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botanical guru
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm sure this has been covered a billion times on here but I've got a story to go along with my question(s) and I need tips and advice from you vets.

A little background: I'm fairly new to cycling and have really gotten into it this spring. I started last summer as cross training for my first marathon and it improved my running tenfold. This past late winter and early spring I've naturally progressed to cycling more than running. I usually ride by myself unless I've got the Chariot in tow with my 2 year old which is rare, but it does happen on occasion. Since I'm new I've been trying to rise 2-3 times during the week with one long ride on the weekend. This past Saturday was my longest of 41 miles, and then I did a short recovery ride of 11 miles on Sunday.

On Saturday when I was 3/4 finished with my ride I was asked if I wanted to tag along with a group. I've NEVER ridden with a group before, ever. I let the askee know that I've never riden with a group before and he didn't seem bothered. I didn't even know where to ride next to him when we were chatting. We were on a paved trail for a bit, but soon I caught on quickly to the hand signals and other safety signals the group was using in regards of looking for cars and other trail users. We spit out onto the road and soon we were flying. And, I mean flying. Well, to me anyways.

Here are my questions:

#1. It was obvious the guy that asked me to join them wasn't botherd by the fact that I was a newbie and hadn't ever ridden in a group before. That said, I just tried my hardest to keep up(which was 7mph faster than I was riding all day) for an 8ish mile stretch. It helped me push myself and I got a bit of speed work within my long ride. It was ok for me. Is that the deal with riding in a group? You just have to push yourself to meet pace with the rest of the paceline? Or, should I look for a slower group? My fear is that if I don't ever push myself to keep up, I'll never build the strength or stamina to improve my cycling.

#2. How close do you ride behine someone to technically draft? I know it's pretty close- and I could feel my legs and torso was not using as much energy as they were before when I was cycling next to people in the group. So, is that the answer to my question? You can just feel it and it's not technically a said distance?

#3. I didn't hold the group back by any means because I was riding at my max to keep up with them, and no one was lolly-gagging to stay with me. I felt kind of dumb tagging along(since the group was all male and one other female), but I had no clue how fast they would go out. I know 25mph(that's what my Garmin read) doesn't sound fast to some of you but my legs and arms aren't that strong yet. I was getting dropped by mile 7.5ish. At that point I was turning around anyways so it wasn't a huge deal. But, should I NOT consider riding with this group since I can't keep up for a long distance, or SHOULD I tag along and gain miles with them every weekend until I can go the full distance with them? Should I train harder to build strength on my own first, or continue to try riding with them?

#4. What exactly is group riding ettiquite? What are the main things I need to know about it so I don't look like a huge dope? They will all know I'm a newbie of course b/c I don't even know all of the biking terminology yet. But, the point is that I absolutely LOVED riding in a group and I want to keep it up. It's fun to meet new people that share the same interests and to experinece comaraderie. I consider myself a fairly descent, strong new female rider. The guy that asked me to join had an Ironman tattoo on his calf, and I was keeping up with him. That's gotta say something, right????

Any group riding tips would be really helpful. I'd really like to devle deep into it this season. I'm also thinking about a 1/2 or full century this fall so I'd like as much group riding under my belt as possible so I can make those experiences killer in my book.

Thanks-
Stacie

PS- I used the search engine on the top of the page and nothing really came up in regards to this, so I felt it was safe to post.
 

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#1) I think one of the best parts of being in a group is that they can make you push it. It _will_ make you a better rider. You just have to know when to take breaks and ride slower, in a slower group, or alone.

#2) Depends on speed. The faster you go, the bigger the suction area. I tend not to get too close as we are not professionals and want extra time for braking. I prefer safety over that last little percent of air flow efficiency.

#3) Personal preference. I probably wouldn't go out with them every weekend, but putting yourself in that situation is good for motivation. Just don't let it get you down if/when you get dropped.

#4) Depends on the group. Just ride and be aware of the other riders. Stay away from the crazy dangerous ones. Learn to keep your pace even. When standing up on climbs, be sure not to rapidly lose speed before regaining it - this is annoying to those on your wheel. Watch videos of professionals cornering. Other general good riding tips fit here.
 

