As far as I’m concerned there’s a few rules you must follow as a road rider on the roads of the UK. And I’m not talking about The Rules. Or even The Highway Code. The later being a given and the former being a thing of personal choice.
But these rules really, really matter if you’re going epic.
- Be self-sufficient
- Have The Route
- Look after those you ride with
- Respect Others on the road and be an ambassador for Cyclists
To an extent, these rules are self-explanatory. Perhaps to a newer rider or someone stepping up to Epic Hilly Road Riding they could do with some clarifications and explanations.
You may be riding as a group of friends, with a club or solo. In all cases you should be prepared to look after yourself in a wide range of eventualities. This means carrying a minimum amount of “stuff” with you to be ready to deal with those eventualities, as well as simple things like having a back-up plan if it goes fundamentally wrong. Like that time my rear wheel rim failed in the middle of The Peak District.
The load-out you’ll need to take will vary depending on many factors, like how far the ride is, how many are out, where you start and finish, what the time of year and day is. But there’s always a core basic minimum that you might need to expand on.
If you want to know what that is, then read up on being self-sufficient here.
Have The Route
Bottom line is you need to know where to go.
Now if you’re riding solo, or leading the ride and know exactly where you are going for the full ride, or are off to explore on our own (or with a group who are happy with that approach to navigation) then you have The Route. Otherwise you need to make sure you have The Route.
Typically, this means you’ve got the route file as a GPX or TCX and loaded it on your navigation device. But if you’re taking part in a planned group ride with a specific route, or an event, you must make sure that you have The Route.
If there are only a few people with the route and something splits a group, or someone has an accident, or a mechanical issue, you’ll be lost. If it’s your turn on the front and you don’t have The Route you could miss a turn.
You also ought to have some idea of The Route. Is it hilly? (It had better be!) Which are the interesting climbs? Where are they in The Route? Where is(are) the cafe stop(s)?
It’s just basically incredibly rude to not have The Route. It’s even ruder to not have The Route and constantly ask about The Route. It’s also a risk because if you are the one with a mechanical, and your group fails to respect rule 3 you could get dropped and left somewhere with no idea where you’re going! I’d be sympathetic to breaches of Rule 3 with regards to people who didn’t follow Rule 1 and Rule 2!
Look after those you ride with
We all have good and bad days. Some days this means you’re plagued with mechanical issues, despite how well you maintain your bike. Some days you’re just “off” and can’t hold the pace. Other days you get your fuelling wrong and bonk. Some days you’re riding with stronger riders. Some days you’re the strongest rider.
Look after those you ride with. Give them a wheel to follow when they suffer. Drop the pace. Help when there’s a mechanical issue. Even if they’ve not followed Rule 1.
When riding in a line or two-up line, make sure you call out or indicate dangers, like the pot holes, grids and other obstacles. Call out when the junction is clear. Warn of cars up and down the line. Make sure the rider behind you is still on your wheel. Take your turn on the front. Rotate off rather than burn out.
If we all do that, the group works fast and efficient. No-one is broken and left behind. Mechanical issues are fixed quicker. This is key to good group riding. And good group riding is essential for going really epic.
Respect Others on the road
Looking after those we ride with has a core of self-interest. If we look after them, they will look after us. But we also need to respect others on the road.
We all have an equal right to be safe on the roads. This will come from respecting other road users. There are some who are a risk to us, and we must respect that risk and protect ourselves from it. There are those to whom we are a risk, and we must respect that risk and do our best to protect them from it. It’s a bit do-unto-others style.
Yes, the car driver who yelled abuse as he did a close pass on a blind bend over a blind hill was an idiot. So was the horse rider who didn’t look before turning across your path. As was the dog walker who failed to control their over-excited and aggressive dog.
But so is the cyclist who jumps the red lights, rides on the pavement, sits in the blind spot of the lorry…
There are idiots on the road in every group of road-users giving that group of road users a bad name. That bad name spreads and people treat that group of road users as people who should not be on the road.
We must rise above that, we must follow the highway code, be safe and considerate of other users. Respect other users of the road. We must set that good example.
Because it might be another group of cyclists who get into an accident because we were the ones who did the stupid thing. And we don’t want that do we?