“He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” Aristotle
There are tons of reasons to ride with others, be it a couple of friends or a large group. Riding with others makes you more visible so it’s safer, and someone to lend a hand in the event of a road hazard is always handy. Riding with a group is easier especially when it’s windy. You pull the paceline* and then you drop to the rear and rest, ahh..life in the peleton,* tucked away in the draft.* When you have a close encounter with a motorist you will need a witness. No witness, no citation. It’s your word against theirs. Sad but true and it happens way to often. Keep in mind that this is not a race. Here are some tips for riding with a group.
- Choose your group wisely. Ask the group about average speed, top speed, distance, drop or no drop. Group leaders need to enforce the advertised pace and distance. Getting dropped* on a group ride can be a good thing. You’ve pushed yourself to your limit. You’ve hit the wall that you now have to climb over. It can also be a bad thing, you don’t know the route or you break down.
- Never pull* too long in the paceline. Get up front , keep the pace, don’t speed up, hold the line and signal to which side the paceline is to pass you on when you are giving up the pull. There are many accepted signals such as touching your butt or sticking your elbow out on the side which you want the paceline to pass, or just simply moving away from the front.
- It’s OK not to take the pull. It’s better to stay off the front than to disrupt the rhythm and flow. Avoid leaving a big gap in the line.
- Total focus is needed when riding in the paceline. Keep your eyes on the rider in front of you. Leave your headphones at home.
- Point the direction you are turning. Don’t assume everyone knows the route.
- Use the proper signal for slowing , stopping and announce “slowing / stopping”.
- For group safety stay off the aero bars in the pace line unless you are up front.
- Shout out and point to road hazards such as glass, rocks, potholes, dogs, man hole covers, those little reflectors that stick up and any other nasty looking shrapnel. If you are familiar with the route and you know there are hazards in the corners such as wash out, gravel, pot holes etc. announce such hazards.
- It’s important to be self sufficient on the group ride. The basic repair skills are needed. You need to be ready and able to repair your own flat tire. Others will help of course and you want to always pay it forward by helping others.
- If you want to leave the group during the ride let someone know. That way no one will need to circle back looking for you.
- Start off by riding between 6-12 inches behind the rider in front of you. Be sure not to overlap wheels. If another rider is behind you, do not brake unexpectedly.
- For a single paceline, the lead rider maintains a constant speed, pulls off and the drifts to the back of the group.
- For a double paceline, two lines of riders ride side-by-side and the rotation occurs when the lead riders simultaneously pull off to their respective sides
- A rotating paceline occurs when riders rotate in a circular fashion. One line of riders moves forward while the other line drifts backwards.
- If the wind is from the side, your rotating paceline will become an echelon and requires riders to overlap wheels with the riders in front of them.
*pull: Being in front of the paceline providing a wind break for the group.
*getting dropped: getting left behind
*peleton: A french word meaning the main group of riders in a bicycle race.
*paceline: A group of cyclists riding close behind one another in a line, so that each cyclist can draft the cyclist in front, except, of course for the leader, who is taking a turn to pull the rest of the group. The riders take turns pulling and drafting. A group of cyclists in a pace line can maintain a substantially higher speed than even the fastest of the group could do alone. (Sheldon Brown)
*draft (drafting): riding directly behind another rider avoiding the turbulent wind in front. See echelon above for drafting with a wind from the side.
Having written all of this I think the best reason to ride with others is that cyclist are the friendliest people on the planet and what better way is there to spend time with them. Thanks for viewing my site and as always I look forward to your comments.