It’s easy to become complacent when riding behind other riders. There doesn’t seem to be the same sense of urgency to actively scan the road or look to the mirrors as when we ride solo. Instead, while riding in a group, eyes tend to fixate on bikes ahead, and when we slip into “follow” mode, it’s easy to settle in, let down our guard and let others lead. That’s about the time, at the first hint of a passing zone or straightaway, an impatient driver from behind swoops out and passes, surprising the daylights out of us. That effect repeats one after another as the car blasts by each unsuspecting rider in line. It gets particularly interesting when the overtaking driver suddenly realizes he can’t pass all of the riders before the passing zone ends.
How can we minimize risk in these scenarios? By taking an active role and riding our own ride, even when following others. Make the dashed lines of every passing zone a mental trigger to consult the left mirror. Always know if there is a driver behind you. Pick up on aggressive behavior; if a vehicle approaches quickly or tailgates, expect them to abruptly overtake at the first opportunity as your first defense. When riding curves, make a point to check mirrors as you slow and at the moment the road straightens again, and look for that driver to pop out and pass. Is your group about to make a left turn? A mirror and head check could save your life if that driver pulls out to pass just as you all begin to exit left. Expect them, look for them and plan for them. Because, whether you’re ready or not, here they come!