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Riding in a Group (newbie)(6 posts)

Riding in a Group (newbie)the_gormandizer
Jul 2, 2001 10:05 AM
I'm relatively new to cycling. After working up to 100+ miles per week on backroads (dirt and paved) on a hybrid, and spinning in the winter, etc., my fiance and I decided to go for it and get road bikes this summer. For the past couple of months, I've been riding solo or with her. Going on what I have read in books and on this board, I've taught her to suck my wheel and we sometimes swap the lead position. She is quite strong and keeps up with me well. We're currently riding about 150 mi/week on varied terrain. Our fastest average speed is about 19mph on a 35 mile ride, more typically we average about 17-18 mph.

Recently, I've been out with a couple of groups that are much more experienced than me, though not racers or anything. The problem I have is matching my speed to theirs, especially on climbs. In general I seem to be a lot stronger. When I lead, they seem to have trouble sticking to my wheel. I try to slow down, but if I keep the cadence that I'm used to, I drop them. If I constantly ride ahead and have to wait for them, I feel like I'm showing off and it seems to defeat the object of riding in a group. Please note this is not a boast --- I know that there are countless riders out there who are stronger and faster than me.

One thought is that I should find a group that is better matched to my ability, but as a newbie I am a bit insecure about riding with the fast guys. Maybe I should learn to modify my riding style when riding with a slower group. Any suggestions?
I see 1 optionsCima Coppi
Jul 2, 2001 10:23 AM
1. Stick with the current group for the socialization and the training gained from riding with them. Even thought they are slower, you'll still get a decent workout riding with them. Over time, one or two of the other riders will gain the strength to keep up with you.

2. Find another group that has varying degrees of strength in the group. This is how my group rides. Typically we'll have a strong group of riders go off the front, and a second group that pulls up the rear containing the weaker riders. This way if you get into a strong group that turns out to be too strong for your liking, or your not riding well that day, you can drop off the back and meet up with riders behind.

Good luck!!

Sorry, that's 2 options (fat fingers);-) (nm)Cima Coppi
Jul 2, 2001 10:28 AM
Stop being insecuremr_spin
Jul 2, 2001 10:56 AM
Don't be insecure, and don't slow down on climbs. It is totally natural that some riders are stronger than others. Anyone who thinks you are showing off because you ARE actually stronger than they are is just petty, and deserves to get dropped. (Unless you are boasting, of course.) Some of these guys are probably better at something else than you are. But unless someone actually comments or gives you the evil look, it may all be in your head. If they are friends, no question: you wait at the top. If they are unknown, it's a judgement call.

If you are leading a paceline, however, and you are pulling away, then you need to slow down. That's bad etiquette for sure. Don't accelerate the pace unless everyone agrees to it. Part of the reason that you seem stronger is because the other guys have protected you from the wind. Dropping the paceline you've been riding in is one of the worst sins (unless you are racing, in which case it is very macho!).

But...keep in mind that unless these are your buddies, it's not your job to get everyone back to the start. (I'm sure I'll take some heat for that!). If a slower group is holding you back, you need only do your fair share, then bid them farewell. Be friendly about it and no one will be upset. If you were in a line that pulled you to the bottom of the hill, don't burn up it and leave them at the top! Do your fair share before cutting out. BUT...If you are off in the boonies with someone who is in bad shape, basic human compassion says you should pull them into town. It could be you someday.
Some ideas...Len J
Jul 2, 2001 10:57 AM
Riding in a group teaches you many things about bike handling as well as smooth predictible speed. When you take over the lead in a paceline, note what speed the line is moving at, find a gear that allows you to maintain that speed (even if you have to increase your cadence). Attempt to maintain that speed as smoothly as possible, the other riders will appreciate your predictibility, you will get a good workout at a higher cadence than normal. I do one ride a week completely at a cadence 10 rpm higher than I normally ride. This works out my cardio as well as developing fast twitch muscles. Use this group ride for a similar purpose.

Pull longer than normal (especially in a headwind). Since you are stronger, again you will get a good workout.

Find a faster group to ride with occasionally.

Good luck.
me too!Haiku d'état
Jul 2, 2001 12:37 PM
had the same problem. read/heard about the local rec group, trained through the winter and built-up the miles to feel that i was qualified to ride with them. finally get there and find that i'm stronger than any of 'em, which isn't saying much. what it does say is that their goals are varied, most not including getting/riding fast or being competitive/having fun attacking and latching on, etc.

two things i've found useful:

(1) ride with the group as a social experience, and a learning experience for group riding, pacelining, group etiquette, group ride dynamics, you get the idea. make it a non-fast day, slow to their pace, start in the back and observe. this will be your non-fast day to learn technique. ride fast with your SO or solo on other days.

(2) if possible, ride from home to the group ride meeting spot (haul tail getting there). our weekend group rides are slow and easy for the first half, so i'll push hard the ~15 miles there, ride the 30-40 mile group effort, the latter half or quarter faster, then ride back ~15 miles home on afterburner. good mileage, a workout, some speed, and all of it combined=a well rounded-ride including a group lesson.

other observations:

because all the members of your group rides aren't on your wheel or passing you on hills and at other times doesn't mean they're not able. don't ever underestimate those quiet folks in the group!

if you're made to feel impatient and don't enjoy the group rides for what they are, this probably shows, and will reflect in the group attitude. pushing is good, and often you may find those who will get pulled clear of the group to play attack and counter attack, and king of the mountains (hills), and it's alot of fun! but, learn when to reign it in.

slow and easy social rides have value in and of themselves. some of this value can't be qualified with words. natural connections and networking (though i despise the term "networking", and the though of intentional elbow-rubbing) in the group can lead to faster-riding acquaintences. slowing down to help slower folks ride at or beyond their potential can foster some great relationships.

if all else fails, and even if it doesn't, go ride with a faster group anyway. two things will happen: you'll learn to be humbled, and work harder, and be faster by getting your arse handed to you. and--you'll learn group dynamics in a lactate-loaded bunch of hammerheads until you're dropped and left for dead. this is why i don't ride much with the ACTUAL fast group (though i should).