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I generally ride alone. Recently while riding along at my normal pace, a very large group ride caught me. By large, I mean at least 50 riders.

By virtue of the magic of drafting, by the time about ten riders were past me, I had no problem at all keeping pace, even having to ease off to avoid crowding the rider in front of me. I kept as far to the right as possible (there was a curb) and a bike length behind the rider in front of me. There were riders to my left and directly behind me so it wasn't really safe for me to do anything but keep riding in the pack. After about two miles, we came to an intersection where I continued straight while the group turned right.

One of the riders rather pointedly suggested I should have pulled off to let the group through. I get that I'm an unknown quantity, but it should have been obvious that I was riding safely and really I had nowhere to go since there riders directly behind me.

Question is, did I really mess up? I do have just as much right to the road as the group ride does.

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    "One of the riders rather pointedly suggested I should have pulled off to let the group through" And does he pull off the road every time a car wants to come past? Does his group? I'm guessing, no. – David Richerby Aug 27 at 21:09
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    @ojs I wrote that answer, but I am not sure it applies here as the group enveloped the rider while in the other scenario the person was actively trying to join a group. – Rider_X Aug 27 at 21:15
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    I don't think a person in the middle of the large group has any way to know if the random person that appeared actively tried to join the group or was caught up and sped up to stay in the group. – ojs Aug 28 at 5:17
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    You were lucky to meet a group of fast riders: recently I went riding at night hoping to meet no one, but caught a large slow group. Obviously I never asked them all to give me the way and just turned to another road at the first possibility. So that rider behaved rude to my mnd – k102 Aug 28 at 11:01
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    @k102 I did separate from the large group at the next intersection that made everyone stop. I did feel like the comment made to me was rude. Internally I was thinking that if a group of 30 somethings can't manage to pass a 60 year old then it was their problem. I do acknowledge that they might have been 50 miles into their ride and I was only 20 miles into mine. – Eric Shain Aug 28 at 14:47
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There are a number of problems in your situation, including the behaviour of the groups, which I will breakdown as the following:

  1. A group of 50 is excessively large and it sounds like they also did a poor job of passing. This is one of the primary problems of large groups, they are hard to move in unison and the club/organizer should have broken the group into smaller more manageable groupings.
  2. When a group is passing another slower road users, such as the OP, the group should have given the OP a very wide berth to:
    1. keep the OP safe as they were not involved in the group;
    2. make it clear that the group is separate; and
    3. make it difficult for the OP to inadvertently get mixed into the group.
  3. The OP needed to decide whether or not they were part of this group, and if not, make it clear and in both actions and vocally, to the group, that they needed space. Speeding up made it more difficult for the group to pass, which prolonged the interaction and increased the probability of a future routing conflict. [This one may generate a some controversy, but I explain further below.]

Personally, I believe by far the biggest issue was with how the group was behaving, they can't expect some random person on a bike to be versed in group riding, and they forget that they are sharing road with other road users. That said, as someone with a large number of years experience in group riding, I would have attempted to removed myself from that situation ahead of time by asking riders in the group to let me through so I could go straight or asked for guidance. Expecting someone who is being overtaken to just pull over and stop is arrogant to say the least.

Most people in that situation wouldn't have had that experience or necessarily known what to do; however, there is still an element of personal responsibility as the OP allowed themselves to integrate into the group (likely because it made riding easier), without known what was really expected.

"By virtue of the magic of drafting, by the time about ten riders were past me, I had no problem at all keeping pace"

It is clear that the OP was knowingly benefiting from some type of draft, which ultimately made it more difficult for the group to pass and prolonged the OP's exposure to the group. The OP made the decision to speed up, they could have easily kept their original speed (e.g., brakes) which would have allowed the group to pass quicker. You can't get a free draft (or partial draft) allow yourself to be somewhat integrated into the group, then suddenly do what you want. Groups don't react well to sudden changes. That said, this is a relatively small transgression as most people suddenly finding themselves in this situation won't be thinking of these nuances. Rather, the onus is really on the large group doing the passing to make this work safely.

