Road Cycling Calls and Signals

Last week, I had the chance to ride with a new group. I had been getting a little bored solo road riding, so I jumped at the chance. What I didn’t realise was that most of them had no idea about group riding. This became abundantly clear when the wheel in front of me swerved to the left, and I plunged into the depths of some craterlike pothole. After extracting myself from its depths, I gave the lead rider a colourful education about calls and signals. This week, I’m sharing an adapted extract from Simply Road Cycling, my book, that will remind or inform all us who enjoy a good social ride.

Most riders within a group are unable to see the road surface and any obstacles ahead, such as parked cars or bollards within the road. This is why we have a set of calls and actions to instruct and inform our fellow riders. These calls and actions are generally universal but may vary slightly from club to club or country to country (obviously language too!). The main calls and signals are: 

“Car Up” – There’s a car approaching the rear of the group. Be prepared to act and don’t swing out to the side of the main group. 

“Car Down” – There’s a car approaching the front of the group. Be prepared to act and don’t swing out to the side of the main group. 

“Out!” – Often accompanied by a hand behind the back pointing to the direction of safety. This normally signifies a parked car or some other object you don’t want to come into contact with. 

“Line Out” – Riders to break formation and move into a single line. Typically used on climbs, high traffic areas or narrow carriageways where riding two abreast could be dangerous. Experienced riders will move from two abreast to single file in a smooth motion with riders on the outer edge of the road making room for the riders towards the centre of the road to slot into place. 

“Middle” – there’s a danger, such as a pothole, in the middle of the carriageway. Prepare to move out to the left or right. 

“To your left/right” – said by a rider as they approach from behind to your left/right. This is to avoid surprising the rider in front and to ensure they don’t make a sudden move. 

“Standing” – said by a rider when climbing as they are about to stand. This is because as the rider stands, they momentarily lose pace and a rider close to their rear wheel may hit them. 

“On your wheel” – said by a rider to let a rider upfront know that they now have someone riding close to their rear wheel. This is generally used when the rider up front may be unaware that a rider is about to take their wheel. 

Although these are the most common calls, there are many variations such as “Lorry” or “Dog”. However, once you know the basics, further variants are all pretty self-explanatory. You should also note that when the call is to signal a danger to the entire group, it is common practice for each rider to shout it so that it ripples back down through the group and everyone is aware of the issue. 

Remember that if you want to improve your road riding and short-cut the process of becoming a seasoned rider, get your copy of Simply Road Cycling on Amazon today!

Photo Credit: @simoncon

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