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Daily Archives: July 17, 2014

Cycling for Noobs: Why you get dropped at the weekly club ride…And what to do about it.

You’re cruising along with the advanced group at a great pace, twenty deep in a double pace line and all is well in your world.

All of a sudden all hell breaks lose and you’re left soft-pedaling alone wondering what just happened as a select group pulls away and vanishes around the next corner.

What went wrong?

The joy of the Attack

Advanced club rides are used as mini race simulations for local racers.  Part of racing, and I’ve done this myself from time to time as a non-racer, is attacking off the front.  Sometimes the group chases them down, other times (like in my cases) they know the rider who went off isn’t strong enough to stay off – they know they’ll be reeled in soon enough.

What to do?

Often you’ll see this one develop if you’re paying attention.  The idea that most noobs miss (something that I was notorious for) is not looking far enough ahead because they’re worried about running into the wheel in front of them.  As you grow in your abilities, start looking up the group a little bit, three or four riders ahead.  Unless you’re at the very back, you’ll see the attack happen and you’ll be able to see whether or not the leaders chase.  If they do, it’s time to put the hammer down…  Or simply let everyone go around you if you’re not up for it.

Noob almost causes an accident

This happened just last night.  Three riders up one of the guys got squirrely and almost took out a racer and his wife on their brand new $13,000 tandem.  He was not pleased.  He shot to the front and took the group from a mild-mannered 23/24 mph to 29, just like that.  He did this to shake the group up and drop the guy who almost took him out (he almost got me and a couple of other friends later and I did say something, politely, after the ride).  As we noobs ride along, if we’re at speeds that put us close to the red-line, we tire out.  When we tire out, if we’re not careful we make stupid mistakes and often have a tough time holding a good line.  First, if this describes the way you ride, you should fall off the back rather than risk hurting someone.  Second, those who can ride very fast know that a little bit of speed will shake off the weary, thereby protecting their season and bicycle (which likely cost them thousands of dollars that they won’t have to replace what you broke because you can’t hold a line).  This can be interpreted as “mean spirited” by the self-centered, but it’s not.  Or do you have an extra eight grand lying around to replace someone’s bike because you swerved and took their wheel out?  I thought not.

What to do?

Now, like before, if you’re paying attention you’ll see this one develop too.  The charge will be furious but you’ll only have to hold the higher speed for a minute or two so try to keep up if you’ve got the gas in the tank, speeds will return to normal soon enough.


Strong crosswinds will break up a tight group fast.  As soon as the echelons start forming cover is at a premium.  The problem is that with the wind coming from the side, or worse still, from the front and to one side (a cross headwind), spaces in the draft fill up quickly and trying to hang on can get ugly in a hurry.  Most noobs, myself included on a regular basis, get stuck in what they call “the ditch”.  Let’s say the wind is coming from the right.  The echelon will from the right of the lane with cyclists staggering to the left until they hit the yellow line.  You’re the next one, behind the person on the yellow line so you’re only getting a minimal break from the wind.  It’s bad enough that you might as well be pulling.

Another fun scenario is always being on the wrong side of the crosswind.

What to do?

In the case of the wrong side of the pace line, if the wind will be coming from the right when you turn, go into the turn a little slow and fade to the side and simply make sure you get into the left lane.  This offers the most protection.

In the case of the echelon, try to form a second line.  If that doesn’t work, well you’re hit.  Fall off the back and join up with a few of the other stragglers (there should be plenty).

You’re simply not fit enough for the group.

Now, we’re talking about the advanced group here, please remember.  This is the group for those who don’t wear pull-ups anymore so leave the whining in the car because at the first sign of weakness everyone in the group will drop you.  Be aware of this going in:  They don’t wait for you in the advanced rides – that’s why they call them advanced.  When you ride in the advanced group it’s on you to keep up.  Case in point, we have a guy who rides in our group with a time trial bike, I’ve written about this guy before.  He has no business on that bike in a group (though he is getting better)…  When we get to the hills, where I know he can’t climb on that bike, I first make sure I’m on the front so I can control the pace, and then I absolutely shred his TT bike riding ass.  I work those hills so hard that I’ve almost knocked myself out of the group a couple of times.

Now, you might think this is mean (and I’m okay with that, you go right ahead) but this guy has almost ran into a dozen other cyclists with that stupid bike because he’s too far from the brakes when he needs them…  It’s self-preservation baby.

Oh, and guess which bike he showed up with this week after three weeks of me kicking his ass in the hills…  That’s right, he brought the road bike this week.  I didn’t have to say a word.