Hi folks, I'm new here. I couldn't find a "newbie" forum so am posting this here, my apologies if it's the wrong place.
My wife and I live in Berkeley, and though we've always been casual bikers, this winter we discovered a spinning class we love at the local Y and have been training up to be a bit more intense this summer. We haven't committed yet, but we have our eyes on the AIDS Lifecycle next year.
We have a long way to go. One step that I want to try is going on a supported, organized ride to see how we like it. We can't do a century yet, but it seems like most of them offer shorter routes. We were told we should do Strawberry Fields Forever, which looks great, but it's apparently booked.
So now I'm looking at The Sequoia, which looks nice and has several routes to choose from. Has anyone done this one?
Anyway, my main question is really one of etiquette or "rules" more than anything, I suppose. Never having done one of these before and not having anyone knowledgeable to go with, I'm afraid of committing some accidental jackassery on the day of the ride. Are there any guidelines or heads-up you can provide to newbies on their first organized ride? Things not to do? Common beginner mistakes to try and avoid?
For you I'll guess the error is thinking an 'organized' ride means something special.
In general the roads are not closed, the riders come in all ability and experience levels and support even when excellent will still not be there when you flat.
Hmm come to think about it if the road is closed expect the doofus rider percentage to go up.
I'd advise you to avoid any route of 25 miles or less. They can work out well, but they are apt to have slow and inexperienced riders. (remember passing can be a problem, roads are not closed). If you want to go overboard check the routes and see how much of the longer routes are common with the shorter ones.
An organized ride does mean lots of riders. It can be fun to get into a group and get the benefits of the draft, just don't go overboard and work too hard to stay with a group that is too fast for you.
I have been on some rides that start out very crowded, this usually clears up after just a few miles, even under the worst situations.
Good for you...that first organized ride can be intimidating, but you'll have a lot of fun. If you get hooked, there's a good list of West Coast rides up to 150 miles here: http://www.bbcnet.com/RideCalendar/RideListDate.asp
As for etiquette, it's mostly common sense. The fast riders will take off from the front and be out of your life in five minutes, which is fine with me--some of them tend to be what are known as ARPs, Arrogant Roadie Pr!cks who get angry if you hold them up and tend to cut off and intimidate less experienced riders.
After that, you'll find your place in the group and just roll along. It's good manners to let people know when you're going to pass (just say, "I'm coming by on your left" or whatever), and to look back before you make any moves, so you don't run into somebody who's passing you.
Depending on your condition and the length of the ride, pace yourself to finish. It's really common to start fast, blaze through the first however-many miles feeling good, then wish for death in the final hour. Try to resist. Just go out at your normal pace (or a little slower, if it's a longer ride than you're used to) and if you have something left toward the end, then you can use it up at the back end, not the front.
Drink often, even when you're not thirsty. By the time you get dry, you're behind and it's hard to catch up. Eat judiciously if you're going to be out more than a couple of hours, but don't try anything new--not a different energy bar, sports drink, seat, shorts or anything else--on a long ride. Two hours into a four-hour tour is not the time to find out that your shoes don't fit and Gatorade gives you diarrhea.