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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Our informal Wed. night group has exploded over the last year from 10+ regulars, to 30 - 40 people showing up... and growing. It has gone from a laid back 17 mph average to a very competitive 20+ average, with sprint zones, etc.

Before, since there were only 10 of us, it was obvious who was new, and safety lessons were given prior to and during the ride. It was a laid back setting for anyone who showed up, and could keep up. Now, there is just a big mass in the parking lot, itching to go fast. Someone generally asks if there are any new riders, but they don't always fess up (I don't know why), and then we seem to just roll out, hoping for the best.

Last night there were several close calls and A LOT of cursing. All because some unannounced newbies had no clue as to how to ride safely in a group...NONE. This seems to be occurring weekly now, and I know we're just pushing our luck.

**For those of you who ride in large groups like this - How do you ensure that everyone participating on the ride understands how to ride in a pace line safely? How do you approach new riders wanting to join in? How do you find out who is a new rider before hand, in the first place? This isn't really a beginner ride anymore, IMO, but they keep showing up. :)

Thanks for any suggestions as to how we can make this large group safer, and identify new riders before there is a problem.
 

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We split ours up into sub groups. The fast guys head out first and so on so the people who get dropped get picked up by the last group out which is esentially beginners and people looking to take it easy. Generally people who are totally clueless get dropped back to the beginner/easy group and have managed to get a clue by the time they can hang in the faster groups.

It's not a perfect solution everyweek but generally it works out okay. Sub groups are usually about 10.
 

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Break it into groups or make the course selective enough to do it for you.
 

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If people wont fess up and try to hang, there is not too much you can do.

When the group around here got too big to be safe with newer people, 4-5 of the fast guys would go to the front really early and drive the pack like mad. There are a few hills that always tended to thin out the newer riders and thin the pack. Not the nicest way to make it safer, but it works.

Ideally the new(er) folks would speak up so that they could be taught the correct way to do things. Unfortunately, most of the fast people don't want to take the time to teach them and essentailly coach them for a bit. In an unorganized ride like that, its part of it.

I am guilty of that as well. Our hammer fest was part of my workout early in the season, and I didn't have time to hang out and teach. BUt I did do it when I rode it as a lower intensity ride or now in the post season/cross season.
 

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huvia ja hyötyä
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Split the group

OR

Start a new ride: a dedicated newbie and recovery ride
 

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The weekly group rides I do tend to deal with this by natural selection.....as the speed ramps up, those with lesser skills are naturally selected to be OTB. By the time it gets deeper into the ride and really fast, you either can hang with the front of the pack or you find a group of similarly paced riders that day and finish the ride. True newbs get shelled pretty quickly.

Our LBS does sponsor a Monday ride that is intended be for newer riders where shop employees lead the ride and control the speeds....no one passes the leader, no sprints, etc. A lot of us who do the faster rides use it as a recovery day sitting in the back and chatting for an hour.
 

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d365 said:
Our informal Wed. night group has exploded over the last year from 10+ regulars, to 30 - 40 people showing up.
Sounds like a nice problem to have. We'd have to bus in people to have that many riders.

Not to sidetrack your thread, but I'd be interested in knowing what you've been doing to build attendance that much in such a short period of time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I wish we could split into 2 groups, but it seems no one is getting dropped really. The newbies who show up are fast enough to keep up, for the most part. Occasionally, someone will be dropped, but not enough to make a new group. Those usually just don't come back the next week.

Perfect example: yesterday there was a new kid, who runs on the university cross country team. He came in second on the hill sprint. Problem is, he's only been riding a bike since Nov. He can't keep his front wheel in a straight line to save his life... but he wasn't getting dropped. He was changing lines (in a double pace line), crossing wheels, you name it. When asked why he didn't speak up at the beginning, he said - I'm not a beginner, I've been riding with 4 of my friends for months...... of course his 4 friends had no clue either.
 

