Ride guidelines for 2024

The Cycling Academy (TCA) Ride Guidelines Summary (updated February 29th, 2024)

TCA Membership and Ontario Cycling (OC) membership or membership in an OC affiliated club (Try out is available once per season – inquire about details)
(1 guest ride per season)
Road bike or gravel bike or pedal assist e-bike with drop handlebars (no Aero bars)
(Exception Trail rides  only where Mountain or hybrid bikes also acceptable.
All cyclists on trails need Bells)
Bike must be in good repair
Helmets are mandatory, cycling gloves and sunglasses suggested
Water and food sufficient for the ride
Cell Phone and ID
Clothing appropriate for the weather
Materials and capability to repair flats or make minor repairs

Basic riding skills and the ability to ride for 2 ½ hours averaging 20 KPH (15 kph. on trail rides)
Basic understanding of group riding techniques (see Group Riding Techniques section below)
Riding Double, Tight To The Right, Pace Lines
Familiarity with TCA Ride Guidelines

You must enroll in advance for any ride by replying to the notification emails.

All club rides can be found on the Calendar page at least a week in advance including links to routes.

The Calendar is also the best source of information for announcements about rides, coming events and ride changes, cancellations and rescheduling.

Rain at the ride start time
Forecast of 70% POP or more rain or lightning at the time of the ride
Winds of 50 kph or more the time of the ride
Fewer than 2 riders registered for a ride, including a Ride Leader.
No appropriate Ride Leader available

Most club rides will originate at the 407/Appleby parking lot (Map Link) with club rides beginning promptly at 6:15pm through the summer. Please arrive a few minutes early. Ride departs SHARP at 6:15pm to respect plans people will make based on getting in the full ride and being back within 2 hours from the start time (except on special ride nights that may go longer).

Special rides may be scheduled to start from other places, but they will be clearly outlined in email notifications.

Depending on the number of riders to show up, riders and rides are divided into groups based on target average speed and distance (see Pace/Distance Guidelines) and you will need to enroll by replying to the notification email. 

At the ride meeting site, larger groups will be split into smaller subgroups of optimally 10-12 riders who will ride together.  When possible, we try not to have riding groups larger than 20 or less than 2.

Every riding group must have at least one TCA Ride Leader who knows the route, has a cell phone and is responsible for ensuring the ride follows TCA ride policies and guidelines.

We try to get riders of similar ability and needs in the same ride group.

The TCA Pace/Distance Guidelines are a basic starting point in finding the right group for you.  However, the brackets represent average speed for typical TCA rides in the Burlington/Oakville/Hamilton area, and obviously climbing and descending speeds will be considerably slower and faster.  Also factors such as weather, wind, route and specific makeup of the riding group all affect average speed on any given day.

So, if you haven’t ridden in this area on typical TCA routes, you will probably need more help in selecting a group.

If you have a friend who rides with the club and who knows your general riding ability, ask them for advice.

When you get to the ride meeting point, ask a Ride Leader for help.  Based on a brief discussion, they can probably point you to the best group.

If in doubt, go with a slower group the first time out.  Your Ride Leader can give you feedback on whether to select a different group the next time.

Also, there may be an opportunity to move to another group during the ride.  Often groups at different levels follow the same route and frequently come together at the top of the first climb or at the coffee stop.

And most of all, don’t worry.  We have all been through this and it will all work out!


The Basic Ride Formation:  “Tight and to the Right

Our goal as a disciplined and well organized club is to share the enjoyment of the road with our club members as well as the general public. We are well aware that we have to share the road with motorized vehicles. To reduce the potential conflict between these two groups we travel at off peak hours; and we frequent only the least travelled roads possible at all times. In order to further protect ourselves we travel two abreast or in a double paceline. This is an internationally recognized cycling formation used by professionals and amateurs around the world. The main objective of the double paceline is to reduce the length of the line of cyclists in order to allow vehicles to pass with greater ease and increased safety. It encourages drivers to make full lane changes when passing which provides a safer gap between the passing vehicle and the cyclists. Aggressive drivers will attempt the dangerous pass between the center line and the group, “known as threading the needle”.. At The Cycling Academy we have implemented a compromised position we call “Tight and to the Right”. The idea is to take a traditional two abreast formation and position it as far right as is safely possible. Our goal is to accommodate the approaching driver with a clear view forward so that they make a clean and safe pass as soon as possible.

