RTL race etiquette

Ok, here’s yet another Ride the Lobster thread.

There have been relatively few road races in unicycling…and as such, there really are very few rules for bunch riding. I thought I’d see what people thought about this.

-Would you attack someone during a transition? Personally, I don’t have a problem with this. It’s part reason why you want to get it done as efficiently as possible.
-Likewise would you accelerate when someone is shifting? Again, I don’t have a problem with this, and is one of the reasons why Geared Unicycles will be disadvantaged on rolling terrain.
-Passing. I think if you were to pass someone, you need to give prior warning. Shouting “on your left/right” before passing is kinda useful.
-Crashes. Obviously after checking that someone is Ok, would you wait for them or continue on? I believe that if crashes are the result of no fault of the rider, it’s only courtesy that you slow down for them. If on the other hand someone is riding so hard that they crash as a result, then that’s not worthy of a bunch slowing down to wait for them.
-Drafting. Nothing worse than someone that sits behind you and let’s you do all the work.

  • Support vehicles. Recently a couple of friends of mine were in a bunch during a bicycle road race. A support vehicle passed the riders just as one of them went down, after clipping my friends wheel, and was killed as a result. They were both doctors but there was nothing that could be done to save him. I firmly believe that support vehicles need to keep certain distance and there should be a limited number of transitions. We don’t want people doing transitions every 1km. That would be silly and dangerous.

Any other things you’d like to add?

Great thread to start Ken, and good points to start the discussion. I think I’d swap them around though, and be a bit more prescriptive.

To your first two points, what a rider on another team is doing is their business. Each team’s business is to minimize their total elapsed time, so another team’s transitions or shiftings aren’t relevant.

That said, what is relevant is safety and basic human decency. If you see someone go down, you ask if they’re okay. If the answer is clearly yes, keep moving. If it’s a grunt or no or no-answer, stop and be sure they’re okay, render assistance if needed, and screw your time loss. If you caused someone else to fall, stop regardless of whether they say they’re okay. Help them re-mount. Buy them a beer after the day is done.

Another team’s flat tires or broken seatposts are their problems; keep moving.

Passing: yes, it’s proper courtesy to say “on your left” so they know you’re there. But here’s the flip side:

Don’t pass on the right unless it’s a huge open road and there’s lots of space and you give clear verbal warning. But even then, don’t. If it’s a huge open road, you have space to pass on the left.

Predictability: hold your lines and don’t do a bunch of swerving about. When you hear someone saying “on your left” or “on your right”, hold your line until they’re past. If you need to shift left or right, give some visual indication with the appropriate hand, then do it slowly and smoothly.

Same with stopping. Drafting etiquette aside, someone might be coming up behind you when you suddenly decide to dismount to pee. Give some warning…indicate a right movement with your right hand, then pull over before dismounting.

Support vehicles: keep your distance!

Compete hard, but remember to BE NICE. The other teams are not the enemy…they are your fellow unicyclists.

But it’s okay to be faster than your fellow unicyclists.

I don’t know how much of a peloton or group is going to form. Riding in a close group requires certain skill and awareness. Lower division road bicycle races are notorious for crashes in the peloton due to riders not being aware or experienced at close group riding at speed in race conditions. Unicyclists have pretty much zero experience in that type of riding. Be aware when racing in a group in close proximity. Expect crashes when racing in a tight group.

Drafting on a unicycle is pretty much useless. Unicycles don’t go fast enough for the aerodynamic benefits of drafting to kick in. To get benefits of drafting you’d have to be riding in a large group of many riders and be riding close enough that the Coker size tires overlap. Not a sane thing to do. The rule of thumb with road bicycling is that the benefits of drafting start to kick in once you start going more than 17+ mph. Below that speed the only benefit of following someone is pacing and not aerodynamics.

I hope support vehicle traffic doesn’t become a danger. Bicycle road race officials have rules for regulating support vehicle traffic to help keep the bicycle riders safe. A vehicle free for all in congested sections of the course could be dangerous.

I disagree on your comments regarding peletons. I think they will almost certainly form, and at the higher end 25-30km/hr, there will be significant advantages in efficiency. Not as much as on a bike peleton going 40-50km/hr, but certainly noticeable.

