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First group ride

Old 05-10-12, 04:43 PM
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First group ride

So last weekend I had my very first group ride. My local bike shop was holding a training run for the Ride for Roswell, an annual bike/benefit event. Since I'm participating in that I decided to try out the group ride as well. When they announced it on facebook, I wasn't initially going to bother, as I'm more comfortable being a loner, but then I inquired about what the expected skill level of the ride was, and the bike shop owner (who knows me, knows how much I weigh, and knows approximately what I'm capable of), said it would be a perfect ride for me and would love to see me there.

So I decided I'd try it. The starting point was 7 miles from my apartment, so I decided to "warm up" by biking to the meet. Got there and socialized for a few minutes, and eventually noticed I was the only one with a steel bike. Started feeling nervous almost immediately. The ride was 28 miles in places I knew by heart, so at least there was no chance of getting lost when I inevitably got dropped. I was easily 200 pounds heavier than anyone else who showed up, too.

The ride started off nice. We were basically doing 14 miles into the wind and uphill, then 14 miles back, with the wind and downhill. I kept up for the first 5 miles, thinking "Hey, this isn't bad!". The group was only doing 15 mph which was slightly above my solo average speed, but not nearly as fast as I expected them to go. That changed, however, as I realised that was just their warmup pace, and I was putting in everything I had (and I was already warmed up from the 7 miles). From miles 5 through 7, I got dropped... badly. I noticed there were at least 4 people who did not pass me, however, and when I looked back at mile 7 I could not even see them anymore, so at least I wasn't last.

My performance wasn't as good as I had hoped it would be. I had done a strenuous 20 miles the day before so I was tired from that. Additionally I hadn't really eaten well that morning either, just some cheerios and ham, and a lot of water. By mile 10 I had lost sight of everyone in front of me and was expecting to see the main peloton come whizzing by any minute now. Luckily I brought some granola bars so I scarfed down both of them and put my headphones back on (since I could no longer delude myself into thinking this was a group ride, decided to get some music to try to inspire some more athletic feats). The food and the music seemed to do the trick. By mile 12 I actually ended up catching up to two people and passing them, and when I hit mile 13.5, the main peloton finally came whizzing down the hill, many cheering me on or giving me thumbs up as I struggled up the long hill. I was quite frankly amazed that they were only a mile ahead of me at this point; it had been so long since I had seen the group I figured they changed the route to extend it. Part of me wonders if they took a break or went further than mile 14, but my ego won't let me believe that.

Finally I reach the apex of the route, and turned around to go downhill and into the wind. Unfortunately the group must have really hit the hammer because I had a clear view of the road from the top of the hill and I could not see anyone for at least 2 miles ahead. I told myself that I would continue on of I ended up catching up to anyone, but turn and ride home at mile 21 (which was only 2 miles from my apartment) if I did not see anyone.

Sadly, I did not see anyone; not even the 2 people I passed or the 4 people who never caught up with me (I guess they all gave up and turned back early?), so at mile 21 I threw in the metaphorical towel, turned left instead of going straight, and made it back home.

I ended up with a 13.1mph average speed. Better than I thought I did, but nowhere near what I wanted to do. It was a strange experience because you know there's lots of riders around, but disappointing in that you didn't get to spend much time with any of them. I seem to be stuck in this no-mans land of cyclists; too slow to match roadies, but too fast to match casuals. I don't know anyone with the same performance level as me.

Lessons learned?

1) Don't bike 7 miles to get to a group ride unless you're significantly more in shape than you think you are.
2) Don't hammer the day before a group ride and forgo the proper recovery routines (still learning what works for me to be honest)
3) Don't skimp on eating breakfast.
4) Lose a lot more weight before attempting to match the skills of people who have been cycling for years.


Will I do this again? I don't know. I really am intrigued by the social aspect of cycling, but at the same time if I cannot match most groups' speeds, what's the point? Baring the 5 mile warmup at the start, this was a solo ride. I had fun regardless, however. It was interesting trying to guess where other people were along the course.