In order for us to accomplish this, we as a club, are required to ride in a formation that is ‘tight’ and well disciplined. By ‘tight’ we mean that the cyclists are to be 1 meter apart laterally at the shoulders, and 1-1.5m apart front to back (wheel to wheel). The group’s primary goal is to maintain the cohesion of this formation. It is the individual discipline of each rider to hold their position in a smooth predictable manner and not create gaps or overlaps which jeopardize the ride quality.

We use ONE SINGLE method to rotate cyclists within a standard “tight and to the right” formation. Normally known as a double paceline, but referred to in two formats, one as a Social Paceline, and the other as a Rotating Paceline. The Ride Leader will call out the appropriate formation for the needs of the group and maintain cohesion, please refrain from just calling out changes to riding formation. Best practice will be asking the Ride Leader if your desired change will work with the current group. Please respect the Ride Leader’s choice to not engage your suggestion.

This is our standard rotation used while warming up or just cruising along. In the Social Paceline we start from the premise of the two abreast formation where everybody is 1-1.5m apart laterally and fore/aft. The two leading cyclists are breaking the wind and setting the pace. The lead cyclist on the right, after a reasonable period of time (ie 1- 2 minutes, it’s flexible) asks the cyclist on their left to “ROTATE”. They will both call out “ROTATE”, and that call is passed back so other riders several rows back know why the left line is adjusting. That means the leading left cyclist will gently ride forward and glide smoothly to the right, to shelter the right side rider who is now in second position. In turn the left side of the group will gently advance forward to the front of the group beside the right line. Those two riders will now lead the group for whatever time they feel comfortable with, again it’s negotiable.  All passes are to be done smoothly and gently and make sure that your rear wheel is clear (with help with the rider you are passing, to call ‘clear’ when your rear wheel is past their front wheel) before you glide to the right.

A very important point to rotating a group : While you are in front of the group, the group is at your mercy. Anything you do, good or bad, will effect the entire group. If your pass is smooth and steady, then the group will remain smooth and steady. If you accelerate aggressively, or surge, it will start to break up the group and create gaps and confusion. If you half wheel the lead rider beside you it will offset the whole group or create gaps. We all have a responsibility to the riders behind us to move in a smooth and predictable way and watch the road surface ahead.

This rotation is different from the Social Paceline in one fundamental way: The act of rotating is constant. There are no static moments. When the left lead rider moves smoothly and gradually forward and clears the right line of riders, he/she then gently fades to the right. The transitioning lead rider must be careful not to touch wheels with the passed rider’s by checking under their arm for the rider’s wheel. The right rider can assist by calling out ‘clear’ when the passing cyclist is safely ahead. As soon as that first rotation is complete the next one begins as if all the cyclists in the group are part of the same chain. In the Rotating Paceline all the cyclists should be moving through the rotation at the same speed.

Here are some important points to remember when executing the Rotating Paceline properly:

  1. Do not attack or surge off the front when it is your turn to pull. You are supposed to go slightly faster than the receding line. Surging or attacking will cause gaps and jerk the speed of the line around. Pull smoothly and gently to the front and be there to shelter the riders behind you, not gap them.

  2. Do not leave gaps within the line when you are in the back of the rotation. All riders need to focus on maintaining the same gaps all the way around the rotation.

  3. Riders wishing to miss a rotation can do so by sitting a bikes length back of the group and allowing the group to rotate through. It’s best to call out to the rider ahead that you are not pulling through to avoid their hesitation.

  4. It’s also helpful for the last rider on the advancing side to call out to the last rider to remind the last receding rider that they need to transition next. Gaps often happen when the last rider misses the transition.

  5. The rotation can go from left to right or vice versa. Experienced cyclists will tailor the rotation so that the advancing line is sheltered from a crosswind. We generally opt for the left to the right rotation because the HTA specifies passing on the left.

