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Singling-out from a group ride formation of 2-abreast to single file is a tricky manoeuvre, but sometimes has to be done swiftly and efficiently.  If not everyone in the group knows how to do it properly, it can be messy, and sometimes a touch of wheels can result in a mass spill just when you least need a mass spill.  So here is the hows and whys of singling-out properly.

There are two schools of thought as to which way a 2-abreast group should file out to single file.  Some clubs adopt one method, other clubs adopt the other method.  Here at iCycle we have adopted the clockwise rotation method. The first method is for the left flank to drop back and each rider on the right flank drops infront of the rider that was previously on their left.  The other method is the reverse; i.e. each rider on the left flank accelerates forward slightly, and the rider on the right drops in behind the rider that was previously next to them.

 iCycle have adopted the latter method of singling-out as a matter of Club Ride policy for the following reasons.  There is only two reasons that a group would want to single-out; 1. there is a car approaching from behind (car-up) and the road is not wide enough for it to pass, and; 2. there is a car approaching from ahead (car-down) and the road is not wide enough for it to pass. Now, the car approaching from behind can wait until the road ahead is clear and straight, as the cyclists have the right to occupy the road until such a time, but for the car approaching from ahead, well, the cyclists have to provide clearance for that car, or a collision is going to happen, and the fastest way to provide that clearance is for the right flank to drop rearwards (away from the approaching car) and slot in "like the teeth of a zip" behind the rider that was previously beside them - a clockwise rotation.

It is important that every rider in the group knows what to do, which direction to go and where to go.  This is no time for pleasantries ("you go ahead...", "no please, you go ahead..."). If some riders are singling clockwise and others anticlockwise, this could potentially cause a collision amongst the cyclists and possible with the car. 

With a little practice it takes just a few seconds to accomplish.  Here are some points to keep in mind.

  • The instruction to single-out should come from the ride leader/manager, who will have carefully considered whether singling-out is safe, and whether it is even required.

  • Do not single-out on a bend, or any stretch of road where, for any reason, it would not be safe for the motorist (approaching from behind) to overtake even after the cyclists have singled. Singling-out on a bend on a narrow country road is actually an invite for the motorist to overtake and some motorists will take that invite quite blindly and will push through even if they cannot see traffic that may be approaching in the other direction.  It may be better to prevent the overtake for a few seconds longer by NOT singling-out until the road ahead is straight and clear.

  • Do not use your brakes when singling out.  The riders on the left flank simply need to drop back smoothly to create a gap between them and the bike in front and the riders on the right flank drop back into the gap just created.  A brief statement of "clear" from the the rider on the left provides a little more confidence to the rider dropping-in to that gap that their rear wheel is clear of your front wheel.

  • Do NOT single-out unless you really have to.  More often than not the road is wide enough for a car to pass without singling-out.  A shout from the ride leader/manager or other vocal group member of "squeeze-in" is all that is required for everyone to pull closer to the rider next to them.  This is actually safer and less disruptive to the group than singling-out.  It does however sometimes take a little encouragement to the motorist that it is ok to squeeze through, and a wave through by one or more riders on the right flank will provide the confidence to the motorist that he/she understands we are prepared for them to come through and won't make any sudden swerves into their path. You will hear the shout "coming-through" from the riders at the back of the group as the motorists commences the acceleration.  
  • After the car has passed, a quick shout from the rear rider "clear" (to confirm that there is not a second car coming through) and the riders can re-group into their previous formation. The riders at the front of the group  need to slow down for a moment. Don't forget that the riders at the back have bike lengths to regain before the pack can re-group to a 2-abreast formation.  After re-grouping, then you can gradually crank up the pace back to cruise speed.
  • On main roads, generally, single file is the way to go, especially if there is a solid white line down the middle of the road - otherwise, you are asking motorists to break the law to get around you, even if it is clear and safe for them to do so.

  • When passing a line of parked cars, through a village for example, it may be necessary to single-out as a precaution, especially when the view of the road ahead is obscured.  If you do not, then at least be prepared to single-out more swiftly than you normally would, should a car suddenly appear approaching from ahead. This situation is possibly the most critical for singling-out; when the group is already maneouvreing around parked cars, avoiding potholes, and expecting car doors to swing open in your path, the added hassle of singling-out to avoid an oncoming car as well, is often better negated by precautionary singling before you reach the parked cars. As usual, anticipation is the key to a smooth and safe transition through hazardous areas.

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