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Novice Century Etiquette

Old 06-04-22, 10:23 AM
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Novice Century Etiquette

I'm going to be riding my first century next Saturday, the Tulsa Tough Gran Fondo. As weather, grandchildren's activities, half marathon training and a growing business kept me from training as well as I would have liked, I still am not worried about finishing the distance before the course closes. However this will also be my first ever group ride and I am a fairly fit, but older man with poor hearing that may not easily hear comments or instructions from others riding near me. I plan to seed myself at the start among the middle of the back of the pack as to not impede those riding in pace lines. My goal is to just complete the ride and enjoy myself.

Of course helmets are required, but there seem to be no light requirements. I plan to take my lights and do a "when in Rome" approach using them in daylight mode as I understand that while lights don't bother me they may not be appropriate in a large group. But I also want to be visible on the road as I don't expect this to be a closed course once out of the Tulsa city limits and I assume there is a chance that much of the middle of the back of the pack riders will be riding one of the shorter fondos making visibility a little more important later in the ride.

My bike is ready and I have a multi-tool, tube, patches, co2 inflator and pump as I always ride solo and there will be sag support.

My main concerns are being considerate of others and not being "that old Fred". Are there any little things that I should be mindful of to not spoil other's enjoyment of the ride? Are there courtesies for passing and being passed? Safety tips to keep myself as well as others safe?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
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Old 06-04-22, 10:32 AM
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In my experience, it's really only the first several miles that the pack will be thick. Hold your line, communicate any moves, be friendly. The group will spread out as the ride goes along. Sounds like you're self-sufficient and courteous of others; that's about all you need to be. I strongly doubt you'll be the most Fred-ly rider out there. Have fun!
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Old 06-04-22, 11:05 AM
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I think you'll be fine. Lots of old dudes on group rides in various stages of fitness.
It's a pet peeve of mine that people have blinky lights in a group ride. Are you getting a police rollout for the first few kms? If a large group of cyclists and a police motorcycle unit don't make things 'visible' then a little blinking light isn't going to either. Once things thin out you can stop and flip the lights on, or do it from the bike computer if you have all ANT+ lights.
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Old 06-04-22, 11:12 AM
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courtesy ? 'on your left !' lol

make sure you are hydrated - before and during the ride

for some water (alone) is sufficient - others might prefer a sports drink (instead or combination) - since you have trained for this ride you probably understand what works for you

some will not require solid food - others will need solid food (again you probably know what works for you) ... might want to bring energy bar(s) or whatever if you don't want to depend or chance it at the rest stops

make sure your tires are properly inflated (I preferred to ride a century or similar on fresh tires with just a few rides)


have fun and good luck !

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Old 06-04-22, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Chuck M View Post
My main concerns are being considerate of others and not being "that old Fred". Are there any little things that I should be mindful of to not spoil other's enjoyment of the ride? Are there courtesies for passing and being passed? Safety tips to keep myself as well as others safe?
Don't over think it. No one cares whether or not some rider is "that old Fred". They care about unsafe riders.

Take care not to get too close to other riders. Especially, "squirrely ones". Keep in mind, especially if the course is shared, there might be very novice riders on the road.

Note that it's fairly common, with all the excitement, for people to blast out at too high a speed and burn themselves out well-before the end of the ride. You might be better off having a reasonable (not too optimistic) plan for a pace starting out.

Note that you do have the option of turning on your lights after the crowd thins out.

Be wary about spending too long stopped (at rest stops or anywhere).

Good luck.

Last edited by njkayaker; 06-04-22 at 11:27 AM.
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Old 06-04-22, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by billridesbikes View Post
I think you'll be fine. Lots of old dudes on group rides in various stages of fitness.
It's a pet peeve of mine that people have blinky lights in a group ride. Are you getting a police rollout for the first few kms? If a large group of cyclists and a police motorcycle unit don't make things 'visible' then a little blinking light isn't going to either. Once things thin out you can stop and flip the lights on, or do it from the bike computer if you have all ANT+ lights.
I rode centuries with 'old dudes'

we started slow - as old dudes often do - and later stepped it up and rode at a respectable pace and passed many riders that probably went out too fast / too early and / or did not hydrate properly

during one ride at a late rest stop we saw riders we knew that were so spent we barely recognized them lol
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Old 06-04-22, 12:04 PM
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Assuming it is a mass start, do not half-wheel but try to find some space or just lay back for a mile until the crowd thins out.
There will be a lot of unsteady newbies that will want to set off fast without the pack riding skills to match.
Don't let the mass start become a M*A*S*H start.
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Old 06-04-22, 12:05 PM
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Since you usually ride alone, be aware of hand signals by riders ahead of you, usually pointing to obstacles in the road such as potholes or sticks, etc. Also you will hear riders behind you yelling something like, “Car back!” which means there’s a car coming up about to pass you. Move over if you have the room, but don’t cut anyone off.

