The Chain Gang

At the moment the Club doesn’t organise a ‘Chain Gang’ ride, but a number of members regularly take part in the Saturday morning ‘Chain Gang’ that sets off from the UCLAN Preston arena.  The rides take place all year round and involves racing cyclist from many local cycling clubs.

You should become accustomed to riding with others in an organised group, become confident and be able to take part competently on, for example, one of our Sunday club runs before you attempt to join the chainy.


Saturday’s Chainy

Meet at 09:25 hrs at the entrance of Preston Arena then split into 2 or 3 groups depending on our numbers on the day.

3 laps of the long Treales circuit, start at 09:30 hrs Session is roughly 30miles/1hr 15mins.

PLEASE NOTE: the aim of our session is to ride safely as a fast moving & cohesive group all working together, not a group of individuals all doing their own thing.  Start with a steady pace for the first two laps.  On the last lap gradually increase the pace all the way through to the finish.  The ideal group is 9 to 12 evenly matched riders all working together with the majority of the group being able to go through and do their turn at the front.  We really need two or three experienced riders in each group to keep it smooth and organised.


What is a Chain Gang?

A chain gang is a group of cyclists in a close knit formation usually of two parallel lines.  The formation comes from the fact that it is harder to cycle at the front of a group than in the shelter of another rider.  The rider behind enjoys the slipstream of the rider in front. If one rider were to stay at the front all the time, he would tire and the whole group would slow down.  If the lead is rotated, the effort is distributed across the group and the speed can be higher or the individual effort less.

This effect is very significant – up to a 40% reduction in effort for the slip-streaming riders while the lead rider also benefits from reduced drag (somewhat under 10%) due to the air not closing up after him.

The rider in the front of the group will take their share of the lead, then swing to the side and let the rest of the line come through, led by a new leader.  The first rider then eases up and drops in behind the last rider in the line, staying in their slipstream until once again their turn comes to ride at the front.  When there are enough riders, turns at the front can be so brief that there is a continuous flow up and down, in two lines, so that cyclists take on the role of links in a chain.



The technique is hard to perfect because it demands riders cycle close to the rider in front at speed, sometimes just centimetres from their tyre.  It also demands trust in others in the group because, that close, no rider would be able to avoid hitting the one in front if the pace suddenly slowed.  For that reason, the leading rider takes responsibility for taking the line through the smoothest path he can and at a constant speed.  They should also indicate with hand gestures the upcoming bumps or obstacles on the road by pointing their finger in the corresponding direction the hazard is coming, in a manner that can be seen by the following rider, who is likely staring at their rear wheel.

The technique is often used in training for races but it can be seen in races themselves, usually when a small group of riders gets ahead of the main field, or in team time-trials, where the chain-gang technique is paramount.

Chain gangs can also be referred to as bit-and-bit.