We usually ride together using a “Cornerman” system, so we can help each other out if there is a problem, and to help prevent riders from getting lost or too spread out.
As well as these practical benefits, riding together seems to be a better way of sharing the experience and making friends than just following a pink line on a GPS by yourself and meeting up at the next town.
The system uses a Ride Leader, a Sweep and Cornermen.
The Rider Leader is in charge.
Before starting out on a ride, the Ride Leader should discuss the Ride Leader, Sweep and Cornerman arrangements with the ride group.
Never overtake the Ride Leader, because the Ride Leader may need to regroup, turn back for a problem or make a turn somewhere you rode past – in which case you will be abandoned. If you’ve been taking some riding risks to be out in front, you probably shouldn’t risk being abandoned.
The Sweep rides at the back of the group and is second in charge. The Sweep helps to keep the group together and helps in the event of a problem.
The Sweep is at risk because he has nobody behind him. Some Sweeps get a mate to ride with them and some ride alone. If the Sweep is riding alone and you’re right in front of him, keep a regular eye out for him in your mirrors.
Before starting out, the Rider Leader or the Sweep should let the group know whether the Sweep will be riding alone or with a mate, and point out his helmet and jacket colours and anything distinctive such as the shape of his bike’s headlights.
We use two Cornerman systems – Fixed Cornerman and Rolling Cornerman. The Ride Leader needs to tell the group which system will be used. They can’t be blended.
Which system is better? Fixed Cornerman is more reliable, especially with new riders, but riders often say Rolling Cornerman feels more fluid.
When the Ride Leader comes to an intersection and wants to mark the direction to follow, he will tell the rider behind him to wait on the corner, usually by hand signals. If you’re that rider, now a Fixed Cornerman, you should park your bike facing the correct direction, where the following riders can see it. That way, you’re free to go for a walk behind a tree if desired.
All of the following riders except the Sweep will ride past you, and they will eventually become Cornermen.
As a Fixed Cornerman, you must stay in place until all of the following riders have gone past, the Sweep has arrived and you are sure that the Sweep has released you – perhaps by giving you a wave or flashing his lights. Once you get going, keep a regular eye out for the Sweep in your mirrors.
It’s tempting to leave your place if you’ve been waiting for a long time, thinking you should catch up or go back. But if you have been waiting for a long time, it’s likely there has been a problem of some sort behind you. The last thing the group needs in that situation is to lose the path you as a Cornerman have been marking towards the Ride Leader and riders ahead.
Take your place and stay in place.
The Rolling Cornerman system is the same as Fixed Cornerman in terms of marking the direction that the Ride Leader wants marked, where to park and point your bike, and the need to take your place and stay there, no matter how long it takes.
The difference is that, as a Fixed Cornerman, you stay in place until the Sweep comes along but, as a Rolling Cornerman, you stay in place until the next rider comes along and takes your place.
As a Rolling Cornerman, wait in place until you are certain that the next rider has seen you and will take your place – perhaps by giving you a wave or flashing his lights.
And while you’re still in a low gear, check in your mirrors that the replacement Rolling Cornerman has indeed taken your place. It’s important that you do this, because this is the main point of failure of this system.
If you come to an intersection that you think should have had a Cornerman placed on it (or perhaps the Cornerman has abandoned it) and you aren’t sure which way to turn, wait for the following riders. Chances are, another rider knows the way. If not, wait for the Ride Leader to return. Stick together.
For a safe and enjoyable ride, you should travel at your own speed.
But both Cornerman systems can mix up faster and slower riders, so overtaking is inevitable if riders are to travel at their own speed. We have no problem with overtaking.
Be aware of your mirrors and if you think you are holding riders up, let them overtake. It’s a good idea to wave them through.
Overtake safely and courteously. And overtake only if you’re confident that you can quickly create a good gap, especially when it’s dusty.