We make every effort to ride on the quietest roads at the quietest times. At times when we are traveling on an excessively busy road we will ride single file to get past the congested section. We also will ride long descents single file. Otherwise all our group rides are two abreast.

This is a formation where the cyclists are spread diagonally across the road to gain shelter from a crosswind. This formation is unacceptable for group riding in our community. It completely blocks the lane and is counter to our “Tight and to the Right” strategy where the driver is to be given a view up the left side of the lane.

Every group ride has to have a degree of compromise. One person’s hammer-fest, is another person’s recovery ride. We try to accommodate everyone’s wishes by offering some opportunities to put in a strong effort, and then regroup. The Ride Leader from time to time, may offer different opportunities along the route for some hard efforts. Almost all our routes involve sections where the option exists for the riders to break from the group and go as fast as they wish. We call these the ‘Hot Spots’. All long climbs are automatically Hots Spots, and as such the groups often break formation and re-group at the pre-designated spots at the top or end of a “Segment Opportunity”. We ask you to stay to the right and not scatter across the hill or road when the group is allowed to break apart. Slower riders stay right and make room for the faster riders to get by without forcing them too far out. We still want to stay ‘Tight and to the Right’, and we call ‘On your Left’, when passing another rider, when checking that it is safe to do so. 

We also offer Hot Spots on flatter terrain, and Ride Leaders will inform the group of the Hot Spot locations before, or during each ride. There are three common denominators to a Hot Spot:

  1. A very quiet section of road

  2. No traffic lights or stop signs

  3. A safe regrouping location at the end of the section

Some rules about Hot Spots:

  1. Going hard is optional, not compulsory. Those that choose to cruise can rest assure that the group will wait for them at the regrouping point.

  2. All riders should wait for the riders that didn’t want to go hard, or their hard is different from your own, at the regrouping spot. Soft pedaling down the road causes confusion for the late arrivers who may think the group is leaving them behind. If you feel the need to keep moving, then ride back toward the late arrivers and return with them. Makes for good sportsmanship as well. When we work and support together, we grow together. 

  3. All of our regrouping spots offer plenty of space to pull over safely. Never regroup in a manner that would obstruct traffic in any way.

Going hard is optional, not compulsory. Those that choose to cruise can rest assure that the group will wait for them at the regrouping point.

  1. All riders should wait for the slower riders at the regrouping spot. Soft pedaling down the road causes confusion for the late arrivers who may think the group is leaving them behind. If you feel the need to keep moving ride back toward the late arrivers and then return with them.

  2. All of our regrouping spots offer plenty of space to pull over safely. Never regroup in a manner that would obstruct traffic in any way.

In the Halton/Hamilton region we have several descents that can generate sustained speeds in excess of 80 kph. On those descents we recommend the group take the following actions:

  1. The group should move into a single file formation.

  2. Riders should move 1 to 2 m from the right edge of the road. It is not safe to ride close to the edge of the road at high speeds due to wind gusts.

  3. Riders should open up gaps of at least 2 m or more between each rider front to back.

  4. The fastest riders should go down first to minimize passing.

  5. Always pass on the left. Never pass on the right.


Communication is absolutely critical to the success of all group rides. It starts right from the beginning even before the group leaves: The rider needs to communicate with their group or Ride Leader to determine which group and pace of ride they want. On the road riders need to communicate the ride formation, rotation and pace. Riders at the front need to call out road hazards and traffic situations. Riders at the back need to call out cars approaching from the back. The bottom line is that the quality and safety of the ride is dependent on frequent and clear communications between all the riders. Never assume everyone in the group knows a car is approaching or that the group is turning. Everything that can affect the group needs to be called out.

One final but important point regarding communication. We have Ride Leaders who are there to try to maintain the quality of the ride but the best way to keep us all at our best is when we all communicate best ride practices. So if you see someone riding inappropriately ie overlapping wheels, surging off the front we all should say something. Be polite but make it known that that was not proper. We all own these rides and if someone does something dangerous it’s in everyone’s best interest to correct it. So don’t let bad habits go unaddressed. Say something before it’s too late. We all have a responsibility to the riders around us. When we are at the front we are responsible to the riders behind to provide a smooth and steady pull and to point out hazards. When we are at the back we are responsible to call out cars coming from the back and to maintain the integrity of the group by not allowing gaps. So don’t wait for the Ride Leader to say something, we all own the ride equally.


