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Structured Ride Guidelines

TBCC Structured Ride Guidelines 2015

(Our thanks to the Collingwood Cycling club for allowing us to utilize and implement their ride guidelines)

Your executive continues to promote safe cycling. Most of the ideas listed here have been implemented by the Collingwood Cycling Club and presented at this year’s OCA presidents meeting. The recent issue of Canadian Cycling magazine had the following comment on Collingwood’s approach to group rides:

Riding two-abreast on country roads (“tight and to the right” means the pelotons don’t snake on forever creating challenges for passing cars. Employing a rotating changover also means that you don’t have four riders spread across the road. This setup gives car drivers an unobstructed view up the road, while also demonstrating that the riders have the lane, avoiding those hair’s breadth passing experiences when drivers think they can pass cyclists without signalling and pulling out of the lane. The Collingwood Cycling club is watching developments with clubs in other jurisdictions as they work on two-abreast and one-metre rules…”


Thunder Bay Cycling Club has seen tremendous growth over the past five years. We have many new riders who have not been exposed to the basic ride formation we are promoting in these guidelines. Your executive realizes that this format of group riding will take time to implement but we feel it is important that our membership understands the goal of our club is get to the point where all of our rides follow the “tight and to the right” format described in these guidelines.

General Guidelines

Group riding, by definition, is a collective experience requiring a certain degree of harmony and cooperation between the participating cyclists. In many ways it’s like a group dance where the better everyone understands the various steps the safer and more fun the whole ride experience is. In this case the steps are not difficult but what’s essential is that everyone is doing the same dance at the same time. And that’s what this article is about. We at the Thunder Bay Cycling Club (TBCC) would like to define how we ride so everyone is on the same page.

First some prerequisites:

  • As per OCA rules all participants must be a TBCC club member or a declared guest of an OCA/UCI affiliated club.

  • You need a road bike in good working order.

  • Be self-sufficient. Do not rely on others for flat repairs, water, food etc. Bring a charged cell phone, ID, emergency information and the proper clothing for the day

  • You need to have a basic understanding of group riding skills.

  • You need to be familiar with and willing to abide by our ride guidelines, be courteous and respectful of other cyclists and road users.



The Basic Ride Formation:  “Tight and to the Right”

Our goal as a disciplined and well organized club is to share the enjoyment of the road with our club members as well as the general public. We are well aware that we have to share the road with motorized vehicles. In order to further protect ourselves we travel two abreast or in a double paceline. This is an internationally recognized cycling formation used by professionals and amateurs around the world. The main objective of the double paceline is to reduce the length of the line of cyclists in order to allow vehicles to pass with greater ease and increased safety. It encourages drivers to make full lane changes when passing which provides a safer gap between the passing vehicle and the cyclists Aggressive drivers will attempt the dangerous pass between the center line and the group, “known as threading the needle”.. At the Thunder Bay Cycling Club we have implemented a compromised position we call “Tight and to the Right”. The idea is to take a traditional two abreast formation and position it as far right as is safely possible. Our goal is to accommodate the approaching driver with a clear view forward so that they make a clean and safe pass as soon as possible.

In order for us to accomplish this, we as a club, are required to ride in a formation that is ‘tight’ and well disciplined. By ‘tight’ we mean that the cyclists are to be 2-3ft apart laterally at the shoulders, and 2-3ft apart front to back (wheel to wheel). The group’s primary goal is to maintain the cohesion of this formation. It is the individual discipline of each rider to hold their position in a smooth predictable manner and not create gaps or overlaps which jeopardize the ride quality.


We use two methods to rotate cyclists within a basic “tight and to the right” formation. One we refer to as a Social Paceline and the other as a Rotating Paceline. The Ride Leader will call out the appropriate formation for the needs of the group but any cyclists within the group can call out a suggestion.


This is our standard rotation used while warming up or just cruising along. In the Social Paceline we start from the premise of the two abreast formation where everybody is 2-3ft apart laterally and fore/aft. The two leading cyclists are breaking the wind and setting the pace. Direction of rotation is dictated by wind direction, however if winds are neutral, the following will be the standard rotation (clockwise).

The lead cyclist on the right, after a reasonable period of time (i.e. 1- 2 minutes, it’s flexible) asks the cyclist on their left to “Cover Me”. That means the leading left cyclist will gently ride forward and fade right to shelter the right side of the group. In turn the left side of the group will gently advance forward to the front of the group beside the right line. Those two riders will now lead the group for whatever time they feel comfortable with, again it’s negotiable.  All passes are to be done smoothly and gently and make sure that your rear wheel is clear before you fade right.

