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HCC Social Riding Etiquette
Etiquette Guide/Code of Conduct

The primary purpose of Harlow Cycling Club Rides is to promote road cycling to its members in an enjoyable, safe and sociable environment.  Group riding, when done properly, is not only hugely enjoyable but it will improve a rider’s cycling skills and it can push a cyclist to ride further and faster than they would do on their own. However, riding in a group does require that all riders modify their riding behaviour to ensure the safety of all road users. For example, negotiating a road junction is not as easy for a large group as it is for a single rider. Additionally, motorists can often seem confused by a large group of riders, and often seem to misjudge road distances and speed when overtaking the group, meaning that they can sometimes dangerously cut in or pass too closely. 

Club Rides and events are for the enjoyment of all those participating; anti-social behaviour that affects the enjoyment of others during Club Rides, trips or events cannot be tolerated and such incidents will be dealt with by the Club Officers.  Many members go to considerable effort and expense to participate in club activities, whether at home or abroad, and they have a right to enjoy a Club activity without experiencing anti-social behaviour.

When taking part in Club Rides and when wearing clothing or other items bearing the name of the Club, members are an ambassador or representative of the Club; as such riders’ behaviour (including abeyance of the Highway Code at all times) should be appropriate and considerate to those in the vicinity.  The Club Rides are also an important opportunity for the Club to advertise itself and therefore the wearing of Club kit is strongly encouraged.

This document is intended to be a living, working set of advice, so if you have any suggestions, please let us know.

Club Committee

Group Behaviour

It is human nature that there will be a competitive element when you have two or more people riding bikes together but please remember that, above all else, Club Rides are social events, not a race.

Different groups cater for different abilities and rider preferences, but please remember that there will be a spread of abilities within a particular group. The key to a successful group ride is to maintain a steady pace and to keep the pack as a compact unit for the duration of the ride. 

Members of the group need to communicate up and down the line using hand signals, shouts or both. Follow and pass on the hand signals and calls of the other riders to ensure communication throughout the pack. 

If you are near the back of the group and see someone being dropped, it is your responsibility to alert the riders towards the front that the pace is too high. Otherwise, the lead cyclists may not be aware that riders are starting to drop off. Ask them to slow down, as the ride needs to work for all riders. When asked to “ease up”, do not brake suddenly. Simply ease the pace by pedalling less hard or freewheeling for a moment. 

Cover your brakes at all times and, for the benefit of the group, use your brakes as gently and smoothly as you safely can. Sudden changes of speed cause a concertina effect which gets magnified down the line which can be dangerous for the riders behind.

Group size

As groups become larger, the ease of communication within the group is curtailed.  Accordingly, it is important that the groups do not become so large so as to make communication difficult and /or cause a danger to riders and other road users. For these reasons, while the size of the groups may be guided by the numbers turning up on a Sunday morning, it is recommended that a group should not exceed 15 riders.

Group Riding

There are a few simple basic rules which, if consistently adopted, will help ensure the enjoyment of all riders.

Follow the Highway Code

This should go without saying!

Respect the white line

Safety is paramount and this does not need further explanation except to state the obvious fact that riding on the wrong side of the road puts you, other riders and other road users in unnecessary and unwarranted danger.   


Members should ride a maximum of two abreast in 2 close parallel lines, focusing on keeping the group neat and tidy. Riders should attempt to ride with 1ft approx. between their front wheel and the back wheel of the rider in front. There should also be about 1ft between the shoulders of pairs riding abreast. 

There can sometimes be a tendency for riders to take a line to one side of the rider in front of them and to overlap wheels. This should be avoided for a number of reasons:

  • It causes the group to echelon and spread across the road, giving the appearance, when the group is approached from front or back, that the riders in the group are riding 3 and 4 abreast (to the annoyance of other road users);

  • If the inner rider rides in the middle of the two wheels in front of him/her, push the rider on your outside the outer rider will be pushed into the path of oncoming vehicles;

  • If you overlap wheels, or nudge in between the wheels of the riders in front, any sudden change in direction from either you or the riders in front is likely to result in a crash, potentially bringing down riders behind too.

Singling Out

On busy roads, or narrow lanes, all riders should be prepared to ride in single file. The best way to single out is for riders at the front on the inside to slightly accelerate to allow riders on the outside to slip in behind them. The instinctive reaction to an oncoming car is for riders to brake. This has a ripple effect through the group and makes singling out more difficult and could cause a crash.

Riding on the Front

When on the front keep pedalling! If you freewheel, everyone behind you will have to brake.

It seems only fair that all members of the group should take a turn at the front, particularly when the group is riding into a strong wind or other adverse weather. There are a couple of techniques for this. 

First, clearly tell the group that there is to be a change at the front:

  1. Either the rider on the outside at the front accelerates and moves over in front of the nearside rider. The outside riders then move up one space and the last rider on the inside will move to the outside to reform into pairs.

  2. The rider in front pulls off to the right allowing the rider behind to come through. If riding in pairs the rider on the left pulls off to the left and the rider to the right pulls off to the right. The pair of riders behind then come through to the front.

Do not allow other riders in the group to be dropped off the back, make sure the pace is kept at a level that all can manage.

Road Junctions & Roundabouts

Particular care must be taken at road junctions. Groups should try to remain orderly and avoid bunching at the mouth of the junction. Members of the group who have negotiated the junction should be aware that other members may have had to wait and need time to re-join. If the group does split, the riders at the front should wait for delayed riders, either stopping altogether or riding at a gentle pace until the group is back together. 

Whilst it is customary for riders to give a shout of “clear” to those behind, please remember that each member of the group is individually responsible for his or her own safety and they should only proceed onto a junction when they are sure that it is safe to do so.


Everyone climbs differently, and a climb will inevitably lead to the group splitting. If you know you are a weaker climber, drop to the back before the climb. Do not move to the front, you will be forcing other riders to go around you when the climb starts.

Regroup as quickly as possible at the top of hills, or if you feel inclined and are a strong enough rider, go back down the hill and provide a bit of support to those that are not as quick.

Standing up in the saddle causes a momentary deceleration, so if you plan to do this let the rider behind you know.

When a climb levels out, the leading riders should pedal through and should not suddenly stop pedalling and slow down. If other riders have been dropped on the climb, gently reduce the pace and wait for them to catch up.


When participating in HCC rides wearing a helmet is compulsory, if you turn up to ride without a helmet you will not be able to participate. Helmets can be the difference between an individual suffering minor injuries vice major injury or worse! 


Whilst not compulsory, it is recommended that in wet weather riders use mudguards (not just an ‘ass-saver’ type item) on their bikes. Good group riding involves riding in two parallel lines.  When doing this in wet weather, the riders on the front the group have clear vision.  Riders who are following riders without mudguards do not have this luxury, as they have a continual spray of water in their face. This spray then forces them to ride offline and throws the whole group out. If you have mudguards, please use them for the benefit of the riders around you.

Club Kit

We have a great club and great club kit. On club Rides it would be appreciated if members wore their club kit. Doing so will help identify us as a group, promote the club and maybe entice potential members to join.


All riders should carry a pump/sufficient tools/spare tubes etc. to ensure they can continue riding in the event of a mechanical failure.

Group Communication

Riders should navigate and point out hazards in the road by either shouting or using hand signals. It is important that information is passed quickly and clearly to all members of the group. Set out below are some commonly used signals.

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