Contributed by Joel Woodward, Coaching Director, Minnesota High School Cycling League.

We at the league frequently receive questions, complaints and praise for the conduct of our student athletes in the races relating to passing. Passing, done well or poorly is a regular topic of discussion and at times frustration. This topic comes up most often due to not being confident, how to do this properly and “What are the rules?” Below you will find some relevant excerpts from the rule book, but perhaps more importantly some reflection of our roles as coaches and keeping the bigger picture in mind.

Stay Safe Out There.

A Positive Sporting Attitude. Before we get into the specifics of the mechanics of passing, this overarching, principal and corresponding rule is our first and most important guide for instructing our student athletes. “Fair play and respectful, kind, supportive behavior..” Is what the first rule we will look at askes of our student athletes. In passing, exhibiting Strong Character is how we do this well.

We will go through the rules and procedures but, when to pass, where and how to do it, is a judgement call made on the trail, at speed by both the leading rider and the trailing rider. Providing your student athletes the guidance to have a positive sporting attitude will help them make sound judgment calls of how to apply the rules below.

We all a have a role to play. As with all things coaching, what we do, rather than what we say is the more powerful message we send to our athletes. We all have to walk the walk.


Student-athletes are expected to display an excellent sporting attitude during all NICA and League events and should treat all other students, coaches, spectators, and officials with respect. Fair play and respectful, kind, supportive behavior is expected of all students, coaches, and parents. Profanity in any situation is not acceptable

Passing properly is simple, but not easy. It comes down to two simple things. One, pass when and where it is safe, and two, talk to each other.

Where to pass.

This is something to go over at practice several times a season. Help your riders identify places on the course, wide and long enough to pass without touching each other or causing themselves or the person they are passing to ride too close to the edge of the trail. At practice pause on trail and look at appropriate and inappropriate passing locations.

Keep in mind less experienced racers need a larger riding envelope than more experiences racers. Being respectful of the space your fellow racer may need versus what you may need is exhibiting character.   

Communication is Key

Both the leading rider and the trailing rider have a responsibility to communicate with each other. Something akin to the following. The trailing rider needs to let leading rider in front of them know they want to pass, when they are passing, and which side they will be coming on.  The leading rider need to let them know they heard it and will move over as soon as it’s safe.

Passing: A play in one act.

Trailing rider: Hey, I’d like to pass please.

Leading rider: Ok, I’ll get over as soon as I see a good spot.

An open spot is just ahead..

Leading rider: I’m going to get over up there.

Tailing rider: Ok

Leading rider moves to the right as the trail opens up.

Trailing rider, (soon to be Leading rider): On your left. (as they pass) Thanks, have a good race.

Formerly leading rider: No prob, go get um.

Aaaaannddd Scene.



When overtaking a rider on the race course, the passing rider should do so respectfully and must:

  • Pass only when safe to do so and without rider contact;
  • Call out “On your left” or “On your right” or use other similar language to indicate whether the pass will be on the other rider’s left or right side.

Passing in a manner that compromises the safety of other riders will not be tolerated.


Racing for position, No, you don’t have to get over. When your riders are engaged in racing their competitors for a position, they do not have to move over when asked to, and the trailing racer is not entitled to have them move over. I’ll refer back making judgment call based on fair play, respect and good character. As they offer fair play and respect to their competitors, they can offer it to themselves in equal measure.

Communication again is key.

Leading rider and trailing rider should initiate communication as much as is needed to, to figure out if they are competing for the position or not if they it’s unclear to either of them.


In the event two racers are vying for position, the leading racer does not have to yield to the challenging racer. However, a racer may not bodily interfere with the intent to impede another racer’s progress. Traditional rules of racing apply: the leading racer “owns the trail.”

Racers Pushing Bicycles RULE 6.16. BIKE PUSHERS MUST YIELD

Racers riding bicycles have the right of way over racers pushing bicycles. When practical, racers pushing must stay on the least rideable portion of the trail when being passed. Racers pushing or carrying bicycles may overtake racers riding their bicycles provided pushing racers do not impede the progress of the riding racers.



Lapped racers must yield to racers overtaking them. Lapped racers being passed must move over as quickly, efficiently, and as safely as Possible.