Group riding Tips
Ok you’ve found a group that suits your ability and you’re comfortable with their speed and the distance of the ride. But there are certain skills you need to learn before cycling in a group becomes natural and enjoyable.
So here’s a few things to think about.
Most groups ride in pairs so you’ll have to get use to riding close to other riders. This side by side riding can be a bit intimidating, but you’ll need to get to grips with it quickly. The best idea is to keep your front wheel inline with the riders back wheel in front of you. And try to stay relaxed. Also place yourself on the outside and not on the kerb side of the group, that way you can move away if required.
You’ll also need to keep a short gap between you and the rider in front, so there’s a lot to concentrate on. Stay loose and relaxed and avoid tensing up.
As the name suggests it’s a group ride, meaning everybody riding at the same pace together. So don’t, if you’re at the front, try and go faster then the rider next to you. Half wheeling, as it is known, is when your front wheel sneaks ahead of your partners wheel. What happens is he or she will speed up to match you, or if not the whole bunch will get out of sync. Either way you’ll make no friends by doing this.
Learn the signals or calls your group makes, such as when pointing out obstacles or hazards on the road. These signals are passed down the group so everybody can avoid the hazards. This is where you need to be constantly alert, not only for your own sake but for riders behind you.
Learn how to read and anticipate what’s happening in the group ahead of you by watching not the guy directly in front of you, but riders further up the pack. One of the biggest mistakes I see with new riders, is their inability to read what’s going on.
Then suddenly they’re having to brake causing at best swearing from the riders behind, and at worst a pile up. In fact braking should be avoided if at all possible.
If you can read what’s going on then you can soft pedal or stop peddling altogether if the pace starts to slow up. Conversely you wont get caught out if the pace increases slightly and have to sprint to close the gap.
When it comes to your turn at the front, keep your speed even, don’t speed up or slow down. How long you stay at the front depends on many factors, but it will be appreciated if you do your bit. Don’t hang on longer than you feel comfortable, and if you start to struggle, tell your riding partner and decide between you when it’s a good and safe time to peel off.
At anytime if you start to fatigue, then safely make your way to the back of the group.
Tired riders can make mistakes, so it’s best for everybody if you ride at the back.
Make sure you’re confident at changing flat tires, a good bunch will help you, and wait for you, but you don’t want to test their patience too much.
This barely scratches the surface of group riding skills, so after learning the basics keep honing your skills. Ask experienced cyclists for tips, or join a cycling club and learn everything you can. After a while cycling in a group will become second nature to you.
For all this group riding is awesome fun, and once you’ve learnt a few basic skills and got to know your fellow riders, you wont look back. And with a bit of luck they’ll finish with a well deserved coffee at a cycle friendly café.
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