The summer and fall months are loaded with century, metric century, three-day and week-long bicycle tours. The excitement of riding an event with several other cyclists can be invigorating and motivating.
You can use an organized tour as a season goal or a means of bumping up your fitness for other events. For example, week-long tours can be used as "crash training" weeks. Crash training is an overload of training volume and/or intensity. A well-structured crash week followed by adequate rest can have significant, positive effects on fitness.
Well-planned crash training works wonders, but the last thing you want to do is crash during a tour. The excitement and fatigue of an organized ride might cause some people to lose their wits.
Before your turn the pedals on a tour, consider these few common sense tips to stay safe and courteous.
? If you are not accustomed to riding in a pace line (several cyclists following closely behind one another) don't attempt it during your first organized tour. If you want to learn the skill, seek the help of a local bicycling club or practice with a small group of friends. See also my column covering basic skills for group riding.
? Some riders consider it rude if you "sit" on their wheel and draft. If you don't know the person and haven't asked permission to be sitting on their wheel, not only can it be rude, it can be dangerous or disgusting.
If the lead rider doesn't know you're there, they won't point out road hazards. When they move quickly to avoid a pot hole or road hazard, you may end up hitting it. Along the disgusting line, if your lead rider doesn't know you're drafting, they may decide to clear their throat or nose into the wind, depositing the goo on you.
? Keep your head up and look ahead several feet. This is a problem with experienced and inexperienced riders alike. Often, riders look down at the road, eyes focused on a spot about 10 feet ahead of their bicycle. Focusing on a spot this close causes trouble.
Experts1 estimate average human reaction time to be somewhere between 1 and 1.5 seconds. If you are riding 15 miles per hour, you are traveling 22 feet per second. By the time you see something 10 feet in front of you and react, it's too late, you've hit the hazard. Obviously, the problem compounds itself the faster you're traveling. (20 mph = 29 ft/sec, 25 mph = 37 ft/sec)