Watching major cycling races on television, such as the Tour de France, is inspiring. Seeing the peloton working together for periods of time, then watching the race unfold is captivating.
Though you may never intend on racing at all, group rides and working as part of a peloton can be a lot of fun. Group rides can have a significant, positive effect on your cycling. For group ride novices, showing up for your first ride can be intimidating. Perhaps you worry that you're not fit or fast enough to stay with the group. Or, perhaps you're concerned about unspoken rules that you may unwittingly violate only to find that the group seems to be intentionally trying to drop you.
To help you minimize the chances of getting dropped at your first—or next—group ride, let me share some tips. An informal group ride has rolled out of my driveway for more than 15 years. It operates as a drop-in ride, similar to "shop rides." It is not a "no-drop ride"—where all riders wait for the slowest rider. It is also not the Weekend World Championship ride where the entire ride is treated as a race.
With that introduction, here are seven tips to help you hang with your local drop-in group ride so you can receive fitness benefits that will make a marked difference in your cycling strength and speed.
First impressions count a lot in business and pelotons. If the group is scheduled to roll out at 9 a.m. sharp, you need to be ready to ride no later than 8:55 a.m. If you're "that guy/gal" careening your car into a parking space at 8:55 a.m., don't expect the group to wait for you while you get dressed, pump your tires and fill your bottles. If the group does wait for you, be assured they think do in fact think less of you—already. You are wasting their valuable ride time.
More: Don't Be 'That Guy'
Stay Back Early On
You may want to show off your superior fitness or fine work ethic, but don't be riding on the front of the group pushing what you deem to be an appropriate pace on a ride you've never been to or that you very seldom attend. Allow the riders that are regular to that group start the ride and set the pace. Meanwhile, if you haven't already done it before the ride (when you arrived early) find a friendly face and introduce yourself. Ask about the dynamics of the ride and how it typically progresses.
- Are there designated spots to regroup?
- If there are regrouping spots, how long does the group typically wait?
- Does everyone charge up all hills?
- Is there regrouping after every hill?
- Are there informal sprints to city limit signs?
Knowing some of the group dynamics can help you survive longer.
Leave the Music at Home
It is extremely annoying to other riders if they are trying to communicate with you about important items such as pending danger or "stay on my wheel and I'll help you" and you can't hear a thing because you have music blaring in one or both ears. Either leave your music at home or keep it in your pocket to use when you are not riding with the group on your cool down.