Before You Join a Ride

There are some things you need to know before joining us on one of our rides. If you are new to Portland Velo or new to group riding you really should read ALL this material. Yes, it is a lot but we highly value your safety and knowing this information and putting it into practice will likely keep you from being yelled at on a ride or worse yet be the cause of a crash. Most of the crashes we see are caused by people who are new or who do not follow the rules below. We want everyone to have a fun, good, and safe experience when riding with us.

First: General stuff

  • Read the Club’s liability waiver and understand that your participation in a ride constitutes acceptance of the waiver. The waiver is found here.
  • We require participants to wear bicycle helmets while riding.
  • Follow all Oregon state traffic laws as they pertain to bicycles. Ref: Oregon Bicyclist Manual
  • It is not a race. We do group rides. Yes there may be sections where riders can turn it loose and some are traditional. But it is followed by a regroup so that none need to go hard to still be with the group. There are other groups in town centered around racing. If you want that kind of a ride, look for one of those groups.
  • We stop for: flats or mechanicals and adjust pace if a rider starts to bonk. Follow the ride leader’s instructions. The goal is to have all riders come in together.
  • Make sure you start with a group that matches your ability. Pick a speed group that is at or below the speed you are able to maintain on you own for a period of time. If you are new to group riding you should start one group slower to get the hang of it first.
  • If you are new to group riding or new to Portland Velo, let your ride leader know and spend some time at the back of the group watching and learning how to participate.
  • Communicate. There are many things that need to be communicated such as: road hazards, traffic, and turns. Be verbal and use hand gestures to let other riders know. Repeat communications you see/hear so that messages move up and down the group.
  • Be sociable. We ride together in groups because it’s more fun that way. Add to the fun by interacting with as many as you can and especially those who are new.
  • Be open to advice. It is a good thing when someone gives advice. Hopefully they know what they are talking about. Use it as an opportunity to start a conversation. If you hear advice that is not in line with what is presented here on this page, question that advice.
  • When we go out on rides, we represent cycling and we represent Portland Velo. Ride in a way that projects a positive image to motorists and the residents of the neighborhoods we ride through.

Safety is number one!

To be safe we need to all be doing the same things. Cycling clubs across the country may do things differently. So please take a look at what we expect on Portland Velo rides.

In the interest of group safety, riders are expected to follow these rules. We understand that it may take a while to break old habits. Please be advised, if you repeatedly fail to follow these rules you may be asked to ride at the back of the group until you are able to comply. If you intentionally ignore these rules, you will be asked to leave. Portland Velo is about safety and helping people learn to ride safely in a group.

  • No headphones. It is not safe to be blocking out the sounds around you. It is rude to block the attempts from other riders to talk with you.
  • No talking on cell phones while riding. Again, it is not safe when not hearing ride communication and taking one hand off the bars for an extended time.
  • Recumbents? Only “SWB”/short wheelbase recumbents are permitted on clubs rides.
  • We strongly advise against mountain bikes on our group rides. Our rides are road specific and as such, riding a heavy mountain bike puts you at a distinct disadvantage.
  • Time-trial/tri-bikes? Not the best choice. If that is all you have, stay out of the time-trial position where steering is compromised.
  • Stay to the right (right-hand part of the right lane). Leave room for others to pass on your left. Avoid passing on the right which is risky. When you pass a cyclist move back over to the right as soon as it is safe to do so making sure you have cleared their front wheel.
  • Stay to the right when going around corners. Do not cut corners. The intent is to get used to doing this so when cyclists are on your left while going around a corner, you will know how to stay in your lane and not force them to cross the center-line.
  • Do not cross the center-line except to pass and do so legally. That means a clear view of the road and no solid yellow line. Don’t endanger yourself or those around you. If you are going downhill give the person ahead of you the full lane. Do not pass unless you can use the left lane to pass legally and safely. Do not cut corners by going into the left lane.
  • Stop at red lights! It’s the law. When approaching a traffic light be prepared for it to turn yellow. If it does turn, you need to quickly decide whether you can stop safely. If so, yell “Stopping!” and THEN start applying brakes for a smooth stop. Give the cyclists behind you as much room as you can. When stopping maintain your line. Make the legal and safe choice for yourself regardless of what others in the group are doing.
  • When a light splits the group, those in the front group should stop and wait for the rest of the group. No one should feel they need to run a red light to stay with the group.
  • When passing other riders, let them know you are there. Yell “On your left!”.
  • Portland Velo wants you to support and strengthen a culture of safety. Foster a climate of safety and remind one another of these safety rules. Refer to these rules when teaching a new cyclist or new members safe riding behaviors.

Pace Line Basics:

  • Pace lines are a wonderful thing. Being able to join a group of riders working as a team and covering more miles with less effort is a great experience. This is not a full list but enough to get you started:
    • When on the front hold a steady pace. That does not mean holding the same speed as changes in wind and grade would require big changes in effort to hold a given speed. So as wind and terrain changes, let the speed go up or down maintaining the same pace/effort. Keep a steady pace/effort and let the speed be what it is.
    • Do not stay at the back of the pack or allow gaps to open in front of you. Let yourself move to the front as each rider does a pull and comes off the front. When you reach the second position (just behind the lead rider) and the lead rider pulls off, make note of your speed/cadence and maintain that at first and then continue at the same effort which will be a higher effort now that you are on the front. Do NOT speed up to get past the rider who is pulling off the front. Let them slow on their own to drift to the back of the pace-line.
    • Short pulls are better that long pulls. You can spend more total time on the front by doing short pulls. You will fatigue less by not spending as much time at a high heart rate. If you are already at a high heart rate when you get to the front, go ahead and pull off as soon as you clear the previous leader.
    • When pulling off the front, first look over your shoulder to make sure you are not pulling over into traffic and that you don’t have someone overlapping your wheel. Move over slowly and then do an obvious hand gesture showing your intention to pull off the front. The pros do elbow flicks, but that signal may not be clear to others and may cause confusion. If you are pulling off to the left, don’t go way out to the center-line. Go to the middle of the lane which gives you some draft from those to your right. Once you have moved over, do a couple light pedal strokes to let your speed drop.
    • When you are on the front, look ahead for road hazards and smoothly move left/right to avoid them. Always point and verbally call out road hazards
    • When on the front, call out the red lights, stop signs, traffic or anything that would require people to change speed or potentially stop.
    • Everyone! Use hand signals and verbal warnings generously to warn of hazards both ahead and behind. Repeat what you see and hear. So that everyone gets the message. This also include turn signals/messages.

Skills (things to work on for better safety and efficiency):

  • Track a straight line. Do not swerve to avoid hazards. Instead keep your eyes on what is ahead and steer to avoid rather than make sudden swerves. Work to reduce your left/right movements to a total of 12” (takes practice). It is always easier to follow someone who rides this way. Learn to be a good wheel to follow.
  • Ride at a steady pace. You are less efficient when you constantly push and let up. It is really hard to follow someone who is not steady. Be steady and the riders behind you will thank you.
  • When taking a hand off the bars, keep your eyes on the road. Check that the road is clear ahead before grabbing bottles or reaching into pockets. Always be ready for the unexpected to try to turn your front wheel.
  • When standing it is common for your bike to move backwards. If someone is following you closely, overlapping wheels or tire contact can result, both of which can cause a fall. Try spreading out the standing motion over more than one down-stroke and put in a little more effort so that you are accelerating to offset the amount that your bike moves backwards. To practice, stand while following someone and watch the gap from your front wheel to their rear wheel.