Our Vocabulary and Communication is unique. With a word and a point, we can warn those around us of impending disaster - a cavernous hole in the road, a wheel wrenching sandpit, or a man-eating canine on the hunt. With two words and an arm-wave we can direct a mass of 200 people, in mid-conversation, coursing down a winding narrow road, to make a 110° turn at 25 mph. With the flick of an elbow, we can say, "Hey man, I'm tired of fighting the wind. I think it's your turn now. When I move to my left, you stay straight and continue at the pace I set. Me, I'm going to slow down and get behind someone. Thanks!"
Many of the terms and their definitions seem obvious to the experienced cyclists, so much so, we often take them for granted. Below is a list of common words and phrases that we should all know and use.
Communication is a key element to the survival of this multi-headed buzzing beast we call the peloton. Without it, the animal will bunch up and grow fat right in front of a passing auto. It might explode, blowing tires, breaking frames, the fragments disintegrating over the length of the road, parts strewn about the way. If we don't all communicate with one another, the pack cannot and will not work. People will be left behind, truckers will veer dangerously close in anger, bumping elbows and ensuing crashes will be inevitable, and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
There are two very important kinds of communication in a group ride: physical and verbal. As I mentioned in a previous post, "What's the Point," much of what we say needs to have a gesture associated with it. When pointing out obstacles or giving directions, it's best to accompany words with some sort of hand/arm motion.
Still, there are some terms that cannot be accompanied by waving about. For instance, "Car Back" is not something we need to point out. However, it is something that everyone needs to hear!
It is essential that we ALL take part in passing information from the front to the rear and from the rear to the front. Note that some terms may sound the same on a windy day or in a large group. "Gap" and "car-Back" often sound alike, but as long as riders pass the information up, it is less likely that the message will be skewed. Similarly using two words for the latter helps to clarify whether the group needs to slow down, tighten up, or some other action.
Above all else: KEEP COMMUNICATION SIMPLE: use monosyllabic words; only shout in phrases not sentences; don't give details, names, or descriptions; try to make each term have it's own, unique lilt rather than each word sounding the same. Similarly, don't joke around. Only shout for a reason - passing along info. The people on the front might think there's something wrong or the people on the back might be looking for a hole, and this can (and has) lead to crashes and other disasters.
Basic Terms of the Peloton Include:
- LEFT turn : emphasis on "left;" accompanied by pointing
- RIGHT turn : emphasis on "right;" accompanied by pointing or right turn signal
- Car BACK : emphasis on "back;" when a car is behind the group and wants to come around; if a small group (2-4 riders) convert from two abreast to single file; if a larger group (5+) tighten up towards the white line, 2 abreast. PLEASE DO NOT convert to single file with a large group - this makes it more difficult for a car to come around!
- Car 'ROUND : (sometimes just "'Round" - short for Around) when a car begins to pass on the left
- Car UP : (often sounds like "RUP") less often used; in large groups in which the group spans from white line to yellow line, it's necessary to point out cars approaching from the front
- Gra-VEL : (gravel) for gravel, sand, or other loose dirt; accompanied by pointing
- DOG : self explanatory - direction can also be given ("DOG LEFT")
- HOLE : any form of gap in the pavement; accompanied by pointing. [see Rough Road for longer sections of damaged pavement]
- CLEAR : when approaching a stop sign or red light, shout clear when no cars are coming from either direction (variations: CLEAR LEFT - when turning right; CLEAR LEFT then CLEAR RIGHT - when crossing a large, 4+ lane road. [see alternate, paceline usage below]
- CHAIN : if a chain drops, the cyclist will stall (and sometimes stop). This often happens on a hill where the bike loses speed quickly; the rider becomes a roadblock. Response: the person who dropped the chain should immediately shift to the big ring to put the chain back on; even while doing that, they should use their momentum to get out of the way; DO NOT: stop in the middle of the road; and there is no need to look down.
- GAP : when a cyclist or group is off the back of the peloton but is trying to reconnect (not used in "A Rides" - but should be in every non-drop ride)
- Glass : self explanatory; accompanied by pointing
- Rough Road : accompanied by either/both pointing and direction ("Rough Road Right"); for extensive sections of cracked and broken pavement that can lead to crashes or flats.
- Tighten Up : less often used; for any group that is more than 2 abreast or the two riders are too far apart. Usually in conjunction with Car Back. Response: everyone moves closer to the white line on the edge of the road (the left-most cyclist should be approximately in the middle of the lane or closer to the white line)
- On-y'r LEFT (or Right) : emphasis on the side on which you are passing, ("On Your Left"); for a cyclist or group of cyclists passing another, slower moving person/group at a notably faster speed. Response: (made by the slower person/group) move in the opposite direction (if there is available space) or stay perfectly straight, allowing room for the faster people to pass. There is no need to look over one's shoulder, the faster riders have assessed the situation! Often, it is best to "get out of the way," so tighten up and move over. [this term is unnecessary in a paceline]
- Mechani-CAL : for any type of bike issue that causes a person to stop; flats, dropped chain (that won't get back on), broken shifter cable, etc.
A couple of Paceline terms that are meant only for the next person in the group (not shouted for everyone): "Clear" and "Last." The first is used to indicate that there is enough room for person at the front to pull into the slow lane and begin drifting to the rear. Last is used by the last rider in the fast lane to indicate that the last person in the slow lane can move over without having to check over his/her shoulder. We will cover paceline etiquette in another entry later.
Please Note: If you are not interested in keeping the group together, then you are not interested in riding with a group. Don't muck-up a good ride by breaking etiquette and riding selfishly.
Fulfill your dreams and ride solo.