Written by AJ Baucco, pro triathlete
Many sports have a long list of unwritten “rules”. Cycling is no different. Knowing how to act on the road isn’t just about respecting your fellow cyclists, it is about being safe.
1) Never draft off another cyclist without asking first. Obviously, there are instances where it is expected for you to draft, like at your local group ride. But if you cross paths with a random cyclist on the road and start drafting without asking first, it can actually be quite dangerous. When you are riding closely behind another rider, the actions of the cyclist in front of you can directly affect you. For example, if the cyclist in front of you swerves to miss a pot hole, it may send you directly into it! When two cyclists are riding in close proximity, any action from either of them can negatively affect the other. So it is very important to be courteous and ask before you put a stranger at risk.
2) If someone is drafting off you, call out anything potentially dangerous in the road. If you are riding and you are aware that a person is drafting behind you, it is your responsibility to notify them if there is anything dangerous coming up in the road. This refers to absolutely anything that can potentially startle the rider behind you. Don’t point out everything. Just anything that may cause a crash, like a pot hole or patches of gravel. Because they do not have a clear line of vision, they are counting on you to keep them safe.
3) Signal toward the direction you plan to turn. Don’t worry about learning anything fancy. If you want to turn right, just point to the right. Check over your shoulder to make sure that it is safe for you to turn. Never turn without checking behind you, but especially if it is a left turn.
4) Don’t immediately repass a cyclist who has just passed you. If you are out training and a cyclist blows by you, check your ego and let them pass. It is bad form to start sprinting and repass them immediately. Don’t sprint up to them and talk to them either. If they wanted to talk to you, they would have slowed down as they passed and said something. Just drop back out of their draft zone. If you notice that you are having a hard time staying behind them (maybe they slowed down), they you can repass them. If you are doing intervals, you can ignore all this. But when you repass a person quickly, it’s nice to let them know you are doing an interval.
5) Don’t litter. Seriously, put all of your trash in your pockets. This is especially important when changing flat tires out on the road. If you start a ride with something, finish the ride with it. Period.
6) If riding early in the morning or in the evening, use lights and wear reflective gear. This won’t just keep you safe, it will keep everyone safe. Cars NEED to see you. That will keep the drivers safe and other cyclists safe as well.
7) Don’t break traffic laws. Again, this isn’t just for your safety, it is for everyone’s safety. Running red lights, rolling stop signs, and crossing a double yellow line doesn’t just put yourself at risk, it puts drivers at risk and especially other cyclists at risk. If you see another rider breaking traffic laws and putting anyone at risk, it is your responsibility to say something to them.
8) Wear a helmet. Not wearing a helmet doesn’t make you more “euro”, isn’t “more comfortable”, and definitely isn’t “cool”. Be a role model for future generations and wear a helmet. My helmet has already saved my life numerous times.
AJ Baucco is an established long course professional triathlete from Cleveland, Ohio. He founded AJ Baucco Coaching LLC, which currently coaches nearly 50 age group triathletes from all over the country. He also runs an age group triathlon team called the Baucco Squad. In 2014, AJ Baucco was crowned the first ever Kona Beer Mile Champion. He has since been given legendary status on the Big Island.