I don’t know about you, but I much prefer group rides to solo rides. Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy riding alone every once in a while. There’s something to be said for being alone with your thoughts that helps clear the head and unwind from a crazy week.
But I love me some group rides. I love the camaraderie, listening to banter, the encouragement between riders to keep morale up.
I also really enjoy following a leader. If I don’t have to look at a map for the whole ride, I’m happy. I always have the route on my phone in case I do fall off the back, but I don’t usually need it.
Being a follower, I notice the other riders in the group: what they do, how they ride, what they talk about, etc., and I began thinking that there’s a right way to be a group rider, and a wrong way.
The following list is not attributed to any people in particular, but is a compilation of tips and suggestions on how to better contribute to a group ride.
1. Download the ride route, make a cue sheet or print off a map. This enables you to be comfortable riding at your own pace, whether you’re more at home in the back or going off the front. You don’t get lost and no one else feels pressure to stay on pace with you. Everyone wins.
If you decide to depend on others for direction, don’t give them grief for not going the same pace as you. It’s training season and everyone needs to be riding their own ride.
2. Show common courtesy. When riding in a group, especially at times when everyone is clumped together, do your best to be a polite rider. If you’re passing or coming up behind someone, let them know.
No one wants to be surprised when someone blows past them. It’s dangerous for everyone.
3. Be aware of your surroundings. Following up on the previous item, when riding in close groups, be aware of who is around you. Pick a line and stick to it, don’t move around without checking to see if someone is just out of your line of sight, etc.
Again, not knowing what’s going on around you is dangerous to you and your fellow riders. The last thing anyone wants is to get in a wreck because someone wasn’t looking where they were going.
4. Know when to talk. I know plenty of riders who will hold solid conversations through a whole ride, and I know plenty of riders who will maybe say five words in five hours. It’s just their riding style. I go between the two extremes, and in my experience, most people who aren’t really talking, aren’t doing it because they’re upset, mad, bonking, etc. It’s because they’re just concentrating or listening to you talk or getting lost in their own thoughts. Don’t take their silence for shunning or ill will.
Also knowing when to give encouragement to fellow riders is a skill that needs constant honing. Yelling and cheering to get someone up a steep hill is appreciated by some and hated by others. Try to figure out who will appreciate your encouragement and who will just be annoyed.
I know, I know – encouragement is always good. But I’ve definitely been in a rough place and the last thing I wanted to hear was someone cheering me on. Sometimes you just have to work out what’s going on inside yourself before you can let other people in. On the other hand, I’ve definitely been in situations where cheering was exactly what I needed.
Try to figure it out for yourself, and know that when people cheer you on, it’s generally out of good will.
5. Pick up after yourself. Jerseys have plenty of pockets, and if you have frame bags on your bicycle you have even more places to hold nutrition like energy goo, chews, granola bars, fruit, candy bars and whatever else you need on a ride.
Somehow, though, riders run into a problem after consuming their energy snacks. What do with the wrappers? It would seem to be common sense to put it back in your pocket, but some people don’t get it. The next thing you know, there’s a trail littered with wrappers. Put it back in your pocket and throw it away at the next rest stop or gas station.
The world is your oyster, not your trash can. Stop acting like it is.
Hippie green talk aside, Stillwater’s cycling community is still budding, and if non-cyclists see us littering all over the place, any respect we have earned will be lost. No one likes a litterbug.
6. Have fun! It seems like a no-brainer, but most of us have gotten into cycling because we enjoy it. Sure, there’s a time and a place for serious training, but remember that it’s not life and death. You’re still doing this because you enjoy it.
So don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t look down on others for having fun.
Did I miss anything? What suggestions do you have for group rides?