Monday, April 28, 2008
Reflections on Group Rides
Last week I went on a group ride (the Monday Husker ride) that had a new kid who was a relatively strong rider, but had no clue about how to ride in a group. He had trouble holding a line, swerved in and out of his place in line too abruptly, immediately sped up instead of holding his speed steady when the leaders in front of him pulled off of the front, etc. I just tried to stay away from him (most of the time, I tried to stay in front to avoid being behind him in case he caused a wreck).
Seeing his lack of experience got me thinking about how much I have learned in the last year, and made me thankful for all of the people who have helped me learn. Last year at about this time I went on my first ever group ride. Up till then I had only ridden on bike paths in town, and some solo rides out to Sprague or Pioneers Park. I think my longest ride ever at the time was about 30 miles.
One day last March,when I was coming home on the bike path, a rider on a road bike pulled up next to me at the South street light. We started chatting - he said he was heading out for a training ride as he prepared for the Spring Classic races. He asked me if I ever went on group rides, and encouraged me to try the Husker ride or the Saturday morning Wilderness Perk (LBC) ride. It was a good feeling to have somebody invite me for a ride - made me feel like I must not look like a complete idiot if he felt comfortable asking me to ride with him in a group.
After reading everything I could find online about group riding etiquette, (one very humorous thread on BikeForums.net can be read here), I got up the courage to try the Husker ride. It was advertised as a "recovery" ride, so I figured that I would have a chance to keep up. I showed up, introduced myself, and let the group leader know that I had never ridden with a group, and promptly got my first pieces of valuable advice:
1) Stay at the back and watch until you get a feel for how things work
2) Ride smoothly - no sudden moves
Next I got a great taste for how slow I was as we headed out 14th at 20mph into the wind - and then flew down S.W. 12th towards Pioneers at 28 mph. I managed to stay with the 2nd group behind the leaders (who I later learned were teamFIRE members Adrian and Aaron, and Chet from the Husker team) and had a nice conversation with a guy named Dave (Dave M., also of teamFIRE) who invited me to try the Wednesday teamFIRE "No Rider Left Behind" ride. I had so much fun on my first ride, I took Dave up on his invitation, and showed up at their next ride. I went OTB as soon as we went up a hill, but Jace stayed back with me and helped me catch up to the group so I could finish with them. I've been going (and falling off the back) ever since. I also got some great instruction on paceline riding from an ex racer named Rose with whom I rode on one of the early spring Saturday morning rides - Dave Rowe and Bill Ganzel were on that ride as well, and the three of them taught me how to stay smooth and rotate in a paceline. Adrian has also given me tips to help improve my climbing (I climb much in the same way that a brick floats).
Which brings me to this spring's rides. I don't know if it is the year's worth of experience and the additional miles in my legs, or the fact that I started riding with the groups earlier this year, but it seems much easier and smoother for me riding in a group this spring. It probably has more to do with the fact that it is early in the year, (pace is slower than it will be as we approach summer) and not with any increase in my ability, but for whatever reason I am much more comfortable riding at the front and am able to stay with the group much better than last year. In fact, tonight I heard something I never thought I would hear on a ride as I was leading the group around the airport - "Slow down, Bob, we're dropping everybody". Nicol is my witness - she heard it (told you I'd work that into the blog, Nicol). I just started laughing - what a difference a year makes.
So, thanks to all of the folks who are inviting, inclusive, and patient with road bike noobs like me. It makes a difference.