I’ve seen over the WordPress blogosphere the often controversial topic of whether or not advanced cyclists should help new riders attain the speed and fitness it takes to keep up whether it be on beginner (15-18 mph avg), or advanced (22+ mph avg) rides by slowing the pace down so noobs don’t get dropped. I won’t pretend to be intelligent enough to provide the appropriate answer because my experience will vary from that of someone else and we all filter reality through our experience and that affects how we interpret reality. In addition, group attitude isn’t static the world over so to get drawn into a discussion about whether or not an individual has a legitimate beef about a group is just shy of lunacy imao.
What I can add to the discussion though, is the proper way to get dropped if you’re not fast enough. I do have some experience in this and again, imao it’s far better to add to the discussion than complain about it happening. Now the following list only applies if the ride you will be embarking on is with a group of riders of superior talent or speed.
First on the list know your ride! Know the route, know the short-cuts (if possible). I have my Tuesday ride programmed into Endomondo so I can ride the whole thing myself if I have to.
Talk to the higher-ups at your local bike shop about your aspirations. As long as you’re spending some money in there, they’ll more than likely be all kinds of friendly.
Find friendlies at the ride – here’s how that conversation works: “Hi, my name is Joe-Bob, can you point out a few of the slower riders that I can stick with”?
Next is don’t be dropped first unless you know where you are and how to get back. If you drop after other riders, all you have to do is soft pedal until they catch up… Or catch up to the next couple of riders that fall off the back (I’ve done both).
Learn who is strong and who is weak in the group. This takes a little time, but after a while you should be able to pick out the weaker folks. If you’re trying to keep with the main pack and you happen to fall back behind a weaker rider as he’s falling off the back, chances are you won’t be strong enough to bridge the gap to get back with the main group.
Don’t pull too often, too early. I was dropped behind weaker riders twice because I couldn’t bridge the gap (between 15 and 18 miles out if memory serves) – to make sure that didn’t happen again I fell in well before I got to the back after my turns up front – which meant I’d end up pulling before I was ready. This wore me out too fast so I had a hard time keeping up.
Watch the gutter! If an echelon forms because of a cross wind and you don’t fit in there, you’re done. Best I’ve ever done is held on for three miles in the gutter – it’s almost as tough there as it is floating out in the wind by yourself.
Watch what the front of the group is doing, not just the rider ahead of you. This takes a little practice, so be careful.
Finally, accept the idea that you might get dropped – that you might not be strong enough to keep up. Try your damnedest and hold on as long as you can, but if you do fall off, fall off with dignity and don’t whine about it. The absolute quickest way to be shunned from a group is whining because they’re fast – riding fast is the point, not to have a glorious conversation about needle point.
It is a fact, you will not get faster if people slow down for you. They’ll get slower. The only way to get faster is to try to keep up.