Cycling in a Group – Getting Ready
“Everyone ready?” asks the day’s group ride leader. We agree we are and we are off, cycling in a group. We are all members of the Texoma Cycling Club. We live on either side of the Red River. Most of us live on the Texas side of the river. A few cross over the river from Oklahoma.
We use Team App to announce rides. It is very useful. Besides posting the day and time of the ride, we can also confirm we are coming. The route is posted there so we can preview it and load it on our cyclocomputers.
We always arrive a few minutes before the stated time of the ride. We know the stated time is when wheels role. We have already unloaded our bikes, added air to our tires, put on our cleats, and made sure our cyclocomputers are working.
We normally have ten or more bikes for the Saturday club rides. This is the best cycling group near me. Several members have become close friends.
We clip into our peddles and roll off. There is a lot of friendly banter about our last ride, an upcoming rally (grand fondo), or our observations of the latest happenings in pro-cycling.
No one is pushing the pace the first half mile or so. We leave about two or three bikes links between us.
Further down the road, we bunch up, two wide and five or six deep. We have ridden on scores of rides together, so we are comfortable riding close to each other.
Cycling in a group does present some challenges.
I know who tends to weave around without looking out for the person beside or behind. I try to leave some space between myself and such people.
I am also aware of who are the best bike handlers. I do not mind getting close enough to touch these with my hand.
I know the bloke riding at my side today is rather new to cycling in a group. He is also getting used to clipless peddles, struggling a bit to clip in and out. I give him plenty of space as we come to a cross street. I don’t want him falling on me and taking me out.
After a couple of miles, we are moving down country roads. Here the group picks up speed and we fall basically into a single file line. I get right up behind Fred, my normal riding partner. My wheel is no more than eighteen inches behind his. I know how he rides. I am comfortable. More importantly, I am sheltered from the wind and using about thirty percent less energy in the shelter of Fred’s tall body.
He doesn’t mind. After five or six minutes I will go around him and provide the same advantage for him.
I stay several bike links behind or in front of Sam (not his real name of course). He talks a lot. I would rather not listen to him for the next two to three hours.
The other riders know that I occasionally blow snot out. I try to only do it when no one is close. The club members know about my snot rockets. When they see pull out of the pace line and reach for my nose, they give me a wide birth.
I am not the fastest rider in our group by far. When I have the energy and the bravery, I raise my cadence and down shift. Being off the front gives me a bit of joy. Maybe I am improving as a cyclist. Or, maybe everyone else is taking it easy. In any case, I like being out front for a bit.
Off the Front
After not more than a couple of minutes, someone from the group comes up from behind me. The group follows.
I settle back in and again draft.
“Dogs,” Joe yells. I spot two medium-sized muts running across their front lawn toward the road. I know several of the ladies are frightened of dogs coming at our bikes. I push harder to get up ahead. If I can get up to the dogs first, I can place myself between the dogs and them.
Dogs are not the only danger we face in our area.
Cycling in a group, we ride on narrow, country roads most of the time. Often we are spread two and three wide across the road. A car can come over the rise ahead at any time. I take the responsibilty of warning others of on coming cars very seriously. “Car up.” I raise my voice. Others echo my words.
Riders behind let us know when cars are approaching from the rear.
I like to take in the corn in the fields. They remind me of Africa. I also like to look at the horses standing at the fence to watch us pass by.
Here We Are
A roadrunner (the bird) dashes across the road. “Did you see that?” We have seen deer and hundreds of squirrels. Sometimes we almost run them over before can scurrying to the other side of the road.
We do not stop for squirrels. We do stop for turtles. Fred, Mike, or one of the others will ride right up to the turtle and picks it up. They carry the slow creatures to the shrubbery on the other side. Another life saved.
While riding in a group, holes, large cracks, and gravel on the road can upend us leaving us with some serious injuries. We point out the holes and cracks to those behind so they can avoid them. No one wants a pinch punct..r shush.. don’t say that word. It’s bad luck.
About every seven to ten miles we regroup. We have learned that if we do not regroup, new riders who are unable to keep up with the majority will become discouraged and not show up for the next ride. We all remember struggling to keep up. Regrouping is not a burden, it is a courtesy. It strengthens our club.
When we finish, we congratulate each other. We look at our average speed and compare our accomplishments. Another ride recorded on Strava. We often jokingly say, “if it is not recorded on Strava, you didn’t ride.”
If you are not already part of a cycling group, seek one out. Your best bet is to go to your local bike shop and ask about group rides in your area. Many group rides and cycling clubs are based out of bike shops. The cycling group near me is sponsored by our local bike shop. It is also the local hangout for our group.
Hope to see you on one of our rides. Cheers.