A very important point to rotating a group : While you are in front of the group, the group is at your mercy. Anything you do, good or bad, will affect the entire group. If your pass is smooth and steady, then the group will remain smooth and steady. If you accelerate aggressively it will start to shatter the group and create gaps and confusion. If you half wheel the lead rider beside you it will offset the whole group or create gaps. We all have a responsibility to the riders behind us to move in a smooth and predictable way and watch the road surface ahead.


This rotation is different from the Social Paceline in one fundamental way: The act of rotating is constant. There are no static moments. When the left lead rider moves smoothly and gradually forward and clears the right line of riders, he/she then gently fades to the right. The transitioning lead rider must be careful not to touch wheels with the passed rider’s by checking under their arm for the rider’s wheel. The right rider can assist by calling out ‘clear’ when the passing cyclist is safely ahead. As soon as that first rotation is complete the next one begins as if all the cyclists in the group are part of the same chain. In the Rotating Paceline all the cyclists should be moving through the rotation at the same speed.

Here are some important points to remember when executing the Rotating Paceline properly:

1.      Do not attack or surge off the front when it is your turn to pull. You are supposed to go slightly faster than the receding line. Surging or attacking will cause gaps and jerk the speed of the line around. Pull smoothly and gently to the front and be there to shelter the riders behind you, not gap them.

2.      Do not leave gaps within the line when you are in the back of the rotation. All riders need to focus on maintaining the same gaps all the way around the rotation.

3.      Riders wishing to miss a rotation can do so by sitting a bikes length back of the group and allowing the group to rotate through. It’s best to call out to the rider ahead that you are not pulling through to avoid their hesitation.

4.      It’s also helpful for the last rider on the advancing side to call out to the last rider to remind the last receding rider that they need to transition next. Gaps often happen when the last rider misses the transition.

5.      The rotation can go from left to right or vice versa. Experienced cyclists will tailor the rotation so that the advancing line is sheltered from a crosswind. We generally opt for the left to the right rotation because the HTA specifies passing on the left.


We make every effort to ride on the quietest roads at the quietest times. In the event that for some unusual reason we are forced to travel on an excessively busy road we will ride single file to get past the congested section. We also will ride long descents single file, more on that later. Otherwise all our group rides are two abreast.


This is a formation where the cyclists are spread diagonally across the road to gain shelter from a crosswind. This formation is unacceptable for group riding in our community. It completely blocks the lane and is counter to our “Tight and to the Right” strategy where the driver is to be given a view up the left side of the  lane.


Every group ride has to have a degree of compromise. One person’s hammerfest is another person’s recovery ride. We try to accommodate everyone’s wishes by offering as many different groups as possible. We also offer different opportunities along the route for some hard efforts. Almost all our routes involve sections where the option exists for the riders to break from the group and go as fast as they wish. We call these the Hot Spots. All long climbs are automatically Hot Spots and as such the groups are permitted to break formation and regroup at the pre-designated spots at the top. We do ask you to stay to the right and not scatter across the hill when the group breaks apart. Slower riders stay right and make room for the faster riders to get by without forcing them too far out. We still want to stay ‘Tight and to the Right’.

We also offer Hot Spots on flatter terrain Your Ride Leader should inform you of the Hot Spot locations before and during each ride. There are three common denominators to a Hot Spot:

1.      A very quiet section of road

2.      No traffic lights or stop signs

3.      A safe regrouping location at the end of the section

Some rules about Hot Spots:

1.      Going hard is optional, not compulsory. Those that choose to cruise can rest assure that the group will wait for them at the regrouping point which is often a coffee stop.

2.      All riders must wait at the regrouping spot. Under no circumstances can anybody soft pedal down the road. This causes confusion for the late arrivers. They think the group is leaving them behind. If you feel the need to keep moving come back toward the late arrivers and then ride back with them.

3.      Never regroup in a manner that would obstruct traffic in any way. All of our regrouping spots offer plenty of space to pull over safely. No excuses for blocking traffic.


On descents we recommend the group take the following actions:

1.      The group should move into a single file formation.

2.      Riders should move 1 to 2 m from the right edge of the road. It is not safe to ride close to the edge of the road at high speeds due to wind gusts.

3.      Riders should open up gaps of at least 2 m plus between each rider front to back.

4.      Send the heaviest and presumably the fastest riders down first to avoid bottlenecks. The goal is to reduce the amount of passing on the descent.

5.      All passing must happen on the left. Never pass on the right.


Communication is absolutely critical to the success of all group rides. It starts right from the beginning even before the group leaves: The rider needs to communicate with their group or Ride Leader to determine which group and pace of ride they want. On the road riders need to communicate the ride formation, rotation and pace. Riders at the front need to call out road hazards and traffic situations. Riders at the back need to call out cars approaching from the back. The bottom line is that the quality and safety of the ride is dependent on frequent and clear communications between all the riders. Never assume everyone in the group knows a car is approaching or that the group is turning. Everything that can affect the group needs to be called out.

