Race-Day Etiquette: The Unwritten Rules

water_point2‘Etiquette’ is defined as ‘the customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group’. And cyclists are not exempt. Here are some of the unwritten rules – in writing.

  • Don’t spit or blow your nose when sitting at the front of the bunch. Move aside, and then spray.
  • If you’re going to hide in the bunch (you know who you are) and not take any turns pulling, you may not sprint over the finish line first. No-one will want to be your friend if you do – and besides, winning the ‘P’ group, leeeegend…
  • On a group training ride, if you’re in an ear-chewing mood and you notice the person next to you is answering in monosyllables, grunts, or not at all, it could be time to keep quiet. However, there is an exception to this rule; if you can talk up the toughest of climbs – when all those around you are gasping for air – then you have earned the right to speak.
  • During arb chit-chat in the start chute, always deny you are fit, strong or probably going to smash your PB. Never admit you’re in good shape – it just encourages resentment towards you.
  • Rivalry is healthy, but don’t trash-talk – unless you can rhyme like Muhammad Ali (and sting like a bee).
  • As with the previous point, rather let your legs do the talking.
  • Congratulate people if they’ve ridden a good race and finished faster than you. The goodwill will come back to you. Remember the rule: humble in victory, magnanimous in defeat.
  • At the finish-line festivities, fight the urge to give anyone who’ll stand still long enough a full post mortem of every pedal stroke. Only your mother cares how well you climbed Helshoogte, and even she’s getting tired of hearing about it.
  • We’ve said it before, but don’t take it too seriously. If you screw up a sprint in the Tour de France, you can bang your handlebars and curse. Not if you just miss out on a sub-five. It’s unsportsmanlike, and you’ll look like an idiot.


  • Water points are high-risk crash sites, and most often the pile-ups happen because someone has pulled over incorrectly. Don’t be that idiot…
  • When you notice a water point up ahead (or see the signs announcing it), start moving to the edge of the road through the bunch. You’ll be surprised how many people decide, half-way past a table, that they want to stop – it’s never a good idea.
  • Indicate (and communicate) where you’re going as you move through the bunch.
  • Stop as far down the table as you can – this makes for an easy exit, and lessens the likelihood of bottlenecks and pile-ups.
  • Be polite and patient with the people filling your waterbottles – they’re volunteers, and doing you a favour.
  • Don’t push in, or bump other people out of the way (the extra minute onto your time isn’t worth ruining five other people’s day for). And if you were really going to ride a sub-three, you wouldn’t be stopping at the water point anyway.

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5 Responses to Race-Day Etiquette: The Unwritten Rules

  1. zamuxolo October 11, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    said it all!

  2. Ernest October 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    You left out offering your water bottle to others around you. Not on as you can hit somebody close to you and very possibly cause an accident. Arm goes straight down and straight up to drink and back.

  3. Colin October 17, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    One left out: when you take a corner, keep your line, no cutting corners. It totally screws up the bunch behind you.

  4. Drikus October 17, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    I enjoy the information and wish many cyclists read this and take it in.Many of these incidents occur on every race.We all suffer and work hard to keep in shape so we share many things in cycling.Good riding.

  5. Lemuhr March 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    Hand signals please.
    Warn the guys behind you of obstacles and dangers in front.
    In a bunch, indicate or announce your intentions to change racing lines, don’t just swerve. There are people next to and behind you.

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