Do you ever find the pace of group rides to be harsh, inconsistent, and dangerous? Here are three tips to make your group riding experience less intense, smoother, and safer.
1. Look ahead. Sounds simple, but most people do not look far enough ahead during their group rides. Instead, they stare at the wheel of the rider in front of them. The result is riding dangerously, wasting energy by over-exaggerating reactions to the terrain and other riders. Sometimes even crashing because they do not have enough time to react to obstacles, a crash ahead or a dramatic change in pace in the group. I recommend looking at least a three-rider distance ahead. Also keep scanning road and riders ahead, back and forth, not just looking in one area.
2. Ride slightly off-to-one-side of the rider in front of you. Yes, cross wheels! Correct, “crossing wheels” is safe, riding directly behind the wheel in front of you is dangerous. When you are off to one side of the wheel in front of you, it is possible to smooth out all the jumps and stalls in the group’s pace. When the rider slows in front of you, just put your front wheel next to their rear wheel. When they speed up, just let their rear-wheel pull back to slightly in front of your front wheel. Also, commit to staying to one side of the rider in front of you consistently. Don’t go side-to-side as that is when crashes can happen. Also, stay alert! Make sure the side you choose has a clear bailout line if the riders in front of you crash or dramatically come to a stop.
3. Use your front brake. Do your best to avoid stopping pedaling when riding in the group when the riders in front of you slow, or when you have more momentum than the rider in front of you. Instead, use your front brake like a clutch. Add some front brake while you keep pedaling when you need to slow to avoid passing or coming up on the rider in front of you. This acts like a clutch does on a motorcycle. While in a short moment you may need to slow slightly, by keeping the right RPMs and effort going you avoid a spike when you need the pace up again. Keep the same pedaling tension on your legs while you manipulate the closeness to the rider in front with the brake.