When cycling in a group, you would like to be as close as possible at the wheel in front of you to have as much wind advantage as possible. That’s logical. But with enough distance that you do not accidentally hit one another. So, what is the proper distance? That depends on your own steering art, but also from that of the others. When riding with strangers in a group, you should always take a little extra space to avoid surprises. The larger the group, the greater the ‘accordion’-effect. Because of reaction times, the further down in a group, the later people will brake, and consequently the harder they will brake. It’s the same as with cars on the highway. To accommodate for that ‘accordion’-effect, you better keep some distance. At higher speed should you take more distance, because you in the same time you cover more distance. That’s why you see in mountain stages that the distance between riders can become quite large in the descents.
Rolling courses are quite sneaky. If you ride there close to each other’s wheel and the road goes down a little, you sometimes don’t notice that the speed goes up properly. You tend to keep the same distance whereas you rather be a bit further apart. If you hit each other’s wheel while riding, the one in the rear will get screwed. His or her front wheel is forced to go the other way, and he or she flies over the handle bars. The front rider has very few problems because the rear end of a bicycle is quite stiff. In fact, he or she may hardly notice.
tap against rear wheel
When in a group ride, you not only need to take care of the safety of yourself but also of those who ride behind you. That’s why you never make brisk moves, or speed changes. And you give each other a lot of signals if you would like to change direction or speed.