A recent release of simple guidelines on how to ride safely in bunches is a useful reminder to all cyclists, writes Philip Gomes.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

The RTA, in conjunction with Bicycle New South Wales and Cycling New
South Wales recently launched an initiative and pamphlet to raise
awareness of safety and etiquette when cycling in bunches.

The
document covers safe riding in groups plus tips on communication,
knowing your limits and regulations for cyclists.

I've finally
had the chance to go over the guidelines and It's all good stuff, great
for the new roadie and a good reminder for the experienced.

For
example, in the category of ride within your limits, it recommends that
you, "choose a position in the pack that reflects your riding
capabilities."

By the way, I have to take issue with references
in the pamphlet to 'the pack' something that brings to mind wolves. We
all know cyclists ride in bunches - like flowers.

Much of what is
in the document is well known to any 'clubbie' and many clubs already
organise their rides along these lines.

''Clubs that organise
groups - and ours can be over 50 on Sundays - already have their own
sets of rules, and bike captains and experienced riders to make sure
everyone does the right thing," said Gary Eykhof, of the Cronulla
Triathlon Club in a recent Sydney Morning Herald article.

He
went on to point out that, ''You can break the group up into 20s, I
suppose. But how much space do you put between them? And what do you do
about riders joining after we've got going?''

It's true that
many clubs are pretty well organised, for them safety is always a
priority. A bigger question is how to reach those who take to the road
without knowing not only the rules, but club etiquette?

And
then there are the informal groups that form on the road - with no clear
leadership many of these are ill disciplined and I think the source of
many motorists complaints about bunch cyclists.

Of course this is
a direct result of the increasing popularity of road cycling. It's a
nice problem to have but a problem nonetheless.

It's an effect
that has, over the past decade, seen a massive influx of riders into the
sport whose purchasing power wildly exceed their physical limits and
capacity to learn the rules of the road from the old hands who know
better.

Too often in the past I've seen riders, newly kitted up,
roll up to a ride and refusing to take simple but important advice on
where they should place themselves in the bunch, how they should pace
their ride and the importance of holding a wheel.

As a result I
think getting this information into just about every bicycle shop to
hand out with each road bike sale is a must - it sure can't hurt.


And while the only aspect of the initiative that I take issue with is
the bunch size limits, it's also true that they are harder to control
when they are big.

But it's also possible for a large bunch to
ride responsibly if everyone pulls their weight and rides sensibly.

Unfortunately
there are still too many cowboys in some bunches who by their actions
create an atmosphere where everyone rides without discipline, resulting
in a lot of motoring angst and more.

If the cost of driving any
bunch is a little less speed more organisation and better PR for
cyclists, I'll take it.

Clubs should as a matter of principle
always grade riders into groups of riders with a similar standard of
ability - either through skills assessments or honest self selection of a
riders abilities.

I've also used grading and self selection
to good advantage in the past, dropping down a standard to recover from a
previous hard day in the saddle - or long night enjoying a fine grape
based beverage.

And it can be loads of fun riding with the 'slowies'
- you'll have time for a bit of a chat and the opportunity to pass on
some hard earned knowledge.

Of course if you're already riding
with the slowies and can't hold a wheel, then a bit more solo fitness
building is required before you progress to riding tight with a bunch.

The PDF of the bunch riding guidelines can be found here.