To help keep your ride safe and fun, here are a few tips:
1. If you're not accustomed to riding in a pace line (several cyclists following closely behind one another) don't attempt to do it during your first organized tour. If you want to learn the skill, seek the help of a local bicycling club or learn the skill with a small group of friends.
2. It's rude to "sit on" someone's wheel and draft if you don't know the person and haven't asked permission to be there. Not only is it rude, it could be dangerous or disgusting. The lead rider doesn't know you're there and will not point out road hazards. They may avoid a pot hole and you may end up hitting it. Along the disgusting line, if that lead rider doesn't know you're back there drafting, they may decide to clear their throat or nose into the wind. The wind deposits the goo on you.
3. Keep your head up and look ahead several feet. I see this problem with experienced and inexperienced riders alike. Often, I'll see riders looking down at the road, eyes focused on a spot about 10 feet ahead of their bicycle. If you are focused on a spot this close, you're in trouble. Experts estimate average human reaction time to be somewhere between 1.0 and 1.5 seconds.
*If you're riding 15 mph, 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 faster you're traveling, the problem compounds itself. (20 mph = 29 ft/sec, 25 mph = 36.7 ft/sec)
Look ahead a good distance so you can anticipate trouble. You can detect a good number of problems if you keep watch about 20 to 25 yards (60 to 75 feet, or the length of a swimming pool) ahead of yourself. Although you are looking about 25 yards ahead, be aware of items in your peripheral vision a car crossing the centerline a quarter of a mile away, a dog running toward you from a farm house 50 yards away, a truck that looks like it may not stop at the intersection ahead of you, etc.
4. If you're riding in a pace line, avoid tire-fixation. This problem occurs when you're focused on the tire of the person ahead of you. Instead, keep your head up and look ahead. Keep the rider(s) in front of you in your peripheral vision and watch for signals from the front of the group. (See tip #3.)
5. If you're in a working pace line, point out hazards in the road to riders behind you. There several different ways to signal something is on the road, beside the road, moving on the road (a human or animal), etc. You can workout a signal system with your group or at minimum, simply point to the hazard.
6. When riding in a pace line, don't cross wheels with the person ahead of you. This means don't let your front tire cross a line that is perpendicular to the back tire of the person ahead of you. If they make a sudden move and swerve to the side, you go down.
7. Whether riding alone or in a pace line, ride a steady, straight line. Weaving all over the road wastes your energy and is dangerous to others.
8. Be steady and predictable. Riders that make sudden, darty moves are dangerous. (To avoid darty, see tip #3 again.)
9. When heading into aid stations, be aware of people in front, on the side and in back of you. Ignore the length of the port-a-potty line until you're safely off the bike. Exiting the aid station, be alert for other riders coming in and trying to get out.
10. Last, but not least, don't ride five abreast on an open road, blocking motorists. I know you paid good money to participate in the event, but this does not give you the right to hold traffic up for five miles. Be courteous to motorists and more than likely they'll reciprocate.
2003 Gale Bernhardt
Unlock Your Athletic PowerTM
Gale Bernhardt was the 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic Team Coach and she traveled to the 2000 Sydney Games as the personal coach of a road racer. Endurance sports are her passion. She says training for these events help her train for life -- which requires tremendous endurance. You can find more information, including pre-built base fitness plans, race training plans and training books at http://www.trainingpeaks.com/gale/.