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Group (pack) riding tips

Pete B's picture

By Pete B - Posted on 11 November 2013

After getting into a couple of pack riding situations in the Fling, it quickly became clear to me and those around me, that I'm a bad person to ride with.
One example being, I chased a bunch down and got by them on a climb, only for them to tuck in behind me on the open section that followed, no problem here until we came up to a slower rider. I got up close behind and when I went to go round I took a look over my shoulder to see if anyone was trying to go round me. This caused me to nearly hit the guy I was going round, swerve and cause pandemonium to the guys behind me. After a bit of shouting and me apologizing, I kept out of packs then.

I don't have a roadie so have never done group rides to learn the etiquette so any tips would be welcome and if there's anyone who fancies doing some road riding in a pack on an mtb for practice, let me know.

hawkeye's picture

It pays to be looking around and signalling your moves early. I get a bit of practice with this cycle commuting.

As far as pack riding goes I haven't tried much of that yet but I have learned smooth and steady is important. No sudden speed or line changes. I tried a bit of it on Sunday but I must have left the guy out in front too long... as soon as I passed they dropped off and in the first half people who were of a similar pace or slightly faster to share the load with were very rare. In the second half I just said hello as they passed me back on the hills.

Poor form if they were abusing you after allowing you to tow them along.

Andy Bloot's picture

A passing rider should let YOU know that they are passing
And all you need to do when passing is a very quick glance to the right to be sure
That's just a quick turn of the head in line with the shoulder
It's not that much different to driving
A quick glance - not enough to drive into the back of the slower car in front of you

Let the rider in front know that you are passing or signal your intention
'when you get a chance mate' or 'passing on your right mate'
I'm talking single track riding here

If i was behind you and my intention was to get around both of you
As soon as I had an opportunity i would let you both know 'passing on your right guys'
And then get past you ASAP
I would do this if I came up on you both and felt that I was clearly faster

If i just wanted to get around the slower rider in front of you
I would wait for a few moments for you to take the initiative
If i saw the opportunity to overtake ending
i would do the same as above 'passing on your right guys'

Hoa's picture

Not sure if the same etiquette applies on the trails as it does on the road.

When passing someone on the road call it out "on your right" or something similar. Don't be afraid to yell it out early, some riders are slow to respond.

If you are leading the pack, then it's helpful to indicate a rider or obstacle which you are swerving around, which equates to a sweeping motion with your arm behind your back; imagine you farted and trying to sweep the smell away in the direction you're overtaking.

If I am in the Congo line and anticipate we're going to overtake, I usually spot riders/cars behind and yell out 'clear from behind' or similar. Saves the lead having to look back.

There are numerous other 'rules' and 'etiquettes' but know the signals for stopping or slowing down, point out obstacles, keep you line, don't surge if you're in a pace line, don't overlap wheels and perhaps most importantly, do you turn at the front.. Unless you are one M Cavendish who sucks the wheel in front for 200km only to lead in the final 100meters.

Remember this is road etiquette but could apply to MTB. I'm always more confident when ppl signal intention clearly, it removes nervous energy and twitchiness in the pack Smiling

hawkeye's picture

The thing with mtb is that you will often need both hands on the bars due to the rough surface. Makes the usual roady signals a bit risky unfortunately. Sad And therefore hard to rely on them being given. So most riders don't and on singletrack it's up to the guy behind to make sure he can see. Consequently the etiquette and understanding required to work a paceline inches from the guy in front doesn't have an opportunity to develop.

Example: There were a couple of times I had to hit the brakes when the guy in front cut across the apex on the fire trail but I took the view it was his line to take as needed so I offered my apologies. In a peloton what he did would get you severely abused at best. At worst it could have caused a pileup.

Other times, if the rider I was passing looked even slightly like they might change line or room was tight I called my passing out early and loud.

Part of the challenge is that so few mtbers at the level we are at do group road rides with well-controlled groups, the experience isn't there to take advantage of to get people organised come events like this.

So even if you did signal roady style most wouldn't have any clue what you meant!

So the best thing to do is be obvious about your intentions and do it early, and if in doubt be loud and verbal Smiling

richardgraysydney's picture

In the Fling, came to the last single track (The Bakers Delight or the Magellan KoM) and hit some struggling half flingers. One stopped, the guy behind stopped too. The guy in front pulled his bike off the line and the guy behind started to. I thought I'd have space. I didn't. I hit the guy behinds wheel with my leg really neatly luckily and it threw the bike harmlessly out the way. The guy abused me. I said I didn't do it on purpose but kept going with the momentum and didn't stop to apologise. If he is out there, I feel really bad about it. I recognize that the sport needs everyone we can get in it and I really like mountain biking for the really positive spirit between riders. Reading this I realize that I should have communicated more strongly and asked for clearance. I feel bad. The rain put everyone in a bad mood. There is no excuse though.

teeps's picture

I don't think there is any need to apologise. Things like this happen and I have a feeling I was around when that happened. Us tail enders were struggling big time, a lot around me weren't in the best mood Smiling it'll teach me for thinking that not riding since the scott 24hr was a good idea. Still had fun though but fuck that hurt me. I was the sorry bastard that rode in when the women who won the 100 mile fling rode in.

kiwikid's picture

Hi guys/girls.
I am looking to do some trail riding around sydney with some like minded people and was directed to your group by nswmtb. Is there any pre requisite to join in, like fees or something? Im over in the east but don't mind travelling, most probably can do weekends.
Look forward to hearing from you.

ChopStiR's picture

G'day Colin, there is no prerequisite and no fees. All you need to do is check in the Calendar for any social rides coming up, let them know you would like to join them and then turn up on the day with your bike, helmet and water.

On topic regarding tips for riding in a pack.
I like to try and pair up with a rider at the end 10km's of the Woodford 2 Glenbrook classic. Should the rear rider put down a little sprint to get in front or should the leader ease off while the follow passes at regular pace. The last 2 races I've done, I've found myself having to put in a little sprint to take the front and do my part put then I'm running out of puff to maintain the good pace. After several exchanges I find myself falling away from the rider I paired up with.

Also, what is the etiquette for how long you can tail the front rider?

kiwikid's picture

Ok, great, well once I get sorted with a new bike I will hopefully see some of you on the trail.
Look forward to it!

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