Keep your head on a swivel watching for riders around you, cars, dogs, potholes, etc especially at the start when the pack is huge and going fast. After it thins out you can relax and enjoy it, but the mass starts are always a recipe for disaster if someone in front of you goes down. Leave yourself an out, don’t get trapped on the inside of a mob. Keep your fingers on your break levers until the group thins out.

What’s the weather and temperature supposed to be for the ride?
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Old 06-04-22, 01:03 PM
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hearing should not be a reason to hold you back from a good time. I am sure a lot of riders have impaired hearing. As long as you're paying attention, looking for hand signals, being generally engaged in the purpose of the event, I think you'll do just fine. If you are prone to fidget with your gadgets while riding, then that is what you'll need to refrain from doing when riding with a large group.
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Old 06-04-22, 02:30 PM
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Run your lights if you normally do and feel more confident with them on. Last rally I did, there were all sorts of lights flashing - some on the seat post, some on saddle bags, some on helmets. A fair number of people had them on the head and on the bike. There won’t likely be anyone riding your wheel close enough to bother them.
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Old 06-04-22, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by billridesbikes View Post
Once things thin out you can stop and flip the lights on, or do it from the bike computer if you have all ANT+ lights.
Thank you. That is probably the route I'll take. I disabled the auto light start feature of my Garmin because I found myself turning the lights off more in situations where I didn't want them on. My computer doesn't have the ability to change modes or turn them on and off unfortunately.

Originally Posted by t2p View Post
make sure you are hydrated - before and during the ride

for some water (alone) is sufficient - others might prefer a sports drink (instead or combination) - since you have trained for this ride you probably understand what works for you

some will not require solid food - others will need solid food (again you probably know what works for you) ... might want to bring energy bar(s) or whatever if you don't want to depend or chance it at the rest stops
Thank you. I worked as a volunteer setting up one of the rest areas for this ride last year. There are 8 stops and they are very well stocked with all kinds of foods and provisions for refilling water bottles with water and sports drinks. At least the one I worked was. I assume they are all equally stocked.

Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
Note that it's fairly common, with all the excitement, for people to blast out at too high a speed and burn themselves out well-before the end of the ride. You might be better off having a reasonable (not too optimistic) plan for a pace starting out.

Be wary about spending too long stopped (at rest stops or anywhere).
Thank you. The shot out of the rocket starts I see frequently at marathons and half marathons. The course is open 9 hours and while I don't expect it to take that long, I wouldn't be terribly upset if it did. I'm planning a pace that will allow me to have enough time at each stop to refill my bottles, have some fuel and maybe use a portable-potty and finish within the allotted time.

Originally Posted by A350driver View Post
Also you will hear riders behind you yelling something like, “Car back!” which means there’s a car coming up about to pass you. Move over if you have the room, but don’t cut anyone off.

What’s the weather and temperature supposed to be for the ride?
I hope I can hear warnings. I was surprised a few times today more than usual by approaching vehicles. So much I'm thinking of picking up a Varia radar next week. The weather forecast as of now looks like it will start in the high 60s and finish in the mid 80s. But this is Oklahoma so it is a crap shoot what it will actually be.

Originally Posted by Troul View Post
If you are prone to fidget with your gadgets while riding, then that is what you'll need to refrain from doing when riding with a large group.
Once I start the Garmin it's hands off. I really only use it to record the ride because if it isn't on Strava, will this century have even happened?
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Old 06-04-22, 03:08 PM
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Don’t cut the cheese when someone is close behind, and look before launching a snot rocket. Finally, make sure your shorts aren’t so threadbare that people can see your crack.
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Old 06-04-22, 03:40 PM
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I haven't done a century in ages, but when I did them, I never started with the pack. I always viewed a century as a challenge, but I also always knew I'd finish long before the time limit, so starting in between the mass start and the latest time the half-century riders could start gave me lots of space and no worries about novices running into me or causing me to run into them.

