Updated: Jun 16
"A road, a mile of kingdom, I am king of banks and stones and every blooming thing."
Patrick Kavanagh (Inniskeen Road : July Evening)
Cycling is not free of perils anywhere in the world,
but all we can do it try our best to minimize the chances of things going wrong. Cycling outside can be intimidating or a little scary, but with practice and prudence, it becomes much more natural. However, group rides are a great way to get fitter, learn new skills and enjoy the scenery of longer rides, and not to mention the great company of like minded individuals. Let’s always be safe out there.
The most important thing to learn and remember is that everyone is there to have fun and enjoy themselves.
Here are some things we've learned over the years that are considered to be good etiquette as well as help keep us all as safe as possible when riding out in the Hanoian countryside.
1) The Ride Leaves on Time Respect your fellow cyclists.
Gather at the meetup spot 5-10 minutes before set-off time.
2) New to the Group? Introduce yourself! Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
3)Wearing a properly fitting helmet, dressing in cycling appropriate apparel, and maintaining your bicycle is an absolute priority!
Pre Ride Checklist:
check tires and brakes in good working condition.
check front and back lights if riding before dawn.
carry a pump, CO2 is great but a pump is essential.
check tool kit includes 2 spare tubes and tire levers; and
carry 2 full bidons, drink the first bidon the first 60-90 mins if possible. (longer rides have water stops for refills during warmer rides)
carry food (energy bars/gels) for longer rides. An added benefit of starting @ the shop is that you can always get your tires pumped, water bottles topped up or even grab energy just before the ride begins.
4) When it comes to riding in a group, awareness is paramount.
You should be extremely aware and vigilant of your surroundings at all times. Even if you're engaging in conversation with the cyclist next to you. When you start out assess the rider in front of you and give wobbly/novice riders a slightly bigger gap.
Keep an eye on the rider behind you as well. Your eyes should be up the road in front of the lead riders if possible.
Don’t stare at the rider in front of you.
5) Obey the traffic laws and respect other road users.
6) Do Not Half-Wheel/Overlap Wheels. Always ride @ ride leader's discretion. Handlebars level, Ride in Pairs or single files, Neat and Tidy.
7) The pace is set by the ride leader according to the group,
not the strongest rider.
8)Turns and Hazards are signaled from the front.
Pass them all the way back to warn your fellow riders. Use vocal cues such as "heads up" if you're unable to take your hands off the bars and you spot something to be cautious of ahead of you or the ride in front indicates something. Some important calls to know:
“Stopping” – This call is usually only made by the front cyclists for things like traffic lights etc. In an emergency situation a rider from inside the group can also make this call - it means a rider needs to stop now e.g. a puncture. It should not give rise to a discussion. Every rider in the group should stop including those at the front and behind.
“Turning left/right” – with associated hand signal
“Slowing” – means the brakes are being used.
“Hole/Debris left/right” – is used to warn of a pothole or crack in the road. Adding a left or right to the call is very helpful to those behind. At the same time as the call you should point to the hole/debris. Key to happy group riding is safety and it's the ride leader's primary concern. It is important to prioritize your own safety first, however keep in mind that your actions will impact those around you. If you don’t feel confident to take your hands off the handlebars and point at a hole you don’t have to. You can simply call “hole left”. Similarly if you would like to change your position in the group, mention it to the riders around you and don't make any unannounced moves while in the group.
9) The group will wait Puncture or mechanical? Raise your hand and alert your fellow cyclists. in a safe place and the ride leader/fellow riders will help with the repair.
10) Sudden movements cause crashes. Ride steady.
Be predictable, Move gradually and with dexterity.
11) Watch the gap on those ramps. When approaching a ramp, increase the distance between yourself and the rider in front of you. When a ride stands up on the pedals, there's a chance the bicycle may be thrown back a little (kickback) and if one is too close to the wheel, there's a chance of wheel bump.
12)Climbs are always to be tackled
at your own pace. Regroup at the top.
13) On descents Keep to your side of the road, ride in a single file, take care, and give yourself room to stop safely.
