A bunch ride is a great way to cover miles easily, enjoy some company, meet other riders and improve your riding. It's a great leveller of abilities meaning that a vast range of talents and fitness can ride and train together enjoyably.
With any bunch ride there are a number of explicit (stated and known) and implicit (taken for granted) rules.
Explicit rules are things like the route, start time, regrouping points, etc.
The implicit rules apply to all riders and every bunch ride and should be obeyed at all times. They are part courtesy and part safety, they are what enable a bunch to act as a single cohesive unit.
These implicit rules are:
1. Half wheeling This is where one rider in the lead pair rides consistently with their brakehood, handlebar, front wheel or, worst case, bike ahead of the other rider they are supposed to be riding beside. Don't do it! Simple as that, it's rude and inconsiderate, you should ride with brakehoods level with your paired partner. If they are struggling to match your pace, ease up and ride at theirs.
2. Consideration to other road users This is a no brainer, but it constantly amazes me how many riders fail to show any consideration for other road users. If it's a busy/narrow road ride single file to allow traffic to pass. Holding up other road users will only infuriate them and make them less likely to display any consideration for cyclists in future. There is also a duty for the riders at the back of the bunch to inform the riders forward of them when there is a car or truck behind waiting to get past. Particularly on narrow or winding roads calling out alerts others in the bunch and everyone can move to single file easing the passing maneuvere for the motorist. The bunch can reform once the vehicle has passed. Remember it's SHARE the road.
3. Road rules Obey them. If you're on the front of the bunch don't tow the bunch through orange/red lights, do stop at pedestrian crossings.
4. Pairing up Always pair up with another rider, don't sit riding as a single in the middle of a bunch. All this does is mean that one of the following pair of riders gets no benefit from the draft. Once a bunch has started, usually the reformation happens after a climb. If you find yourself unpaired either move forward if you can see another unpaired rider or drift to the outside and back of the bunch. Don't be afraid to ride beside someone you don't know, say gidday, they won't bite.
5. Pointing out hazards There is an obligation for riders at the front to point out hazards on the road (potholes, gravel, glass, etc). At the very least pointing out the hazard is the minimum, but best practise is to point and call out what it is, this should also be passed down the bunch. It is a remarkably unpleasant experience to be riding along and have your front wheel disappear into a pothole. At best you'll get a wrist snapping jolt, worst can be a crash. Pointing out glass on the road can save the aggravation of punctures.
6. Bunch safety (aerobars and rocket launcher bottle holders) Anyone who knows me knows that I would rather wear knee high walk socks than fit these to my bike, but some riders to have valid reasons for using them and training with them. So if you're one of those riders a couple of valid points, don't ride your aerobars in the bunch, use them when it's your turn on the front (if you have to remember the half wheel and pointing out hazards rules). If you have rocket launcher bottle cages make sure that they can hold their bottles and that you can get the bottle back in with ease. A dropped bottle can easily lead to a crash for following riders.
7. Flat tyres/ mechanicals/ mishaps These all happen, the bunch should stop and where appropriate lend a hand. Riders also have a responsibility to ensure that their bike is reliable, they have decent tyres on in good condition and they have spare tubes. Going for the mileage record for tyre wear is not a practise that should be part of bunch rides, the constant punctures that are part of such attempts will lose you riding partners faster than BO and Tourettes.
8. Choose a bunch that matches your ability nothing will infuriate others if they have to constantly wait for you on what is known as a fast/hilly bunch. Even worse is the café racer who wrecks a ride by riding at a pace that shreds the bunch and leaves a trail of gasping victums.
By using these simple rules the bunch will be an enjoyable place and don't be afraid to remind other riders of these rules and their obligations to others in the bunch.