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Old 01-25-11, 03:09 PM   #1
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Question about group riding etiquette

I usually ride alone and I'm not very familiar with the do's and don'ts of riding in a group. Hopefully you folks can set me straight on a situation that came up yesterday.

I was riding into a stiff head wind on the 126 when two guys came up behind me. They went just fast enough to pass me, but not fast enough to drop me, and I unintentionally picked up their draft. Because of the draft, the pace that was comfortable for me kept me in the draft, if you know what I mean. These guys switched off the lead maybe every mile or so, and after 4 or 5 miles, I was feeling like a jerk for freeloading. I wasn't sure if I should try to take the lead, but I didn't know if they had their own thing going on and I should just stay where I was. Guilt got the better of me and at a moment I thought was right, I went up front. And then I never saw them again.

I'm not so fast that I could have suddenly dropped them, and they could have turned off, but on that stretch of the 126, I'm not sure where they would have gone. So the only thing I can conclude was that they slowed or stopped to put as much distance between us as possible. I felt like I had somehow offended, but I just don't know.

So what's the deal? Should I have stayed in the back? Should I have slowed and dropped out their draft in the first place? Am I overthinking this?
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Old 01-25-11, 03:18 PM   #2
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It's a public road and you did nothing wrong. Chances are they just pulled off on a different road, OR they were working like dogs to catch you and already had their needles in the red when you rode them off your wheel.

You can generally get a feel for what to do by watching riders in situations like this. If they seem like the hostile/aloof type, they'll be annoyed no matter what you do, so you might just as well stay in their draft and let them try to drop you.

But if they seem like friendly/sociable type, when the rider who just took a pull comes back, you can ask politely, "May I pull through and help out?" And don't be annoyed if they say, "We'd rather just work together." Peace & safe riding!
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Old 01-25-11, 03:25 PM   #3
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Chris is right, the best idea is to at least try to communicate. I've been in lots of similar situations, as either the drafter or the draftee, and a quick few words is usually all it takes to figure out what's going on, and how the other riders feel about you joining in (or not).

Most riders are friendly, some are not. If they've witnessed your riding style, even for a short time, that may have an direct relation to their answer.

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Old 01-25-11, 03:49 PM   #4
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Agreed. Say "Hi, OK I ride with you?" If they say yes, take your pulls. If you can't, then say "OK if I draft off you for a while? I'm dying."
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Old 01-25-11, 04:09 PM   #5
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i think you played it right, suck a wheel for a bit then go do your work. If they don't like it screw them and keep going about on your ride.
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Old 01-25-11, 04:13 PM   #6
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I would have just dropped back out of their draft in the first place.

If you never saw them again, they may have just turned off somewhere. I notice people have a tendency to suddenly need to turn or stop and examine their bikes after being passed by fatter older people.
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Old 01-25-11, 05:04 PM   #7
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If I don't know you and you're going to get directly on my wheel for any length of time I expect you to at least say "Hi" and give me some idea where you're headed and what your experience is (I don't need a resume, but seeing you ride for a bit helps). If you're just going to latch on without comment, it's probably best to stay at least a few bike lengths back-- you'll probably still get some draft and will have less chance of unexpected surprises. Someone latched onto me and my GF a couple weeks ago and was riding closer than his ability allowed, and he kept yelling and freaking out when we had to slow or maneuver to avoid things because he wasn't looking ahead of us to give himself time to react. We rapidly got annoyed and pulled away.

A few other general comments on the subject:
- if it's two people who are chatting and you latch on without saying hi and figuring out if they want company, that's generally rude, like plopping down at a table in a restaurant with a couple people who are having a conversation. Two people isn't a group ride, so don't jump on without at least saying hi and figuring out if they want you there and if they want you to take any turns. Either pass, or if you can't pass then stay 3-5 bike lengths back. If it's a guy and a girl it's extra rude to just hop on, for hopefully obvious reasons.
- if I'm out for a ride by myself it's because I'm doing my own thing. If there's someone on my wheel I have to be more conscious about how I avoid obstacles-- things that I'd miss by a mm or so alone get more clearance with another rider who may not see them. And if you aren't experienced at drafting it takes more care because you're probably looking at the wheel in front of you instead of the road up ahead and won't see things fast enough to react to them. I'm not going to point things out for you-- in a small paceline you should be seeing them yourself at the same time I do.
- when someone passes you and just sort of hovers, it's easy to softpedal a few strokes and let them get 5-10 bike lengths and then just maintain that distance behind them. If they start to slow too much you can always re-pass them.

As for icebreakers, rather than just "mind if I latch on", usually "hi, nice day" and "where/how far are you headed?" are better starters and maybe ask about their club if they're wearing local kit (and if you know anyone in their club ask if they know them).
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Old 01-25-11, 05:15 PM   #8
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Assuming that the pair you were drafting were glad to see you come around for a pull, there is this possibility.

A common rookie mistake, we all do it as noobs, is to come around with fresh legs and a burst of adrenaline so you just flat drop the riders you were drafting on.

It is important to remember that the people you were drafting for 4 -5 miles were working hard and you were not.
Make sure you pull at the pace they were working, don't let your fresh legs and enthusiasm cause you to pull away.
It is an easy mistake to make.

Keep riding, keep asking questions.
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Old 01-25-11, 06:51 PM   #9
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It bugs the heck out of me when people latch on to me after I pass, without saying a word. I've started asking people to please stop drafting me, I dont want to worry about them rear ending me, not to mention enjoy biking solo. It lets me concentrate on my own workout and I can enjoy just being outside away from people.

I also think drafting is a bit silly in this context (complete strangers, not in a race, and you're not conversing with them at all). It seems like you're simply cheating yourself out of doing all the work to get from point A to point B.
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Old 01-25-11, 07:24 PM   #10
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I appreciate being asked: Hey, how's it going? Mind if I sit on for a bit?
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Old 01-25-11, 09:15 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
I would have just dropped back out of their draft in the first place.

I detest wheelsucksorsz.
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Old 01-25-11, 09:45 PM   #12
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Awesome. Thanks for your input, everybody. Although we exchanged pleasantries when they passed me, I should have talked to them before making any moves. In the future, I'll probably just drop back and avoid the whole mess altogether.

Thanks again.
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Old 01-25-11, 11:14 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by calamarichris View Post
It's a public road and you did nothing wrong.
Actually, he was technically breaking the law by tailgating

But yeah, just let them know you're there and give them the chance to decide to include you or not.
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