14) Group rides are not races.
No passing or surging on the right.
Keep the ego at home.
15) No Time Trial Bars
or Time Trial Bikes on a group ride, please.
16)Always check on fellow/newer riders and alert the ride leader if someone’s struggling. If you’re leaving the bunch mid-ride, alert the group and break off from the back. Nobody gets left behind on a group ride.
As eloquently put by Marc Mendoza of Post Carry Co,
“Vietnam - Where cycling is safest and most dangerous” There would be no better way to describe how road cycling around here can be. It’s extremely safe if we consider incidents of crime or the animosity of other motorists against cyclists.
However, the roads are not free of peril and therefore I reiterate some of the aforementioned in detail. - The erratic and uncertain movements of motorcyclists (as well all vehicular traffic) as well as road debris and sudden obstacles, can often render cyclists unable to keep their bicycle rubber side down.
Hazards need to be pointed out before they appear
so there’s reaction time for those behind. The faster you’re moving, the further away the obstacle needs to be pointed out from. It’s also prudent to constantly be scanning the road ahead even if you’re in the middle of the group but as long as you don’t half wheel/overlap wheels with the rider in front of you.
Incomprehensible and Erratic Traffic Sometimes, the traffic around Hanoi can be hard to comprehend. Things worth being extra attentive about - -On-ramps and Exits on the highway where there is diverting or merging traffic. Pick up trucks may suddenly stop in the middle of a freeway if they miss their exit. It pays to anticipate such moves. - Alleys and B-Roads Trucks/Cars/ can pop out of alleys which you would not anticipate among other sudden vehicular movements that can be disastrous if one is not attentive. Be careful when passing what appear to be alley ways as a motorbike could be launching out of those unbeknown to you that could cause a collision. - Traffic Lights and Turn signals are merely suggestions. Do not blindly trust other road users using their turn signals and same goes for traffic lights that are green at an intersection. You're in the right, but someone on a scooter may be in a rush, so please always slow down and look both ways at every intersection you pass, even when the traffic lights are green. - Head for the back If a motorbike is about to pull out, slow down and approach it's back as motorbikes don't go in reverse. - Watch those Doors Maintain a distance of at least a meter when passing a parked car, as most motorists open doors without looking back. - Defense is the best Offense. Do not play a game of chicken with any motorist as you are far more vulnerable than anyone else out there, therefore it pays off to be on the defensive and avoid any chances of collisions. Staying safe is mostly about being alert (Aware) at all times and cautiously anticipating the traffic's movements. - Watch out for Debris/Broken Road. The roads around Hanoi are littered with all kinds of debris, most of which could result in loss of traction, or worse, even being flipped over the bars. There's been stories of broken collarbones due to a solidified mass of concrete in the midst of a highway, bricks strewn across, and even objects such as air filters and bottles which need to be avoided at all costs. Being aware of what's ahead, scanning the road and alerting riders behind you of anything you spot, is the only way to keep yourself and everyone else safe. - Watch out for Dogs. Yes, sometime a dog (or more) can get excited about a group of cyclists passing by. If you notice dogs ahead of you, immediately slow down and alert everyone behind. More than a bite, there is risk of crashing into the dog as they can be unpredictable. - Watch the Wind.
Wind direction determines on which side the greatest draft is found. If the wind is at our side, it takes much less effort to go the same speed. Wind also helps plan the best way to circumnavigate a loop for a longer group ride. Windy is a brilliant application we recommend using to check wind conditions before planning your next big ride. In the event of cross winds, i.e. winds blowing from the sides, it is advised to ride in a single file as winds can cause riders to swerve sideways without notice.
We wish you many smiles for miles. (although we use the metric system). And look forward to seeing you soon for one of our Group rides!
If you're excited to join our upcoming group rides, you may join our Strava Club and be updated on upcoming rides. Strava Club members in Hanoi also win prizes on Winning Group Challenges. Here's a Waiver which we require all cyclists to fill up to receive a confirmation email before their first group ride for us to have essential emergency information if the need arises.
Be Safe. Have Fun. Ride Bikes.