Here is a list of frequently asked questions. We have filed them under appropriate headings to make it easier for you to find the FAQ you desire:

Club specific enquires

This is fairly self-explanatory. These are enquiries which apply directly to Old Bleach Cycle Club


The FAQs which didn’t seem to fit into any other category


Questions about the website, clothing care and more specialised information not necessarily pertaining to Old Bleach

Understanding cyclists

Wondering why people who cycle do what they do? Please look in this section

I’ve seen people cycling in a ‘two lined group’; What’s that all about?

It’s a means of making things easier (and safer) for everyone.

One of a cyclist’s biggest enemies is wind resistance. By having two neat lines, the generous people at the front take the worst of the wind resistance. The people behind can (if performed particularly efficiently) expend up to thirty percent less energy than those on the front.

In the interests of fairness, we don’t leave the same people ‘hanging out at the front all day’; rather, we move round a give everyone a go. We change places in an anti-clockwise direction. That’s to say, when it’s time to change, the person at the front-left will allow the person at the front-right to move ahead of him/her and the entire right column will move up one place (with the person at the back-left moving over to the back-right). Perhaps this picture might help.

The person at the front-right shouldn’t have to accelerate in order to get into the front-left position. Instead it should be a fluid motion. It is the left column’s responsibility to make sure this can happen by slowing down slightly. This doesn’t mean any braking – simply ‘soft pedal’ or change down a gear so the left column’s pace decreases a little.

So how do people know when perform this move? Generally it’s quite a simple process: the group leader will blow a whistle to signify time to change round. Yes, that does sound terrible, we know. In practice it is a lot more pleasant than ‘blowing a whistle at people’ sounds. We’d like to be able to say ‘Okay, everybody move round now please‘ but that would be impractical in a large group. The whistle is a good sound for cutting through any other noises, meaning everyone can hear, knows what’s going on and it is safer for all involved.

When you are at the front-left and hear the whistle, it is a very beautiful sound. One back at the right? Not so much…

What is a sportive?

In essence, a ‘sportive’ is a ‘fun day out on your bike’.

It’s an organised non-racing cycle (often, but not always, in aid of charities) with a set route and large number of participants – normally hundreds and sometimes thousands.

They are sociable affairs where conversation and meeting new people have at least as much emphasis as the actual cycling.

Quite often, sportives will offer a few different routes to cater for cyclists’ desires. For example, one might put forward a ‘hilly 100 miles’ – for those wishing for a long day in the saddle – and a ‘flat 50 miles’ – for those who wish to do a run of that ilk. Not all sportives have such route options but most will.

Some local sportives, basic information about them and links to the appropriate websites are listed on this page of the Cycle NI website.

What’s the difference between a Road Race and a Time Trial?

Most of the cycle racing shown on television falls under the category ‘road racing’.

Road races are mass start events where competitors pit themselves directly against one another. The person who crosses the line before anyone else is the victor.

Often this leads to a bunch sprint at the end. Sometimes an individual or small group will form a ‘breakaway’ and manage to hold on until victory. Particularly strong riders can even manage this feat on their own; That’s extremely impressive.

A lot of one’s success in road racing is determined by choosing the right group to sit in with and positioning oneself well at corners, on hills etc. Many tactics have to be decided upon ‘on the fly’ in a road race; Experience counts for a lot.

Time trials are run with a very different structure to road races.

In the case of a time trial the participants are set off individually rather than in a bunch.

Usually there is a one or two minute gap between the start times of time-triallists. This is to stop them gaining an advantage by slipstreaming one another.

Time trials (aka TTs) are also known as ‘the race of truth’.  This is because it is ‘one man (or woman) against the clock’. There is nowhere to ‘sit in’ – the participant’s result depends primarily on his or her form and personal abilities without anyone else able to interfere.

Another popular, somewhat charming and possibly pretentious (unless one is from a country where French is the predominant language) name for a TT is the rhyming term ‘contre la montre’. Translated literally that means ‘against the watch’. You can clearly see why it merits such a name.

Of course there are Team Time Trials (aka TTTs) too. In their case a group will cycle together ‘against the clock’ and deliberately share the workload at the front. As with the Individual Time Trial (aka TTs or ITTs) the groups will be set off a minute or two apart to stop any ‘cross pollination’ between teams.

Most people participating in TTs on a regular basis will ride a TT bike. This is an extremely aerodynamic bicycle the design of which practically ignores comfort in favour of all out speed. TT bikes can be almost otherworldly in appearance. They certainly would not be bicycles suited to a standard group cycle.

The majority of local time-triallists will start off doing 10 mile TTs on a flat circuit but can move on to 100 miles+ TTs if they so wish.

Unlike most of our club runs, Road Races and TTs don’t have a coffee stop in the middle.

If I have a ‘mechanical’ and need to stop, how do I do so?