A couple of times BITD I rode some miles with some RAAM finishers. I still feel that was a great honor.

My LBC sponsors a century every year. They serve pizza at one of the stops. I'd recommend being very mindful of what you eat and drink.... (I'm not criticizing my LBC - I think they're giving the riders what they want. I just wonder how many riders stuff themselves with pizza and therefore struggle for the last 15 miles or so.)
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Old 06-04-22, 03:48 PM
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Unless you're passing other riders, ride as close as practical to the right edge of the pavement. Often, two riders can fit side-by side within a bike land, but not if the rightmost one rides on the fog line.

If you're getting tired close to the end, don't be shy about asking to draft anyone going about the speed you want to go. That might help you recover a bit. And if you feel up to it, offer to pull for a bit.

Remember to eat and drink, especially since it's June and probably kinda hot by mid day. Drink before you're thirsty, eat before you're hungry.

Take TWO tubes. I see you said you're taking CO2 AND a pump. Good thinking!

I agree with the above - take your lights, but only use them if the riders get so far apart you think it makes sense.

Got radar? Highly recommended if you're going to be passing a lot of people. It can help you adjust your closing speed with riders you're passing, so that you get there when it's safe to pass. Doesn't substitute for a look over the shoulder. In fact it augments it.
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Old 06-04-22, 04:01 PM
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If you see others bunched up in a loose group and they are doing your speed or a tad more, ask if they mind if you stay with them. Being in a group shields you from having to bust the air up all by yourself and will save you a lot energy and get you to the line faster.... assuming you didn't pick a really slow group. If riding in the group doesn't feel easy then the group is probably too fast for you. Find a slower one.

If you see a group looking real organized and in a single file column, then those people are serious about their cycling. Give them room if you happen to notice them coming because they'll blow the doors off your bike, if your bike for some odd reason happened to have doors. <grin> Some of those groups are actually pretty friendly and if you actually are riding well they'll sometimes invite you to ride with them as long as you can. But just be sure you understand what a paceline is and what their methods are. Usually if they do ask you to tag on then someone at the end will tell you how they go about pulling on the front, for how long and what to do when you fall off.

Regardless of whether you are riding with a group or not, make sure to let others behind you know when you are going to turn or get off for rest stops. Not everyone will stop at rest stops so if you don't say or signal, then they'll expect you too are passing it up. Might plow into you as you slow or turn. Though IMO, they might be more at fault, but on a ride like this you have to expect everything.

Enjoy. Most are century rides are pretty social. A few cyclists take then a little too serious. But hey, to each their own. Just enjoy it.

Last edited by Iride01; 06-04-22 at 04:06 PM.
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Old 06-04-22, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
look before launching a snot rocket.
Even with all the miles I've ran, I've never mastered the snot rocket. I ran a half this spring with a 16 year old girl that was quite good at it though.
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Old 06-04-22, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Chuck M View Post
Even with all the miles I've ran, I've never mastered the snot rocket. I ran a half this spring with a 16 year old girl that was quite good at it though.
She sounds hot. Too bad she's not 18 yet.
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Old 06-05-22, 11:45 AM
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With this being your first ever group ride, I would stay at the back and not get too close the wheel in front of you. Riding close in a group requires some experience to do safely. Following the last wheel in a group is the best way to gain that experience without endangering others around you. Riding in the middle of a pack without experience is not a good idea to start off with. Your plan of starting at the middle of the back of the pack will probably put you right amongst the least experienced riders and hence the most likely to cause a crash!
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Old 06-05-22, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
With this being your first ever group ride, I would stay at the back and not get too close the wheel in front of you. Riding close in a group requires some experience to do safely. Following the last wheel in a group is the best way to gain that experience without endangering others around you. Riding in the middle of a pack without experience is not a good idea to start off with. Your plan of starting at the middle of the back of the pack will probably put you right amongst the least experienced riders and hence the most likely to cause a crash!
Agree. Riding safely in a group is a skill that requires practice. A big century ride is not the place to try it out.
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Old 06-05-22, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
If you see others bunched up in a loose group and they are doing your speed or a tad more, ask if they mind if you stay with them. Being in a group shields you from having to bust the air up all by yourself and will save you a lot energy and get you to the line faster.... assuming you didn't pick a really slow group. If riding in the group doesn't feel easy then the group is probably too fast for you. Find a slower one.

