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Group ride rant (warning: long & cranky)(45 posts)

Group ride rant (warning: long & cranky)lonefrontranger
Nov 5, 2001 9:52 AM

I ride with my LBS guys because they are (usually) very safe, friendly and sociable. It's a mix of Cat III/IV/Master's racers, and they're fairly well organized and disciplined. If there are varying speed agendas, they'll split the ride up to accomodate two or more pace categories.

I can only hope Saturday's experience was an aberration caused by an unusually high percentage of first-timers. The ride leader made the usual speech about splitting up the ride, and got no takers for the "fast group". He also noticed the half-dozen or so new riders, and gave them the lecture about safe riding: ride on the back, stay single file and out of trouble, etc... Since no one spoke up for splitting the ride, and it's November, it was agreed we'd ride an easy pace (15 mph average).

We get about three miles out, and a few of the newer riders headed to the front and started to wind up the pace. A couple of the Cat III guys go to the front to block and the newbees (two of them squirrelling around on their aerobars, for pete's sake) start swarming around, three and four abreast, on a busy road with no shoulder.

The rest of the group at that point decides to let them go. We rode piano for a few miles, then the front group showed up (they didn't know the route). At which point the leader gave them a short, polite lecture about pace and staying out of the middle of the road, then offered to give them a cue sheet so they could ride ahead. They declined, and went to the back, only to come swarming around again about ten minutes later.

I can only surmise at that point that the racers in the group lost their collective temper and decided to "teach the new guys a lesson", right or wrong. The IIIs went to the front and started laying on the tempo, into a brisk cross / head wind. The field responded like hounds on a scent line, and we were off. The resulting squirrliness factor had to be seen to be believed, with the newer riders and tri-guys attempting to pull through with no clue what they were doing. A nice base mileage training spin was thus turned into a free-for-all with folks getting spit out the back every half mile or so. To their credit, they did wait up at the turnoff. This continued for most of the rest of the route, until the third or fourth flat caused by blindly riding into cavernous potholes that weren't pointed out. At this point the front took off in disgust, and the rest of us breathed a collective sigh of relief and noodled all the way home.

To top it all, I heard from the shop owner later that a couple drivers called the shop to complain (most of us were wearing shop team jerseys after all). That's inexcusable conduct for a team ride.

The moral of the story is thus:
* If you come to a ride as a rookie, *please* abide by the ride leader's rules.
* If you can't abide by said rules, then please go off the front, off the back, or go home.
* Our LBS rides will wait up for flats, mechanicals and dropped riders. The polite thing to do in this situation is let someone know you are having trouble, and they'll assign someone to wait up and/or tell you where to regroup.
* If you aren't experienced in a group, STAY AT THE BACK! You don't help when you: sprint through the line, move your bike over two feet everytime you look to see who's coming up, wind up the tempo 2 mph or more every time you take a pull, or do that pedal, coast, pedal thing on the front that will make a squirrelly accordion out of the most disciplined paceline.
* Never, ever ride multiple abreast in traffic! Especially when on a team / club ride who represent a sponsor!! Grr!
* It's not just polite, it's a safety issue: please point or call out hazards (glass, potholes, whatever)
* Hello! It's NOVEMBER! Most sensible racers are off their bikes or in a rest / base phase. Is it too much to ask to lay off the testosterone-fest mentality for a month or two?
* And finally leave the *** aerobars AT HOME! They have no place in a group ride. At the very least, don't ride them in a group.

LOL it is so true, love them areo bars.MB1
Nov 5, 2001 10:04 AM
But you know, you didn't have to hang with that group that day. I imagine some words were exchanged after the ride glad I wasn't there.

BTW Areo bars at a group ride are a red flag that those riders need to be talked to before the ride starts.
Oh, I did drop offlonefrontranger
Nov 5, 2001 10:15 AM
I dropped off as soon as I saw a couple of the older Masters blow. Remember, I broke my ankle on Labor Day, and sat on the couch for 6 weeks.

