A rule for group rides carved in stone

30 October 2023
Many cycling clubs ban from group rides people who ride:

• time-trial or triathlon bikes, or bikes with attached aerobars,
• flat-bar or other bikes with wide handlebars,
• fixed-gear bikes without at least a front brake;
• bikes with potential or actual significant malfunctions,
• without working front and back lights (in the dark, dusk or dawn),
• without a helmet (whether mandatory or not, by the law).

At DBB, we are trying to be more inclusive, and — provided you are subjectively a good bike handler — won’t ask you to leave in those cases. However, there is a rule — which is formulated below, after an explanation of why it is in place.
First, you just don’t come to funerals wearing red sweatpants. If you are Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, or Elizabeth Holmes, you may have your own notorious reason for always wearing a grey t-shirt or black turtlenecks, even in a boardroom — but still there are situations where you dress more appropriately. If one ignores the social rules, he or she better be able to afford it.
More importantly, every above bullet point has safety concerns behind it.

Drop-bar bikes, by design, have narrow handlebars that allow cyclists to ride close to each other — two abreast or when passing over. Moreover, in case of a bunch crash the pointy bar ends are not sticking out sideways or to the front — hence, the risk of piercing another human being with those is greatly reduced. Which is not the case with mtb or tt bikes.

(Same also goes for selfie sticks mounted onto the bike — they are not safety-approved for group rides.)
Next, while the danger to the others of riding without effectively functioning brakes — or lights in limited-visibility conditions — is obvious, not wearing a helmet also requires explanation.

When you ride alone (and provided a helmet is not mandatory by the law — such as where we live) your safety is your choice. However, if anything happens to a group member, well, that could become a problem for the others. Starting from medical help to an unconscious person, all the way to possible legal responsibility resulting from a crash with a head injury. No one wants anything of that.
I’ve been riding in all sorts of groups for years, and to date never happened to be in a serious crash involving another cyclist. However, better be safe than sorry — so here’s the DBB club rule:
Rule No. 1: If one crashes while riding an improper bike or without a properly fitting helmet, we will presume his or her sole responsibility — for both potential injuries and material damage — even if the crash was accidentally caused by another group member.
Btw, this is the helmet of one of our club members who was in a crash with a couple of others. The incident was serious enough to cause a broken collarbone, but her head was okay — no visible injuries and no concussion diagnosed.

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to ride in a group — if you are careful and work on your bike handling skills, the risks are not graver than with any other physical activity. Especially those where helmets are standard equipment :)