Last edited by Mithrandir; 05-10-12 at 06:23 PM.
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Old 05-10-12, 05:30 PM
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i love and agree with everything in your post expect for

4) Lose a lot more weight before attempting to match the skills of people who have been cycling for years.

screw that in this trip
- Road 21 miles
- did better than some
-did worse than other
- Discovered a lot about your self


Just think of this as the test run, next time you can go with the slower group and pull the whole way there since you will be faster . You did all this after a 20 mile ride the day before and not eating right ( you should know better) .

Don't let a bunch of carbon road freaks ( kidding kidding please don't flame me) carrying half you load turn you off

I would ride with you but there is a giant puddle of water between us
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Old 05-10-12, 05:36 PM
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I know I have to be reading this wrong because you said:
Originally Posted by Mithrandir
I kept up for the first 15 miles, thinking "Hey, this isn't bad!". The group was only doing 15 mph which was slightly above my solo average speed, but not nearly as fast as I expected them to go. That changed, however, as I realised that was just their warmup pace, and I was putting in everything I had (and I was already warmed up from the 7 miles).
But then said:
Originally Posted by Mithrandir
From miles 5 through 7, I got dropped... badly. I noticed there were at least 4 people who did not pass me, however, and when I looked back at mile 7 I could not even see them anymore, so at least I wasn't last.
Either way, at least you showed up, that's the biggest hurdle to group rides. Now that you've got that out of the way and have a general feel for the pace of the ride you can tweak your preparation and only get stronger/better from here. You've already made some observations on what you did wrong. I say fix those things and give it another shot before you throw in the towel on group rides.
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Old 05-10-12, 05:51 PM
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Glad to hear that you gave it a try!

Yes, it's not much fun to go for a "group" ride by yourself. Trust me, we've all been there. Everyone who completed in the main group has been dropped before. And some continue to get dropped, just further along than you, as you experienced.

If the social side interests you, I encourage you to carry on.

With regard to you're lessons, at least for now.

1. Correct, don't cycle 7 miles as a warm up, when you know the group is going to "warm up" from the parking lot. I know of other group rides, where most of the participants cycle to the start and are already "warmed" when they leave the parking lot.
2.For now, don't go hard the day before your group ride. At some point, as your performance increases, group rides may actually start to represent "moderate" to "easy" distance rides. But for now, nothing harder than a recovery ride the day before.
3. Oatmeal! It's Mrs. Fred's and my secret weapon. It seems to have more stick to your ribs, slow release, energy than just about anything else we've tried. Then, we carry three types of pocket snack: First, a piece of fruit (banana, orange wedges, etc.), Second, a longer chain carb snack (usually granola bars), Third, simple sugars to get to the finish(rice crispie treats, jellies, etc.)
4. You can't over estimate the effects of weight loss. Specially if you're climbing! Just imagine strapping a 20-50lb back pack on and going for a ride. Cycling is a great tool for weight loss. Not only does it engage the big calorie burning leg muscles, but, it encourages you to continue loose weight by delivering positive reinforcement for your successes.

