car left / right’ (voice) at an intersection to warn others, especially when you are making the crossing and others may follow without looking (NOT ‘car’ by itself as it can be confused with ‘clear’)

Clear’ (voice) at an intersection to advise others that there are no vehicles approaching – use carefully

On your left / right’ (voice) to advise a rider ahead that you are approaching from behind and intending to overtake

Standing’ (voice) before you stand on your pedals to advise other riders that you may change speed (surge) as you change riding position

Single file’ (voice) when the group must form into a single file due to narrowing road, a hazardous location or to clear an obstruction
Hand signal: raised open hand above the helmet pointing forward

hand-signal-hazard-150x150hand-signal-scattered-hazard-150x150Hazards – ‘glass’, ‘pothole’, ‘bollard‘, etc
With hand signal (important): point hand at hazard, and change direction to avoid the hazard – if necessary
Remember, the rider behind can not see the hazard and relies on your signal


hand -signal-move-over-150x150

‘Obstacle‘ or ‘car‘ if car parked in the lane ahead
With hand signal: bent arm behind the back and the hand pointing towards the direction of movement
Sometimes necessary to also form a single line at such locations to avoid the riders on the right moving out into the traffic lane

Car back’ (voice) if car (or truck or bus) coming from behind – usually called from the back of the group
Sometimes necessary to also form a single line to allow vehicle to overtake the group, particularly on narrow road or near the crest of a hill

Car up’, ‘runner up’, ‘walker up’, etc (voice) for hazard coming towards group

Pace-line riding, additional voice calls (see next section):

  • Rolling’ to indicate for the group to rotate positions
  • Last rider’ to advise the other rider that they are no at the back of the group
  • Double up’ to move from single file into a double line
  • All on’ to indicate to riders ahead that all riders have joined the group – no on left behind”
  • Ease up’ to request the speed to be slower

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Riding in a pace-linegroup-riding-3-250w

Riding in a pace-line or bunch offers several benefits including cycling efficiency (up to 35% less energy expended) and visibility on the road.
Safe riding in a pace-line is paramount – it requires discipline, vigilance, predictable behaviour, and clear communications through standardised communications within the group.

On roads, a pace-line is generally formed with a double pace-line of riders but on narrow or busy roads, a single pace-line should be used.

The pace-line is only as fast as the slowest rider. It is up to riders at the back of the pace-line to call ‘ease up’ if anyone is being left behind. When a dropped rider rejoins, call ‘all on’ – but doesn’t mean that the original speed should be resumed. Rather the speed should be adjusted so that all riders can stay with the pace-line.

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Double pace-line

Riders form up in pairs in a 2 x 2 configuration:

Double-pace-line-1-GIFRide evenly with your partner, handlebar to handlebar.
Keep approximately one wheel diameter distance from the rear wheel of the rider in front.
Rather than looking at the wheel ahead, focus on the person in front and further on through the line. This allows you to be more aware of your surroundings.

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Double pace-line rotation

To share the workload, riders in the pace-line take turns at the front.
To achieve this, we use a counter-clockwise rotation to move riders around.
Rotation is initiated by the riders on the front calling ‘rolling’.
Riders in the left line ‘soft-pedal’ while those in the right slightly increase their speed.


Once Rider 8 is clear of Rider 1, Rider 1 calls ‘clear’ and Rider 8 can move to the left and ease up, allowing the right hand line to draw level and also ease up.


It is essential to avoid surging during this procedure. Surging and the resulting concertina effect are often caused either by Rider 8 accelerating and/or slowing down too rapidly. Smooth execution is the key.


Rider 4 (now last rider) moves into the right line and call ‘last rider’ to Rider 3 as he draws alongside.

Double-pace-line-5-PNGThen the right line mover up (relative to the left lane) and the process is repeated – continuously (more efficient) or in discrete movements (more social) when determined by the riders at the front.

While chatting is important, it is important that all riders roll together staying in formation with no gaps.
The conversations can be recommenced next time around!

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Single pace-line

Sometimes it is safer to ride in single file – dictated by road and traffic conditions.
Apart from anything else, taking up less space out of consideration for other road users helps to minimise frustration amongst people driving cars.
Keep approximately one wheel diameter distance from the rear wheel of the rider in front.
Rather than looking at the wheel ahead, focus on the person in front and further on through the line. This allows you to be more aware of your surroundings.

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Single pace-line rotation

Single line pace-line rotation should only be performed when it is safe to do so.

Single-pace-line-1-PNGThe lead rider calls ‘rolling’ and moves to the left out of the line, slowing down and drifting back to rejoin the line at the rear.

Single-pace-line-2-PNGIf space is limited the rest of the line can ease out slightly to pass safely around the rider going back.

Single-pace-line-3-PNGIf traffic conditions in the adjacent lane permit, the rider going back can do so to the right of the other riders in the pace line.



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Double to single pace-line transitions

There is a need to transition from double to single lines – for example, crossing narrow bridges, to allow cars to overtake or where it is simply not safe to ride in double lines.

In general, this manoeuvre can and should be anticipated well ahead of time by the riders at the front of the group.

Double-to-single-pace-line-1-PNGTransition is initiated by the front riders calling ‘single’ or ‘single file’ and holding a hand about the head (fingers in line with the direction of travel) with a small fore-aft movement.

Riders in the right line merge in front of the riders next to them.

Rider 8 moves across in front of Rider 1, Rider 7 in front of Rider 2 and so on.
Riders 1, 2, 3 and 4 should ease up and allow Riders 5, 6, 7 and 8 to come in front
Riders should call ‘clear’ when it is safe for the person coming across in front of them to fully integrate into the line. Once a rider has merged and those ahead have merged, closing any gaps quickly will create more space down the line.of them.

The process can be performed more safely and quickly if the front rider in the right hand line (Rider 8) accelerates a little as he moves in while the last rider on the inside line (Rider 4) brakes gently to create space more quickly.

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Single to double pace-line transitions

When to transition from single to double pace-lines is usually obvious  widening verge, etc.

The front rider should move as far to their left as possible as soon as it is safe to do so.
Then the second rider moves to their right and up to the front.
Then each second rider moves to their right in turn until the single line is ‘unzipped’.

It is essential that riders at the front of the newly formed double line do not increase their speed until the call of ‘all on’ comes from the rear to indicate that all riders have successfully rejoined the bunch.

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Last modified JW 12 July 2013



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