You can review your power, heart rate and average speed numbers when you get home. When you're in the peloton you must pay attention to what's going on ahead of you. Avoid looking at your cycling computer when you should be paying attention to what coming in front of you. That written, avoid getting your eyes locked on your own front wheel or the wheel just ahead of you. Look ahead enough that you can have some reaction time to debris in the road. Keep other riders in your peripheral vision.
Avoid Using the Group to Conserve, Only to Attack
Earlier in the column I suggested that you not ride on the front of the group attempting to set the pace on a ride that you've never or rarely attended. As the ride progresses, you may never take a pull on the front and put your nose into the wind. For many groups that action is okay as long as you're doing all you can to hang with the group. You will surely get stink eye from everyone if you happily conserve your energy throughout the ride, only to attack on all the hills and city limit signs. Additionally, know that you are now "marked." One or several members of the group will seek to punish you for your selfish, disrespectful behavior. If it is more than one member of the group extracting a tax from you for your selfish and poor etiquette, there's a good chance that your punishment is unspoken.
When it's Your Turn to Pull, Keep it Steady
It is the sure mark of an amateur if you accelerate one or two miles per hour when you rotate to the front of the group. You may be the strongest rider in the group or you may want to show everyone just how strong you are, either way your acceleration punishes the person that just worked hard pulling you and the others into the wind. More than likely your acceleration in speed will shell that rider off the back of the group. The difference between the strongest and best rider is in how a strong rider uses their power to help the group.
Do Not Ride With Overlapping Wheels
Your front wheel should not overlap the wheel in front of you unless the peloton is fighting a crosswind and is in echelon formation. In other words, your front wheel should be aligned with the wheel in front of you. If it is not aligned and is off-set, your front wheel should not overlap the wheel ahead of you. If you overlap wheels and the rider ahead of you needs to suddenly swerve, more than likely your front wheel will collide with the front rider's rear wheel. More than likely you'll crash and there's a good chance that you'll take others down too. This move marks you as a dangerous rider and no one will want to follow your wheel.
Some groups will intentionally try to drop knuckleheaded riders early in the ride so that rider does not become a liability for the group.
As you do more rides with your group, you will learn which behaviors are acceptable and which ones are frowned upon. The riders that are trying their best to be part of the group and help the group are typically rewarded. This means on the days when you're not feeling your best, someone will either drop back and pull you back to the group or they will wait for you.
These are just a few tips to help you get started building your group riding skills and etiquette. By working on these skills and your fitness, it won't be long before you're reaping benefits.Search for a cycling event.