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How To Get Dropped From The Group Ride – Really

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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.

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9 Comments

  1. Sandra says:

    Excellent advice that I will use, again, and again, til I get better! Thanks for being a voice of sanity.

  2. bikevcar says:

    riding fast is the point – well said. Anyone who whinges just wishes they could go faster. Me included!

    • bgddyjim says:

      Me too – dropped again this evening. Technically I could have held on for quite a while longer, I just felt like a little alone time – the wind was absolutely brutal so it was tough just to hold a decent line.

      The guys I ride with are just flat out horses.

      Sure was a nice night for a ride though, sunny and perfect temps

  3. Michael Fioretti says:

    Just for the sake of getting a feel for how others do it, whenever we post a ride it is usually declared to be either a “drop” or “no drop” ride. The drop ride is just that, if you get dropped, chances are you’ll stay dropped because we won’t wait or regroup. In a no drop ride we’ll always regroup at the top of climbs and at stops signs etc.. This system works pretty well for us as it gives a clear indicator of the pace of the ride and usually riders can make the decision when to graduate up to the drop ride.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Out here, we’ve got regular drop and no-drop nights – the no drop ride is on Wednesday but is WAY too slow (15-16 mph). The owner of my LBS suggested I go for the drop (advanced) ride for that reason. I can hang with 80% of the guys, I’ve just been trying to keep up with the front ten or so who regularly cruise in the mid 20’s, which just happens to be a touch faster than I’m capable of maintaining for more than 15 or 16 miles (I tire out too much during my pulls and after my 7th rotation I’m pretty much cooked. I’ve made a few adjustments in mileage that are shaping me up to hang to the end but that’s really the trick – what happens if you’re too fast for the no-drop ride but too slow for the fastest group in the drop ride (one of whom was a nationally ranked triathlete in his younger days – these guys are your kind of fast).

      I’ve run into quite a few people who show up at the drop ride and then complain that the lead group drops people (they view that as “egotistical”) – not realizing, of course, that they’re demand that faster riders turn a drop ride into a no-drop ride for their sake is completely out of line.

      Which is why I wrote the post – for those tweeners out there who want to run with the big dogs but don’t know how to go about giving it a go without ending up lost in the breeze.

      • I think that you’re onto something with knowing when and how you get dropped. Right around your 7th/8th pull you’re getting gassed, so I think what you need to focus on or improve should be your recovery timing. One’s ability to recover quickly and efficiently after a hard effort is just as important as being able to go hard! A little while back I wrote about a workout called “Microbursts” that really help to improve that ability.

        And those guys who complain will learn that their whining really isn’t appreciated. The fast guys don’t care, they’ll drop them anyways, and it kind of makes me wonder why they complain. Are they there to ride fast or to just ride leisurely? Seems like a misunderstanding of what the group is about.

        You’ll get fast enough to stay with the fast guys in no time. It just takes getting miles in the legs and getting the hang of “riding hard” at a consistant pace.

        Also, one last thing, make sure you’re staying hydrated and your on-the-bike nutrition is up to par with the pace of the ride. Consider that you’re going to burn a heck of a lot more calories (and get more dehydrated!) on a harder, faster ride. Lots of things come into play 🙂

      • bgddyjim says:

        That’s a good call – you’re absolutely right. When I ride by myselfI usually take 30 or 40 seconds after a hard effort to recover. After a pull I’ve got about 10 seconds before I have to gas it again to latch on and I have to stay there for a second before I get sucked into the draft – that last little charge was killing me.

        I’d forgotten about you’re microburst post – I’ll be revisiting that one.

        Thanks!

  4. […] to recover as quickly as possible on the advice of Michael Fioretti in a comment on my post about strategically getting dropped in a group ride the other day (he recommended “Microburst” training, which I’ll […]

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