-if there’s a headwind, then the effective speed is higher
-because unicycles tend to be less aerodynamic than bikes. The effects kick in at a lower threshold
-The pacing effect is significant. I’m sure it’s easier to ride harder, longer, when you’re pacing others.

As to safety, we were riding at 25-30km/hr at Unicon 13 with probably 1 metre spacing between riders. Only one crash that I recall, which was due to a tricky turn.

Totally agree with the points you made Tom. I think without a doubt all unicyclists would check to see if someone is ok if they go down. But I guess I was more meaning what to do if they were Ok, do you slow down for them? I guess it depends on the situation and it would be the groups call.

Regarding passing, yes, it makes sense to pass only on the left if possible. I take it that we will be riding on the right side of the road? In which case, do as the cars do when they pass other cars. The rider in front of you has right of way, don’t expect them to ride off the road just so you can pass.

Predictabily…very important when riding in groups to keep tracking in a straight line. If you come up to potholes or tricky sections, yell it out to the riders behind you. If you are riding behind, look beyond the rider in front. Don’t just stare at their wheel/back/butt, no matter how attractive it may be.

There’s a rules page on the RTL web site, but so far nothing there yet. I offered to help with rules, and was later asked to help proof some, but so far I haven’t seen anything.

It’s true, our existing rules for unicycle racing (IUF) don’t have much overlap with this type of racing. There are a few basics. In regular track racing, riders are supposed to keep a minimum spacing of one wheel diameter between them, all the way around. But that’s a 24" wheel. Still, I think a similar amount of space should be recommended. We also have some rules about interference with other riders, intentional and otherwise. This of course has to be observed to be actionable, but intentional interference of any kind should not be tolerated.

Passing, by default, should be on the left as it usually would be in countries where you drive on the right. Riders should announce when they’re getting ready to pass, and hopefully a little louder than the roadies around here. What’s the point of mumbling “On your left” if the guy in front of you can’t hear it?

If a rider goes down it’s highly recommended to make sure they’re okay before leaving them all alone. Otherwise it’s a race and you are no obligated to stop or wait. Unless you caused the other rider to go down.

However, if you are behind a rider who falls, that’s your problem. Pacelines are difficult and a little risky on bikes. On unicycles they’re more risky. If the road/shoulder is bumpy, they’re way more risky. Ride directly behind another rider at your own risk. If you do find yourself drafting with a paceline, remember to share the load at the front.

According to Nathan there will be a “No exchanges in the first 10k” rule, to keep things from being too crowded at the beginning of each stage. After 10k there should be considerable spread to the pack, so it should be a little less crowded for the support vehicles.

I imagine the support vehicles could be a source of many problems, because they’re much wider than unicycles and different teams may use different methods for their exchanges. Drivers will have to be extra courteous and cautious. I hope there will be rules/guidelines for the driving side!

We’ll need a few more rules for the Crit and Time Trial. Is drafting permitted in the Time Trial? I don’t think it is for bikes but I really have no idea. In the Crit the rules on passing, whatever they may be, will be very important. And I recommend people wear wrist protection, at minimum, along with their helmets. I plan to at least have my knees covered as well.

Don’t forget many of the riders will be coming from countries where they drive on the left, so passing on this side will be a little unusual for them.

I think that’s part of the race.

I agree.

I think experienced bikers only call passes if there is a safety issue involved (like if you’re passing someone who doesn’t know you’re there, and who might have a reason to come into your line).

In bike racing, it’s discourteous to attack someone who’s crashed, but racers don’t have responsibility for stopping to make sure the crashed rider is OK. Everyone will have a support vehicle, so you could notify the support team when you go by them.

It’s a road race–drafting is part of the strategy.

I doubt people will be so excited about doing transitions that they’ll do them on extremely short segments like that. I doubt it will be an issue.

Tom’s answers mimic mine.

I pretty much agree with Gizmoduck and Tomblackwood for the most part.

I have experienced drafting when there is a head wind and I think it’s a huge advantage (especially someone behind me as I’m 6’4" with a super high seat post). It is a lot more work being the guy in front and much more effortless if you are drafting. If someone is drafting you and not taking turns, all you have to do is slow down so the guy passes you and then start drafting him.

For sure warn people of any sudden stops, bumps, holes, etc. You would hate to injure them or yourself because you didn’t warn them.