Keep up the good work. And next time you pass a couple of peleton refugee's, "SLOW DOWN" for a few minutes. Give them a draft to suck. They're as toasted as you were when you got spit. Once they've recovered, you'll have the beginnings of the "B" group. When you find the third refugee, explain to the second that both of you will slow just a little to collect said person. Let the third sit in, while you and #2 do the work. Now, you'll have a paceline and you'll no longer be cycling alone. YOU, will have formed a group. This is one of the hardest lessons to get newish peleton refugees to subscribe to. Once people get dropped, they tend to go into solo mode. Then, when they have the opportunity to collect a fellow rider, they speed up, pass, gap and destroy, in order to increase their self esteem. Thereby assuring that the other solo'ists remain just that. If you adopt the former instead of the latter, you may find that you become a B group hero. Groups typically have a "leader" in them. The "leader" is frequently not at the front.
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Old 05-10-12, 07:10 PM
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Some fine advice above. I'll chip in my own 2c:
* It is a courtesy to let a group ride leader know in advance if you are thinking about not returning to the ride start. In my club we make sure everybody gets in safely and somebody would end up backtracking looking for a missing rider to make sure they were OK.
* Don't be intimidated by fancy new bikes and equipment. A bike isn't fast without a good motor turning the pedals. Appearances can be misleading. Last night I was feeling smug about [almost] keeping up with a very fit rider until I found he had just donated 2 pints of blood.
* Group riding is valuable experience and makes it automatic to signal/communicate your intentions, hold a predictable line, and be more comfortable in a crowd.
* 13 mph is the average speed of many of the cyclists in my bike club who ride about 100-250 miles/month. You may find a club in your area that has rides for people who are not on the LBS' bike racing team nor rookies who just bought a bike.
* Sometimes I enjoy group rides with faster riders especially on out+back routes. I chase after them as hard as I can. I turn around early and see how far I can go before I get passed, then I chase after them hoping to get back to the ride start in time to chat. It's a good reality check. Watch how they ride and see if they are doing something differently than you do that would make sense to try.
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Old 05-10-12, 11:12 PM
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Regardless of how you finished, you always earn street cred with any group if you arrive at the start by bike. Still, there's a delicate balance to maintain between that and exhaustion.
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Old 05-10-12, 11:24 PM
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wish I had a steel bike.
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Old 05-10-12, 11:30 PM
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Never judge a rider by their lycra:-)
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Old 05-11-12, 12:16 AM
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Dude! Congrats on finishing your first group ride and yes - you finished. Find me one rider who didn't get dropped on their first group ride and I'll name that man a liar. Or woman.

Keep at it - riding in groups is a great motivator and can be loads of fun. One of these days you'll be the motivation for the rest of those riders - it'll happen.
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Old 05-11-12, 05:52 AM
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Great job for a first group ride. I've been doing B and C rides for about a year now and about 2/3 of the people I ride with are A riders who use the B and C rides as recovery pace. I also ride a flat-bar, steel, light touring bike and weigh significantly more and am a good 10-20 years older than most on the rides. I still get dropped or at least end up in the slow pack after the group breaks up. Doesn't matter and I still have a lot of fun and get a good workout.
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Old 05-11-12, 06:10 AM
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I foresee this thread being great motivation for others of us who are toying with the idea of trying out a group ride... One LBS has a ride every Tue/Thur that claims to have "Lots of groups for varying cycling levels including some that are quite social."

After reading this... I may have to give it a try this coming Tuesday!
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Old 05-11-12, 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by nrowensby
I foresee this thread being great motivation for others of us who are toying with the idea of trying out a group ride... One LBS has a ride every Tue/Thur that claims to have "Lots of groups for varying cycling levels including some that are quite social."

After reading this... I may have to give it a try this coming Tuesday!
Despite Mithrandir's experience, or perhaps because of it (depending on your point of view when it comes to "challenges"), I highly recommend group rides. At the very least you'll get valuable experience at riding in relatively close quarters, and for at least the early part of the ride you'll be able to travel faster with less effort than you'd previously thought possible. It's an experience unlike any other, IMO. And if you get dropped, you keep trying, or look around for a group closer to your present abilities. You might even find some fellow riders who are also dissatisfied with the pace and want to start their own group.

I don't mean to discount the pleasures of long solo rides, of which there are many. But avoiding group rides without having tried them is shortchanging yourself.
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Old 05-11-12, 07:18 AM
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I congratulate you for getting out for a group ride.

There is a Wednesday evening novice ride locally I've been finding excuses not go to for six weeks now. Might rain. Need to take kids to T-ball. Got an allergy shot yesterday. I'm a master of excuses.

I just have an image of everyone racing to the top of the first hill and stopping to look back at me and point.
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Old 05-11-12, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by CraigB
I don't mean to discount the pleasures of long solo rides, of which there are many. But avoiding group rides without having tried them is shortchanging yourself.
This is the main reason I want to try out one or two... I don't have a problem with solo riding, but at times, I feel like it may be more fun to ride in a group or at least with a partner.
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Old 05-11-12, 08:17 AM
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If I may, Mithrandir: group rides (and races for that matter) have a certain ebb & flow to them.

Usually, after warmup, they start off fast but then settle into an easier pace. It sounds like if you could have just made it through that hard part at the beginning, you might have stayed with them for the whole ride.

Keep it up. Keep going back and trying hard.

