Riding with hundreds or even thousands of other cyclists can be lots of fun, but also challenging, especially on popular charity rides that attract less experienced cyclists. The skills listed here are only those that in addition to other basic skills, may be most helpful for riders in these circumstances. Taking some time to practice cycling skills may help ensure that everyone has a fun and safe ride.
Riding in a Straight Line
This skill requires concentration and attention during the entire ride. There may be times when you are riding with as many as five other bicycles side by side in one lane. It is essential that the way you ride is predictable to riders, pedestrians and other vehicles - a rider that wanders back and forth impedes other riders and increases risk of accidents. To practice this skill, try riding on or immediately next to the white stripe at the edge of a road. Look ahead - not at your wheel. On club rides, ride as close as you can side-by-side with other riders. Practice reaching out and lightly touching your ride partner on the shoulder and on the saddle. Practice looking behind you while riding a straight line (release the handle bar with the hand on the side in the direction you turn your head).
Starting in a Straight Line
We have all seen the rider who wobbles back and forth in the lane starting off from a traffic signal. Don't let this rider be you. To prepare to ride from a stop, place your dominant foot on the ground (usually your right foot) and have your left foot clipped into the pedal (It is usually easier to clip in using you dominant foot, so it works better to clip the dominant foot in after you get going). Have the clipped foot at about the two o'clock position so that when you are ready to go, you get a strong first pedal stroke. Don't worry about getting the other foot clipped in until you are riding at sufficient speed to continue in a straight line. You can push that pedal whether you are clipped in or not.
When you are riding with people all around you and you suddenly see a dangerous object immediately in your path do you: A) Just hit it and take the consequences, B) Ride to the right or left – better to knock the other cyclists out of the way than hit the ground yourself or C) Deftly steer your front wheel around the object while keeping you body and the bike headed in a straight line? Answer: If you practice, it can be C. Without practice, you are doomed to A. or B. This skill is taught at skills clinics such as the LAB Bike Ed.
In an emergency situation, being able to stop your bike quickly and safely is the difference between a close call and a potentially deadly situation. Stopping quickly requires multiple skills used in coordination -- braking, getting off the saddle and moving weight back, unclipping, and holding the handlebars. The rider must be able to use their front brake comfortably and skillfully as this is the brake that provides the greatest stopping power. Many novice riders are afraid to use the front brake for fear of going over the handlebars. Many experienced riders use their front brake almost exclusively. It stops the bike better and allows for better bike handling because it doesn't cause the back tire to skid. The rider also needs to be able to unclip at least one foot quickly while braking. It is better to unclip the dominant (right) foot for better control. Practice this skill at skills clinics.
If you must fall, do anything you can to fall away from the road. Falling into the path of another vehicle drastically increases risk of severe injury or death.
Letting others know what you are intending is the best way to be predictable. Use hand signals and call out your intentions. Common rider lingo includes the self explanatory: "Turning Right or Left, slowing, stopping, rider down, flat" and more esoteric: "On Yer Left!" Use when passing another rider and when a rider behind you says this and you can move to the right safely, please do so. "On your wheel" - let the rider in front of you know if you are drafting off of them. Signal right turns by pointing with your right hand – arm straight out. (The left arm up at a right angle was created for cars and is impractical for cyclists). Signal left turns with your left hand – arm straight out. Signal slowing or stopping by holding your right arm straight down with your hand facing backwards. Point to hazards as well as calling out about them.