To those who have never been in a road cycling race, a group of racers look like a huddle of bicycle riders wearing colourful outfits going in the same direction in a great hurry. It may look frantic, and even dangerous, but behind the scenes it is an organized sport that relies on strategic thinking and mental and physical endurance. Competitive cyclists not only rely on keeping their wits about at all times, they have to be fit and strong while also bearing in mind the unspoken rules of road racing etiquette to ensure safety while keeping the competition friendly.
Cycle Racing’s Basic Rules
Cultivate a pack mentality – The most fundamental rule of road racing is to learn how to ride as a member of the pack. As part of a unified group you need to learn to steer wisely and deal with the nearness of other riders.
Strategy is not always wise – If this is the first time you are racing, forget about strategy and just stay close to the pack with one thing on your mind: finishing the race. If you ever wondered, a group of cyclists racing together is known as a peloton.
Predictability is always wise – Try your best to be predictable – this is not a sport that embraces maverick moves. Don’t move erratically or make sudden changes to your speed. Try to stick to probable lines – this is particularly important if you are new to bicycle racing.
Be the boss of your bicycle’s front wheel – One of the most important rules in cycling is to take responsibility for your front wheel. Avoid collisions and try to anticipate the next moves of the cyclists ahead of you. It is better to be cautious than to react hastily.
Then there is the Unspoken Etiquette of the Sport
In addition to the fundamental rules there is also an assumed code of conduct observed by competitive cyclists. Here are three examples:
1. No overtaking cyclists on bathroom breaks – At some point every cyclist has to go to the toilet, so it is pointless increasing your pace when another rider has a break.
2. Don’t break away during a refuelling stop – Sneaking away while other cyclists are at a stop is considered impolite. While cyclists are in the process of stopping for a short break, correct etiquette would be to slow down, or even better – take a break alongside your peers.
3. If you stay in the middle, don’t ‘sprint’ for the finish line – Cyclists who remain in the centre of the peloton during the race should not pull towards the finish line when the race draws to an end. Respectful racers make sure they take a turn pulling at the front throughout the race, or forfeit their chance at finishing faster. Riding in the centre of the bunch makes for easier cycling and it is not fair on others who have endured a more arduous race.