Every time they waited for us (flat or otherwise) the pace immediately went back to both schitzo AND squirrelly. My least favorite combo in a crosswind. Murphy's Law - my boyfriend was one of the ones who took it upon himself to administer chastisement to the rookies, and I didn't have my cell phone on me or the strength to go to the front and tell him to give it the heck up.
At least the weather was great. . .js5280
Nov 5, 2001 10:15 AM
Which shop? I'm looking to do more group riding and know the basic rules for a paceline. Still have more to learn and practice though. Might be next spring unless this weather holds up. Sorry to hear about the chaos this weekend, it gives all cyclists a bad name.

On the upside, what an incredible weekend in Boulder! First week of Nov, 70 degrees, sunny, not much wind. I went out and did 16 miles MTB, and 30 mile Road despite this incredibly nasty head cold I'm fighting. Just couldn't pass up the opportunity. . .
Nov 5, 2001 10:21 AM
The shop owner is a really great dude, although it gets his goat when the riders act like fools (can't say as I blame him).

Saturday at 10 AM, 9 AM in summer. They're usually pretty mellow this time of year, this past week notwitstanding.

You're right about the weather. I can't help but think we're going to pay for all this in Jan / Feb.
Nov 5, 2001 10:45 AM
Which shop in Louisville? I live in Hodgenvile, KY.
Louisville, CO, east of Boulder (nm)lonefrontranger
Nov 5, 2001 11:18 AM
Nov 5, 2001 11:37 AM
that was pretty funny
you must be from around here...lonefrontranger
Nov 5, 2001 3:27 PM
or a transplant. No one knows about that oddball pronunciation unless they've lived here.

Not only that, but if you pronounce it correctly: "Loo-ee-ville" (or more precisely: "Loo-uh-ville", like the KY locals), the CO locals look at you like you have six heads. Darn freaks. Took me months to get it right. I lived in "Loo-uh-ville", KY for a short time back in the early 90's.
I have relatives from back eastErik W
Nov 5, 2001 4:12 PM
who come out here to visit me (in Boulder). They all pronounce Louisville wrong. They get a kick out of it when I tell them Colorado's correct way of pronouncing it. Now do any of you non-Coloradans want to take a stab at how we pronounce Cache Le Poudre (a local river).
I'll tryRusty McNasty
Nov 6, 2001 10:39 AM
"Catch Lee Poodray"?
I used to live in Colorado, BTW. Near "Beoona Vista".
Nov 6, 2001 10:52 AM
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!js5280
Nov 5, 2001 11:03 AM
If I'm carving turns in knee deep powder, I won't be missing cycling very much.

Thanks for the info. I'll have to see if I can make it this weekend. Unfortunately I have conflicting plans the next two weekends.
This should be Club Ride 101 on the newbie board. (nm)Elefantino
Nov 5, 2001 10:17 AM
that's why I ride alone more these daysDog
Nov 5, 2001 10:28 AM
I used to get caught up in that mess a lot around here. My 100 mile bases miles ride turned into a series of whacked out mini-races, in November and December, no less. I used to think I had to stay with such groups, or they'd ridicule me.

Ridicule away. I don't bother much any more. I know the training I need to do, and sometimes it takes more discipline and patience to ride slowly, rather than screw up your training with such groups. If you'd ask them individually, they'd probably say the same thing, too.

We have the Tuesday/Thursday "races" here. Group up, "warm up" for about 1/2 mile, then take off at 30 mph for a store 12 miles out. Regroup at turn around, ride slowly for 11.5 miles, sprint .5 mile to finish.

The group got unmanageably large on the return "race," as it's downhill and even the weakest could sit in until near the finish. This is on a 2 lane, busy, semi-rural road. Drove me nuts, with all the braking, swerving, blocking cars, yelling, you know the routine.

I now either don't ride with them, or I ride something completely different. I break from the start, and see how long I can stay out in front, basically time trialing. A good workout, and I don't mix it up most of the way. But, that's not exactly a base miles workout, either.

For long rides, I find groups just really don't work. I'd pick 3-5 of the riders near your level, and agree to ride with them. Forget the rest. No one says we must ride with big groups. We are not Tour riders, never will be, and faking it on public roads with a bunch of idiots is not going to get us anywhere, except maybe the hospital.

I get sort of crazy when I see aerobars in the group, too, and more so if they are on 650c wheeled tri-bikes. If they even touch those things, I'll yell at them or just stay away. (In double centuries, we often get pacelines going where the front rider will pull on aerobars. However, these are always very experienced, trustworthy, discliplined riders.)

