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Club Cycling Etiquette… Re-Re-Re-Revisited, Again.

September 2015
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Cycling with a club or in a group can be a touchy thing.  I’ve seen the club, en masse, surge from 23 mph to 30, just to drop one guy in the group.  Purposefully – and I’ve been a part of that myself.  In fact, I’ve led the charge on more than one occasion.  This isn’t without it’s faults, of course, but when an advanced group feels threatened by a novice cyclist who doesn’t know how to ride in a group, he (or she)’s as good as dropped and usually before they know what hit them.  The same can’t usually be said for no-drop rides, but I’ve only ever been a part of those when they’re invite only and the “no-drop” pace starts at 19 mph.  In other words, I’ve never been a part of a no-drop ride, so I won’t comment on how they work.

This may seem cruel, but it’s far easier to drop someone that it is to convince them they’re wrong or need to work on their skills.  That’s what this post is for.  Following are some rules of etiquette, that if you’re not willing to follow, you’d better have some strong legs and lots left in the tank or you’re done.

  1.  Do not talk about politics or church on a club ride unless you’re preaching to the choir – in both instances.  I had a guy tell me once that I should be taxed more because I was able riding a nice bike and his son had a paltry college loan debt yet to settle (I think it was $15,000).  In other words, I should be made to pay for his son’s college because I ride a Venge.  I about lost my shit and berated him up one side and down the other because that dope had no clue how much I sacrificed to finally be able to afford that bike.  He just made the ignorant assumption that because I have a decent bike I must be wealthy.  Ironically enough, several weeks later he asked me for my professional opinion on what his new pole barn should cost (it was six times what I had into my bike).  There aren’t too many in our group who like the guy, I just feel sorry for him.  It can’t be easy going through life like that.  Don’t be that guy, or girl.
  2. Don’t ride a time trial bike in the group unless you’re an accomplished time trialist (and therefore understand that TT bikes suck in a club setting).  We had two guys, in different years, who showed up with their new TT bikes, thinking they’d just ride in the group with their hands on the bars near the brakes…  It’s all good, right?  Wrong.  When the group surges and you’re in the wrong gear, what then?  You leave a gap.  You continually push too hard a gear (or too easy) and can’t respond to surges and you tax anyone riding behind you who has to make up that gap.  You show up thinking everyone is going to say, “Hey, cool bike.”  Some may say that.  What they’re thinking is, “Oh, great, here we go again”.
  3. Don’t ride in the middle of the two pace lines unless you are the very last guy (or girl) in line – and when the two come back from the front, pick a lane…  If your response to this is, “But I like it in the middle”, allow me to offer my response to the guy who said that very same thing to me:  “I don’t give a shit!”  Look, I get it…  It’s easier to hide in between both lines.  The draft in between the two lines, especially in a crosswind, is awesome.  Unfortunately the whole group still has to function while you’re indulging your selfish inner child, the rest of us, especially those behind you, have to work harder because they don’t have a clean draft – you’re breaking that up by hanging out in the middle of the two lines.  Look, it’s simple:  If you’re so slow that you literally can’t hang on to a pace line, if you have to hang out between two lines to get enough draft to hang on, you need a slower group.  To hold others hostage to your needs, to make others who may be struggling as well, work harder to cover for you is ultimately plain old selfish.
  4. Finally, there are a long list of smaller things that could be added to a list, but they can all be summed up:  Do your best to be a contributing, decent member of your club.  If they’re too fast, that’s okay, hold a good line and open a hole for the faster guys and suck wheel (I do at times during our club rides).  And if that’s not working for you either, do what I did:  Befriend several of the other guys who get dropped too and form your own group to splinter off the main club at a specific point along the route.

That last item is really the important thing here.  In a world filled with selfish jerks, the last thing we need is another one.  If we do our best to be a fine, upstanding member of the group, we will be rewarded a hundred times over with good-time rides with friends and memories that will last till two seconds before we become worm food.

I should know.  I was a noob, what, like twenty minutes ago.

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19 Comments

  1. Amen to all . . . the TT bike thing just kills me! I get so sick of that crap. You wanna time trial? Go freakin’ time trial. Want to ride in a group ride? Find a flippin’ road bike! Whew . . . you got my dander up. 😀

  2. PedalWORKS says:

    My biggest complaint is riders that don’t/can’t hold a line. When you are screaming along at top speed inches from one anthers wheels, it’s important to roll straight.There are few people I trust enough when riding full out.

    • bgddyjim says:

      I’ll have to amend my post. Just experienced that tonight first hand… Had to eat wind for ten straight miles because that fella on his TT bike was out tonight. Messed up my ride.