One final but important point regarding communication. We have Ride Leaders who are there to try to maintain the quality of the ride but the best way to keep us all at our best is when we all communicate best ride practices. So if you see someone riding inappropriately i.e. overlapping wheels, surging off the front we all should say something. Be polite but make it known that that was not proper. We all own these rides and if someone does something dangerous it’s in everyone’s best interest to correct it. So don’t let bad habits go unaddressed. Say something before it’s too late. We all have a responsibility to the riders around us. When we are at the front we are responsible to the riders behind to provide a smooth and steady pull and to point out hazards. When we are at the back we are responsible to call out cars coming from the back and to maintain the integrity of the group by not allowing gaps. So don’t wait for the Ride Leader to say something, we all own the ride equally.


While the HTA is a less than perfect document, it must be understood that no piece of legislation can anticipate and predetermine all actions in all circumstances. Like the old saying goes,” You can’t please all of the people all of the time”. The solution to these inevitable voids in the law is common sense. Years ago the Province created the concept of Defensive Driving practices to address the deficiencies in the HTA. It was not based on the law but on common sense, and these Defensive Driving practices have proven to be very successful for drivers through the years.

‘Properly executed’ two abreast cycling has been used internationally for over half a century as a legitimate Defensive Cycling technique.  While two abreast cycling maybe new to many Canadian drivers and cyclist it’s both common place and accepted without question in Europe where cycling is a traditional sport. But we are also seeing improvements in North America where more and more progressive States are specifically accepting and defining the terms of two abreast cycling in their highway traffic acts.

In Ontario two abreast cycling is not defined or acknowledged but neither is it prohibited in the HTA. A cyclist may ride six abreast if there are no other faster vehicles approaching. The confusion comes into play when another faster vehicle approaches. S.148(2) suggests that the slower vehicles move to the right to allow the faster moving vehicles to go past, in other words not to impede or obstruct a faster vehicle from passing. This is interpreted by many to mean that all cyclists riding two abreast should shift to single file when any and all faster vehicles approach. Now any experienced cyclist will tell you it is unrealistic to suggest that a double paceline go single file for EVERY passing car. It simply can’t be done but more importantly it doesn’t need to be done. In our normal context, that is riding on low traffic roads at low traffic times, 99% of faster vehicles pass easily without being obstructed by a double paceline. But in those rare moments when we find ourselves in a position that a double paceline is in fact impeding the progress of faster traffic which should go into a single file formation until such time that the traffic has cleared.

What we are trying to do within this Ride Guideline is define and propagate a Defensive Cycling practice that provides a common sense approach that accommodates both cyclists and drivers. We believe that an accommodation can exist if we all accept the following premises:

1.      First, let’s all accept that two abreast cycling in and of itself is legal 99% of the time.

2.      Second, let’s all accept riding two abreast is a legitimate and responsible Defensive Cycling practice.

3.      Third, as an organized cycling club we undertake to ride our double pacelines in a manner that greatly reduces the occasions that they may obstruct traffic (i.e. our ‘Tight and to the Right’ program etc).

4.      Fourth, we as a cycling club undertake to go into single file on those occasions that we are actually obstructing faster moving traffic.


1.      Ride smooth and steady all the time. No sudden or abrupt movements or over reactions to potholes etc.

2.      Don’t be that person who surges when it’s their turn to pull or leaves gaps in the rotation and finally never ever overlap.

3.      When following a wheel be just slightly offset i.e. 3-4” so that if there is a sudden stop you don’t immediately slam into the wheel ahead. The offset gives you an additional few feet to recover.

4.      When you are at the front of the group on a short descents pedal to keep the pace up. Remember there are riders drafting behind you who will have to brake if you don’t keep the pace up.

5.      To keep a group together on rolling terrain use a ‘Social Paceline’ and then as a group, climb slightly easier but descend harder. The group speed will be more consistent and the group will more likely remain intact.

6.      When picking your group be realistic. It’s better to be comfortable in your group then maxed out all the time.

7.      Group rides are not races. We are there to support each other by taking turns in the wind. Only in Hot Spots is it ok to try to drop your friends.

8.      When you see someone committing a ride foul politely say something. We are all responsible for the quality of our rides.

9.      If you get a flat give a loud shout out right away or there is a good chance the pack will ride away without even noticing you. If the group knows they will stop and help you fix it quickly.

10.   Finally it’s important to understand that when you ride with the club you become an Ambassador for both the TBCC and cyclists in Thunder Bay in general. Do not yell obscenities to motorists or get into arguments. It’s never productive and will lead to more bad blood. If words have to be exchanged let the Group Leader do the talking.


Keep Safe and thanks for riding with the Thunder Bay Cycling Club

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