My rant.

I feel for you but...lonefrontranger
Nov 5, 2001 10:38 AM
I'm not disciplined enough to train properly by myself. I either hammer too hard or screw around and get bored after 10 miles.

The payoff for Saturday's p1ss1ng contest was a Sunday ride with my new teammates (Boulder Women's). Nice 3 hour sociable ride with good bike handlers. Leave it to the distaff side to be the sensible ones ;-)
curious about crashes in women's racesDog
Nov 5, 2001 10:43 AM
How is the crash rate in womens's races? Are they more controlled? Seems like they should be.

results vary...lonefrontranger
Nov 5, 2001 11:18 AM
It's just like men's racing, the results will vary depending on category, course, weather, average experience of riders etc... One of the bigger difficulties I've seen over the years is that many women just aren't very used to riding in a large group, although this is changing rapidly with the growth of cycling. Most women's fields are relatively small, and this cuts down the incident rate by default. The riders here in Colorado are also better bike handlers and racers than the ones I encountered in the Midwest.

I've been in fields of 60 or more women in big events, and they were far safer than some men's fields I've raced with. And I've been in fields of five where the leader took out nearly everyone with bad cornering. There's an added fear factor in women's fields that often leads to overreaction.

My somewhat callous rule of thumb is that if I don't like the bike-handling, particularly in a technical crit, I go to the front and attack the corners. This typically sorts out the squirrels from the better riders within a lap or two, and is also a good way to establish a break. Women also tend to seriously dislike the common men's tactic of leaning onto the inside rider's shoulder in a corner, and I've used this method a few times to intimidate or discourage competing sprinters. I only do this when I know my competitor's skill level, though, as it can backfire at your expense if the other rider panics at the contact and slides out.

In general, women's racing is both more sociable, and more competitive, if that makes any sense. Women are much more reactive in a competitive situation, will tend to hold a grudge longer, but they know their competition better (being fewer of us), and it leads to an overall sense of comraderie within the ranks. They may not cuss you out for closing a gap on them (although some will), but they'll remember it for the next ten races, no matter how friendly they are afterwards.
results vary...Dog
Nov 5, 2001 11:29 AM
The first race I did (in modern times) four years ago, a very hilly ten mile circuit, all I can really remember is the official passing me on a big climb and yelling "stay left for the ladies." They could climb like Pantani.

Since then, I've ridden with many women racers, and seen them in races first hand. For the most part, as you say, they are not a whole lot different from the men. It just seems they do far less stupid things. Primarily, I think this is that because, on whole, the women who race seem to take take it more seriously, and won't attempt racing until they are pretty good. Contrary, a lot of men attempt racing who have no business being there, and think simply because they are good on a mountain bike or can beat their riding buddy in a sprint to the city limit sign that they'll be good racers. They usually get weeded out in the first half of the race, though.

Some women, as you suggest, seem to act exactly like men. No difference whatsoever. They seem to just quietly kick your butt. Been there.

you are correctlonefrontranger
Nov 5, 2001 1:33 PM
My basic tenet of bike racing: (warning! generalizations to follow)

Men are stupid, and will bleed out their ears to chase down whatever's at the front. This makes for "dynamic" racing, or so I'm told.

Women are evil, and much smarter, and will often let the offending Pack Diesel dangle out there and fry 10 seconds off the front, then reel her in and drop her during the final 5k. This makes for somewhat boring racing, but excellent tactics.

The absolute highlight of my year was when we rode through the Cat IV men's field in a RR, and they were unable to respond
more generalizationJack S
Nov 5, 2001 1:38 PM
Men: "Hey you mother f#&#*er, hold you damned line!!!"

