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  1. #1
    Senior Member suzcruzrides's Avatar
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    Looking for some suggestions/advice

    I've always enjoyed cycling & started seriously riding the end of last summer as part of my weight loss effort. This spring I bought a new bike & wanted to challenge myself to ride more miles & longer distances. My local LBS does weekly rides. They call it Monday Meander but I've heard it's quite a bit faster than what I think of as "meander". I hope to be able to join them at least by the end of the summer.

    As part of my goals, I decided to sign up for some events. On June 1st I will be participating in a women's ride which requires travelling 4.5 hrs & staying overnight.
    As a newb to this type of group ride I was wondering if there are any suggestions or helpful hints. They have a variety of distances to ride, I'm doing the 25 miles. They will have maps & cue sheets but how on earth do you read a cue sheet while riding? I'm planning to stay near the back of the pack since I am quite slow.
    Anything I should be aware of? Do's or don'ts for a first timer?
    Thanks!

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    Try to get in touch with riders in the group, prior to the ride for more information. Try to befriend as many others as possible. Make certain that you know how to either change or fix a flat under fifteen minutes. Try to partner up with someone of a similar skill-level. Have all emergency information available. Make certain that you have a water cage and water bottle, filled with ice cold water.

    * Take along some trail mix for a quick snack. I usually mix peanuts, pistachios, dried fruit (raisins, apples, bananas, etc.), and M&M's...

    50/20/20/10%

    Don't forget your credit card!...Take a Poncho along, if rain is in the forecast. Otherwise, just a light jacket...You'll need a change of undies and a top.
    Last edited by WestPablo; 04-30-14 at 11:23 AM.

  3. #3
    The Improbable Bulk Little Darwin's Avatar
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    If you are like me, you will fall behind any groups pretty quickly, and then end up occasionally chatting with others as they pass you, or when you get to the rest stops. Even though I don't ride "with the group" I still really enjoy organized rides. I found it is good for me to position myself close to the front of the pack to start so that I maintain contact with the group for longer.

    Don't try to keep up with people riding faster than you are comfortable with... you will only get left behind anyway, after you have worn yourself out, making the rest of the ride tougher.

    Cue sheets are nice to keep on hand, but rarely necessary. Familiarize yourself with the route before hand as well as you can, but during the rides pay attention to the road markings. You can cobble together (or buy) a sleeve or clip to hold the cue sheet on your stem so you can read it as you ride, but if you do plan to follow it, you will also need an odometer to know about how far to go... especially good for help judging when you are getting close to a turn or have gone too far.

    If you do manage to stay with a group, still remain alert for where the different routes make different turns. The routes may start out together, and then separate at certain points where the longer rides take off into the hills or countryside. In some rides the road markings are color coded, with certain colored arrows for each ride length, in others (like the Tour de Scranton) they signify route numbers (or distances) for each ride along with the arrows... Either way, they are usually easy to follow.

    As far as the weekly club or bike shop rides, I have found that for the ones around here, they go faster and farther as the season progresses, so for me in the past, at the end of the season when I am at my peak, I am just about ready for their early season rides... and unfortunately unable to keep up with the current pace.
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    If it is a decent sized organized group ride, chances are there will be others riding a similar pace to yours. Review the route map before you leave and you can usually just "follow the crowd" for the most part. The organizers may also try to put signs at major turns letting you know which route goes which direction. Keep the cue sheet in your pocket and if you come to an intersection and don't have anybody to follow and don't see any signs, pull out the map/cue sheet and figure it out from there. As for other tips, show up earlier to the start than you think you need to. Air up your tires the morning of the ride, expect long lines for porta johns at the start, drink before you feel like you need to, don't be afraid to eat snacks if they have a break point along the way, but don't overdo it. You will probably have quite a few folks passing you. Some may call out on your left before they do it. Try to stay as close to the right side of the road as you safely can, but the key word is safely. Don't feel obligated to ride in potholes or gravel too far to the right just because there might be people passing you. The best thing you can do when riding in groups is be predictable. Call out if you know people are right behind you and you are stopping, slowing significantly, or if there are road obstructions like holes, debris, dogs, etc. If you are riding clipped in, don't forget to unclip a foot the first time you stop. Newer riders often get so overwhelmed with other things they are thinking about that the first time they come to a stop or roll into a break point, they forget to unclip and fall over in front of everybody. If it happens to you, shake it off and laugh. Everybody there has done the exact same thing at least once and most have done it more than once.

    Oh, and regarding the LBS group rides, look for rides advertised as "no drop". That means no matter how slow you are, somebody from the group and possibly several will stay with you and make sure you know where you are going. Doing those kinds of rides will help you gauge what pace you can maintain for a given distance, and will help you select other group rides that suit your abilities.
    Last edited by txags92; 04-30-14 at 10:30 AM.

