Our default formation is double file. Riding double file permits conversation with other riders, uses the road space efficiently, and minimizes the overall size of each pack. To share the work, riders change positions in the pack (rotation) so that each rider takes a short turn at the front followed by a longer opportunity to draft behind other riders. We change to single file if traffic and road conditions dictate, provided that doing so does not imperil the safety of the pack.


VCC rides are organized into groups according to expected speeds. These range from the easy-paced 20kph Touring rides, to a fast paced 30+ kph ride. Riders are expected to choose an appropriate group. If your abilities exceed or do not match those of your group you will be asked to join a more suitable group. For details, see the information on Categories page.


* Thanks to the Ottawa Bicycle Club for allowing us to use content from their website!

Groups and Packs
A group is several cyclists who wish to travel at about the same speed. VCC Rides are typically grouped into Touring 2, Touring 1, Classic and Sportif groups. If a group is large, it will be divided into smaller packs of 6 to 12 riders.

Pack Leader
If the group is riding as a single pack, the tour leader also acts as pack leader. If the group is split into two or more packs, then the tour leader will assign a pack leader for each pack. The pack leader is responsible for knowing the route, enforcing group speed, and ensuring that each rider follows VCC touring rules and group riding techniques. The pack leader calls changes in formation from double to single file and vice-versa. If the pace is too fast, inform the pack leader who will reduce the speed. The leader must know how many riders are in the pack to ensure that no one goes missing.

Lead Riders
These are the two riders in front. They are responsible for calling out turns and stops, and warning of bad road conditions. The inside rider (closest to the curb or shoulder), is responsible for maintaining the speed within the pack. The outside rider is responsible for signalling oncoming traffic, and decides when the pack is to rotate.

Pack Riders
The riders behind the leaders and ahead of the rear riders are pack riders. Each is responsible for passing information from the lead riders to the riders behind.

Tail Rider (sweep)
The tail rider is the last rider on the outside. Like all other pack positions, this is a rotating position. Whoever is in the tail rider position is responsible for signalling vehicles approaching from the rear and for initiating left turns and lane changes. The tail rider also ensures that nobody is left behind: if riders are at risk of being dropped, the tail rider passes this information to the pack leader so that the speed can be adjusted.

Rotation is the process of changing the lead riders so that all riders share the work — it’s about 30% harder “pulling” in front than drafting behind another rider. Riders change positions in the pack so that each rider takes only a short turn at the front, followed by a longer opportunity to draft behind other riders.


The leader will announce that the group is starting and moves off slowly. The other riders fall in behind and take up position in double file. When all riders are in formation, the speed is increased.

Ride side-by-side with your wheels level to your neighbour’s. Try not to pull ahead (known as “half-wheeling”). Follow the rider in front, but with a slight offset to provide extra braking distance in an emergency. Do not make sudden changes in speed or direction without warning following riders. Always have your hands close to your brakes so that you can react quickly.

Single File
Traffic and road conditions dictate when to ride single file. If motorists are having difficulty passing the pack because of heavy and continuous traffic in the opposite direction, the pack leader will decide whether to change to single file. The key factor is the width of the roadway or lane. It may be safer to hold up traffic if there is insufficient width for it to pass comfortably. Riding single file may not benefit either cyclists or motorists, because it doubles the length of the pack and could make passing more hazardous because of poor sight distances. Although we try to accommodate motorists, riders’ safety must never be compromised purely for the convenience of motorists. When single file is called, the inside riders put a bike length between them and the bike in front. The outside riders then move in ahead of the rider on the right. As soon as the heavy traffic has passed the pack should revert to double file.


The lead riders should rotate frequently to avoid fatigue. If you are tired, rotate through the front quickly. If you feel comfortable in front then spend a little more time there, but remember your partner! The pack rotates clockwise when the outside lead rider calls “ROTATE”. He or she accelerates slightly to move up and across in front of the inside rider. Inside lead rider calls “CLEAR” when the outside rider is clear to come across to the inside position. Outside riders move up one place and inside riders back one place. The inside rear rider moves over to become the tail rider.

Pace Lining
For advanced VCC members riding in the Diamond category that is approved by the VCC President, Pace Lining is permitted whereby the rotation is the same as rotating the lead in a double formation but at a faster speed, forming a rolling echelon.

The rider rotating to the front of the pace line must maintain the same speed as when drafting and avoid the temptation to accelerate which tends to demand surges in acceleration from followers which in turn is more exhausting and breaks up the pace line formation. The Tail Rider must call “last rider” to prepare the next rider to transition across and keep the formation together. Riders who cannot take a turn at the front must stay off the pace line by moving to the back of the pack and must let the riders around them know that they are not joining the pace line.