Women: "Excuse me, inside."
As time goes by, I come increasingly to realize one of life'sbill
Nov 5, 2001 11:10 AM
profoundest, hardest lessons.
Remember those kids in the playground who always were doing absolutely ridiculous stuff? Getting into fights, breaking other kids' toys (or their own), losing their clothing (you know, how do you lose a shoe?), eating dirt, etc., etc.? Remember them?
They're still around. They just got older, and you went for a ride with a few of them last weekend.
true (nm)lonefrontranger
Nov 5, 2001 5:09 PM
the keyBart
Nov 5, 2001 10:48 AM
Is that you gotta let the IIIs wind up slowly, so the chumps go along and it takes a bit for them to get blown off. At that point the 2nd group changes the route so there's no coming back. That will teach them chumps their lesson, and if they don't come back who cares.
re: Group ride rant (warning: long & cranky)TJeanloz
Nov 5, 2001 11:22 AM
As people who pay attention already know, I have a thing or two to say about this particular ride.

First, a little background:
The shop refered to organizes/sponsors a 'club' of cycling enthusiasts and a 'team' of racers. The groups ride as one a couple of times a week, Saturday mornings being the big one. The group is SUPPOSED to be broken into A, B, and C- A being fast, C being nobody will ever get dropped- even if they show up on their grandmother's mountain bike.

The root of the problem is that in amatuer cycling, for reasons that I cannot explain, people like to conceal their ability to go fast. Our Cat 1 or Pro leader says "who wants to go fast today?" And everybody (including people who DO want to go fast) look around and say things like: "my legs don't feel great today- I'm just going to sit at the back of the C ride" and another gem: "I'm kind of tired from winning the state championships yesterday, so I'm not going to go hard."

What it comes down to is that nobody wants to sign themselves up for a ride where they might get dropped. So everybody signs on for the C ride- and then get frustrated when the pace is 15mph. And there's the ego thing- people want to know they can drop other riders, everybody wants to be the one causeing the suffering, not the one suffering. I had a big problem when I stopped racing, customers who weren't great racers would want to ride with me, which really appeared to mean that they wanted to find out if they could drop me or not.

Back when I used to have the patience to ride on that ride (and its Monday night counterpart) when people sped up too much, one of the legitimately fast people would pull alongside them to remind them that it was a ride, not a race. But too many people (non-racers) view these weekly rides as their race.
the point here is...lonefrontranger
Nov 5, 2001 1:21 PM
I'm not sure what your past experiences with the Louisville guys were. Terry has been the ride leader all year, and for the most part is able to control things. He had strong words with some of the offending riders, to no discernable outcome. This ride is typically very well organized, and usually does get broken up into groups before we leave the shop.

I have been extremely impressed by their discipline and comraderie, especially considering the general makeup (Cat III/IV and club riders) This is why I do ride with them on a regular basis. I've been at the mercy of various Bike Nazi club rides as described by Kristin & the others for over a decade, and I categorically avoid them except to use as speedwork training.

The point was to illustrate through example to others who may be in similar situations, and / or newer riders to help them understand "the rules" and realize they are welcome as long as they understand a few basic tenets; perhaps I should have titled it "Group Rides 101" as suggested by another poster.

I think one of the main issues on Saturday was that the Cat I/II Masters from SimpleGreen/Mazda didn't show up as they usually do. For whatever reason, the others don't mess with those guys. They sit on the front, and are able to maintain discipline - perhaps by sheer intimidation factor :-)
Team SimpleGreen/MazdaJS
Nov 5, 2001 3:24 PM
Where is this ride at? We have a Simple Green /Mazda Team here in So Cal.
Team SimpleGreen/Mazdalonefrontranger
Nov 5, 2001 3:30 PM
Louisville, CO (pronounced "Loo-iss-ville". It's about 10 miles east of Boulder. It's probably a similar deal to the Trek Factory and/or multiple Saturn local teams you see around.
Nov 5, 2001 11:30 AM
Pretty much dead-on on some of the experiences I've had - organized centuries can be a lot like this too. Seems like the only thing missing was a few wheel touches and some crashes and people hitting their brakes in the paceline. I was fortunate to learn pack skills with a group of accomplished riders - they would often provide tips and point out errors and I was glad for the info.