If you suffer from a flat tyre, ‘dropped’ chain (which you can’t get back on with this method) or any similar problems, it’s important not to panic.

Stick a hand up in the air briefly to let people know you want to stop and call out ‘Mechanical‘.

If you are cycling in the left column of the group signal left and pull in to the side of the road when it is safe to do so.

If you are cycling in the right column of the group try to move out further right (if possible) to let the group pass you safely. Wave the group through and, once the last person has definitely passed and you know the road behind is clear, signal left and pull in to the side of the road when it is safe to do so.

As outlined above, the most important aspect is to remain calm. Remember there are other people around you and their safety is, in part, your responsibility. You cannot simply pull over without warning or, even worse, cut in to the left from the right column because you have a mechanical problem. You HAVE to take other people into consideration and make sure your actions do not endanger them.

NB The guidelines listed assume one is cycling in a country where traffic ‘drives’ on the left side of the road. Reverse the directions if in a country where one ‘drives’ on the right.

Most ‘chain slips’ can be ‘caught’ without having to stop. Please see here for details on how to go about that.

What do I do if my chain comes off?

If you are cycling along, attempt to change from one chainring to the other and the chain falls off, don’t despair.

You may be able to get the chain back where it is supposed to be in a matter of seconds without having to stop or get your hands oily.

While pedalling gently, use your gear shifter to move your front derailleur the opposite direction from whatever caused the problem ie. if you shifted down and the chain popped off to the inside then click your gear shifter so you try to move up into the big chainring. If it was the other way round and the chain came off to the outside then shift down to the small chainring.

With any luck your derailleur will pull the chain back into place and you can continue cycling along to your heart’s content.

It is important to (as mentioned above) pedal gently to avoid nasty chain rub on your crankset etc. and make sure the chain does not jam. If the chain does start to jam, backpedal a little to release it and try again.

This method will work the vast majority of times a chain is ‘dropped’. If it does not, then hold your hand up to signal to the group (if riding in a group) to let them know you are having a ‘mechanical’ and pull over when it is safe to do so.

If your chain comes off reasonably regularly it means your front derailleur probably needs a slight adjustment. This should be a simple matter of turning an adjustment screw ever so slightly. If you are unsure what to do, please ask a club member to help – it will only take a few seconds (hopefully).

What speed do I cycle at when I get to the front?

The short answer is it’s not about speed – it’s about effort.

When the Run Skipper blows his/her whistle and you move round to front-right position stay in line with the person to your left. He or she has already been at the front and is aware what effort level is required to keep the group moving along well. Match his/her effort.

Attempting to keep a group together by maintaining speed doesn’t work. Speed on its own doesn’t mean an awful lot. For example a cyclist maintaining a speed of 15mph throughout an entire journey will cause others to drop off on steep hills and brake on downhills.

The way to cycle maturely in a group is to pedal to effort. That means attempting to maintain one’s power level while not worrying about pace. If you have a power meter this isn’t a difficult proposition; You merely look at the Wattage you’re pushing out and keep it round a ‘plausible group figure’ as much as possible.

Without a power meter it’s a bit more difficult to hold effort level ‘flat’ but should still be well within the abilities of anyone who can keep a bicycle upright. We all have some idea how hard we’re pushing to drive a bicycle forwards. Keep at the level of ‘perceived effort’ which holds the group together.

Remember to maintain the effort on the flat, uphill and downhill and you’ll find group cycling a pleasurable and safer experience for all involved.

What’s the difference between a turbo trainer and rollers?

If you’re the sort of person who is determined to abuse him or herself by cycling indoors, you’re probably considering a few options…

  • An exercise bike
  • A turbo trainer
  • Rollers

Pretty much everyone already knows what an exercise bike is (although, within that there are many options) but not everyone is au fait with turbo trainers and rollers, especially those new to the world of cycling.

Both turbo trainers and rollers use one’s ‘outdoors bike’ as an integral part of the equipment but in different ways.

The basics are (in the vast majority of cases) as follows…

Turbo Trainers
A turbo trainer (often shortened simply to ‘turbo’) is a device into which one’s rear bicycle wheel is locked. The wheel sits on a spinning drum, allowing the wheel to spin round. The ‘drum’ can be set to different levels of resistance. This means the rear wheel will require more (or less depending on the setting) power, from the cyclist, in order to turn.

Confusing matters slightly (although offering more choice) some turbo trainers require one to take his/her rear wheel out altogether. The trainer itself will have an inbuilt cassette assembly which one then attaches to his/her bike in place of the rear wheel. This kind of turbo trainer saves any wear on the rear tyre, which is nice.

Generally turbo trainers feature a handlebar mounted unit via which one may manually control resistance.

