Cycling Opinion

The top 10 unwritten rules of cycling etiquette

We’re all guilty of breaking at least one unwritten rule in our cycling careers. Granted, we may not have realised in the moment, and may even still be scratching our heads about it now, but it will almost certainly have riled up our riding friends. That’s because, as cyclists, we all follow a strict – albeit largely unwritten – list of rules that if we ever break, we’re shunned and shamed.

It’s tough staying on top of an unwritten list of rules so we’re going to help you out and detail them all right here…

Introduce yourself

Cyclists can be quite cliquey and if you happen to come across a tight-knit bunch that don’t look too friendly, it’s probably a good idea to introduce yourself to avoid any scathing looks. Even if you spot a few friendly faces, it’s always courteous to announce yourself.

Whatever you do however, do not suggest an alternative route, change in pace or impromptu café stop – you need to earn your place before you start calling those kinds of shots.


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Hold your line

There’s nothing more annoying than an inexperienced rider weaving in and out ahead of you, one hand on the bars, flailing as they try to unpeel a banana. Don’t be that guy – not only does it annoy the rest of your group, it also puts them at risk should you career into one of them.


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Never half-wheel

Never, we repeat, never half-wheel your riding partners – it’s one of the worst things you could do on a big group ride.

Half-wheeling is quite simply the action of riding up beside the pace-setter of the group and placing your front wheel just enough ahead of them that you force them to increase the pace ever so slightly. If left unchecked, half-wheeling can soon turn what was originally a leisurely group ride into a flat-out team time trial.

The only time half-wheeling is acceptable is when you’re on the rivet in a race and you’re trying to intimidate your rivals.


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Respect the group’s patron

The patron can change from week to week, but usually it’s the rider who’s been riding in the group the longest or who regularly orchestrates each group ride. They’re the conductor of the group, ensuring everything runs smoothly within their ragtag band of followers.

You can chat to the patron, but you can never instruct the patron. Unless you’re looking to challenge for leadership, it’s best to just keep your mouth shut and pedal should the patron start barking orders.

Moan at home

You ate too much pasta last night? You’re suffering from a niggling calf twitch? You’re only here for a recovery ride? Really?

Leave the excuses at home and talk about something else, perhaps the UCI’s new sock-length rule, the optimum gear ratio for a 1 in 4 climb, or how you think Zwift is taking over the cycling world – literally anything but a long list of made-up excuses.

Sneaky snot-rockets

Sometimes your nose is going to get so full of gunk that you’re going to have to clear it out in one big snotty expulsion – just make sure it isn’t in full view of the group and especially not into the face of the patron.

The hang back and blow method is arguably the most courteous, i.e. drifting to the back of the bunch, doing the business and then either depositing it into a hanky or flinging it into the nearest bush.

Coffee, cakes and cafés

The holy trinity of cycling. There are a few ways to correctly negotiate a café stop but a hell of a lot of ways you can truly fudge it up.

When it comes to coffees, stick to americanos or espressos – lattés, frappés and iced coffees are for gym-going hipsters, not hardcore cyclists.

There’s a lot more choice when it comes to cakes. In fact, there’s only one rule regarding these sugary treats – don’t leave until you’ve sampled all of the café’s offerings. There’s no such thing as ‘too much cake’. After all, what’s going to power you up the next climb? The cake, of course.

To race or not to race

By all means attack on the hardest part of the climb, but if you then drop your chain and shout for the group to slow, that’s just too bad, the race is now on.

The only time a race is guaranteed are the few hundred metres before the upcoming town sign – it’s the universal final sprint, don’t let anyone tell you different.

Know your competition, know their games and – most importantly – keep an eye out for any old-fashioned skulduggery, there’s a lot riding on this kind of race.

Signal everything

Pothole, parked car or drunk pedestrian, make sure you signal everything and anything that’s made its way onto the road. If you choose not to signal and swerve instead, the rider behind is going to get one hell of a surprise as they’re sent careering into the road.

If you want to get really technical, perhaps show off to the group’s patron, then start throwing out some paceline signals, perhaps even devise your group’s own sign language for different road obstructions. Just remember however, you’re riding your bike, not having a dance off.

Start together, finish together

One of the most important, unwritten rules of them all is to stick together throughout the ride. Not only is more a whole lot merrier, it also means you’ve got more pairs of legs to do all the work that you rather wouldn’t.

Mutineers are outlawed, unless you have a good enough excuse to leave the ride early – say, the birth of your first child or you’re getting married in the afternoon – then stay in the pack and suck it up, you’re in for the long haul.

Do you think we’ve covered the big ones? If there are any rules you think we’ve missed, then be sure to leave us a comment on Facebook or Twitter and tell us all about them.