The Chainlink

By Yasmeen Schuller with input from The Chainlink Team and Ambassadors

Thinking of joining a group ride or just want a refresher on group ride etiquette and safety? Group rides are a great way to improve your fitness and speed as well as make new friends. If you are training for a century, a bike camping trip or would like to start racing, this is a great way to help you prepare.

The Chainlink will be hosting two weekly open group rides starting this spring. There are also a number of team and club rides in the Chicago area so you will have plenty of options for nearly every day of the week. Here's a Chicago area group ride resource and we'll be adding many of the rides to the calendar soon. 


Be Prepared

Here’s a checklist for what you need to go on the group ride:

  1. Helmet
  2. Check tire pressure, following recommended PSI.
  3. Lube chain as needed
  4. Flat kit – pump/CO2, tire levers, 1-2 extra tubes, patch kit, multi-tool
  5. Bike computer (optional) – a great way to track your rides
  6. Mobile phone
  7. Cash (comes in handy for muffins, coffee, snacks, tire boots, and post-ride drinks)
  8. Water bottles – 1-2 depending on the length of the ride.
  9. Energy – Avoid bonking and throw a gel or two or energy bar in your pocket.
  10. Have a cue sheet or the route programmed into your Garmin, especially if it's a "drop" ride. 
  11. Don’t be late – always better to show up a little early and meet your fellow riders
  12. If the ride is at night, remember to bring your front and rear lights!
  13. Leave your ear buds or headphones at home.
  14. Leave your aero bars at home too. Not safe on a group ride.


Photo Courtesy of Shawn Conley

Know About The Ride

Do you know the pace? If it’s faster than your normal pace, have a backup plan or know their route in case you get dropped from the group.

Is it a “no drop” ride? The group will help if you struggle to keep pace or have a flat. If you are just starting out, you’ll probably want to find a group ride that is “no drop” with a slower pace to help you adjust to riding with a group.

Photo by Yasmeen Schuller


Group Etiquette


Know and follow the laws

  • Like most rides, The Chainlink group ride won’t blow stoplights or break the laws. We will follow the rules of the road.
  • Take the Ride Illinois Bike Safety Quiz to see how well you know the laws.

Photo by Zach Schneider

Be alert to your surroundings, using call-outs and hand gestures to warn fellow riders

  • If you aren't as familiar with the hand gestures and call-outs, follow the lead of the group, repeating what people are saying and doing.
  • Turns e.g. "right" "left" usually with hand signals.
  • Slowing down "slowing", speeding up, stopping "stopping". If you tap your brakes, call it. Also, "rolling" if the light changes and the group is riding through the intersection. People will also communicate an all clear with "clear" and add "rolling".
  • Don’t coast in a paceline.
  • Learn the hand signals and use them when you ride in groups.
  • Pot holes, potential dangers and obstructions on the roads (you'll usually hear "hole" or "glass" and the person will point at it) 
  • Call out mechanicals/flats so the rest of the group knows you need to stop.
  • Warn of glass, gravel, and holes (tends to be a literal call out like "glass" while pointing to the location)
  • Cars – “Car up” “Car back” “Car left/right”
  • If there are sprint points during a ride, communicate clearly before it begins so that people that are new to the group ride will be prepared.


Hold Your Line – Keep You And Others Safe and Crash-Free

  • Maintain pace
  • Avoid swerving or unexpected moves
  • Ride a line parallel with the edge of the road
  • Don’t make abrupt changes or turns
  • Keep your hands on the handlebars – sure, you’ll need to reach for a water bottle or snack on occasion but when riding, keep focused and connected
  • Avoid changes in speed, avoid braking except when it’s time to stop. Sit up or move out of the line into the wind to subtly slow yourself down and make sure to communicate your intentions before you do
  • Don’t overlap wheels (your front wheel to a fellow rider’s back wheel)
  • Don’t look back (this can cause you to inadvertently swerve your bike)
  • Look up at the rider ahead (not down at their wheel)
  • Watch for hand signals a few riders ahead – you may not have enough time to react to the rider directly in front of you. Don’t get fixated on what’s directly in front of you, pay attention to peripheral vision and everything around you

Photo by Yasmeen Schuller  

Here's a video reviewing Group Ride Basics by BikeRadar:

Once You Return Home

  • Change out of your kit and take a shower right away
  • Wash your kit (recommended to hang it dry)


Take this quiz on “Group Dynamics” at Bicycling Magazine

Chicago Area Group Ride Schedule

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Comment by MsTexas on June 28, 2017 at 10:44am

Hello. I'm new to the group and to cycling for the most part. I have a question, what does "no drop" mean? I understand the group will help everyone finish etc., and I know I can do the 16 mph, just not sure I can do 35 miles. Of course, I'm willing to push myself and try this, but is there an option if a rider just isn't ready for this distance? Note, the longest I've done is 25 miles.

Comment by Yasmeen on March 30, 2017 at 4:54pm

You can call "on your left" and then pass them - they are just letting you know they are slowing down. I bought a couple of bells so that I can use those on the Lakefront path with my bikes. It gets so congested and when I was riding with my brother, his bell was very effective.

Comment by Mike Muczynaki on March 30, 2017 at 4:50pm

Thanks.  This is very helpful.

Now it has me wondering - when riding in the bike lanes in Chicago I think I remember someone doing the "slow down" hand signal.  If I understand that right, since we weren't riding in an organized group that means that that person was telling me he/she was slowing down.  So I could pass?  Since I don't know the hand gestures, I would normally use my left arm and wave someone forward to pass. 

Comment by Yasmeen on March 30, 2017 at 4:08pm

Mike, I added a Group Ride Basics video you may found helpful as well. It goes over pacelines and communication.

Comment by Yasmeen on March 30, 2017 at 3:43pm

Thanks Mike! I appreciate the shout-out and the feedback. I'll go ahead and add a little more information. It can vary sometimes depending on the person calling it but tends to be pretty literal and people usually do an excellent job of also using hand gestures e.g.pointing, putting an arm out for a turn, putting their hand flat with palm facing behind them for slowing/stopping.

Also, if you are slowing down by tapping your brakes, say you are "slowing". If you need to stop, "stopping" and move out of the group so that you don't impact the riders directly behind you. 

Comment by Mike Muczynaki on March 30, 2017 at 1:40pm

Much appreciated.  I've not done a group ride before, so this is a great resource.  But I feel like I need the "100" version before the 101.  Can you fill in calls for these like you did for calling out cars?  I suppose some of this can be googled, but it would be nice to have it all in one place.


  • Be alert to your surroundings, using call-outs and hand gestures to warn fellow riders
  • Slowing down, speeding up, stopping. If you tap your brakes, call it.  [SAME THING - WHAT DOES A PERSON CALL OUT FOR THESE?]
  • Pot holes, potential dangers and obstructions on the roads [ANY SPECIAL NAMES, OR JUST "POTHOLE!"?
  • Call out mechanicals/flats so the rest of the group knows you need to stop.
  • Warn of glass, gravel, and holes

What's a paceline?  

And what does this mean? "If you tap your brakes, call it."

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