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The dark side of summer

Summer means perfect weather and hot sticky tarmac. So why is it such a deadly season for riding, and what can you do about it? Here are two things to remember all summer long.

Crashes that cause serious injury and death skyrocket during summer. Partly, of course,  it’s because we’re all riding more. But riding in summer has dangers all its own, so here are two related ones to watch out for along with strategies to minimise them.

The overtaking trap

When summer comes it’s easier to persuade your mates to get together for a ride. But riding in a group comes with all sorts of specific problems. Do a Ride Forever course and you’ll cover them during the day, including things like staggered positioning and dealing with intersections.

One of the most dangerous parts comes when overtaking. Not just the usual hazards you’d experience when overtaking solo or with one other mate in tow.

When a group catches up with a slower moving vehicle–or, especially, a line of vehicles–it’s easy for a group to get separated when overtaking .

The rider at the front arrives at the line of vehicles with an unobstructed view of the road ahead. They can plan it out, pick the perfect time to overtake and get it done as if they were riding solo.

The next rider has a reasonable amount of time too. They can probably see past the rider in front and their opportunity will also soon arrive. If the rider in front has had to slot into a gap between vehicles, they can see everything unfolding and plan accordingly.

But for riders further back the picture isn’t as clear. Their opportunity to assess the traffic and plan an overtake is much more limited. Then, they arrive at the front of the overtaking queue while the earlier overtakers are disappearing into the distance.

Too often, this means the riders towards the back are tempted to rush. They don’t take the time to build a sufficient picture of the unfolding situation ahead. And worse, they can get drawn into a risky overtake to catch up.

This happens with worrying regularity, yet many riders don’t seem aware of the phenomenon.

The whole problem can also be compounded by the fact that groups sometimes get strung out with the faster, more confident and competent riders leading the way and less capable riders left at the back.

As always, you need to apply the 4P principles to any overtake, whether in a group or not. Unsure what the 4ps are? It’s Position, Pull out, Pass then Pull in. Get the full picture by watching the Overtaking video in our Online Coaching modules.

So, tip one for summer. If you’re going on a group ride talk about this issue before you set off. Then, when the group comes up on a line of vehicles don’t let the leading riders charge off. Work as a team. As the first riders get past, move ahead of the convoy then hold station. Use your mirror to watch progress and move a little further ahead as each following rider makes it past. Stick together and ensure the trailing riders don’t feel any pressure to overtake until they are good and ready.


This is a related phenomenon and more widely known but it catches riders out every year.

If the faster riders in a group pull away there can be an overwhelming temptation to follow them. As we’ve mentioned, the leading riders get an advantage anyway when it comes to overtaking. Compound that with different abilities and a group ride can turn into a risky undertaking. It’s also described as ‘the vacuum effect’ as riders getting left behind get ‘sucked in’ to taking chances and pushing too hard.

Again, the solution begins with a pre-ride discussion and agreed strategy. Do the faster riders have a bit of fun then dawdle to let the others catch up? It can work, but sometimes boredom creeps in and discipline slips.

A better approach is to split the group into two or more sub-groups who can ride at an even pace together. Then agree some stops where you can all meet up, have some water or even a coffee. It may be that the quicker group adds on a side route or stops at an extra feature along the way.

The overwhelming thing to remember is that any group will have differing abilities. What’s a comfort-zone pace for one might be a white-knuckled ride for another, so plan accordingly and never, ever give in to ‘Keep-up-itis’.

Have a safe, fun summer and keep it shiny side up.