  5. #5
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suzcruzrides View Post
    They will have maps & cue sheets but how on earth do you read a cue sheet while riding?
    Most rides in my area are marked, so the cue sheet is just a nicety. However, on the odds that yours is not, it helps to be prepared. Study the route a bit (use google street view to check out the turns so you can identify landmarks). if you have a smart phone, you can map the route ahead of time in ridewithGPS.com or something along those lines so you can pull it up during your ride if you need to. if you do NOT have a smart phone, make sure you have a map of the area on hand. Sure, they'll give you something but it may not be adequate to get you back on track if you're lost.

    In conjunction with the cue sheet, it helps to have an odometer on your bike. Most cue sheets tell you the cumulative distance to the next turn, so you'll know when to start looking. And yes, they're hard to read while riding. Some people clip them to their handlebars somehow, or tape them to the top tube. I decided I needed a garmin.

    Have fun on your ride!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Black wallnut's Avatar
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    It is likely your LBS has other customers that are at your fitness level ask them for help finding a riding partner or a few partners. I strongly encourage others to try LBS group rides. There have been many where I would have welcomed someone to ride with that allowed me to slow down. I am often forced to ride with riders way above my ability and it has made me a much stronger rider. i have found that me being a fat guy trying my hardest inspires the tooth picks and they do not mind waiting for me. It started by me just showing up to a winter spin class.

    Others have given sage advice for organized rides. I'd hesitate to freeze water bottles though in your northern climate. 95 days maybe... 70-80 no way. I can't think of a single supported ride that I have been on that did not have adequate route markers. Don't make any changes from your normal routine on supported rides of longer duration than what you normally ride. Also do not make changes to your bike right before, don't try new clothing...etc. Relax, ride at your own pace and enjoy. Keep in mind most folks ride too fast at the beginning of these, don't be that person.


    Mark

  7. #7
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suzcruzrides View Post
    I've always enjoyed cycling & started seriously riding the end of last summer as part of my weight loss effort. This spring I bought a new bike & wanted to challenge myself to ride more miles & longer distances. My local LBS does weekly rides. They call it Monday Meander but I've heard it's quite a bit faster than what I think of as "meander". I hope to be able to join them at least by the end of the summer.

    As part of my goals, I decided to sign up for some events. On June 1st I will be participating in a women's ride which requires travelling 4.5 hrs & staying overnight.
    As a newb to this type of group ride I was wondering if there are any suggestions or helpful hints. They have a variety of distances to ride, I'm doing the 25 miles. They will have maps & cue sheets but how on earth do you read a cue sheet while riding? I'm planning to stay near the back of the pack since I am quite slow.
    Anything I should be aware of? Do's or don'ts for a first timer?
    Thanks!
    Personally I'd look to get more acquainted with local rides before going so far, but since you're presumably already booked onto the ride here are some thoughts.

    See if anyone expects to go at your pace. If you're pushing yourself in terms of distance and/or saddle time it makes a huge difference having some company.

    Look at the route sheet and map ahead of time. Randonneurs use route sheets to navigate hundreds of kilometres although personally what I do with a route sheet is create a Track to put into my GPS to follow. If all else fails my GPS will guide me back to the start. If my GPS fails then I'd need to find some other way back to the start, in which case having looked at a map ahead of time can only help. If you don't have a GPS get as good an idea of the route as you can manage.

    Make sure your bike is comfortable to ride, make sure you've got some water with you, and make sure you've got some food. 25 miles at a gentle pace shouldn't leave you in danger of bonking but if you're not used to that kind of distance it doesn't hurt to have some food on hand even if only to make it more comfortable for you.

    Don't be tempted to go too fast at the beginning so you can roll with a fast group. You can probably hang with a group significantly faster than you'd normally ride, but probably not for the full distance. If you fall off the back of the group and don't know where you are, you need to figure how far you went before you can follow your cue sheet. You also risk leaving yourself too tired to enjoy the rest of the ride.

    Above all, enjoy it! Pace yourself, remember to drink enough as you ride, and have a good time!
    "For a list of ways technology has failed to improve quality of life, press three"

  8. #8
    The Improbable Bulk Little Darwin's Avatar
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    One other thing came to mind. There is usually a number to call for SAG support... for my recent ride, I programmed the numbers into my contact list with an @ in front of the names so that if needed they were in my phone at the top of the list. It was probably over-kill, but I felt better knowing I could easily call for help if needed.

    Which reminds me, time to delete those contacts.
    Slow Ride Cyclists of NEPA

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  9. #9
    Senior Member suzcruzrides's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the suggestions - great info, lots to think about. I appreciate it! Will definitely give you an update after the ride.