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Old 05-11-12, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Brando_T.

I just have an image of everyone racing to the top of the first hill and stopping to look back at me and point.
Nobody will bother with the pointing. You'll be lucky if they bother to look back. LOL

Seriously, you might be surprised by how much easier it is to maintain a good pace in a bunch than when riding solo. And a good tactic for a beginner who fears they might struggle in the hills is to work their way to the front of the group as the hill approaches. Then if they drift back through the group during the climb, they have a good chance of still being in touch at the top. If they start the climb at the back, they'll get detached.
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Old 05-11-12, 08:33 AM
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There are some groups that actually ride their advertised pace, and make sure not to drop any riders accidentally. They pause at turns or hills, and either count the riders or wait for the "sweeper" rider that stays with the back riders.

Some group rides are at a casual pace. There's two local rides that have an average speed of around 12 mph, so they are probably riding 14 mph on the flat roads. They usually ride 15-20 miles. And there's another that just says "will ride at the speed of the slowest rider"

But it's hard to find ride leaders for these groups, since experienced riders tend to get faster than when they were new. And, unless the group is very small, two ride leaders are really helpful. So there aren't too many of these rides. But check at bike shops, or maybe there's a local ride posting email list.

It's good to contact the ride leader to find out their typical flat road speeds, and their no-drop policy.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The opposite extreme is the rides that follow the same route every week, and have mostly "regulars" that know the route. These tend to fragment into small sub groups, maybe 1-5 riders, all at different speeds. And the speeds pick up during the year as riders get more fit. So it's not the best intro to a group ride.

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Old 05-11-12, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by tergal
i love and agree with everything in your post expect for

4) Lose a lot more weight before attempting to match the skills of people who have been cycling for years.

screw that in this trip
- Road 21 miles
- did better than some
-did worse than other
- Discovered a lot about your self


Just think of this as the test run, next time you can go with the slower group and pull the whole way there since you will be faster . You did all this after a 20 mile ride the day before and not eating right ( you should know better) .

Don't let a bunch of carbon road freaks ( kidding kidding please don't flame me) carrying half you load turn you off

I would ride with you but there is a giant puddle of water between us
It actually ended up being 30 miles; 7 (pre-ride) plus 21 (on-route) plus 2 (bailout). Sorry if that was a bit unclear.
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Old 05-11-12, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by paisan
I know I have to be reading this wrong because you said:

But then said:


Either way, at least you showed up, that's the biggest hurdle to group rides. Now that you've got that out of the way and have a general feel for the pace of the ride you can tweak your preparation and only get stronger/better from here. You've already made some observations on what you did wrong. I say fix those things and give it another shot before you throw in the towel on group rides.

My bad, I meant 5 miles, somehow ended up typing 15 by accident.
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Old 05-11-12, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by bigfred
2.For now, don't go hard the day before your group ride. At some point, as your performance increases, group rides may actually start to represent "moderate" to "easy" distance rides. But for now, nothing harder than a recovery ride the day before.
Yeah I have this impulse control thing. The weather was so nice the day before, I had to go; felt like I would be wasting a perfectly good day if I didn't. Then on the ride, I intended to just go slow, but for some reason I just cannot ride slower than my maximum. I'm not sure why that's the case.


I noticed while on the group ride, even though everyone was going faster than me, I had the highest cadence. I didn't think my cadence was particularly high, only around 85-90, but everyone else was clearly in the 70-80 range. Obviously they were in a higher gear than me, but I've found that in order to go the same speed in a higher gear, I wear my leg muscles out much quicker; ergo the preference for the higher cadence. Is that odd?

3. Oatmeal! It's Mrs. Fred's and my secret weapon. It seems to have more stick to your ribs, slow release, energy than just about anything else we've tried. Then, we carry three types of pocket snack: First, a piece of fruit (banana, orange wedges, etc.), Second, a longer chain carb snack (usually granola bars), Third, simple sugars to get to the finish(rice crispie treats, jellies, etc.)
Homemade or instant oatmeal? Made with water or milk? I'm going to have to try that out.

I recently acquired a taste for bananas, and have been eating 1-2 a day. However whenever I try taking any with me on the ride, they just get mushed up and squishy and gross, so I don't bother taking them anymore.