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Vintage cyclist
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jsedlak said:
#1) I think one of the best parts of being in a group is that they can make you push it. It _will_ make you a better rider. You just have to know when to take breaks and ride slower, in a slower group, or alone.

#2) Depends on speed. The faster you go, the bigger the suction area. I tend not to get too close as we are not professionals and want extra time for braking. I prefer safety over that last little percent of air flow efficiency.

#3) Personal preference. I probably wouldn't go out with them every weekend, but putting yourself in that situation is good for motivation. Just don't let it get you down if/when you get dropped.

#4) Depends on the group. Just ride and be aware of the other riders. Stay away from the crazy dangerous ones. Learn to keep your pace even. When standing up on climbs, be sure not to rapidly lose speed before regaining it - this is annoying to those on your wheel. Watch videos of professionals cornering. Other general good riding tips fit here.
Well said.
 

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botanical guru
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
wooglin said:
Groups vary. I think your best bet is to find these folks again, preferably before they start, and ask THEM these questions.

Yeah, I got a little nervous when he was giving me the low down in a 30 second period while the rest of the group was already on their way out. I had no clue what to expect since it was my first time out in a group. I'll ask THEM these questions. :wink5: Thanks
 

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Sounds like you did well, especially for the 1st time. 25mph is damned fast, approaching race pace for many riders. I suggest to try to hook up with them again. Don't be afraid to ask questions. When you ride with a group you'll improve very quickly.

Re: drafting distance. When I'm with experienced riders that I know well, I'll sometimes get within 8-10" from their rear wheel. If I don't know you I'll leave more margin for error. I might ride very slightly to the right or left of your rear wheel without overlapping. DO NOT OVERLAP WHEELS........................EVER!
 

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Shoot! Posted before I was finished.

Keep in mind that if your front wheel touches the rear wheel of the bike in front of you, you're going down. There's a very, very slight chance that you won't crash. The bike in front of you likely won't fall. Any crash in a pace line is likely to be serious unless the crash is the last bike in line. In that case it's only serious to the rider that crashes. If a crash occurs in the front or middle of the pack all hell will break loose. Virtually everybody behind the crash will also fall. This is what it looks like. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMAJf-hf1Zk&feature=fvw
 

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'brifter' is f'ing stupid
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Mr. Versatile said:
Re: drafting distance. When I'm with experienced riders that I know well, I'll sometimes get within 8-10" from their rear wheel. If I don't know you I'll leave more margin for error. I might ride very slightly to the right or left of your rear wheel without overlapping. DO NOT OVERLAP WHEELS........................EVER!
exactly...very well said!
 

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Stretching

gardenrunner said:
#1. It was obvious the guy that asked me to join them wasn't botherd by the fact that I was a newbie and hadn't ever ridden in a group before. That said, I just tried my hardest to keep up(which was 7mph faster than I was riding all day) for an 8ish mile stretch. It helped me push myself and I got a bit of speed work within my long ride. It was ok for me. Is that the deal with riding in a group? You just have to push yourself to meet pace with the rest of the paceline? Or, should I look for a slower group? My fear is that if I don't ever push myself to keep up, I'll never build the strength or stamina to improve my cycling.
That was quite a jump in speed, but if you want to keep trying you can see how long you last. I suspect that if you ask around, you'll find groups that ride slower but still will stretch you, and maybe you can stay with that slower group for the whole ride. It seems likely that you will be dropped by this fast group after not too many miles - if that doesn't bother you then go for it.
 

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botanical guru
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Kerry Irons said:
That was quite a jump in speed, but if you want to keep trying you can see how long you last. I suspect that if you ask around, you'll find groups that ride slower but still will stretch you, and maybe you can stay with that slower group for the whole ride. It seems likely that you will be dropped by this fast group after not too many miles - if that doesn't bother you then go for it.

Nah, getting dropped doesn't really bother me. It was nice to push myself and then drop off and head back though. If tagging with them builds up my speed, I'm all for it. I might just find a slower group to go the whole distance with and not ride solo for the long rides. Thanks.
 

