Rider Guidelines for Charles River Wheelers Rides

This information is for riders new to the club or new to group riding, and describes what to expect on our rides, and what is expected of riders. Riding in a group is very different than riding on your own or with a few friends, and we ask that you pay close attention to the recommendations below. We wish to increase your enjoyment of the ride as well as promote safe riding.

Non-members of the club are welcome to ride with us,  but our insurance now allows non-members only two rides before joining, other than our Century rides. If you like our rides and want to continue to ride with the CRW, we urge you to become a member. Membership dues of $15 per year support the CRW Rides Program and other club activities. Click to Join CRW. You canalso, join the club on the spot at the ride start, or we will ask you to sign a liability waiver form. You can fill out an online form before the ride.

CRW Safety Policy

The CRW promotes safe, courteous, and lawful cycling practices. CRW members are expected to cycle in a safe, courteous, and lawful manner when participating in CRW rides, and to encourage the same among fellow members and CRW guests.

Before the Ride

Read the ride announcement carefully and make sure that you are prepared for the distance and terrain as described. Contact the ride leader if you have questions.

Make sure your bike is in working order. Check that there are no loose parts, the brakes work, wheels secure, and derailleurs work. The tires should be inflated to the stated specifications.

Helmets are required on CRW rides. Your helmet should be properly adjusted and secured.

You should be able to fix a flat tire and should carry a pump or CO2 cartridge, a spare tube and/or patch kit and tire levers. If you've never fixed a flat and don't know how to, consider taking a course. CRW offers clinics -- check the CRW calendar. Courses are also offered at local bike shops and the Appalchian Mountain Club. You may find them with a Web search on  < Boston-area bicycle repair clinics >.

It's a good idea to carry tools to make minor adjustments. The basic tools required to fix most adjustments on modern bicycles are 4, 5 and 6 millimeter Allen wrenches, Phillips and flat-blade screwdrivers. A multi-tool, available at your local bike shop, has all these, as well as a chain tool, which is very handy to have should your chain break. An older bicycle may have parts that require 8, 9 and 10 mm end wrenches. Bicycle shops sell these tools; some are not to be found in a hardware store. Different bicycles require different tools, so it is useful to take your bicycle in to check which are needed. For more about the on-road toolkit, see https://www.sheldonbrown.com/on-road-repairs.html.

Carry some form of identification, along with the phone number of someone to contact in case of emergency. If you have a cell phone, you can program that number under the name ”ICE” which responders are trained to look for. It is also useful to bring along your health insurance ID, some money and a credit card.

Bring sufficient water  to stay hydrated over the course of the ride. You can use either water bottles attached to the bike or a hydration pack, such as a Camelbak. On a longer ride, you might also bring a snack. Many CRW rides have a lunch stop, and our Century rides have rest stops with food, but you may want to refuel yourself at other times and places.

At the Ride Start

All our rides have one or more start times listed in the calendar. This is the time that the ride will actually start, i.e., riders leave on their bikes. You should plan on arriving at least 15 minutes before the start time to allow time for assembling your bike, signing the release form or joining the club on the spot if not a member, listening to the pre-ride talk, etc. Arriving late is not fair to the ride leaders and the other riders.

Pay close attention to the ride leader’s pre-ride talk. It often conveys essential information about the ride.

When there is a large group, the ride leader will generally announce that the faster riders should leave first with others to follow in stages. Please cooperate so we can achieve the desired result of spreading out the riders.

Ride Types

For a complete list of ride types, click here.