I bring Quaker granola bars, those seem to do the trick for me. I used to buy jellies too; Clif Shot Bloks to be specific. Problem is; those things are very expensive, and I always end up eating them outside of rides; ie like candy. Given how many calories those things have, I decided to stop buying them because I obviously cannot control myself when they're sitting around. One thing I've been meaning to try however is just buying 2 individual packages a week instead of a whole box, and using those on my long weekend rides. Hopefully I'll have more self control if I only have 2 instead of 20 lying around!!


Keep up the good work. And next time you pass a couple of peleton refugee's, "SLOW DOWN" for a few minutes. Give them a draft to suck. They're as toasted as you were when you got spit. Once they've recovered, you'll have the beginnings of the "B" group. When you find the third refugee, explain to the second that both of you will slow just a little to collect said person. Let the third sit in, while you and #2 do the work. Now, you'll have a paceline and you'll no longer be cycling alone. YOU, will have formed a group. This is one of the hardest lessons to get newish peleton refugees to subscribe to. Once people get dropped, they tend to go into solo mode. Then, when they have the opportunity to collect a fellow rider, they speed up, pass, gap and destroy, in order to increase their self esteem. Thereby assuring that the other solo'ists remain just that. If you adopt the former instead of the latter, you may find that you become a B group hero. Groups typically have a "leader" in them. The "leader" is frequently not at the front.
I thought about slowing down, but they were clearly toasted. I was doing about 12mph at that time and they were going about 6 or 7mph, which is probably the only reason I caught up. I will consider grouping up more in the future though.

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Old 05-11-12, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by nkfrench
Some fine advice above. I'll chip in my own 2c:
* It is a courtesy to let a group ride leader know in advance if you are thinking about not returning to the ride start. In my club we make sure everybody gets in safely and somebody would end up backtracking looking for a missing rider to make sure they were OK.
Yup, I thought of this... only after I was long behind everyone else already though. Heh. Live and learn!

Part of me debated simply going back to the start just to make sure they didn't think they lost me. But that would have been an extra 14 miles that I just didn't have in me by that time. The bike shop owner knows where I lived however (he drove me home once when a wheel he sold me crapped out and I had no way of getting home), so I figured he'd deduce that I simply road home instead of back to the start.
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Old 05-11-12, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by nrowensby
I foresee this thread being great motivation for others of us who are toying with the idea of trying out a group ride... One LBS has a ride every Tue/Thur that claims to have "Lots of groups for varying cycling levels including some that are quite social."

After reading this... I may have to give it a try this coming Tuesday!

I have to say, I was very encouraged by how everyone cheered me on going up that hill. Part of me felt bad because they clearly did not expect me to even make it that far, then another part of me felt even better for proving their assumptions incorrect
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Old 05-11-12, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Brando_T.
I congratulate you for getting out for a group ride.

There is a Wednesday evening novice ride locally I've been finding excuses not go to for six weeks now. Might rain. Need to take kids to T-ball. Got an allergy shot yesterday. I'm a master of excuses.

I just have an image of everyone racing to the top of the first hill and stopping to look back at me and point.

Well like I said in my experience; the group didn't point and laugh, but rather cheered and gave thumbs up. So... try it
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Old 05-11-12, 07:11 PM
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Group rides are great if you get in with the right group or club. The club I belong to has a rookie and recreation ride once a week and other than the fast group no one gets dropped it's the rules.
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Old 05-11-12, 07:31 PM
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Will I do this again? I don't know. I really am intrigued by the social aspect of cycling, but at the same time if I cannot match most groups' speeds, what's the point?
I'm a guy that can keep up with the pack, and my experience has been that group rides are only social before and after they start. A "social" ride has always seemed to me to be an oxymoron because as soon as the ride starts it's basically a competition to see who finishes first. Consequently, I rarely go on these types of rides because I'd rather enjoy the company of fellow cyclists.

Try looking for a "no drop" ride, where the front of the group paces itself according to those in the rear.

When I read your post I was very impressed with your effort. If the other guys didn't want to talk to you during the ride screw 'em. It's their loss.
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