As for people that fall, I know it’s all nice and good to see if he’s alright but I don’t think any riders should have to worry about it as there will be support vehicles that can stop and check on them. I’m guessing most support vehicles will follow their riders (with a safe distance of course) the entire time in case of any blowouts, falls, injuries, etc. Except when they have to go ahead to drop a person off for a transition. Plus, I don’t think a rider could really do much to help an injuried person? If they have a broken leg, a sprained ankle or any other injury, what can they do to help? Especially if they don’t know much about medical situations. That’s my 2 cents.

Crashes - most crashes you see in things like this are due to riders pushing themselves too hard. Not doing that is part of racing tactics. If someone crashes, it’s only polite to look behind you and check they’re alive and well, but other than that I don’t think you should stop the bunch for an event that is typically the fault of the rider involved (even if you’re drafting someone and they crash and take you down, you’re taking a calculated risk as far as this happening, so it isn’t entirely not your fault).

Drafting - sitting behind someone is up to you - if you have someone drafting you and you don’t like it, same goes as in bike racing, you have two options, either slow down, so they’re forced to take a turn on the front, or speed up and drop them. It’s all about tactics - I don’t think explicit rules are needed for this.

Passing - I think it’s polite to call an overtake, although obviously rider in front has right of way. It’s also not polite in general racing to cut off an overtaking manouvre, especially a much faster rider, although in the criterium I expect this to be part of the tactics.

I thought there is already a rule about transitions which is that support vehicles have to have all wheels off the road - which presumably will limit possible transition spots, and is designed to stop support vehicles getting in the way. I presume this also applies to any point at which the support vehicle is handing off stuff to a rider (I’d presume that’d only be in a situation like a breakdown or whatever) so the support vehicles have no reason to drive that close to the racing, unlike in road bike racing.

One other thing that no-one has mentioned

Traffic lights and stop signs - It says on the site that all road rules must be followed. Now I know there are some unicyclists coming who typically ignore traffic lights / give way / stop signs etc.* and some of us who don’t. What will be the situation regarding this stuff during RTL? Do they have many traffic lights or stop signs on the RTL route?


*Hi spence

No blood, no foul.

Headwinds and sidewinds change the drafting strategy. In calm air the general rule of thumb with bikes is that you have to be going 17+ mph before drafting has an aerodynamic advantage. That’ s not factoring in headwinds and sidewinds. A Coker size wheel is especially affected by sidewinds so I would expect some strategic drafting if there are sidewinds.

Be very very careful though. At typical unicycle speeds (and not factoring in headwinds or corsswinds) you need to be really really close to the wheel in front of you to get a drafting effect. Riding that close is not the safest thing to do for you or the rider in front of you. If you’re drafting you need the explicit or implicit cooperation of the rider in front of you. The rider in front of you will be hindered in that they will be able to slow down to relieve crotch pressure or dodge obstacles on the road. In bicycling a drafting rider who clips the rear wheel of the bike in front of them is only likely to cause themself to fall and not the rider in front of them. Not true on a unicycle. If you clip the rider in front you will likely cause them to fall as well. Very bad form. Very rude. Don’t expect sympathy if you cause a crash like that.

There are unwritten rules in road bike racing where leaders will not take advantage of a no-fault crash by another rider pursuing them. For example, in a recent Tour de France, Lance crashed during a climb because his handlebar was clipped by a spectator. The leaders held up and waited for him to return. But there was no pleasantries exchanged upon his return and Lance had to ride as hard as he could to catch up. He also ended up riding with a cracked carbon fiber chainstay that could have catastrophically failed at any moment. So yeah, it is good sportsmanship to wait up in a situation like that. But at the same time you’re not going to give too much away.

A difference between unicycle racing and bicycle racing is that unicyclists can crash just because the rider is pushing themselves too hard and riding beyond their ability. If you crash because of that I would not expect the other riders to hold up. Riding beyond your ability is a calculated risk you decided to take and it is not the responsibility or unwritten rule of the riders ahead of you to slow down to let you catch up. The solution there is to be a better rider before you start the race and to stay within your riding ability. No sympathy if you are riding 2 mph faster than you have ever ridden before and you suddenly crash. If you cause other riders to crash because of your clumyness or because you are riding beyond your ability I would not expect any sympathy from other riders for the duration of the race. In fact, in a case like that, I would expect other riders to conspire against your team just out of spite.

