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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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.