I'd also add that as you build experience you need to critically assess the other rider's skills around you. I'll tuck in nice and tight if some one obviously knows what they're doing, but back off and give some hack a larger safety margin. Hell, let them go off the front for a while and then when they're cooked or you approach a hill just blow them away en masse at the agreed upon pace. It takes a LOT of discipline to stick to the game plan and pace - cranking things up right away is a sure sign of testosterone poisoning and never seems to work. Plus you blow the planned ride. You can always play "ditch 'em" and make an unplanned detour while they're out front. Friendly constructive criticism should be used and if done correctly it works. If not then maybe the message needs to be more blunt. We had one Phred (Fred w/Phd) that never got it, so an underlying objective was always to make him blow up. It was really too easy, even though he was quite strong. We used to take bets as to where in the ride he'd blow. Ultimately either the leaders need to stick to the pace and plan or you need to bring a couple gals along - when it's all guys it's like too many rats in a cage and it's going to get ugly. The ladies add some sensibility - usually!;-)

I'm worried anytime aerobars and tri-bikes show up. Some tri-types are quite skilled road riders and can handle a pack, but most can not. They're in the "lone wolf mode" and think they need to be efficiently working at 85% of max HR and in the aero bars at all times. Plus they usually can't climb or descend that well. It's just not something they work on - nothing personal - but it can be easily changed with a little bit of effort if they're willing to learn. I'm kinda surprised that they continued to ride that way even after it was directly addressed.

Maybe you guys should NOT wear the team jerseys on a pcik-up ride if discipline can not be maintained. Save them for when it really is a team only ride. I know this goes against increasing visibility, but the kind of visibility you guys received isn't helping.
Group Stupid 101Jon
Nov 5, 2001 12:22 PM
I couldn't agree more with everything said here. Most of us can relate in one way or another.
There's a very popular LBS-sponsored ride like that here in Edmonton. I went on it once, at
the urging of a good friend, and never went back! Out on a busy highway, EVERYBODY (mostly
triathletes) decided to attack as if this were a TdF stage. I've never seen anything like it. There
were a couple of near-misses with 65 mph traffic. Why 20 to 40 people show up for this ride
every Tuesday night is beyond me. After organizing and pulling some of these morons up
hills, only to be attacked as soon as we came over the hills, I backed off and rode with a smaller
group of riders back in the last third of the ride.

My current club organizes a Saturday ride which includes both racers and casual riders. An agreed
upon pace is established (usually about 28 - 30 kph) and we stick to it. If anyone starts to play
hero, a couple of the Cat 1/2s always ride to the front, caution the leaders and/or block. This seems
to work.

My advice? If you have jerks, as described above, let them go. On the next ride the group leaders can
have a word with them. If that doesn't work socially ostracize the morons. They might stop coming
That nearly describs every club ride...Kristin
Nov 5, 2001 12:00 PM
...I've been on. I don't experience the full gamma of group ride fun-ness, because I'm off the back at mile 6-7. But I do know the basics of safe, considerate group riding. Some of the fast guys act like they are above the law. I watch the same group of people take the entire lane and disregard drivers week after week. Soon the club jerseys will arrive and the whole town will be able to identify us! Oh, Joy! (Actually, I'm really excited about the jerseys. They're gonna be great! I'm just disappointed that some won't modify their behavior for the good of the group.)
Kristin, Find Another Club (nm)Jon
Nov 5, 2001 12:24 PM
Oh, now I feel badKristin
Nov 5, 2001 1:26 PM
I didn't mean to make the whole group look bad. Its not. Just a select few who tend to ride without consideration. Otherwise, I really like the group. We run entire gamut of paces and types of riders. I would never have learned the stuff I know about pacelines, etc... without this group. Some of the veterans were kind enough to show me the ropes. And that makes it near and dear to my heart. I just worry about the communities perception of us when we block traffic like we do. (I only confess to blocking traffic while climbing -- weave city!)

Okay, nuff said. I hope to check out some other groups next season, but this is my primary group for now. Sorry for the rant...even 2 months post-fact it still ruffles my feathers!
first club/team?Jack S
Nov 5, 2001 1:29 PM
Right? Your excitement over the jersey gives you away.
Testosterone fest huh?JS
Nov 5, 2001 1:07 PM
I've seen plenty of women screw up easy rides with their egos as well. Estrogen fest?
Yes and,lonefrontranger
Nov 5, 2001 1:27 PM
I've experienced PLENTY of group rides which, when faced with the prospect of the sole female (me) on the front for a pull (no, I didn't accelerate, either!), acted as though this was a calculated affront to their masculinity and attacked.

