If you know a newbie aspiring pace line rider, please pass this on to them… For all of our sake.
It’s a rare day that I see a bad cyclist riding with us on the advanced ride. Most noobs simply can’t keep up with the pace so we usually have a fairly legitimate crowd on Tuesday nights. This was not the case last night, and nothing rattles a good group more than a shaky rider. He was so bad that one of the otherwise reserved riders mentioned something to me about it as the kid fell back after a pull that lasted entirely too long at about 23 mph. Technically it was more like 23 to 25 to 22 to 21 to 23 to 20… You get the idea The poor guy behind him was on his brakes constantly while I managed to stay far enough back to absorb a lot of the back and forth. In addition, once the kid started running out of gas, instead of falling back to rest, he tried to stay up front even though his counterpart (we run a double pace line) had fallen to the back. That’s when the mistakes started. From where I was it looked like he shifted two gears down two gears instead of one so all of a sudden he couldn’t spin his feet fast enough to keep the pace up so he slowed and then freaked and his bike started shaking as he tried to regain composure. Ideally he’d have been in the back resting up a half mile before all of this happened. He was so bad that I actually said something to him when I got back by him.
If you’re a noob, as I was not long ago, you absolutely want to ride with a group that is either faster than you or that you can just barely keep up with… It’s going to make you a faster rider, but when people tire out, even experienced riders, mistakes happen. For instance, a friend of mine had his rear wheel taco’d when a fairly experienced rider, who had been riding with us all day, cramped up and ran into his wheel while we were stopped in a rest station parking lot. The other day after 58 fast miles, pulling slowly into another rest station, a very experienced cyclist who appeared quite gassed bent my rear wheel up pretty good when he accidentally got his wheel stuck in a crack in a sidewalk and fell towards his clipped in foot. He fell into my wheel and knocked me over into a ditch. Fortunately my wheel wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t continue – I just had to release the brake lever about half way to get the wheel to spin freely.
So here’s a simple list of noob mistakes that get the group in trouble:
1. If you’re in a large organized group and you’re completely gassed, stay to the back and take advantage of the draft to recharge.
2. You want to pull a little bit longer than you feel comfortable with because doing so will make you stronger – just keep it within reason.
3. Don’t pull so long that you become fidgety – your chances of hurting someone else go up exponentially.
4. Take a good long pull at the front but don’t over stay the welcome. If you gas yourself to a point you’re unstable you will be viewed as dangerous, not tough.
5. Keep your head up if you’re getting tired. One of the first things that will go will be your desire to keep your head up (I know this for a fact). You mustn’t ever take your eyes off of the group in front of you – you’ll end up running into somebody in front of you when the group makes a turn or stops for a light or stop sign.
6. Be extra careful in a parking lot or at a rest station. Get out of the way as soon as possible (I made this mistake the other day – I should have dismounted and moved faster).
7. Smooth the groove when you’re up front. Keep a constant speed on the flats, pedal your ass off downhill and be careful not to slow too much uphill.
8. Speaking of downhill – if you’re up front going down a hill, you will be pedaling for almost all you’re worth while the group behind will be coasting – the draft works that well.
9. Don’t sweat being a noob. I found getting my ego out of the equation the best policy here. The tough part, of course, is realizing that we’re not just talking about riding a bike – anyone can do that. We’re talking about riding a bike at more than 20 mph, with mere inches between cyclists – simply standing up at the wrong time to stretch your legs could send someone to the hospital.