Some ‘smart’ turbo trainers will work together with pieces of software (or ‘apps’ if you aren’t an old fashioned Luddite like the person writing this) allowing them to automatically control the resistance. An obvious example of this is the cycling trainer/game Zwift. Say, for example, someone is using/playing Zwift and reaches a virtual hill – Zwift will tell a compatible smart trainer to increase the resistance appropriately. Once the hill has been crested, it will then reduce the resistance accordingly. This should all help, in as much as is possible with current technology, mimic actual cycling in a fairly seamless manner. Some turbo trainers will even vibrate a little when one reaches a cobbled or rough area using the likes of Zwift. Isn’t technology wonderful?

Rollers are a slightly different kettle of fish to a turbo trainer. Rather than have a wheel locked into the device, one simply cycles on top of rollers.

It’s something which initially doesn’t sound like it should work  – ‘Hang on, won’t I fall over if there’s nothing at the sides to keep my bike upright?‘ – but it really does.

There’s a certain leap of faith in getting started on rollers but they aren’t as tricky as you may well hear a lot of people claim. Yes, they have a greater learning curve than a turbo trainer would and require more concentration but they’re not the deadly devices some appear to make them out to be.

Rollers (or any we’ve seen) consist of three spinning drums held in a long, fairly thin, frame. The rear bike wheel sits in the ‘valley’ between two, almost adjacent, drums and the bow end of the front wheel perches on a solitary drum at the front of the unit. One of the rear drums and the front drum are joined together by, what is basically, a large elaborate elastic band. This means, when you pedal and spin your back wheel, the drums rotate and make your front wheel turn in sync. All this spinning keeps your bike upright ‘as if by magic’.

One big advantage to rollers is, without one’s bicycle ‘locked in’, there’s no undue stress on the frame. With turbo trainers it’s generally recommended not to put your good carbon bike in it.

Another major thumbs up for rollers is that it improves ones balance and teaches a cyclist to keep his/her line. As turbo trainers are very stable and don’t allow much lateral motion, they’re a wee bit like using stabilisers and don’t really enhance some of the skills rollers would.

That all written, a lot of rollers have the option of buying a ‘fork stand’ for them. This is an attachment which bolts on to the front of the rollers. One then removes his/her front wheel and connects the forks to the stand. This means the back wheel can move freely but the front is locked in place. It also deprives one of some of the benefits of rollers but can help people who initially struggle with rollers get confident before trying them without the fork stand.

Resistance with rollers is usually done by pedalling faster or slower and using your bike’s gears. If you imagine a graph with speed along the x-axis and resistance on the y-axis, it would increase exponentially the faster one pedals, scooping upwards. For the cavemen and cavewomen out there:  fast pedalling = big resistance.

As with turbo trainers, although currently not as common, one may purchase ‘smart’ rollers. Like you’d imagine, they work with apps to vary resistance automatically. Rollers tend not to have the same level of variable resistance as a turbo trainer (or indeed exercise bike) but they can certainly add or remove a few hundred Watts of power.

This is conjecture on our part but we imagine they don’t do ‘big resistance’ because spinning is necessary to keep one’s bicycle aloft. If rollers slowed that down immensely, one’s steed would simply fall over. That would be no fun for anyone.

Some people simply don’t ‘get on’ with rollers. The starting off and dismounting bothers some cyclists and the increased concentration while riding is more than some people can be fussed with. That’s fair enough – different horses and all that. However, for those who do enjoy rollers, they offer an opportunity to practice a lot of practical skills which translate well to outdoors cycling.


Hopefully that helps give you some idea about the differences and pros and cons of turbo trainers and rollers. If you would like to ask us any more about them, we’ll do our best to help if you contact us.

What is the correct way to pass people on horseback?

Like cyclists (and ultimately every road user) horses and their riders are ‘vulnerable traffic’.

Some traffic is more vulnerable than other traffic and horses and their riders (along with cyclists, pedestrians and a few other groups) are at considerably greater risk than most motorised vehicles and their drivers. As such it is vital we treat horses and their riders with respect and consideration. Please take the following steps to do just that.

Approaching a horse and rider head on: Slow down if required/requested and give the horse plenty of space. While most horses on roads are generally calm and will do what their rider instructs, they are living breathing animals which can be startled and may react in a slightly erratic manner. Do not make any sudden movements or loud noises when approaching a horse.

Passing a horse and rider from behind: Horses (apparently) have poor peripheral vision and may not know you are there until you are practically in line with them. To make the horse (and rider) aware you are approaching, please announce yourself and keep talking as you pass. Don’t worry if you can’t think of anything interesting to say – the horse won’t mind bland conversation. As with approaching head on, please keep your speed low, give the horse a wide berth and don’t make any sudden movements or loud noises.

Behave in a thoughtful considerate manner and you should find horses, riders and cyclists can share the roads in a happy harmonious way.

If there is anything further you would like to ask about, please contact us and we shall do our best to come up with an informative and useful answer.