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Old 05-11-12, 05:39 AM   #1
ejapplegate
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Advice for first "big" bike ride

I just signed up for my first big organized bike ride. It is not a race, but a local 40 mile organized ride.

I've been a casual recreational rider for years (Cape Code Rail Trail most every summer, D&R Canal trail here in NJ), and I participated in a Sprint Triathlon last summer.

However, I have never ridden with a large crowd before. Other than a fun time, what should I expect (and be prepared for)? Any helpful hints or recommendations?
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Old 05-11-12, 05:56 AM   #2
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Use this event as an opportunity to make future cycling friends and consider it as a personal challenge, as well.
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Old 05-11-12, 07:25 AM   #3
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Just relax and have fun. If you're concerned about the distance, take a break or two. And don't let the excitement of the start cause you to go out too fast. Keep a sustainable pace.
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Old 05-11-12, 07:39 AM   #4
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the beginning of mass is the most dangerous part. I am always on the alert in the beginning. I have one clip out and in the lowest gear. Some will go to the front and sprint to get away from the masses. As the mob start moving there will be allot of passing and being passed. Just use common sense and realize that you might not get your normal speed for the first mile or two. After that it is pretty much like your bike path.

I often chat up a few riders along the way and just enjoy the day. Stops at rest stations are fun if you have never been before. Fruit gel pack water and electrolyte drinks as well as other snacks are provided. Stop and enjoy hey its your first time.

first and last rule be safe and have fun
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Old 05-11-12, 07:55 AM   #5
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Be alert always. Realize that these events can have inexperienced riders. Don't get too close to other people and don't surprise other people.

Be cautious and have fun.
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Old 05-11-12, 08:35 AM   #6
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Thanks for the feedback. A couple of questions:

- I just got a mid 80's road bike (Azuki Imperial) that I plan to use for a an upcoming Sprint Triathlon. I put on some clip-on aero bars that I have been practicing with. Obviously for this 40 mile ride, I would not use the aero bars in any sort of a crowd situation, but if I find myself alone (i.e. dropped) on a nice flat stretch, I may want to utilize them. For safety's sake (as well as to remove the temptation), should I just go ahead and remove them for this event?

- Passing protocol. I plan on keeping to the right and maintaining a steady line (and pace). If I should have an opportunity to pass, I would think it polite for me to say "on your left". However, if I am passing a line of riders, do I say it once per group, once per rider? This may not be an issue as I am not that fast, but I do want to be a "good" rider.
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Old 05-11-12, 08:45 AM   #7
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You should expect lots of people who don't know how to ride in groups, doing random things.
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Old 05-11-12, 09:30 AM   #8
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You should expect lots of people who don't know how to ride in groups, doing random things.


So I should expect people just like me?
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Old 05-11-12, 10:00 AM   #9
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Quote:
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Just relax and have fun. If you're concerned about the distance, take a break or two. And don't let the excitement of the start cause you to go out too fast. Keep a sustainable pace.
Yup and if you're not sure whether or not you are riding at a sustainable pace, you're going too fast.
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Old 05-11-12, 10:32 AM   #10
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So I should expect people just like me?
Yes.

(That's one reason not to get too close to other people.)
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Old 05-11-12, 11:08 AM   #11
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I did the metric century at the Tour De Franklin a few weeks ago. The first few miles were like a bike traffic jam. I couldn't go at my top speed. We bunched up at traffic lights. As we hit a stretch without lights, the riders spread apart, and I went at a sustainable pace. It was nice to meet other local cyclists. Even after the ride was over, some people, including me, biked home. So it was 72 miles in one day for me, including the 5 mile round trip home.
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Old 05-11-12, 12:16 PM   #12
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I did the metric century at the Tour De Franklin a few weeks ago. The first few miles were like a bike traffic jam. I couldn't go at my top speed. We bunched up at traffic lights. As we hit a stretch without lights, the riders spread apart, and I went at a sustainable pace. It was nice to meet other local cyclists. Even after the ride was over, some people, including me, biked home. So it was 72 miles in one day for me, including the 5 mile round trip home.
This will be the West Windsor Bikefest. I've managed to find route maps from previous years, and it seems like it should be a good ride (mostly flat, some pretty views). Anyone else have prior experience with this ride?
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Old 05-11-12, 10:51 PM   #13
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There is nothing in the website that indicates this is a mass start and it doesn't strike me as a 5000 bike ride. Slower folks tend to start earlier than the suggested start time, faster folks may start later. I'd be surprised if you find it all that crowded
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Old 05-11-12, 11:29 PM   #14
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Simply have fun and keep your eyes and ears open. The first 10 or 15 minutes will be very easy as people get warmed up. Pretty soon the faster people will begin to gravitate to the front. Don't gravitate with them. Stay in the middle.