In a good pace line formation, all riders maintain steady speed, smooth motion and persistent communication with a heightened awareness of hazards. During this early adoption period, refer to mgcc_groupridemanual-05.      

The lead riders call out hazards such as bumps, gravel, and road kill. Point out the position of the hazard so that following riders know on which side to pass. Following riders repeat this information to the riders behind.

Right Turn
Lead riders call for the turn. The tail rider should signal the turn. Stop if required, then proceed as traffic permits. If it is not necessary to stop, coast through the turn with right pedal up.

Left Turn
Lead riders call for the turn. The tail rider determines when it is safe to take or cross the lane, signals the turn to following traffic, and instructs the rest of the pack to move across the lane. Riders move across the lane from rear to front. This manoeuvre is repeated as necessary for multi-lane roads. Stop if required, then proceed as traffic permits. If it is not necessary to stop, coast through the turn with left pedal up.

Gear down and proceed uphill. Generally we climb at the pace of the two lead riders, who will try to keep the pace steady to maintain formation on smaller hills. If the formation breaks up on longer hills, slower riders should keep to the right unless they come up to a rider whom they want to pass. Always shoulder check for riders coming up behind you before pulling out to the left to pass. Never pass on the right. 

If the formation does break up on a climb, riders should stop at the top of the hill to regroup. Do not leave slower riders behind; if they are slower, they may have difficulty catching up. 

If you need to get out of the saddle to climb, wait for the part of the pedal stroke where you are actively pushing down. This will reduce the “pause effect”. If you stand while not actively applying power to at least 1 of the pedals, the rider behind you may crash into your back wheel.

The lead riders must continue to pedal, so that the drafting pack riders are not forced to brake on the downhill. Pack riders follow the lead riders but gently increase the distance from the rider in front to allow more reaction time in case of emergency. If your speed picks up too much, do not pull out of formation or pass other riders – just gradually decrease your speed.

Following vehicles and oncoming vehicles
The tail rider indicates when a vehicle is overtaking or slowing down to follow the pack (call out “CAR PASSING” or “CAR BACK”). If there is also an approaching vehicle, the lead rider calls out “CAR UP”. Please refrain from waving other vehicles past the group — it is the responsibility of the driver to pass safely and you risk assuming some liability should an accident result.

Separation Between Packs
To assist motorists to pass safely, we must ensure that there is enough distance between packs to allow a motor vehicle to pass and return to the lane. This both optimizes the safety of the pack and acknowledges the rights of other road users. To avoid the formation of a large unmanageable group, two packs should not join up.

When approaching a single rider or slower group from the rear, check that the way is clear, call out “PASSING”, and then pass, allowing plenty of room. Do not cut in front of the riders you have passed. If there is oncoming traffic and the lane is not wide enough for both packs side by side, the pack leader should either wait until it is clear or change to single file and then pass. If there is following traffic, the tail rider should indicate that the group is going to cross the centre line (left turn signal), and signal the following vehicle to wait. The leader of the front pack should assist the pack behind to pass, if necessary by slowing the pace a little.

Lead rider or group rider calls “SLOWING”. Stop pedalling and prepare to brake. Riders slow down in order from rear to front to avoid catching the rider ahead.

Lead riders will call “STOPPING”. Gear down, stop pedalling, and brake gently. Avoid sudden braking. Move completely off the road when stopping to check directions, chat, fix a flat, etc.

Riding Smoothly and Avoiding Erratic Movements
All changes of speed and direction should be smooth and gradual. Avoid any sudden movements to left or right (switching) which is dangerous in a group and can lead to crashes and serious injury. Do not remove things from pockets, eat, drink, take off clothing, startle another rider, suddenly break ranks or do anything else that may result in an erratic movement when riding in a group. If the speed is fast you must be especially vigilant. Your hands must be on the bars at all times. To eat, etc., wait until it is your turn to be at the back of the group. 

When starting up from a stop, or continuing after slowing to cross rough railway tracks or make a turn, lead riders should be aware that the pack will be stretched in these situations, and that they should accelerate slowly back to cruising speed to allow the trailing riders to catch up to the pack without having to sprint. 

Typically, your cadence should be between 80 and 100 rpm for flat riding. On hills this may reduce to 60 rpm or lower. The higher the cadence, the smoother a rider you will be, better able to adapt to changes of speed and other manoeuvres. 

Avoid sudden braking at all costs. Be aware that the front brake has a very abrupt stopping action whereas the back brake is less abrupt.

* Thanks to the Ottawa Bicycle Club for allowing us to use content from their website!