While most bunches are reasonably organised and follow a fair amount of bunch riding etiquette and structure, sometimes you may find yourself in a chaotic fast-moving bunch where riders are repositioning themselves all the time and the bunch size is more than two riders wide. This is mainly seen in racing where the normal bunch organisation is thrown to the wind as riders are continually jockeying for the most favourable position. It also can be seen toward the end of a social ride where riders are positioning themselves for the finish, or at a Gran Fondo where the larger “racing” bunches form towards the front of the event.

I have put together these key points that will help you stay upright in these chaotic fast-moving bunches to help you increase your chances of finishing your ride without crashing.

Always ride close to the front of the bunch:

Most accidents happen in the middle or to the rear of the bunch. To stay out of trouble, always move as close to the front as you can. The most experienced riders generally ride towards the front of the bunch, so if you position yourself there you’ll usually be riding with riders that know how to handle a bike.

Ride on the left or the right hand side of the bunch:

In organised bunches, riders never get three of more riders wide. But, in chaotic fast-moving bunches, riders are repositioning themselves all the time and the bunch may spread across the road and become wider than just two riders. When this happens, avoid the middle of the bunch.  It’s usually the most sheltered place to ride, but it’s also the most dangerous. Most accidents happen to cyclists that ride in the middle of a bunch because they get boxed in and it becomes unavoidable to touch a wheel in front of them as the bunch moves around. Also, when sitting in the middle of a bunch and a fall happens in front of them, they have nowhere to go.

The right and the left-hand side of the bunch is safer in this respect, that way you have a higher chance of having an escape route if something happens. In Australia, we ride on the left-hand side of the road so the right (furthest from the curb) is better as long as you stay in your lane and don’t ride into the passing or oncoming cars! The left-hand side (closest to the curb) sometimes has fewer options and more chance of being boxed in. NOTE: If you ride on the left you also have to watch that the edge of the road doesn’t run out on you!

Avoid crazy riders:

Yep, those are the ones that want to hit the brakes hard when something happens, dangerously overlap wheels, zigzag from left to right or try to ride through gaps that aren’t there. Usually, they are riding in the middle or down the back. Or they are trying to zoom up on the inside of the bunch. If you ride up the front, then you usually stay away from them anyway.

Don’t cut in on the corners:

In criterium races, or any other time that you are in a bunch that is riding through a corner the bunch will take a natural line from the outside of the corner, through the apex and then back out to the outside of the corner. There is a tendency for inexperienced riders to try to move up several places in the bunch, especially when racing by dive in and undercutting the corner.   This short cut manoeuvre is very dangerous. The big problem here is that these rogue riders then have to come out of the corner wider than rest of the bunch and cross over the bunch’s natural line somewhere just past the apex of the corner with disastrous results.

Don’t cut off other riders:

When going around corners and riding alongside riders there is always some movement in the bunch but be mindful of the riders that may be to the left and right and slightly behind you. You don’t need to physically look for them but as you get experienced you’ll be able to feel them. If the bunch moves to the left and you think that you might cut off a rider try to hold your line and ensure that you give them enough road to ride on too.

Don’t overlap wheels:

This is an accident waiting to happen. If you are overlapping wheels, then you only need the rider in front of you to move across and they will take out your front wheel. If you are on the right or the left of the bunch, then you might have somewhere to go but if you are riding in the middle of the bunch you’ll have nowhere to go. This is something that you will almost never recover from. You will go down and bring a whole lot of riders down with you. In crosswind situations, when you are all strung out it’s a little different. But, in big bunches, there is no need to do it at all! Especially if you are riding in the middle of the bunch. There is no need to put yourself and your fellow riders in danger.

Keep your line straight when you are sprinting:

When sprinting at the end of a ride or a race hold your line and ride straight. Many nasty high-speed crashes have been had when cyclist have deviated from their line and either ridden someone into the gutter or hooked or crashed into a rider as they zig zagged across the road.

Hold your line through rough patches in the road.

This one is also relevant for organised social bunch riding as well. It always amazes me when I’m riding in a tight bunch and I come across a rider that decides that it’s safer to weave around a rough patch in the road than to hold their line and ride through it. While I understand that some potholes you can’t ride through and I’m not saying that you should in these cases. These are the large holes that should be pointed out by the front riders anyway. What I am saying is that the majority of rough roads can be ridden over and this ensures that you hold your line and make it safe for everyone in the bunch. So, when you are out on the road practice the art of riding through the rough sections and get used to knowing what you can ride over and what you can’t.

Keep it safe:

Remember that with all rides cyclists usually have a job to go back to on Monday. Keep it safe and ride with the safety of all the riders in mind at all the rides and races you attend.

Some people new to the sport may need some guidance as to safe riding etiquette. In a lot of cases, most bad riding behaviour can be corrected quickly as these people are eager to learn. One of the best ways to deal with this is to either report it to the officials at the end of the race and have them deal with it or, if you want to have words with them yourself, do so discretely at the end of the race in a calm and controlled manner. When racing a simple yell of hold your line can be very powerful in the heat of the moment.

Where to next:

We have put together an online video bunch riding masterclass course that covers off what we believe to be the fifteen essential bunch riding skills. These fifteen modules will help you quickly get up to speed and give you a much better understanding of the way that a bunch operates. That way you’ll be able to do the right thing while riding in your local bunch and you’ll also be able to confidentially ride with other riders from all around the world you don’t even know. And, you’ll be able to help keep you and your fellow cyclists upright and safe. Each of the fifteen video modules include the relevant instructions and specific exercises you can do out on the road to help you improve your bunch riding skills and keep it safe. You can download and keep all fifteen modules in this masterclass. No further subscriptions are required. I’m sure that you will get a lot out of this online video masterclass course and be riding in bunches safely, smoother and with more confidence. Click here to check it out.

Other items of interest:

Tips on cycle bunch riding

The fifteen essential bunch riding skills to help you keep safe and ride with greater confidence

Pacelines, overlapping wheels and aerobars, what could possibly go wrong…

How to become a powerful bunch rider

Safe bunch riding skills – How to overtake a cycling bunch safely