I’d say there is absolutely no difference between unicycle and bike racing in that sense. If you push yourself too hard on a bike also, you are more likely to crash.

I’ve ridden plenty of times at over 30km/hr in close proxity to other riders, but we were never going to be pushing ourselves so hard as to risk crashing. Crashing costs a lot of time and risks injury.

In Ken’s case he thinks if you don’t crash and break bones you are not riding hard enough. So I advise everyone in this race- pass Ken as soon as you can and stay up ahead because you don’t want to be behind him when he goes down- it’s going to be messy!

Oh, I’m sure everyone will get right on that… :roll_eyes:

As to the drafting debate, I have only one thing to say, and I’ve said it for years:

Couple of comments on lobster safety

In sailboat racing you have an obligation to assist in the event of an accident, but in unicycle racing I don’t think you really should. However, if the crashed person(s) is exposed in the middle of the road, there is a tremendous safety issue depending on how the roads are managed by the race organizers. Will cars be prevented from sharing the road? It wouldn’t be cool if a cyclist with a broken leg in the middle of the road were killed by an automobile after having been passed by other racers. Perhaps there should be an obligation to carry warning flares, or something similar? What if there is a spinal injury in the middle of the road, in which case the victim should not be moved? How will that be handled, both instantaneously and follow-on?

It sounds as though the biggest potential for disaster is from the support vehicles. It might be good to pay a lot of attention to their rules of conduct and driver education/instruction/monitoring.

It doesn’t seem right that a rider should have to signal a move; part of racing is concealing one’s intentions. However, if you are dropping off to take a leak, there is no reason to conceal one’s intentions.

Since there are people coming from all over, it should be made very clear, way ahead of time, what things are done on the right, and what things on the left - especially if the racers are sharing the road with ordinary traffic, which could include heavy trucks. The website says they will post traffic laws, but I don’t see them. People coming from opposite-minded countries will want to practice ahead of time with the unfamiliar configurations.

Headphones and such for listening to music should be banned completely.

I’m unfamiliar with many of the details and strategies of competitive cycling, but in my ultramarathon background nobody would think of passing a runner who appears in distress without at least checking to see that they were OK. I would hope it would be the same here.

And as I read this thread, it occurs to me that no matter how much agreement is reached here it is only a subset of the English speaking riders who are on board. It does seem a good start that may help establish some shared understanding of etiquette when all gather at the event though.

Some of us are doctors. :slight_smile: Namely one who had to set his own broken bone in the middle of the road because he was the only one there. Presumably that’s because he was faster than everyone else… :astonished:

In general, crashes are going to happen. If the person isn’t moving, or if they’re screaming in pain it would be a good idea to stop. But I know that if I did my collar bone crash in RTL, I’d wave the other riders on. What could they do?

Crashing is, of course, more likely for unicycles than bikes. This is a factor all riders would do well to remember, especially when the road gets bumpy, the weather gets windy or we all get tired. Like I think I mentioned earlier, riding right behind a unicycle is a risky proposition. Though 36ers are more stable than smaller unicycles, anything can happen.

This is a common occurrence at the big unicycle competitions. Probably less likely among RTL riders, but if people get over-zealous coming down the descents, or if they’re not used to riding with others (some of us have to train alone), this could be a problem. Use caution!

Looking at a map of the route shows that we’ll be racing on Nova Scotia’s major arteries. There aren’t that many roads there, and some may have lots of cars. I doubt they’ll be closed, except maybe in the start and end towns.

I agree that the biggest potential for disaster is from the support vehicles. It might be good to pay a lot of attention to their rules of conduct and driver education/instruction/monitoring. Because the cars are bigger, wider and faster, this is where everyone will need to look out, and use common sense when moving onto and off the road.

That is correct. If you want to sneak up that should be allowed. Again, the rider in the rear is in greater risk than the one being passed (he can crash and eat the other guy’s unicycle). I intend to wear a mirror on my glasses.

Or any other rules yet. But there will be a meeting each morning for the team support persons and drivers, which I’m sure will cover these types of things.

Headphones? Go ahead. Then I will pass you unannounced! :slight_smile: