Bunch Riding – Standard Calls You Need To Know (And Use!!)

Bunch Riding – Standard Calls You Need To Know (And Use!!)


The ability to quickly and efficiently communicate road hazards to other riders is a necessary and responsible habit to learn. Hand signals and vocal calls are the two best methods with which to pass information to your cycling companions. While many cyclists unfamiliar with pack riding tend to rely solely on vocal calls and shouting of non-standard warnings, the responsible cyclist will use both hand signals and vocal signals in conjunction with each other.

All cyclists in the bunch must repeat the calls in order to pass communications up and down the line – treat this as an imperative!


Hand signal and Vocal Signal Combinations

Many hand signals have slight variations but there are some basic signals that every cyclist should familiarize himself or herself with. Learning and using these hand signals can greatly enhance safety in a group of cyclists. Use these hand signals to point out objects in the group’s path of travel as well as to inform the other riders of your intentions.

Hand Signal #1     Stop (Verbal Command – “STOPPING”)


Stop – A clear indication to all riders that you have stopped pedaling and intend to bring your bicycle to a complete stop very soon. Never make an immediate stop, even after signaling, unless an emergency situation warrants it.

Hand Signal #2     Slow Down (Verbal Command – “SLOWING” or “EASY”)


Slowing – Extended hand moving up and down as if pushing towards the ground. Announce that you are “Slowing!” as you roll up to a traffic light or stop sign. This gives the other riders plenty of time to prepare for your next call of “Stopping!”
Easy – The same hand signal can be used with the vocal call Easy as a warning for everyone to slow down – it could be a Give Way, a road junction with car coming, a vehicle in front slowing down or just the ride leader giving stragglers or those left behind at a junction the chance to re-join the pack etc.

Hand Signal #3    Turning – Left / Right (No Verbal Command)


This signal makes clear your intentions to turn left or right.

Hand Signal #4    Moving Out / Moving in (Verbal Command (Optional) – “OUT” / “IN”)


Move to avoid object – Pistol shaped two finger point in the direction to move to This signal tells the riders behind you that they will need to move in the direction you are pointing because there is an object, either stationary or moving, that the group is approaching such as a parked car, bus or pedestrians along the side of the road.

Hand Signal #5    Hazard (Verbal Command (Optional) – “GLASS” or “LOOSE”)


Specific Hazard – This signal is used to identify a hazard on the actual road or trail surface that the group is riding on. Potholes, drainage grates, and manhole covers are great examples of when to use this signal. Also a large piece of broken glass or a bottle. Make sure that you point at the hazard, as it appears ahead, allowing sufficient time for it to be avoided.

General or Scattered Hazard eg sand, or gravel – This signal alerts all riders that the group is approaching a scattered hazard that could cause traction problems. Rather than simply pointing at the hazard, like in the previous hand signal, you should make a waving action with the open palm of your hand facing the ground.

Hand Signal #6    Take the Lead (Verbal Command – “COME UP”)


Come Up in Front or “Pull through” – Point your elbow out towards the side that you would like to have riders come forward. This signal tells the riders behind you that you are asking them to pass you on the side that you’ve indicated and to subsequently take up the lead position in front of you.

Hand Signal #7    Single File (Verbal Command – “SINGLE FILE”)


Single File – The ride leader may call this whenever there is a need to tighten up the bunch and keep as far to the left as possible such as when passing another bunch of riders, or on a narrow piece of road.


Vocal calls are essential, in addition to hand signals, to communicate in a pack of riders. Ambient noise from traffic or other sources may present problems with vocal calls along your route so stay aware of your conditions and use necessary precautions to ensure the safety of all riders. Here are a few of the basic vocal calls that you should become familiar with if you intend to ride in a group. If you are new to a group, pay attention to the calls they use and adapt accordingly.

Clear – When an intersection is safe to cross you can call out “Clear!” NEVER call out “No!” – call “WAIT” as ‘No’ can easily be confused with the word “Go!”. CAUTION NOTE: A shout of ‘clear’ is never ever a justification for not checking and simply pulling out. It is every rider’s responsibility to ensure the road ahead is clear for them. These shouts are for assistance and smooth flow NOT guidance as to what you should or shouldn’t do. Cars can come round corners quickly and clear one minute might be busy when you reach the junction.

Slowing or Stopping – Yell “Stopping!” if you are going to be stopping your bicycle quickly. It is best to give the riders behind you an ample amount of warning before you stop.

Coming Through – You might like to call out as a vehicle begins its move past the bunch just to let the riders ahead know that the driver has made the decision to pass and riders must hold their line and expect it to pass in the next few seconds. NEVER call out “Car!” as this can be confused with the word “Clear!”

Car Back – Those riders at the back of the group shout this when there is a vehicle behind the group and it is attempting to pass.

Car Up – This is shouted by those riders at the head of the group when there is a vehicle in front of the group and the group intends to pass the vehicle because the vehicle is either slowing down or has indicated that it will turn out of the path of the cycling group. It can also be used as a cautionary warning that a car has drawn up to an intersection on the left and could be about to turn into the path of the bunch – especially useful call at roundabouts when the group is uncertain of a car driver’s intentions / patience. Once again, NEVER simply call out “Car!” as this can be confused with “Clear!”

Car Down – indicates to a group that a car is approaching in the opposite direction and riders (particularly on narrow roads) may need to keep tight on their side of the road.

Rolling – This vocal call is reserved for those riders who are comfortable enough to assess the ‘freshness’ of a yellow light. No group should ever bully their way through an intersection simply because the tail riders are unwilling to safely stop when the traffic light finally turned red. A vocal call of “Rolling!” is used to alert the riders behind you that you will be rolling through a yellow light because you’ve deemed it to be safe. Likewise, this call alerts those riders behind you that they need to make their own decision of whether to announce that they will also be “Rolling!” through or “Slowing!” and “Stopping!”. The key here is overall safety; reminding each rider to make responsible and safe decisions for themselves first while simultaneously keeping the rest of the group informed of the actions you intend to take.

Puncture and Mechanical are two other obvious but extremely important shouts, either to warn riders behind you that you are likely to slow or to warn riders in front that you are going off the back with a problem.