When being approached from the front or rear of the group, by an emergency vehicle (fire truck, ambulance, or police) with its lights and siren activated, we are required under the HTA to pull over our group and stop. This is not a “maybe” choice, we must pull over for the safety of the group and ability for the emergency life saving vehicles to pass confidently.

Act fast, but act safely and in control: when a siren is heard or lights are seen, immediately shout out to your group to “pull over and stop”. A siren or lights means stop now but not in a panic stop, a controlled and safe stop.

How to stop a group: let’s presume your group is riding 2 abreast.

  1. The Rider in the Lead, or the Ride Leader calls out to the group:




  2. The right line applies their brakes to reduce the speed in a controlled manner, eventually pulling over to a complete stop. Once stopped, cyclists must keep as close as possible to the right edge of the road, clear of any intersections.

  3. The left line completely passes the right line and once safely clear, slows in a controlled manner. Once stopped, cyclists must keep as close as possible to the right edge of the road, clear of any intersections.

This can all happen within seconds. There is no need for panic. What is essential is that the decision to perform an “emergency stop” be made quickly, loudly and clearly, so that the group has time to perform the stop safely. 


  1. Ride smooth and steady all the time. No sudden or abrupt movements or over reactions to potholes or obstacles on the road or path etc.

  2. Don’t be that person who surges when it’s their turn to pull or leaves gaps in the rotation and then closes them and then leaves gaps again, and never ever overlap.

  3. When following a wheel, be just slightly offset ~4″- 6″, so that if there is a sudden slow down or stop, you don’t immediately slam into the wheel ahead. The offset gives you an additional few moments to react or recover.

  4. When you are at the front of the group on a short descent, pedal to keep the pace up and prevent the accordion effect. Remember there are riders drafting behind you who will have to brake if you don’t keep the pace steady.

  5. To keep a group together on rolling terrain use a ‘Social Paceline’ and then as a group, climb slightly easier (the leg pressure on the pedals should feel close to what we were doing on the flat/rolling terrain), but descend quicker to avoid group bunching, since riders will still be in the draft and can ‘wheel creep’ because of that draft position. With these observations, the group speed will be more consistent and the group will more likely remain intact.

  6. When picking your group (when different paced groups are offered) be realistic. It’s better to be comfortable in your group then maxed out all the time (that’s when things can be unsafe when you are simply thinking about surviving, instead of just riding and enjoying yourself)

  7. Group rides are not races. We are there to support each other by taking turns in the wind. Only in Hot Spots is it ok to try to drop your friends.

  8. When you see someone committing a ride foul politely say something. We are all responsible for the quality of our rides and our reputation on the road.

  9. If you get a flat give a loud shout out right away (call out MECHANICAL, simple word, easy to call out and forward), or there is a good chance the pack will ride away without even noticing you. If the group knows, they will stop and help you fix it quickly, or watch you do it at lightening speed and record it and post it on Social Media and you will become an overnight sensation! Okay, just call it out, so we can stop and stay together. 

  10. Do not yell obscenities to motorists or get into arguments with the police. It’s never productive and will lead to more bad blood and possible retribution. We ask that cyclists not engage in any kind of confrontation with drivers or police officers. This includes hand gestures involving the center digit. We are working hard to improve the reputation of the TCA and ALL CYCLISTS in general. If words have to be exchanged let the Group Ride Leader do the talking. (Feel free to video the exchange if you feel the encountered individual is dangerous.) It’s important to understand that when you ride with the club and when you wear our club jersey you become an Ambassador for both the club and ALL CYCLISTS in general.

  11. Let’s not do anything to fuel the flames of discontent. Nothing meaningful gets resolved on the road.

Keep Safe, have fun and thanks for riding with The Cycling Academy!