Safety and rider tips

We take the safety and enjoyment of all of our members very seriously. We have one main rule in the Old Portlians, and it is a strict rule:

Safety, etiquette, instructions, guidance and advice

NB: There is a lot of advice on riding technique and skills for both new and experienced riders on the British Cycling website.

Fitness to Ride

If you have ANY doubts about your health or suitability for exertion, see your GP. If you feel unwell on a ride, stop and tell others around you. If you are taking essential medication, let other riders know and/or use wrist or neck tags. If you have any allergies, please let us know. Use a heart rate monitor and study your data from time to time.


You are strongly advised to have insurance to protect yourself and third parties in the event of an accident. The best way to obtain this is to join British Cycling which includes insurance cover in its membership fee. (


Club rules require the wearing of a helmet. This is also sensible; if you fall off or are knocked off your bike you are likely to impact your head and a helmet could just be the difference between life and death. If you have a crash and the helmet takes any impact (even if you can’t see any damage) it is sensible to replace it. 

Hand signals

Point out potholes, tree branches, piles of manure or other hazards to riders behind you by pointing down and to the left or right. Pointing down and waggling your fingers is used to indicate gravel or other slippery surfaces. Warn riders of a car coming towards you by shouting ‘car front.’ For a car coming up behind shout ‘car back.’

When you hear the warning ‘car back’ move to the left if it is safe to do so, in order to give the car room to pass; don’t obstruct their passing unnecessarily.  

Putting your left arm behind you and pointing to the right indicates a parked car, pedestrian or other hazard on the left, likewise with your right hand.

Highway code

Club riders are expected to follow the Highway Code – do not ride through red lights or on the pavement; wait at pedestrian crossings; use hand signals when turning, etc. Overtaking on the inside (left) particularly when cars or trucks are turning left is highly dangerous and is a factor in many fatalities; either wait or overtake on the outside (right).

Riding 2 abreast is acceptable if the road is wide enough; riding 3 abreast should be avoided. If riding 2 abreast and a car or other road user comes towards you, the rider on the outside should drop back and the rider on the inside should go ahead. If the road narrows or there are cars, ride in single file. If riding in a group, riders should leave gaps between small groups of riders so that passing cars are able to leap-frog.

Avoid ‘wheel overlap’ – where your front wheel overlaps with the rear wheel of the rider in front. Any slight movement – avoiding a pot-hole or tree branch, a gust of wind, etc - from either of you is likely to bring you both crashing down.

Club runs

When on a club run, remember that you are a representative of the club. Follow the Highway Code and all the other guidance here and do not swear at or abuse other road users, even if you feel aggrieved. 

Club members will wait at the top of hills or at junctions for new or slower riders to catch up. Don’t worry if this happens to you – we have all been there. If you are getting left behind – don’t worry, keep going, you will catch the group.

Emergency contact/ID

You should ensure that you are wearing (eg a wrist band) or carrying something that clearly shows your name and the contact details of your next of kin in an emergency as well as any medical alerts or allergies. Accidents do happen, and fellow riders need to know who to contact if something happens to you. You can get an app for a smart-phone which shows your contact details on the home screen.


Punctures happen.

Always carry a spare inner tube, tyre levers and a pump. Fellow club members will always assist you if you need help (with copious advice if help is not needed!) but you are expected to carry your own spares and tools. Co2 pumps are effective but will generally only pump 1 tyre; if you have 2 punctures you’ll still benefit from carrying a pump.

Horse riders

There are many horse riders on the roads followed by club runs. They should be passed wide and slow. When coming up behind shout out to indicate your presence to the horse and rider; horses can be startled by a cyclist.  


Mechanical breakdowns can happen unexpectedly, and fellow riders will lend assistance; however, you should check your bike before setting out on a ride. If your gears, brakes, bottom bracket, cranks or other key component is not working properly it will not repair itself while you ride – get it fixed beforehand.

Tea stop

It is good form to buy tea at the tea-stop. These are invariably small businesses which rely on their takings for survival. Patronage from a local cycling club is important to them and we aim to visit good cafes which offer a friendly welcome to cyclists – it is only fair that we spend a bit of money.

Saying hello

Club members are encouraged to say hello, wave or nod at other cyclists. It will normally be reciprocated.

Thank other road users (trucks, buses, cars, motor-cyclists, horse riders, workmen or women, pedestrians, etc) who do nice things eg who wait for you, let you out at a junction or hold up the traffic for you, etc, with a wave, a smile, a thank-you, a nod, or a thumbs-up – what goes around comes around and it all helps the greater community of cyclists.

