Getting Along While Getting By

Image result for passing lane

One of the craziest races I ever did for passing and being passed was at Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Canada.  There were about 30 women and 150 elite and U23 guys.  The women started several minutes back, so I was caught by the lead guy towards the end of the 2nd lap and passed by probably half of the guys all up.  It was a pretty technical course, as the riding is in those parts, with one ideal line on most of the descents.  I very quickly learned what ‘left’ and ‘right’ sounded like in French.

An inevitable part of racing is passing (yaaaay!) or being passed by (boo!) another rider.  They may or may not be in your race, it might happen once or twice or it could happen a lot more than that, you could be a girl getting passed by a guy or a guy getting passed by a girl.  None of that really matters because the etiquette is the same every time.

Here are Cowbell Coach’s top tips for both sides of the coin to help keep everyone smiling from start to finish:


  • Call a couple of times – once as you approach and again as you get closer to the rider.  Be prepared to slow down until it is safe to pass and if you can’t get by right away, call when you can and then make your move.  If you know there’s a great passing spot around the next turn, let them know.  Also listen for the rider to communicate with you – if they do, pay attention and pass when they give you the ok.
  • You’re not a ghost.  If you’re not the first of 2 or more riders wanting to pass, make sure the slower rider knows you’re there – ghost passing is dangerous.   Call early enough that the slower rider can adjust their speed accordingly, and so they don’t move in to your line unaware of you being there.  Between the sounds of themselves and the first rider passing them, unless you speak up they don’t know you’re there.
  • Don’t jab riders in the ass as you pass!  It’s just not cool, and it can hurt. Know how wide your bars are and be prepared to go wide of the groomed trail to get by people as they may not have the confidence, ability or fuel left in the tank to move off the trail for you.
  • Understand relative speed.  If a rider slows (not stops) and pulls to the side for you make sure you get around them before they run out of space.  Are they really that slow?  Are you really that fast?
  • Say thank you!!!  Only one person is winning the race and it’s probably not you, so you can spare the breath.  If it is, experience tells us you’re one of the most likely people to follow these guidelines and don’t need to be told.  Encouragement is cool too – even better if you can come up with something original.  But try to avoid asking people if they’re ok unless something really looks wrong – slower is not broken and it’s discouraging to suggest that it is.


Being passed

  • Don’t pretend you didn’t hear the calls.  Unless you’re listening to your iPod (in which case, not in a race!!!) you can hear.  If you’re caught, you’re caught – let them by so you both have a great day.
  • Communicate – if you can’t let them by straight away, call back so they know you heard them and that you’ll be letting them by.  If you know there is somewhere you can move to the side or they can use to get around you coming up, let them know and wave them through the correct side.
  • Being caught is not the start of the race.  When someone calls to pass it’s not the time to pick up the pace and try to drop them.  Deliberately blocking is equally uncool.
  • Don’t panic – if you’re at all unsure just hold your line.
  • Don’t let it ruin your day.  Any day on a bike is a good day!  But if it’s a real problem, talk to the organisers.  Likewise, if people passing are doing it right all day long, let the organisers know.


What do you mean by ‘call’?

Your other right!  We’ve all done it – called ‘on your left’/’go left’ or ‘on your right’/’go right’ and promptly moved in the opposite direction to what we should have.

In NZ we are often directed to call ‘on your right’ before passing.  Which is fine, if we’re going to pass on the right, and if we know our right from our left when we’re racing.  The first time I raced outside NZ was in Australia, where everyone just called ‘track’.  Personally I favour ‘rider’, but at my most fatigued I’m pretty sure it has come out as ‘bagaaaaah’ once or twice.  The most important thing is that the rider ahead knows someone is approaching so they can do their bit and prepare for them to pass.

Leave a Comment