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New riders who don't have group experience are not going to learn anything if no one speaks up and teaches them. Using the Darwin method of splitting the group is asking for trouble and not really dealing with the problem.

Our group divides rides into A, B, and C levels before we start. Whoever is leading the ride actually TALKS to the group, roughly outlining the course, where we may regroup, and any safety info pertinent to the ride. This is the mark of a good group in my book. Forget standing around before the ride posing, trying to figure out who's strong and who's not.

Some of the older more experienced riders might take a newbie under their wing if they see he/she is kind of clueless. At the same time it is contingent on anyone joining a group for the first time to be observant, ask questions (What sign do you use to pull off?) and educate themselves. There is enough info floating around out there that there is no excuse for waiting around until someone teaches you something.

Bottom line? COMMUNICATION. Speak up, without using profanity, if you see someone acting squirrely. Keep your head up and wits about you and never assume someone reacts the same as you. Just as we should practice defensive driving, we need to practice defensive cycling.
 

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just joined a monday night ride that sounds like what you described, chaos. since it's in city limits there's some stopping. i was surprised at the speed, above 25mph. the speed serves a purpose to drop people, myself included and i was glad. no near misses or cussing but plenty of close quarter fun.
 

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If you have strong, but inexperienced, riders who can hang with the group, the more experienced riders can informally coach them on pack riding skills as you go through the rides. Most people who want to do well in the sport accept helpful tips from more experienced riders so that they can perform better. We have a young tri rider who comes on the group rides to practice the bike leg for his races. He was very inexperienced, but a strong rider, when he first began with us about 6 months ago, but is now getting the hang of riding in what amount to simulated road races on many of our rides. He is now someone you don't mind following in a close draft whereas, when he first began, you didn't want him anywhere near you. Doesn't take too long for strong riders to figure it out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Allez Rouge said:
Sounds like a nice problem to have. We'd have to bus in people to have that many riders.

Not to sidetrack your thread, but I'd be interested in knowing what you've been doing to build attendance that much in such a short period of time.
There are a ton of cyclist around this area (Athens GA, and surrounding towns). There are pro rides, shop rides, club rides, and leaderless rides. Somebody created a web site, with a calendar that has all the weekly rides with routes, speeds, and experience level suggestions. This is what has brought out the masses. There are at least 2 different rides for every day of the week.
 

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The club I usually ride with doesn't generally have to deal with new riders. It's not a question of elitism or exclusivity. Most of the people are just really really strong riders. There are two saturday group rides that take the same route (A and B groups). Sometimes new riders will try and hang with the B group, but even that is a brutally hard and fast ride that a lot of seasoned riders can't hang with. On the club's website it even states that riders should be proficient in group riding and that the rides are not for beginners.

Other clubs here in SoCal have dedicated rides for newer riders to learn their group riding skills before they step up to the faster groups. You could try something similar.

Or just ride them off of your wheel! To be honest, though, there really isn't much you can do when a newer rider with little pack experience who has more speed than skill doesn't fess up and tries to run with the big boys. You just have to ride defensively and hope for the best. Teaching experiences are enjoyable at best and result in bad blood at worst, but it's always better to call out a rider for being unsafe rather than to say nothing and let them think that they're doing everything right, so good on you for calling out the college kid.

Maybe you could start forming a legitimate cycling club?
 

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My wife comes to Athens every summer for a meeting on the U of Ga. campus. Maybe I'll tag along next year and bring a bike.
 

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Perfect example: yesterday there was a new kid, who runs on the university cross country team. He came in second on the hill sprint. Problem is, he's only been riding a bike since Nov. He can't keep his front wheel in a straight line to save his life... but he wasn't getting dropped. He was changing lines (in a double pace line), crossing wheels, you name it. When asked why he didn't speak up at the beginning, he said - I'm not a beginner, I've been riding with 4 of my friends for months...... of course his 4 friends had no clue either
Sounds like this was the perfect opportunity to teach him some of the needs of the pack - right when he is doing what he shouldn't be doing.
- tell him he needs to maintain a straight line and why
- tell him why you don't overlap wheels
- tell him to maintain his psoition especially in a double pace line and why.
- tell him not to half wheel and why

If your group stops that would be a good time to address everyone if you do not want to single anyone out, however it is usually more effective to speak specifically to the person that is creating the problem with an explanation behind the correction - lots of times they do not realize they are the problem.