Club kit

It is not compulsory for club riders to wear club kit but it is encouraged and the famous Old Ports red train has been an impressive sight on the roads of Kent and surrounds for nearly 100 years. However, if taking part in a club event eg a sportive, club members are expected to wear club kit. When wearing club kit you are an ambassador of the club and any negative actions or behaviour towards other road users will reflect badly on the club and other club members.


Unlike some clubs, the Old Portlians do not insist that riders fit mudguards. However, it makes sense to fit them in the winter months; they will protect you from the worst of the spray thrown up by your tyres – there are few things more uncomfortable than cycling while wet and cold – but they will also protect your fellow riders. An ‘ass saver’ – a piece of plastic wedged into your saddle – might protect your ass but won’t do anything to protect your fellow club members’ asses.

Group riding etiquette 

  • Follow the Ride Leader’s instructions
  • Hold the wheel of the rider in front – do not veer off your line
  • Warn other riders of hazards
  • Do not race off the front
  • Take your turn at the front of the group and do some work – you are not a protected rider! When riding at the front, look round regularly to check that the group is with you.
  • Do not ‘half-wheel’ – riding beside someone and constantly pushing the pace by half a wheel; ride together
  • If slowing down, shout ‘slowing’ to warn riders behind you.
  • If stopping, shout ‘stopping’ to warn riders behind you
  • However, aim to anticipate the road conditions as much as possible so as to avoid sudden stops
  • Overtaking other riders when descending is acceptable if the road is clear and it can be done safely; however, shout a warning to riders in front so they are aware of what you are doing
  • Riders should ride at their own pace up a hill and re-group at the top
  • Above all – enjoy yourself, help others and stay safe! 

Risk Assessment

Cycling is a wonderful sport but of course there are risks, even without traffic. Our rules are designed to minimise that risk and we constantly review our safety advice.

Old Portlians CC members are strongly advised to have 3rd Party insurance with either British Cycling or Cycling UK.

BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME – fitness to ride and equipment:

Risk 1: Fitness to ride. Risk HIGH. If you have ANY doubts about your health or suitability for exertion, see your GP. If you feel unwell on a ride, stop and tell others around you. If you are taking essential medication, let other riders know and/or use wrist or neck tags. Use a heart rate monitor and study your data regularly.

Risk 2: Visibility. Risk HIGH. Being hit by a car could be catastrophic. Do not wear black or dark clothing on a road ride. Even on a sunny day, in shadows, you are invisible. It is advisable to use flashing lights in all conditions.

Risk 3: Head injuries. Risk HIGH. Cycling crash helmets are compulsory on all OPCC rides. Make sure you fit your crash helmet correctly. If it gets damaged, replace it.

Risk 4: Safe bike. Risk HIGH. Check your bike thoroughly and frequently. Check the brake pads and rims. If your bike is dropped or crashed, check it carefully or have it inspected by an expert. Sometimes slow punctures appear overnight, check your tyre pressures before you ride. Tri bars may be fitted but not to be used during group riding.

Risk 5: Clothing essentials: Risk MED. Gloves or mitts matter, the slowest tumble onto gravel can cause injury. Eye protection is essential; an insect or grit in your eye could cause a crash. Carry a rain jacket, not black, even if rain isn't forecast; if you’re stranded, you’ll be warmer with a rain jacket. If in doubt, wear too much, you can always take it off.

Risk 6: Punctures and mechanical problems. Risk LOW. Carry spare inner tubes, tyre levers, a pump or inflator. Practice changing a tube at home. Carry a multi-tool with chain fixer and learn how it works.

Risk 7: Insufficient food and drink. Risk LOW. Eat well before you ride. Always carry a drink and snack. Also carry some cash and a credit card.

Risk 8: Not knowing First Aid. Risk MED. Not knowing the essentials of First Aid affects the group around you. Attend courses when you can. Study the NHS First Aid pages online. Know how to administer CPR.

Risk 9: Emergency contact. Risk LOW. It is possible to get lost on a ride or have a mechanical problem so don’t forget your phone. Ensure you have the ride leader’s number and he/she has yours. Ensure you have an ‘ICE’ number (In Case of Emergency) on your phone.

Risk 10: Adverse weather. Risk MED. Check the weather before you leave home and dress accordingly. In winter, expect worse roads, fit tougher tyres and mudguards. If it’s icy, stick to main roads that have been salted or better, don’t ride, go to the gym or ride on Zwift!


Risk 11: Group discipline. Risk MED. Ride Leaders following and promoting the club Safety Policies are to be appointed before a ride to choose a suitable route and maintain group discipline. Ride Leaders are required to speak up immediately on any safety issues before eg unsuitable clothing, poorly maintained bike etc and on the ride, eg failure to ‘single up’ when required or abusing motorists in any way.

