Posted on July 19 2019
The riding season has been upon us for a few months now and that means the distances covered on group rides is increasing. I still have not ventured out to the legendary Donut ride in Toronto but I will certainly find a weekend to throw down with the dozens and dozens of riders who make the ride feel like a race around Toronto each and every week. As the number of riders on a group ride increases there are a number of important courtesy’s and unwritten rules to not only keep the group safe, but also keep the pace moving to efficiently complete longer distances.
What to pack:
Every rider should always come prepared to get themselves home. This means carrying a sufficient number of inner tubes, a pump or co2 cartridges and tire patches for when an inevitable sidewall blowout occurs. Carrying at least two spare tubes and two co2’s (or a pump) should get most riders through a ride with limited outside help from other riders. Having some basic knowledge on how to change a flat efficiently is also a huge bonus. It is always better if each individual can get themselves back on the road without help from others. For those running tubeless setups remember to carry a spare tube for scenarios when a tubeless setup fails and a tube is required to get home.
Riding within the group:
The reason group rides are so popular is because not only does riding with a group allow you to ride much faster, the social aspect of getting out and pushing yourself alongside others is an enjoyable way to tick through the kilometers. One important courtesy to always remember while out on group rides is to ride at the pace of the group. Earlier this year I wrote about the dreaded half wheel where you have one rider on the front pushing the pace more than their fellow riders can handle. This can lead to a very sloppy looking group out on the road and is unfair to the weaker riders who are put in unwinnable positions when it is their turn to pull on the front. The key to keeping a group moving is to ride at a pace everyone is able to sustain. Riders who are struggling should take short turns on the front and skip turns if needed to stay in contact with the group.
Another important part of group riding is communicating road hazards and signalling any direction changes that are coming up. Bumps, potholes and road debris should all be pointed out first by the riders on the front of the group and signalled by the riders behind them. Shouting out larger dangers is an easy way to ensure that all riders in the group are made aware of the hazards coming up on the road. While it is the responsibility of leading and following riders to point out hazards each rider should also be paying attention to the road surfaces in front of them. This can be done by looking past the front wheel of the rider in front of you to give yourself some extra time to react to any dangers on the road.
Probably the most important aspect of group riding is ensuring that you are riding within your limits. It is okay to push yourself on sections of the ride but you always want to make sure there is enough in the tank to get home. Communicating how you are feeling with the group is important so others are aware if they might be pushing too hard. This can also go the other way and a group might be holding back, with a verbal ok from riders in the group the riders may be able to push the pace a bit more, increasing average speed and livening up the ride. One thing to remember while out on a group ride is to remember that your fellow riders cannot read your mind, unless you tell your fellow riders how you are feeling chances are everyone will think you are okay to continue at the speed the group is going. Letting one of the stronger riders or group leaders know how you are feeling can help with adjusting the speed accordingly to ensure you stay intact with the group.
Pacing during a group ride is very important. When I am leading group rides I always try to increase the speed on the flats by riding at a higher power output and riding the climbs at a controlled pace. Unless the group is waiting at the top of each climb a common courtesy is to ride no more than 100 watts more on the climbs than you would on the flats. If the front of the group is rolling along flat roads at around 200-250 watts it makes sense to climb at around 300-350 watts. By riding the climbs controlled it gives riders who are not as strong on the hills to stay in contact and not feel like they are being left behind. Remember that a group is only as strong as their weakest rider and unless riders are out for a “drop” style group ride it is respectful to support and help weaker riders through the day on the bike.