8 Things Cyclists Should Never Do

by Kevin Gray
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8 Things Cyclists Should Never Do

You’ve got a bike, a new kit and a few hours to spare. It’s time to get out there and go for a ride. But before you do, let’s brush up on some unspoken rules of the road. After all, good etiquette separates cyclists from … less courteous cyclists.

Below are eight things riders should refrain from doing.


That rider in front of you might look like a convenient human shield, placed there by the cycling gods to block the wind. But think twice before sitting on a stranger’s back wheel. For starters, it’s rude … and a little creepy. The average rider also might not feel comfortable with you being so close to their bike, so it’s best to leave some breathing room.


At best, it’s unnerving when one rider speeds unannounced past another on a narrow path. At worst, it can lead to a crash. If the front rider’s not keeping a straight line, or moves left to avoid a road hazard, the passing rider risks hitting them and sending both cyclists tumbling to the ground. So don’t be stingy with those calls of “on your left.”


This term refers to maintaining a half-wheel lead on your adjacent riding partner, causing the other person to constantly speed up. It’s annoying, and can be avoided by keeping a steady pace. Speaking of annoying …


Yes, like “half wheeling.” But consider the following phrase: “I smashed the climb, but then the pelo put the hammer down and dropped me. I chased for awhile before I bonked. Man, I was creepin’ out there toward the end.”

Translation: I climbed that hill well, but then the group sped up. I tried to catch them, but couldn’t keep up and eventually ran out of energy. Man, I was going slow toward the end.

Next time you’re relaying your weekend ride to non-cycling pals, stick with the latter.


If you’re riding with a friend, by all means, talk as much as you like. But if you pull up on a stranger, don’t chew their ear off. For many, getting outside for a few hours on the bike is one of life’s true pleasures — an opportunity to reflect, relax and enjoy some peace and quiet. A simple “good morning” will suffice before you move on.


Before you come to a stop, you want to shift into an easy gear so you can start back up again quickly. Forget, and you’ll have trouble. In solo riding, it only impacts the rider — so it’s not a big deal. But in group rides, it impacts everyone behind the culprit. As you struggle to stay upright and get moving, your companions must slow down, unclip or possibly stop. Again.



Texting while driving is a terrible idea. Texting while biking is also dangerous. Too often, we see riders consulting their phones, which means at least one hand’s off the bars, and their eyes aren’t concentrating on the road ahead. Attach a good computer to your bike, and you’ll have the time and your cycling stats available at a glance. The selfies can wait.


Next to running red lights and not wearing a helmet, sporting headphones is just about the most dangerous thing you can do on a bike. But we get it — rides can be long, and a little music helps to pass the time. So if you want to listen to music while you ride, use just one headphone, and keep your left ear free to listen for cars and passing riders.


  • James McKenzie

    If there is any question what to say when passing use “Passing”. Reserve “On Your Left” for races and other events. NEVER use it for pedestrians! They WILL move left, right in front of you.

    • I start with ringing a bell (sometimes repeatedly), slow down if they haven’t responded in any way and have ear-buds in, and stick with “On your left” as something to call out loudly as I get close enough that I can be fairly certain they’ll hear me even over their music.

      • Bert’s Bells

        “Head’s up!!!!” is my to go to holler.

        • DanaSpencer

          Have you tried, “Get your head out of your ass!”?

          • Bert’s Bells

            Yes. Too wordy.

          • DanaSpencer


      • James McKenzie

        See my comment above. I’ve had walkers and bicyclists move directly into my path using that phrase. One word comments get their attention better.

        • chicagofan76

          They move left, they get run over. Not my fault.

    • William Bennett

      And then there’s the problem of the pedestrian walking in the designated bike lane straight toward you with their eyes superglued to their smartphone. Had one yesterday in a bike-reserved lane at MIT who didn’t respond to dinging bell or anything. I finally just stopped my bike and waited for him to walk straight into me. Could have veered around him I guess but I thought this might be more educational for him.

      • DanaSpencer

        Not getting enough education at MIT?

        • William Bennett

          He probably missed the module on “How to avoid getting creamed by a bike rider when you’re walking in the bike lane staring into yer damned cell phone” because he was staring into his damned cell phone.

      • chicagofan76

        Had i been the pedestrian i would have beat your ass. Dont be that guy.

        • Donald Gibson

          So, what you’re saying is that as a pedestrian walking in a bike lane while you have your head down looking at your phone, if you walk into a stationary cyclist, you would assault them? Mmmm …. ….

  • CoraJudd

    #2! Failing to call out is so dangerous.

  • Rich

    In Vermont, anyway: ride two, three, or more wide along our rural roads. It’s amazing to see these rich, 30-something, jersey-jockeys, in blue-toothed earbuds, oblivious to the hazards they create by riding the twisties and the hills as if there is no one behind them, and certainly, no chance of an oncoming missile around the next line of sight. It’s really incredible that the families out for an afternoon ride have young children who are more aware of, or more willing to follow, the rules of the road.

  • Al Centner, Az

    I understand drafting. On a casual ride talk to the people you join. But in a organized race or timed ride what is the etiquette? Every time you change positions or pick up another rider, or draft for a few seconds to catch your breath, do the same manners apply in competition?

  • chicagofan76

    I used to do #8 all the time. Now my phone is loud enough that I just like to annoy anyone riding near me with some Weird Al on level 10 or some Pac. I’ll turn it down near kids

  • NW

    Number 9, if you get overtaken dont bust a gut to pas the other rider and keep doing it un til you blow up !

  • Robert Harris

    “On your left” in 2 and keeping your left ear to listen for cars in 8 should be “on your right” or right ear in strange countries that drive on the left (e.g. the UK and Ireland).