How to Have Fun and Stay Safe on an Organized Bike Ride

il_fullxfull.384476172_tm43Organized rides across the country are getting pushback from communities that are frustrated by riders who flaunt the rules of the road. Besides crashes and fights, some communities have disqualified permits, and insurance companies have denied event coverage. If you’re participating in Cycle Oregon’s Week Ride this month, or really any ride, please be courteous and—above all, be safe.

If you’re gearing up for the Week Ride, you’re about to embark on an epic adventure, one that has the ability to change lives in a positive way. You’re helping raise money for some great causes. You’re getting the chance to meet some amazing people from some of the most awesome communities in the world. And last but not least, you get to spend an entire week with over 2,000 people who have at least one shared passion.

You might not know a lot of your fellow riders today, but that’s about to change. Soon, you’ll be friends who feel like family. One of the very best ways to allow this camaraderie to blossom is to do your part to make sure that everyone is having as much fun as you are. Here’s how:

Glee-CO14 (290)Maintain road awareness
You’ll be on some pretty rural roads most of the time, but there will always be traffic. You, your fellow riders, Cycle Oregon support vehicles, motorists, and people who live in the area are all going to be sharing the road. Knowing at all times what and who is around you is a great help to you and everyone else. Keep your eyes and ears open, and frequently check your six.

Consider a mirror
From Bike Gallery’s Aaron “Rambo” Harrison: Bicycle mirrors help create awareness of what’s behind you while riding, helping you ride more predictably and safely. Mirrors come in three basic flavors: handlebar-mounted, helmet-mounted, and eyeglass-mounted

Handlebar-mounted mirrors have long been a popular option, especially if you just want a basic idea of what’s going on behind you. Unfortunately, the advent of integrated brake/shift levers have forced handlebar mirrors for road bikes to move from the brake-hood down to the end of the handlebar. While there are some excellent fish-eye mirrors, which provide a fairly large field of view, they’re very affected by the vibration of the bicycle (and the distortion created by the lens’s shape).

Helmet mirrors have become the most popular option among cyclists riding road bikes or recumbents. They are much less affected by road vibration, and since they sit much closer to your eye, they provide a significantly larger field of view.

Eyeglass-mounted mirrors are much like helmet-mounted mirrors, but they mount on one of the temples of your glasses instead of your helmet. Many modern sports glasses don’t have flat enough surfaces to mount them. If you wear prescription eyewear with straight temples, these are a good option.

JEK_5432-SPosition yourself strategically
If you’re a slower rider, keep to the right. If you’re a faster rider, give those you pass a wide berth. If you’re being passed, move to the right. If you’re going to stop, move over to the right before doing so—especially if you’re on a steep climb. If that’s not possible, make sure no one is right behind you before you jump off. If you have no reason to change your position, hold your line.


If you notice a car coming from behind, let your fellow riders know by calling “car back.” If you see a car coming toward you, it’s “car up.” If you’re passing or stopping, let that be known as well. Likewise, if you notice a hazard, point it out. If you want to give a hand signal, point toward the hazard, not in the direction someone needs to go to avoid it.

Pass properly
Before you pass, check behind you and to your left before you make your move. Assume another rider or a support vehicle is passing you at all times. This is something a lot of folks tend to forget. Keep in mind that support vehicles are often driving slowly and quietly until it’s safe to pass riders. Don’t assume you’ll hear them.

If there’s a car behind you or someone is passing you, hang back a few seconds until the coast is clear. Also, when you hear “car back,” wait to initiate your pass until the car goes by. Going for the quick pass when you hear “car back” is dangerous and obnoxious. When you finish your pass, move back to the right when it’s safe to do so (someone might want to pass you, Speed Racer). Don’t pass someone who is in the process of passing someone else.

Remember, this isn’t a race, and your desire to get around slower riders should never put you or them in jeopardy. We never run out of beer, food, or places to pitch your tent.

