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9.31 Group Riding Tips


This article is from the Bicycles FAQ, by Mike Iglesias with numerous contributions by others.

9.31 Group Riding Tips

From: Roger Marquis <marquis@roble.com>

[More up to date copies of Roger's articles can be found at

There is no more effective way to become a motivated cyclist than
finding a good regular group ride. Here are some group riding
techniques common around the world.

* Pacelines, Pacelines, Pacelines. Single or double, rotating
quickly or slowly but always smooth and tight. This is the single
overriding feature common to every experienced group ride.

* Accelerate slowly and with an eye to keeping the group together.
Attacks, jumps, short-hard pulls and other race-like riding may be
fine for certain smaller rides but have no place in a group oriented
ride. I'm often surprised that novice riders sometimes think this
kind of aggressive riding is better training than a good rotating

* A consistent pace is key. Try establishing a pedaling rhythm
before reaching the front, and maintain it until just after pulling
off. If you're feeling especially strong accelerate and/or take a
longer pull but if you do increase the pace do it gradually. Don't
forget to pedal harder on descents to make up for the extra
aerodynamic resistance.

* Go hard on the hills (and elsewhere) but don't forget to regroup.
This doesn't mean waiting for every last straggler but always make
a reasonable effort to regroup after the harder sections.

* Wheelsitters are always welcome, but please stay at the back.
There's nothing more disruptive than someone who rotates to the
front only to slow down on hitting the wind. If you're feeling
extended, tired, or otherwise not inclined to pull through there's
no problem with sitting at the back, just let the riders who are
rotating know when they've reached the back of the rotating section.

* Don't open gaps! If you find yourself behind a gap close it
_slowly_. A skilled group will remain in a tight paceline through
95% of an average ride including stops, corners, short climbs,
descents, and traffic by closing the inevitable gaps before they
become problems.

* Don't point out every single pothole, oncoming car, or other
obstacle. Each rider has to take responsibility for themselves.
This means that everyone should be paying attention to the traffic
and the road, even at the back. The frontmost riders should point
out unusual hazards of course, and steer the group gradually around
glass, potholes, slower riders and such but don't ever assume that
you can leave it up to the other riders to watch the road ahead.

* The lead riders are most responsible for the group's behavior
and must take this into account at stop signs and lights. Don't
accelerate through a yellow light unless you know the back of the
group can make it too. If the group does get split ride slow until
the rear group has caught back on. If you're at the back please
don't run the intersection just to maintain contact unless it is
clear that traffic is waiting for the entire group to pass.

* Don't accommodate elitist attitudes. Perhaps the best thing about
good group rides, aside from training, is socializing. Team
affiliation, racing experience, helmet use, type of bicycle, etc.
are all matters of individual preference and should be left as
such. As long as the rider is safe and able to keep up they should
be welcome.

* Experienced riders should point out mistakes. This must be done
diplomatically of course but it is important to make people aware
of unsafe riding, hard braking, cutting blind corners, unnecessarily
obstructing traffic, etc.

* It's also helpful to meet at a popular, central location. Cafes,
plazas, and bike shops are all good places to wait and talk before
the ride starts.

* Finally, a <a href="http://www.roble.net/marquis/clinic">skills
clinic</a> can be an excellent method of helping new riders achieve
the safety and proficiency necessary to participate in a paceline.

Roger Marquis


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