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    Speeding up when caught by a group (or a single rider) is gray area. I'll often find myself doing it, not by getting a draft but just because I I've got someone to pace against and added motivation. – Argenti Apparatus Aug 27 at 22:41
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    @ArgentiApparatus I agree it is an easy thing to get caught up in, but it is still a choice. – Rider_X Aug 27 at 22:53
  • As I said, I definitely eased up as they started to pass. It is just that with the draft, it sort of sucks you along. When smaller groups pass me (and it isn't often) I generally keep at my pace until everyone is past and then try to keep up as long as possible. Following stronger riders is great incentive. This time, with such a large group and such a small difference in pace it was a problem. – Eric Shain Aug 28 at 14:51
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    This is an excellent answer. Is there some kind of hand signal that would indicate the the person behind me that I'm going to slow? That would have helped. – Eric Shain Aug 28 at 14:53
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    @Rider_X In the UK, the standard hand signal for slowing down is to hold your right arm out horizontally with the palm facing downwards and move it up and down from the shoulder. I have literally never seen anybody use that on the road and, in any case, you can't do it if there's somebody riding next to you. – David Richerby Aug 28 at 19:38
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If you did nothing to impede the group passing you, you basically did nothing wrong, and the rider who said you should have pulled over was out of line. As you stayed to the right and had riders to your left, then the individuals in the group obviously could have passed you.

Speeding up as a group tries to pass you is borderline bad behavior, it would probably have been better to let them all pass - for your safety as well as politeness as you say you were hemmed in by the group.

If you had decided to draft members of the group without asking you would definitely have been in the wrong, but you left a bike length between you and the bike in front - that is not drafting and appropriately leaves some safety space.

In future you can get out of the middle of a group by announcing you are slowing and waving riders past you.

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    I didn’t try to speed up. In fact I definitely eased up. It’s just that being in a draft makes things that much easier. – Eric Shain Aug 28 at 2:33
  • I once had quite an opposite experience than the O.P.; as part of the same event, competitive and non competitive riders where sharing a road race/trip. The non competitive started first, and after a reasonable time the competitive categories fired up. When Elites catched up with my group one of them happily yelled: "¡Súbanse a la volqueta!" (translates as: "Get aboard the dump truck!") It was an open invitation to draft behind them for as long as possible. – Jahaziel Aug 30 at 20:34
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One of the riders rather pointedly suggested I should have pulled off to let the group through.

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but in the Canadian province where I live, we have a Motor Vehicle Act which calls almost every road (including alleys behind houses) "highway" and says that a "person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle." That document of law spells out the rules that apply on the road. Nowhere in it does it say that when you're ambushed by some tailgaters, you must obliglingly pull over.

More importantly, it says this: "A person operating a cycle ... (d) must not ride abreast of another person operating a cycle on the roadway."

A group of fifty cyclists would be breaking the law in my area, unless they ride in a single file.

A group of cyclists obeying the law, and thus riding in a single file, can pass a slower cyclist in the space of about half the width of a traffic lane, without any difficulties.

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    The question does not indicate it happened in Canada. Riding in a group two abreast is allowed in many countries and US states. Such groups atre often considered easier to pass for cars. – Vladimir F Aug 28 at 5:43
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    And often additional rules exist for large groups. In my country for example once the group is larger than 15 they can ignore bike lanes – ratchet freak Aug 28 at 14:23
  • And in Canada there may be a technical legal loophole where you can ride two abreast in the bike lane as I don't believe it is considered a "roadway" - of course this hasn't been tested in court. Anyway, we are not given information on the legalities of group rides in the OP. – Rider_X Aug 28 at 17:37
  • This seems to be a bizarre North American law, probably written by pickup truck drivers who believe cyclists belong exclusively in the gutter. Given that, I don't even know how this would relate to Canadian cycling etiquette. – Nathan Cooper Aug 29 at 10:00
  • @NathanCooper Regardless, the question doesn't say it's about Canada. – David Richerby Aug 30 at 13:35
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Although it doesn't justify any rudeness on the part of the group, another reason to not stay within an overtaking group has to do with group management. It doesn't likely apply in the case of a 50-person group like the one in question here, but if you have a smallish group of riders, particularly in a beginner group or a no-drop group, you might have someone responsible for keeping a count of the riders. Then at any pauses or stops, the group won't start up again until the number of riders is accounted for.

By merging in with a group, you would throw off their count, and that could cause the group to continue from a pause while lacking one of their original members.

Again, there is a small window of group sizes for which this could become an issue, but I was in one just last weekend. If you only have six or eight riders, the shepherd will likely be able to tell who is present without explicitly counting. And if you have more than about 25, it becomes impractical to count them all, even when stopped.

  • Good point. With small groups, I always drop to the back and ask if it is ok for me to follow. – Eric Shain Sep 3 at 21:26
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You share same road and have same right

50 Cyclist is huge group, might be you could check if there's any the local policy/law but common sense is for us to let them just pass, just slowing or aside if possible and not to risking your own safety

For the guy pointing you, we have a kind of busybody person anywhere everywhere

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