Riding in a group is one of the great pleasures of road riding. The added speed, efficiency and comradery make for a far more enjoyable ride. However, with additional people comes additional responsibilities. Here is what you need to know before your first group ride.
Most groups are patient and will slow down the pace for a struggling rider. That said, if you’re constantly falling off the back of the pack and are never able to take a turn on the front, expect that patience to wear thin pretty quickly. Either find a group with a similar level of fitness, or go on a few solo rides beforehand.
Take a turn on the front
Easily the least liked person in any group is that guy who never takes a turn on the front. No one cares about your upcoming crit; you ride in the group, you do your time.
Don’t be a hero
Everyone wants to be on top of the Strava leaderboard, but launching into full attack mode each and every time your Garmin gives an alert is a great way to get kicked out of any cycling group. Save your Strava attempts for solo rides.
Choose a group with more experienced riders
If you’re actually looking to improve your riding, find a group of your superiors, not your peers. It may not be as fun, but working hard to improve rarely is.
Follow the road rules
If you’re in the lead, keep the group accountable. Stop at stop signs and red lights, give way, indicate and don’t ride more than two abreast.
Know the signals
When you’re six riders deep in a fast-paced group, it can be difficult to see what’s out in front, so when you’re in the lead, call everything. Cars up, turning, slowing and obstacles are all things that need to be clearly communicated to everyone caudal to you. If you’re turning, use the appropriate arm to indicate the direction in plenty of time; if you’re slowing down, one hand behind the back will save a bike from careering into your rear. Most importantly, call and point out holes and obstacles. It’s not uncommon in a race situation for a lead rider to call a hole, but point to the opposite side of the bike in an attempt to cause a crash. Do not do this.
In any medium of communication pertaining to group riding, this point will undoubtedly appear. However, its consistency is deserved. Half-wheeling is when one of the lead riders incrementally increases the pace of group by continually staying half a wheel length ahead of the fellow lead rider. When the slower rider makes up the distance, the jerk half-wheeling moves forward again. A good way to lose any friends you have in the group.
Share the love
If a fellow rider is struggling, lend them a gel. If another flats, pull up and lend them a hand. The point at which your group becomes too competitive to help each other out is the point at which you should find a new group.
Get comfortable riding close to people
It’s not uncommon to bump shoulders, handlebars or even wheels in a group. Learn how to deal with this, and how to avoid overcompensating so you don’t start a chain reaction.
Join a club
If you aren’t sure of where to find a cycling group, join a local club or shop ride. They’re bound to have some experienced riders who are familiar with the local routes and will gladly welcome new riders.