Glee-CO14 (55)Obey traffic laws
All of them. It’s amazing how many people do blatantly silly stuff. Blowing off a stop sign isn’t a good idea. Blowing off a stop sign WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING FOR TRAFFIC is just dumb. And it’s something we see frequently. If you’re going to stop along the route, Oregon law dictates that you pull off the road. It also requires riding single-file if there’s traffic behind you. Keep in mind that the motorcycle police who accompany us can and will issue tickets as warranted.

Paceline politely
Riding in a paceline is a lot of fun, particularly if you’re a skilled and seasoned rider. (It is never recommended to paceline with people you are not used to pacelining with.) But your fun should not come at the expense of everyone else’s fun—not to mention safety. Please restrict paceline riding to areas where it’s safe. If your whole group can’t safely pass riders, don’t pass. And if you have to drop off your paceline to avoid putting someone else in danger, do it.

Share the road
“Share the road” is not simply a saying to remind motorists that they need to make room for cyclists. It works the other way around, too. On an event like Cycle Oregon, it’s important to leave room for traffic. Riding three (or four or five) abreast while letting cars stack up behind you is not sharing the road. Moreover, it isn’t the way to endear ourselves to the local motorists, many of whom are our hosts. We’re ambassadors of our sport, and the way we conduct ourselves on the road matters.

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  1. This is so well written and hits all the important points for safe and friendly cycling. Kudos!

  2. Cyclists often do NOT give hand signals! (As if you were in a car without turn signals ). Often this can avoid a conflict of someone in your blind spot or you just don’t see them when you make a turn.

  3. If you ride in a paceline, keep communicating with the other riders. Don’t slam on the brakes, don’t do the accordian,keep a steady straight line. Don’t be a rabbit. Steady pace lines are great pacelines and make for a fantastic Cycle Oregon. I have been on 8 COs and have never had problems with pacelines even ones that I did not know the fellow riders. If the people are riding erratically, leave them alone. Find a better line.

  4. Jerry Bier says:

    Very good article on riding safety and safely. I do a lot of riding and have been noticing how cyclists dress. Mostly dark clothing. We are in the dark time of the year and most people wear dark clothing when they ride. I see these folks as I drive to my club in the morning. I wish you had mentioned wearing bright colors in your article, even on Cycle O. Cyclists with dark clothes just disappear against a black road and most of them don’t realize this. I liked your mentioning the communication between cyclists. I have been riding for over 30 years and I think that cyclists have become more rude, less communicative and unaware of their behavior on the roads. Most of the time when I am passed the cyclist usually doesn’t say, “on your left” or make any sound. And many times they pass really close at a fast pace. I wish that bike shops would have a poster on bike riding rules of the road. I was in a bike shop the other day and noticed that they stock more black rain jackets than light colored ones. Black jackets simply disappear on wet, dark, low light roads. Thanks for your article.

  5. Saw a rider in headphones looking down plow right into the back of rider who had stopped in the path of travel on the road to remove a jacket. It was a painful lesson for both about why you don’t stop on the road and why wearing distracting headphones increases collisions. Safer behavior by either rider would have prevented injuries.

  6. Judy Jensen says:

    …and it would be courteous to fellow riders if they could leave their music devices in camp. I believe that most riders who go on this particular ride enjoy the sounds (or quiet) of nature in the beautiful areas in which we get to ride. The Sag Wagons music is appreciated because it’s a sign that they are nearby keeping us safe, but individuals riders are showing the height of selfishness when they destroy everyone else’s peace and quiet on the ride. Their music can be heard for miles and it ruins the experience for a lot of people.

  7. Bill Hand says:

    A good thing to remember: Where possible “stay to the right of the white”.

  8. Iam astounded at the oblivious nature and rudeness of these bike riders! Too many not riding single file and passing eachother while traffic is stacking up behind them! These bikers are putting themselves and drivers at extreme risk and need to be taught how to ride and share road properly!