It's like waving the red flag in front of a bull.
schnapples anyone?Woof the dog
Nov 5, 2001 2:06 PM
now, thats funny. Does that really happen? I mean, what kind of moron do u have to be to do that?

neat piclonefrontranger
Nov 5, 2001 4:39 PM
yes, it does happen. There have been days (rare, but treasured) when I've been on my game enough to make them vastly regret it, too.

Most of the guys I ride with are pretty classy. They get the occasional wild hair (ergo, today's post). Maybe they just had the urge to purge all their naughtiness in one big testosterone-fest. Fast riding isn't really the issue tho. Fast AND dangerous AND stupid is when I punch my ticket and jump off the bus.
Yes and,McAndrus
Nov 5, 2001 2:09 PM
I don't mean any offense but I think aggressiveness is an individual trait more than a gender trait. For instance, there's a local female who's a lady Pantani.

On one ride three of us guys got off the front of the group at the bottom of a 2-mile climb. By about a half-mile from the top guy number one, two, and three (me) were separated by about ten seconds each.

I looked back to see who was behind me and was surprised to see absolutely no one. I turned back and continued my climb.

A hundred yards or so short of the crest she floated by me. When I finally struggled to the top the three had stopped to wait for the group.

I asked her where she came from and told her that she'd gone by me like she was on an anti-grav platform. She said, "I saw you up there and I just decided you weren't beating me to the top."

And she smiled.
What real man would pass up the opportunity tobill
Nov 6, 2001 8:35 AM
ride just behind, stare at (appropriately and appreciatively), and track every move of a lithe, sweaty cyclebabe? For as many miles as possible?
I don't know what was going on, but I'm not sure it was testosterone.
You know, I've often heard women complain that the trouble with men is that they come attached to a p*nis. I think that what y'all really mean to say is that the trouble with p*nises is that they come attached to men.
The Post that Hit the Nail on the Head!!!rollo tommassi
Nov 5, 2001 2:12 PM
Absolutely THE most Oh-so-True post I've ever read, thank you Lonefrontranger!

I'm amazed that every single rule of basic cycling etiquette was breached in the same ride. A record?

It is scenes like those you describe that remind me that what skilled cyclists do IS a special skill, and while some may call that "elitist", the fact is that 90% of people on the road simply don't know how to ride a bike (physically or in terms of good manners).

Most distressing/enlightening is the drivers calling the LBS to complain. This is exactly what I meant when I said a long time ago about "We deserve it" (originally a post I placed on my club regarding a tacks issue, and reprinted it on this forum - back in July, I think?) I hope the shop owner is pissed as hell and pulls sponsorship...........

I'm going to print out your bullet-points section and tape it up at every bike shop in the world...

I hope you find a more sensible group, Lone!
you're welcomelonefrontranger
Nov 5, 2001 4:48 PM

The curious thing is these guys aren't usually this stupid and/or crazy. My surmise (posted higher up) is that once in a while they forget and are really, really naughty for one ride, then back to normal.

I figure the shop owner will give us a good lecturing next Saturday, like he did once early this spring about a similar experience (which I thankfully wasn't a part of). That ride apparently not only p1ssed off a driver, but there was some kind of mind-boggling crash as a result of unsafe riding.

For the most part, they are a great group to ride with. I wouldn't ride with them otherwise.
Bottom line; only ride with riders you know, andLargo
Nov 5, 2001 2:50 PM
have similar abilities/goals as you.
Otherwise, you have to take what comes.
Group rides almost always degenerate into a hammer fest, so if you just want some easy miles, go with a friend or two, or go by yourself.
missed the pointDA
Nov 6, 2001 5:43 AM
The real message is, if you're gonna screw up the ride, don't know any better, or are in that 90% that "simply don't know how to ride a bike", the go with a friend or two, or go by yourself.
missed the point, not!Largo
Nov 6, 2001 1:25 PM
Geez, i guess i assumed that the people here know how to ride a bike.
Group rides can be free for alls, and if you don't want to deal, then ride with people you know.
There are no bike police to ensure that everyone at the ride is competent, fit etc..
So, until that day, beware.