Riding in Groups

Signal lane changes. turns, slowing/stopping and road hazards. Signal a lane change to the right or left turn by extending your left arm horizontally out. Signal a lane change to the right or right turn by either extending your right arm horizontally out (better),  or by extending your left arm out from the shoulder and up at the elbow. Signal stop or slow down by extending your left arm pointing downward with the palm facing backward.
Signals for lane changes are requests, not declarations. Check behind you for overtaking bicyclists or motorists, then signal when the next one back will have enough time to react and make room for you. Change lane position only once you have confirmed that it is safe with a second look. Most motorists will let you into line if you make your intention clear with a hand signal.
You can't signal when your hands are on the brake levers, but the usual purpose of the the slow signal is to send the message "follow me now, because it isn't safe to pass." This is most useful on curves where a motorist following you cannot see far enough ahead to know that passing is safe. On a blind right-hand curve, it is safest to ride near the left side of the right-hand travel lane, where an overtaking motorist will see you sooner.
Point to the road to alert others of a hazard such as a pothole or crack in the pavement. When it is unsafe to remove one hand from the handlebars, call out hazards, such as "pothole," "runner up," etc., announce turns by calling “turning left” or “turning right”, and announce slowing/stopping by calling out “slowing” or “stopping”. Pass other riders only on the left, and announce your intentions by saying “passing” or “on your left”.

Maintain a safe distance between you and other riders, and adjust the distance between you and other riders depending on terrain and speed. On downhill at high speed, it is especially difficult to slow down or to stop, and you should maintain a significantly larger gap. Unless it’s an emergency, slow down gradually and give plenty of advanced notice. Don't stop short in front of another rider.

Riding in a large cluster increases the risk of crashes and makes it difficult for motorists or other cyclists to pass. Try to break into smaller groups (4 to 6 at most). Motorists can more easily pass a smaller group.

Do not use a portable music player, like an iPod. It reduces your awareness of traffic and your ability to hear signals and warnings from other riders. In fact, it makes little sense to ride with a group if you are going to completely ignore everyone else while listening to music.

At all times, exercise civility on the road, even when motorists are less than gracious. Motorists notice courtesy, and it helps make the roads safer for all cyclists.

When riding in a group, it is not a good idea to use aero bars, since this reduces your ability to react quickly. Similarly, riding on aero bars on rough pavement is risky since you have a lot less ability to avoid potholes or to recover after hitting one.


Paceline Riding

When riding with a group, you will find that riding closely behind another rider greatly reduces the effort you have to expend. This is known as "drafting" and a group of riders drafting each other is called a paceline. Participate in paceline riding only if you and the other riders have the necessary skills. Always ask permission before drafting another rider.
When in a paceline, ride predictably, without sudden swerving or slowing. Scan the road far enough ahead to have time to avoid hazards gracefully. If you can't gracefully avoid potholes, ride over them.
When in a paceline, do not ride with your front wheel overlapping the rear wheel of the rider ahead of you. If that rider's wheel touches yours, you can't steer to balance, and will likely crash.

Riding in Traffic

Announce the presence of overtaking or oncoming vehicles by calling out "car back" or “car up”, respectively. When you hear this, and it is safe for a motorist to pass, get into single file and move to the right as quickly as you can safely do so. (If passing is unsafe, see advice on the slow signal, above.) Slow down a bit to allow riders on your left to pull into single file. It does not matter where you are in relation to the car or the group, you should take action immediately.

Never call out “clear.” It is each rider’s individual responsibility to verify that the traffic conditions are safe. What is safe for the person in front of you may not be safe for you, and you are responsible for your own safety. Proceed across an intersection only when you have determined that it is safe to do so.

Be aware that a passing motorist could turn across your path at an intersecting roadway or driveway.

Be aware of other vehicles and try not to obstruct their progress unless safety considerations dictate otherwise. On quiet roads with little traffic, you can ride two abreast, but you should pull into single file whenever a motorist approaches. Each member of the group is responsible for being aware of traffic and being considerate.

Many riders use a rear-view mirror, either a small one attached to the helmet or glasses, or a handlebar-mounted one. Being able to check traffic behind you with the help of a mirror is good safety practice. You must still turn your head to check to the side, though, because a mirror looks only to the rear.


For More Information

For more information on riding as a vehicle and other elements of safe riding, we recommend the free CyclingSavvy Essentials ShortCourse.