The individual aspect of cycling is one that appeals to me. I don’t have to worry about team mates or an opponent in order to achieve my desired results. It’s just me against the road in an effort to complete my chosen route in the fastest time possible, and this process is as simple as it is rewarding. If you find a nice quiet stretch of the road, cycling can also be a positive form of escapism. You can get away from things and concentrate on nothing more than the ride itself.
And yet at the same time, cycling is an inherently social experience. There are always small interactions along the way, with motorists, pedestrians, the odd animal and most importantly with other cyclists. Consequently, a cycling etiquette has developed, and it is important to be familiar with this if you are to be socially accepted into the cycling community. There are a number of guidelines you have to follow, some of which are set out below.
Acknowledge Other Riders – The culture of acknowledging strangers may have disappeared in most areas of British society, but it is still alive and well in cycling. If you see a cyclist riding past you in the opposite direction, it is expected that you acknowledge each other. A nod of the head is the minimum requirement here – if it is quiet enough for them to hear you say ‘Hello’ without shouting, you should do that too. And if you are overtaking cyclists, again it is good etiquette to say hello as you approach – and it also alerts them to your presence if they haven’t already noticed you. And speaking of overtaking other riders…
Overtaking – For road safety reasons, when overtaking a fellow cyclist you should pass them as quickly as possible so that you can move back to the side of the road again. However, it is poor etiquette to accelerate into the distance as soon as you pass them. Firstly, when you are on the receiving end of this, it is demoralising. You might be feeling tired at the end of a long ride, and having someone fly past you is often the last thing you need.
Secondly, it is always good to allow your fellow cyclist to enjoy the benefits of drafting behind you. Saving these little bits of energy along the way all add up, so if you can help someone else by allowing them to draft behind you for a few a while, you should try to do so. That said, you still need to prioritise your own ride, so do not feel obiliged to give them a ‘tow’ for too long. It’s a tricky balance to get right, but if you slowly accelerate back up to your top speed rather than accelerating as quickly as possible, they’ll benefit from a bit of a tow and you’ll be able to carry on with your ride soon enough.
If you do happen to be overtaken yourself, feel free to enjoy the benefits of a tow, but don’t get drawn into a game of leapfrog because you’re frustrated about being overtaken. There will be other cyclists who are quicker than you on the road, this is something you have to be able to cope with. Entering into a race can be dangerous, and will not win you any friends in the cycling community.
Stopping to Help – If you see another cyclist stopped at the side of the road with apparent mechanical issues, the minimum expectation is to check whether they are okay and offer to help. They may be lacking the tool they need to run their repairs or lack the knowledge of how to do it at the side of the road, and so your support might be vital in helping them to get back on their way. Even if they know what they are doing, an extra pair of hands to maybe hold the bike in the air never goes amiss. Even if there is already somebody else already there, checking that everything is fine is still good form.
Littering - There are many areas where you should look to emulate the riders in the professional peloton, but the practice of throwing their rubbish towards the side of the road isn’t one of them. No one will hunt down what you throw away to keep as a souvenir. Therefore no matter how annoying it is to have to put your wrappers back into your pockets (particularly for sticky gels and energy bars), unless you stop off at the side of the road to put them in the bin, keeping them in your pockets is the only acceptable option. Just remember to take them out again and put them in the bin before you put your clothes in for a wash!
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