In our last blog post, I went over some of the bike riding 101 laws that cyclists in California should all be aware of. These are a good segue for today’s topic, how to ride in a group. When I started riding, I spent plenty of time out on the road, trying to figure out the basic skills needed to safely ride a bike. After learning the fundamentals of riding alone, it was time to step it up.
Ride in a straight line
Another way to say this is, ride in a predicable manner. Riding in a straight line isn’t as easy as it sounds, however. Road conditions can make it even more difficult, but it’s the number one rule of not just riding in a group, but riding in general. Watch any new cyclist, or someone who only rides a beach cruiser around town, and you will witness a line that is more serpentine than it needs to be. I don’t know why people tend to weave from side to side as they ride, but it isn’t safe, and it isn’t efficient. This is especially true when riding in a large group. The last thing you want is for someone to clip your front wheel because they can’t ride a straight line.
Point out objects in the road
Respect for the group means pointing out potholes, irregular surfaces, and objects. If you are riding at or near the front, and you see a road hazard, it is your responsibility to point it out. I’ve launched my fair share of water bottles, and had my hands slip off the bars due to someone not pointing out a deep pothole. I’ve watched people hit stones and crash. Each of these instances could have been avoided if a lead rider had just pointed out the treacherous condition. Watch the PRO peloton, and you will see them pointed thing out for each other. Be like the PROs, look out for your fellow riders.
Don’t lead if you don’t know the route
I can respect wanting to take a pull, or take the lead wheel on a decent. If there happens to be a turn, and you don’t know which way to go, things can get harry, fast. Best case, you over shoot the turn and have to chase to get back on the back of the group. Worst case, you chop someones wheel because they expect you to go one way, and you go the other.
If you know the route, take a pull
We’ve all been there. It was a late night and you had a couple too many cold ones, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a pull. Surfing the wheels isn’t going to win much respect. Surfing the wheels and contesting the sprints will win you jeers and a bad reputation. If you’re familiar with the route, don’t be afraid to pull through, even if it’s just for a couple of pedal strokes.
There you have it. Some simple rules for those looking to jump into a group ride for the first time. Be mindful of the other riders in the group. Follow these simple steps, and you will find your riding improve by leaps and bounds in just a few weeks. Stay safe out there, and as always, keep the rubber side down!