Risk 12: Traffic. Risk HIGH. On hearing traffic from behind, riders at the back of the group call 'CAR BACK’ which is the signal for the group to move promptly into single file to help cars pass. Be sure all cars have passed before resuming ‘two abreast’ and never ride more than two abreast. Beware electric cars, which are almost silent. On busy roads, always ride in single file. On narrow roads, the rider at the front of a group, on seeing a car shouts ‘CAR FRONT’.

Risk 13: Disputes with drivers. Risk MED. Most car drivers are considerate, avoid arguments with the few who aren’t. Do not shout or make rude gestures. Take care if passing traffic on the inside. Be polite, good relationships with motorists matter. Know the Highway Code but don’t quote it at motorists. Fitting a rear facing camera can help in disputes.

Risk 14: Busy roads. Risk MED. Our Ride Leaders endeavour to find quiet routes, with mostly left turns. But they cannot know it all; if you know an area better, please speak up.

Risk 15: Staying in a group. Risk LOW. Car drivers treat groups with more respect than solo riders, so stay with your group. If you are having difficulty keeping up with the group, let people know. If someone is falling behind, help them by going back but tell others first. The ride leader cannot be everywhere.

Risk 16: Junctions. Risk HIGH. Be very careful at junctions, look and look again. Be patient with traffic. Only call out ‘CLEAR’ for others if you are absolutely sure all traffic has passed BUT if you hear ‘CLEAR’ from someone else, double check again, in all directions! When you are slowing or stopping, shout what you are doing for others behind you.

Risk 17: Not hearing traffic. Risk HIGH. Never ride with headphones.

Risk 18: No sudden moves! Risk MED. Think before you brake, is there anyone right behind you? Think before you turn, use clear signals, look back, in both directions. And don’t stop just after turning; what if a car comes flying around that corner?

Risk 19: Group size. Risk LOW. The ride leader will determine the group size. Less than ten is preferred, larger groups should leave a gap to assist overtaking traffic.


Risk 20: Collisions with other riders. Risk MED. Don’t overlap your front wheel with the rear wheel of the bike in front. If you cannot see ahead, keep a gap in case the rider in front suddenly brakes. Be careful uphill: if the rider in front gets out of the saddle, they will slow momentarily and you could clip their wheel.

Risk 21: Bad road surface. Risk MED. Point out potholes to the rider behind you and/or shout ‘HOLE’ loud and clear. Shout if you see gravel, oil or bad surfaces. Wet roads can be slippery and when turning on a suspect surface, try to keep your bike upright. Use 'compact hand signals'.

Risk 22: Horses. Risk MED. Alert horse riders by calling ‘BIKE’ as you approach. Horses and their riders are easily panicked by bikes suddenly appearing, unless they have some warning.

Risk 23: Passing obstructions. Risk MED. Use hand signals and/or shout that you are moving to avoid obstructions, runners and pedestrians.

Risk 24: Choose a safe place to stop. Risk MED. Don’t stop ‘just around the corner’ or just over the brow of a hill, get right off the road, leave motorists clear sight lines.


Risk 25: Going fast downhill. Risk HIGH. Crashing at speed will result in injuries. Don’t race or chase other riders downhill. Look well ahead, particularly at the road surface. You have more control if ‘down on the drops’ of your handlebars, not ‘on the tops’.

Risk 26: Cornering. Risk MED. Learn to corner safely. Don't take chances cornering, drop your speed before the corner, not during the corner. Watch out for gravel, oil, leaves or ice and warn others. If you've entered a corner too fast, try shifting your body weight and keep the bike more upright, just keep it smooth.


Risk 27: Don’t make things worse! Risk HIGH. 1) At any accident think first about oncoming traffic! Appoint people to warn traffic. 2) DO NOT move the faller, unless absolutely necessary, reassure and give them time to overcome the shock. 3) Administer first aid, injuries always seem worse at this point. 4) Use bandages/patches, there is less trauma for the rider if they don’t look at their injuries. 5) If in any doubt, call an ambulance. 6) If vehicles are involved, take the registration numbers and call the police. 7) INSIST on a breath test and an eyesight test. (you’d be amazed at the number of drivers who forget their glasses/contact lenses). 8) INSIST that the driver's phone is checked IMMEDIATELY for recent calls and texts. 9) Take photos of the crash scene.

Risk 28: Being so worried about risks that you don’t cycle. Risk LOW. NOT cycling can cause a very unappealing body shape, furred up arteries, bad skin and a lack of energy for life generally. Fit people are better looking and achieve more in life and at work!

We are affiliated to British Cycling and endeavour to conform to British Cycling Best Practice Guidelines. We also endeavour to apply the British Cycling Equality Policy and Code of Conduct.

You must follow all rules, instructions and guidance!