If you’re a beginner, or a triathlete that mostly trains alone, chances are you would benefit from group riding. But, it can be intimidating. Riding with people faster than you, in close vicinity of you, and sometimes not so forgiving of beginners who make mistakes. Don’t take that last part too seriously. Experienced group riders make mistakes too, but the reason they are less tolerant is because there is less room for error on group rides. Don’t be intimidated by this. You will benefit from group rides, and I’m going to give you some tips to keep everyone happy, and stay safe out there in a group ride.
- Find the appropriate group. If you don’t know…..ask! Ask the distance, average speed, drop or no drop, and find out if the ride has faster or slower groups. If it’s a drop ride, make sure you have a map! You will probably average a mile per hour or so faster in the right group. Keep that in mind when choosing, but don’t get into a group that will be angry if you think you will slow them down
- Know your etiquette!!! Some groups will not allow Time Trial/Triathlon bikes, so find that out first. If they do allow them, make sure your hands are on the hoods, close to brakes, while you are in formation and riding close to other riders. Try not to let gaps form, don’t slam on the brakes, call out what your doing and hazards in the road too.
- Execute pace lining and echelon formations as appropriate. Pace lining is when riders in the group take turns pulling in the front, then roll off to the back, in a rotation, when their turn is up. Don’t forget to speed up as you approach the rear of the group so you can move over and get back in the draft! Echelon, is basically pace lining on an angle to address a cross wind.
- Know where the most likely places you can lose the group are. If you are one of the slower riders in the group, your objective should be to stay in the middle of the group. That is where you will be protected from the wind the least, and most likely to get help from riders behind you if you do open a gap. So never be the last to leave a stop and stay close to the rider in front of you so you don’t create a gap. Other places you are likely to be left behind, are in cross winds, up hills, and around turns. In a crosswind, make sure you are positioned correctly behind the rider in front of you to keep you out of the wind. That means offset a little to the left or right if you’re in a cross wind. Hills are difficult, but you need to continue to try and stay close to other riders on the hills so you don’t get left behind when the rider in front of you crests the hill. Turns are another place you need to continue to try and stay close. Read my post on bike handling skills if you are having trouble around the turns. Remember, any place you get left alone in the back of the group is almost certain to leave you dropped!!! So make sure you are always in position to get back close to the wheel in front of you at all times!!!
- Lastly, stay close!!!! It’s that simple. Correctly positioned, you can save up to 30% power on the riders in front of you. That’s HUGE! The closer you are to the wheel in front of you, the easier it will be to pedal to keep the speed of the group and less energy you will expend to do so. This makes a lot of you nervous. So practice!!! Watch the riders hips in front of you and keep alert of everything else in your peripheral vision. If the riders hips stop moving, that means they stop pedaling, so adjust your pedaling accordingly. If you find yourself going to fast, don’t hit the brakes and startle the rider behind you! step out of the draft slightly to slow yourself down just a bit.
Follow these tips and you will be more than welcome to join the many group rides out there, and enjoy the benefits of riding with others
Tridogz Endurance Coaching