  10. #10
    Senior Member MikeRides's Avatar
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    If your bike club is anything like my local one, the only advice I can give is be a fast rider or a slow poke. My club has two road ride groups; beginner which averages <10 mph with a enforced no drop policy on whatever bike you want to ride and wearing 'street clothes' and a intermediate group which averages 17-18 mph mostly on road bikes wearing full kits. For me I fit in between; I average 14-15 mph on a good day, 13.5 most. I'm sure if I joined the intermediate group I could push myself to go faster and still be left behind and if I'm going to be riding solo there's no point in paying the annual dues for the club (well except maybe the 20% store discount and the other events they take part in).
    Want to ride fast? Just ride with a slower group.
    Want to feel like a kid again? Dust off that old bike hanging in your garage!

  11. #11
    Senior Member suzcruzrides's Avatar
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    MikeRides - it's not an actual club. The ride starts at my LBS and anybody who wants to go shows up & they head out at a designated time. The meander ride is on Mondays but on Wednesday that's supposed to be faster & longer. For example, yesterday they posted this on their facebook: "Okay roadies...Wednesday Good Times Ride TODAY! 6pm. Route to be determined. Speed 16-19mph for about 20-30 miles. Looks like the ONLY day of the week to ride."
    I'm not sure how fast or how far the Monday Meander ride is but I'm quite sure at this point I couldn't keep up. The good thing is, there aren't any dues, etc. It's just a group of guys & gals who can get together for a ride. One day I was riding by the LBS as they were getting ready to head out. Some of them were watching me ride by. I wondered if they were thinking: "Oh, is she going to join us?" OR "Phew, glad she isn't joining us!" LOL

  12. #12
    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    Most rides in my area are marked, so the cue sheet is just a nicety. However, on the odds that yours is not, it helps to be prepared. Study the route a bit (use google street view to check out the turns so you can identify landmarks).
    +1

    I did at least a half dozen organized/chartiy rides that were local before I did one that required overnight travel. I have a lot of choices near me, I realize you may not have that luxury, or may just want an outing. Have fun with it.

    Remember that on rides that long (I have done two full century's, but it was't too long ago that 25 miles was a long ride for me.) cadence is your friend. Get comfortable pedaling at 80-90 rpm, and using the gears to do it easily.
    Freedom is free. It's included in democracy. Democracy is hard. It involves dealing rationally with people you disagree with.

  13. #13
    Senior Member suzcruzrides's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CommuteCommando View Post
    +1

    I did at least a half dozen organized/chartiy rides that were local before I did one that required overnight travel. I have a lot of choices near me, I realize you may not have that luxury, or may just want an outing. Have fun with it.

    Remember that on rides that long (I have done two full century's, but it was't too long ago that 25 miles was a long ride for me.) cadence is your friend. Get comfortable pedaling at 80-90 rpm, and using the gears to do it easily.
    Thanks - sadly, we don't have many events locally. We are quite isolated from a lot of things so in order to participate in events like this we do need to travel. The only local even I would feel comfortable doing is the Trek Breast Cancer Awareness Ride which I plan on doing but it's not until October. One other local event takes place over a couple of days but that is waaaayyyy out of my comfort zone.
    I signed my husband & I up for a 40 mile ride to be held in September as a getaway for us. He's a good riding partner because he's patient & encouraging. When I started riding last year there were times I felt like I couldn't go any farther & almost quit. Then I would hear him behind me telling me I was doing great & keep going. He doesn't ride often but he is more than willing to go with me if I'm scouting out an unfamiliar area.

    With this ride I don't know anybody there, I'm not familiar with the area & I have no idea what the terrain is like. Should be interesting! I'm looking for ways to challenge myself, put myself out there & experience new things. Is this a mid-life crisis?

  14. #14
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suzcruzrides View Post
    Is this a mid-life crisis?
    If it is, it's healthier and less expensive than a fancy two-seater sports car and affairs.

  15. #15
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suzcruzrides View Post
    Thanks - sadly, we don't have many events locally. We are quite isolated from a lot of things so in order to participate in events like this we do need to travel. The only local even I would feel comfortable doing is the Trek Breast Cancer Awareness Ride which I plan on doing but it's not until October. One other local event takes place over a couple of days but that is waaaayyyy out of my comfort zone.
    I signed my husband & I up for a 40 mile ride to be held in September as a getaway for us. He's a good riding partner because he's patient & encouraging. When I started riding last year there were times I felt like I couldn't go any farther & almost quit. Then I would hear him behind me telling me I was doing great & keep going. He doesn't ride often but he is more than willing to go with me if I'm scouting out an unfamiliar area.

    With this ride I don't know anybody there, I'm not familiar with the area & I have no idea what the terrain is like. Should be interesting! I'm looking for ways to challenge myself, put myself out there & experience new things. Is this a mid-life crisis?
    Use Google Earth and Google Maps to familiarize yourself with the ride and terrain before getting there.

  16. #16
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    Zip lock bags are your (and your cue sheet's) friend. A gallon size will fit a folded cue sheet, and a couple binding clamps (the kind you get at an office supply store to hold 25 pages together) will hold the bag to brake or shifter cables. Stop if you need to read the sheet and pull off the road if you get separated from the crowd.

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