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I would look for a slower group for now.

Not that getting dropped is anything to worry about (unless you're killing a no-drop ride which doesn't seem the case here) but because you wouldn't be learing or getting comfortable with the group dynamics from just chasing. In other words trying to keep up with a group is great training wise buy you'll want to know and be comfortable with what to do once you catch them. So I'd at least do a few group rides that you blend into.
 

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Slightly Opinionated
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Mr. V said it best....do not half-wheel. EVER. EVER. E.V.E.R.

As for drafting, as you build some rapport with people you learn to trust them, and you'll be able to ride 3 or 4 inches off their wheel. I keep to 8" if I'm not familiar with them.

When talking about motivation for the group, it is excellent motivation to be on those kinds of rides. I try to do a fast ride every week, and if the ride happens to include some slower riders, I simply do more work on the front. But group riding is a sure way to get better, and get better quickly.

Above all, talk to the group. Find out what they expect, what their dynamic is (race training, just a friendly fast ride, etc) and any rules they have.

And DON'T HALF WHEEL! Can't stress this enough. Last Thursday the 2nd person in the paceline was half wheeling the guy in front, overlapped wheels, took out 8 other people. 2 busted collar bones, concussion, broken leg and broken hip. They were powering out with a tailwind and rolling about 36mph when it happened. I'm glad I missed that ride...
 

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I'm interesting.
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Holy thread resurrection.

Good advice, though.
 

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Really? Because team pursuiters on the track have trouble keeping the spacing that close. Just saying.
I didn't say I was able to hold it for long, but it sure is a good goal to have.
 

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Another view.

do not overlap wheels. EVER. EVER. E.V.E.R...
While this sounds like good advice, it's not so good unless tempered with a few qualifications. If you never want to overlap a wheel, you would have to limit your riding to a noob-like tentative dangling behind someone at all times. You'd be afraid to move past someone or let someone move past you. You would never learn how to ride a rotating paceline because as a participant of such a paceline, you're overlapping wheels all the time. You would never be able to move up in a group or let yourself fall back, or be part of a cross-wind paceline. Point is: learn how to overlap wheels safely. The danger is not overlapping as such, but overlapping a wheel of a rider who doesn't know you're there, can't hold a straight line or is prone to sudden and inexplicable moves, and not knowing what to do if there is wheel contact.

There's even some danger in following the unqualified "never overlap." Riders who take this as dogma sometimes touch the brakes to keep from overlapping a wheel. That can cause major problems for others in the group.
 

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Slightly Opinionated
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While this sounds like good advice, it's not so good unless tempered with a few qualifications. If you never want to overlap a wheel, you would have to limit your riding to a noob-like tentative dangling behind someone at all times. You'd be afraid to move past someone or let someone move past you. You would never learn how to ride a rotating paceline because as a participant of such a paceline, you're overlapping wheels all the time. You would never be able to move up in a group or let yourself fall back. Point is: learn how to overlap wheels safely. The danger is not overlapping as such, but overlapping a wheel of a rider who doesn't know you're there, can't hold a straight line or is prone to sudden and inexplicable moves, and not knowing what to do if there is wheel contact.

There's even some danger in following the unqualified "never overlap." Riders who take this as dogma sometimes touch the brakes to keep from overlapping a wheel. That can cause major problems for others in the group.
By overlapping I mean half-wheeling about 6 inches to the left or right of the wheel in front of you. Racing is one thing, but on a group ride with some friends, there's no need to half wheel and put others at risk. If you're going to over-run the wheel in front of you, smoothly shift left into the wind while continuing to pedal, let the wind reduce your speed, and then slide back into the line behind the wheel in front of you.
 

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Well, I understand half-wheeling to be forcing the pace, but I know what you're saying and agree. My point was that the "never overlap" admonition needs an explanation attached to it to be of value.
Right on. Poor word choice on my part in the original post.
 

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By overlapping I mean half-wheeling about 6 inches to the left or right of the wheel in front of you.
Well, I understand half-wheeling to be forcing the pace, but I know what you're saying and agree. My point was that the "never overlap" admonition needs an explanation attached to it to be of value.
 
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