If no one else will speak up in a group environement - I always will, too much at risk.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Most of us have no problem with coaching a new person, and we certainly do it the minute we see a problem, of course. I would just rather do it before the ride starts to avoid bad things in the first place.

I guess, I was hoping someone's group had devised a mechanism for identifying the new people, without relying on them to speak up when asked.
 

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We tried to set up ride levels for terrain and for pace when our web calendar went up so people had an idea of what they were getting into. The ride leader tries to explain the route/pace and regroups at the start as well . It usually works fairly well and the ride breaks up into sub-groups based on ability. I pasted what we use below.


Ride Levels for Terrain:

1 - Generally Flat = Visalia to Exeter
2 - Easy grades with a few hills = Venice Hills, Lemon Cove, Woodlake, Elderwood (1-3%)
3 - Rolling Hills = Three Rivers (3-5%)
4 - Harder Hills = The Rocky Hill-Cap Su loop, Drum Valley, Yokhol Valley (5-8%)
5 - Hillmania = Hwy 245 to Mountain House, Dry Creek, Boyd's Drive (8-13%)
6 - Unbelievable = Balch Park, "Blue Ridge Towers", Mineral King (13%)
While we encourage people to constantly improve on your level, we know that it is discouraging, even dangerous, to participate in a ride for which you are not adequately prepared. These descriptions are provided to give the rider an idea of what to expect.

On all rides, riders should carry adequate water and food. Ride descriptions may or may not include feeding stops. Bring a bike in good repair, as well as spare tubes and a pump. A helmet is required on all rides.

Level A - These rides take place at a low, social pace -- usually not more than 12 - 14 mph. The rides regroup frequently. Paceline riding is not required.

Level B - The ride pace varies, but is generally not faster than 18 mph. The ride regroups frequently, and some paceline riding may occur.

Level C - The ride pace is brisk. These are rides for strong recreational riders. After a period of warming up, the pace often exceeds 20 mph in the flats. The group generally regroups at the top of long climbs. Paceline riding is required.

Level D - The ride pace is fast. The rides are for strong recreational riders and racers. The atmosphere is competitive. If you are looking for love, get yourself a puppy, because you won't find it on one of these rides. These people eat their young. The group is not obligated to re-group if you are dropped. Paceline riding is required and FAST!
 

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IMO, even if everyone was Pro, a group of 30 - 40 riders without traffic control is way too big for a fast training ride to keep things safe. Too little oxygen, too much adrenaline to do things like slow down for stop signs or get in line for cars to pass.
 

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Nomenclature

meat said:
Level A - These rides take place at a low, social pace -- usually not more than 12 - 14 mph. The rides regroup frequently. Paceline riding is not required.

Level B - The ride pace varies, but is generally not faster than 18 mph. The ride regroups frequently, and some paceline riding may occur.

Level C - The ride pace is brisk. These are rides for strong recreational riders. After a period of warming up, the pace often exceeds 20 mph in the flats. The group generally regroups at the top of long climbs. Paceline riding is required.

Level D - The ride pace is fast. The rides are for strong recreational riders and racers. The atmosphere is competitive. If you are looking for love, get yourself a puppy, because you won't find it on one of these rides. These people eat their young. The group is not obligated to re-group if you are dropped. Paceline riding is required and FAST!
Just curious how you ended up with those designations, since nearly everyone uses the reverse (A is fastest, D is slowest). For people not reading your text, I would guess there are some mix-ups when folks want a nice, easy "D pace" ride.
 
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