During a group ride, the dynamics and skills of riding and leading from the front are very different from following wheels. In this article, I’m going to review some good practices and bad practices for riding and leading from the front. This advice is targeted at group rides that are intended for pleasure or building base. Race rides play by different rules.

Getting to the Front

Don’t leave one person on the front to do all the work. Moving to the front, or pulling through as cyclists say, gives the rider at the front a chance to recover in the draft behind.

When you go to the front of the group, do so smoothly. When you start your move to the front, GRADUALLY increase your power as you come out of the draft of the rider in front of you. The goal is not to attack but rather to maintain the same speed as the group, while allowing the rider you are replacing to get some rest. If you accelerate too hard, you’ll create a gap between you and the rider behind. Even if the rider behind you accelerates with you, the rider behind them may not accelerate. In either case, this creates surges, and gaps throughout the entire group, as riders speed up to close gaps or touch their brakes to avoid overtaking the rider ahead.

When you come to the front, always glance back to make sure the group is together. If you did create a gap, ease up a little, it happens.

At the Front

EVERYTHING you do affects everyone behind you and the affects multiplies at the back of the group. A slight acceleration at the front may cause riders at the rear to sprint flat out to hold wheels. A small gap between the first and second riders in line becomes a bike length or two further down the line, and the continual accelerating and decelerating, creates a slinky effect in the line. The slinky effect increases when you surge and accelerate or decelerate too quickly. When you are on the front, be smooth and consistent; your goal is to keep the group together, and safe, so that everyone has a good time.

Ride at a power and pace you know is comfortable for you, and the group you are with. If you have a power meter, it is a great way to keep your power in check, and avoid surging. Calibrate your power meter before every ride, preferably after 10-15 minutes of riding.


A small hill or “roller,” may require increasing your power. To support the group dynamic however, avoid massive power surges. For instance, if you are riding at 200w on the flats then smash up a roller at 400w+, then sit up after the roller at 100w, this creates surging and gaps within the group. Riding steady, regardless of the gradient, is a good skill to practice during your base season when you should keep your watts low, to maintain endurance pace.

Power is relative to the rider. As a rule of thumb, if I’m riding steady at 200w on the front, when I hit a roller, I only increase my watts by about 20-40w, maybe a bit more if it is a steep roller. When I go over the top, I don’t ease off the pedals, or sit up because there are riders behind me that will have to hit their brakes when I ease up. Instead, keep the pressure on the pedals, and settle back to 200w.

Stop Signs and Stop Lights

After stopping at a stop sign or stop light, ease back up to speed, don’t sprint from the light, and make sure to look behind you to make sure the group is together before getting back up to speed. This keeps the group together, and avoids chaos and panic in the group, as riders try to chase back on. The quicker the entire group reforms into a cohesive and cooperative team the better, faster, and safer the group will travel.

Longer Climbs and Descents

Ride your pace, I think it is expected that we all ride our pace up climbs as fitness varies when it comes to pushing up a climb. If you’re at the front on these climbs, pick a pullout, driveway or other safe place that will accommodate the entire group. Don’t hit go the instant the last rider arrives either; they may need a moment to recover. If you’re at the back on a climb, be prepared to roll out almost immediately, because the riders who waited politely are likely getting cold, and antsy.


When you’re on the front, or in front of any rider, even in the middle of a group, call out and point out potholes, debris, cars, other cyclists, and anything that might be an obstacle for riders behind you. Ride smooth, think about and be aware of the riders around you, and how your actions might positively, or negatively affect them.

Race Rides

While smooth is usually best, race rides can sometimes play by a different set of rules. Going to the front might involve attacking HARD to create a gap intentionally to hurt the other riders (we don’t do this on a social club ride). Riding in the wheels sometimes requires sprinting hard to close gaps (we avoid making others do this in a social club ride). Racing has a different dynamic that is often looking to thin out the group, as opposed to trying to keep the group together. Remember, most of our club rides are meant to be social, fun, a way to challenge yourself, they aren’t race rides.

I hope you found this article helpful. Remember, smooth is fast, fast is smooth, and everything you do at the front, has a multiplying effect on the riders behind you.

Written by Aaron Terrazas
Edited by Scott McKinney