Which side you will pass or be passed on may depend on from which side the wind is blowing, just do as you see others do. If the ride develops into a pace line, you may eventually find yourself riding in front of everyone. Ride there for a moment, then fall off to the same side the rider who was last in front of you.

Make sure your tires are full, and that you have an extra tube. My first group ride ended early with a puncture.
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Old 05-12-12, 11:58 AM   #15
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Thanks for all the advice so far.

Any obvious "faux pas" I should make sure to avoid? I don't want to be "that guy".
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Old 05-12-12, 01:01 PM   #16
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Don't be like me at my first organized ride. I was all caught up in the excitement, failed to unclip upon arrival, and fell over in slow motion as about 300 other cyclist all head turned at once.

Then again, it happens to everyone.
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Old 05-12-12, 06:31 PM   #17
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I'm free that weekend, so I might just do the West Windsor bikefest! I'll do the 40 miler, which will end up being 70 miles for me since it's 15 miles each way for me to get to West Windsor.
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Old 05-13-12, 07:36 PM   #18
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Quote:
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Thanks for all the advice so far.

Any obvious "faux pas" I should make sure to avoid? I don't want to be "that guy".
Everyone eventually gets a chance to be "that guy", so even if it happens, don't let it bother you.

Big rides usually break into two parts, the faster riders will break away and disappear. The remaining group will be slower and easier to ride in.

As I previously mentioned, the first part of the ride is pretty easy, and riders will chat a bit during this time. You can start up a conversation with someone and ask them about what the ride is going to be like. Riders are friendly for the most part, and they will give you some advice, or perhaps invite you to ride near them to help you out.

Watch what people around you are doing, and do the same thing. Fortunately, riding in a group is not rocket science, and you will pick on what is going on quickly enough. After three group rides, I became comfortable, and I began to make friends with the other riders. After 6 months, I had become "hardcore", and spent much of my time at the front.

Every other rider in the group started with the same thoughts you are having, you will get through it just a they did.
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Old 05-13-12, 08:03 PM   #19
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I just signed up for my first big organized bike ride. It is not a race, but a local 40 mile organized ride.

I've been a casual recreational rider for years (Cape Code Rail Trail most every summer, D&R Canal trail here in NJ), and I participated in a Sprint Triathlon last summer.

However, I have never ridden with a large crowd before. Other than a fun time, what should I expect (and be prepared for)? Any helpful hints or recommendations?
Keep in mind... it's a RIDE, not a RACE. Don't get swept up in the excitement of a mass start, and go out at the beginning trying to keep up with the 'racer' types.

Remember why you're there; to have fun, enjoy the company of other riders, and experience the singular 'organism' that is a large group ride.

Stay hydrated, take some extra munchies for the road, and bring a camera. Take some photos and post them!

Good Luck!

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Old 05-14-12, 03:14 AM   #20
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It's quite funny how seriously some people will take an "organized ride". There are little cliques of riders who work together as teams, and sprint for the finish as though there were a big prize for winning. Either way the rides are a lot of fun, you can be a leisure rider or a would-be racer. I wish there were such rides where I live now,
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Old 05-14-12, 06:47 AM   #21
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We did the STP (Seattle to Portland) once. Biggest worry was the crowd of bikes early on at stop lights in town. At one stop someone fell and took out about a dozen with them.
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Old 05-15-12, 11:57 AM   #22
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We have a ride in the UK that attracts LOTS of riders. Many of them do not normally ride a bike and do not understand how dangerous they can be . I would not expect your ride to be as bad as this one but expect anything. Slight slope up ahead and the person in front may stop at the bottom of the hill using the brakes to bring speed down so they can walk it. Good downhill with a bend and they either apply too much brake and skid or don't brake and go offroad- taking everyone outside of them with them. Riding too close to the person in front and wheel touches and Falls- right in front of you. Having that same person take out your back wheel.

But if you cater for what "May" happen or think about it too much then it will not be a good ride. Just watch out for other riders and keep your riding sensible. I have only been taken out once in the 9 or 10 occasions I have done this ride and that was up the only hill on the route. Very slow speed and it ruined my rhythm but nothing else.

Enjoy the ride.
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Old 05-15-12, 12:31 PM   #23
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Now that you have received all this advice just go out and have fun. You will forget much of what we say and remember some of it as well. But even those of us that "know" all the things we have been telling you forget at times. But if you ride within your comfort level and don't try to stay with the big dogs you should do fine. And if they have SAG stops along the way, always stop and take advantage of them.
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Old 05-15-12, 05:57 PM   #24
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Thanks again for all of the advice. I am looking forward to it, and will definitely be seeking to just go out and have a good time.

For me, part of that is knowing what to expect, and you all have helped me to "visualize" a bit of the experience before hand.
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Old 05-15-12, 08:24 PM   #25
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When you are stopping, say "stopping", before applying your brake.
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