  3. Leslie says:

    #2: Whew, I have really strong feelings about the time trial bike in a group ride. Just no. We have A, B, and C pace rides weekly. I’m a B plus rider, but once in a while if I’m feeling frisky, I will try to hang with the A group. We had a guy with a time trial bike who kept showing up for both the B and A rides. He caused problems in the B rides by crashing on corners (yeah, time trial bikes are tricky to take corners with, but when you muff it up in a group, you take down others with you). Then he went on the A ride, which can be a bit aggressive because a lot of these guys are racers, but they follow the rules of group riding etiquette. There was a small pack paceline stretched out at a good clip, and the rider behind this time trial bike guy touched his rear wheel. The time trial bike guy was down on his aero bars. In that position he was unable to recover centerline balance, and he went down like a stone. Got messed up. Time trial bike guy is now suing the guy that touched his rear wheel. The guy that touched his rear wheel is a great rider, has been racing since the 70s, and having ridden a number of rides with him and paced close to him in a pack, I can say that he follows all the rules, is steady, and just does things right. I feel he isn’t at fault. Wheel brushes happen sometimes, even in experienced packs when the guys are pushing it. My feeling is that time trial bikes and aero bars DO NOT belong on group rides. Riders down on the aero bars take at least 2 seconds, maybe 3 to get off them and respond with braking; their balance is more fragile, and I’m not sure their line of vision is that optimal either.

  4. velo26 says:

    You have just reminded me of something that happened a few years back. I was out training and getting familiar with my new TT bike when I bumped into a group of guy’s I new. So I rode along with them chatting about this race and that race. When about twenty minutes into the ride some guy who didn’t know me started giving me a hard time about riding a very expensive TT bike. I didn’t bother to argue or explain it seemed more fun to just drop him 🙂

    • bgddyjim says:

      Never met a TT bike I couldn’t keep up with… That’s intriguing. See, I’d much rather get chicked than ride with someone who has no clue how dangerous she is in a group.

      He wasn’t giving you a hard time about your expensive bike, he was giving you a hard time about how you ride it, specifically in a group.

      The guy probably was a jerk about it, but he wanted you to get the message. Read my post later on today and I’ll make this a little more clear, without issues of gender messing the English language up…

      D’you buy a road bike yet?

      • velo26 says:

        No. Not yet. Still toying with the idea of a cyclo cross bike.

      • bgddyjim says:

        PERFECT! Just get two sets of tires and you can ride that bike anywhere you want.

        As for your previous comment, I misread it, as if you were a woman taunting me by bragging about dropping a group of guys because they gave you a tough time, etc., etc….

        That explains the tenor of my response a little bit. Gender removed, the gist stays the same. Still, my post later today will explain things better.

        My apologies, I misread your first comment.

  5. velo26 says:

    Also worth mentioning that the TT machine was supplied by my team sponsor and both amateur and professional racing opponents or fellow team mates ever had a problem with how I ride.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Still haven’t met a TT bike I couldn’t keep up with. Chuckle.

      I get your teammates wouldn’t complain, most people have no clue how dangerous they are on those bikes. Then you’ve got the road cyclists who knee-jerk into the position that there are no good TT Cyclists out there, that they’re all bad in a group. I can attest that excellent TT cyclists are not unicorns, I know one, ride with one, had one pull me back to the group when a noob let a gap form…

      He probably jumped to the wrong conclusion. Had he been thinking he’d have jumped on your wheel.

      • velo26 says:

        I don’t think I told you the story very well. I missed out a lot of information. I was a professional factory team rider. The guys I bumped into new because I was well known in the cycling scene. The guy probably didn’t know who I was because I didn’t like riding around in my team kit.
        Wow this is the first time I have ever mentioned this part of my life on WordPress.

      • bgddyjim says:

        No worries man, I’m definitely looking at this misunderstanding positively… Not too often a fella like me gets to insult an cyclist of your caliber and manage to, after the dust settles, walk away without hard feelings on either side.

        You also gave me the inspiration for one AWESOME idea for a post.

      • velo26 says:

        No worries. It did have me laughing 🙂

  6. Mountain bikers don’t have to worry about pace line etiquette.

    I used to ride a group ride that was sponsored by a local bike shop. There were always noobs, some nobs, some who talked church and politics. The group leader was the bike shop owner, a bit of a snob. One night, a nob kept taking the front and pushing the pace up. The group leader rode up to the position right behind the front, motioned for the group to pull off to the right behind a large warehouse. The nob in front never noticed.

  7. Sheree says:

    So, so true!

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