If you see a group looking real organized and in a single file column, then those people are serious about their cycling. Give them room if you happen to notice them coming because they'll blow the doors off your bike, if your bike for some odd reason happened to have doors. <grin> Some of those groups are actually pretty friendly and if you actually are riding well they'll sometimes invite you to ride with them as long as you can. But just be sure you understand what a paceline is and what their methods are. Usually if they do ask you to tag on then someone at the end will tell you how they go about pulling on the front, for how long and what to do when you fall off.

Regardless of whether you are riding with a group or not, make sure to let others behind you know when you are going to turn or get off for rest stops. Not everyone will stop at rest stops so if you don't say or signal, then they'll expect you too are passing it up. Might plow into you as you slow or turn. Though IMO, they might be more at fault, but on a ride like this you have to expect everything.

Enjoy. Most are century rides are pretty social. A few cyclists take then a little too serious. But hey, to each their own. Just enjoy it.
I think it would be un-wise to learn how to draft in a group of strangers on a Fondo.
OP, if you do want a draft:
Don't overlap your front wheel with the rider's rear wheel in front of you.
Don't use the brakes for no apparent reason, keep the braking to a minimum and gradual.
Be prepared for the rider in front of you to "Move Backwards" when they transition to standing up on a climb. Even experienced racers sometimes don't keep the power delivery steady when standing, making for a lot of grief for those following.
Don't look at the rear wheel of the rider in front of you for more than an instant.
When pulling keep the speed steady, accelerate in a predictable manner if you feel the need for a little more speed.
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Old 06-05-22, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by venturi95 View Post
I think it would be un-wise to learn how to draft in a group of strangers on a Fondo.
OP, if you do want a draft:
Don't overlap your front wheel with the rider's rear wheel in front of you.
Don't use the brakes for no apparent reason, keep the braking to a minimum and gradual.
Be prepared for the rider in front of you to "Move Backwards" when they transition to standing up on a climb. Even experienced racers sometimes don't keep the power delivery steady when standing, making for a lot of grief for those following.
Don't look at the rear wheel of the rider in front of you for more than an instant.
When pulling keep the speed steady, accelerate in a predictable manner if you feel the need for a little more speed.
That's a great list I'll add a couple more:
Alway leave yourself an escape route, don't follow directly behind someone but offset a few cm in either direction from their rear wheel.
Keep the hip or shoulder of the rider in front of you at the edge of your vision and look down the road.
If you do touch wheels, Don't Panic! If you brake or turn the wheel sharply you will crash. Gently lean into the rear wheel of the rider in front and sit up or ease up pedaling a bit until the wheels disengage. The rider in front will barely notice as the rear wheel is fixed in the bike frame.

To learn to ride in a group you have learn to ride in a straight line at a constant pace. You can't really do this on your own.
Start by following someone at about 1 meter away and try to match their speed and cadence. As you gain confidence move closer. If you find that the rider ahead is an 'Unsteady Eddie' try following the pace of a different rider. If the group is loose and informal, which happens a lot durning centuries, no one is going to take offense if you stay you're going to follow from a few feet away.
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Old 06-05-22, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by venturi95 View Post
I think it would be un-wise to learn how to draft in a group of strangers on a Fondo.
OP, if you do want a draft:
Don't overlap your front wheel with the rider's rear wheel in front of you.
Your idea of riding in a group is a little different than the loose groups I was thinking about. You don't have to be close to get a little of the drafting benefit. 10 feet even gets some.

Even in the pacelines I've been in we don't overlap wheels except as a means to avoid collision if the front slows too quick. Loose groups that I imagine the OP getting in wouldn't even be a ½ bike length from each other.

But good that you gave the appropriate cautions that I didn't mention.
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Old 06-05-22, 03:04 PM
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^ x2
if you can smell the fart from the person riding in front of you, you're drafting. Keep the mouth closed, unless you're into that type of thing.
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Old 06-05-22, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by venturi95 View Post
OP, if you do want a draft:
LOL. I didn't register for the Ace peloton and I'm not planning on jumping into any pace lines. I watched a great number of the fondo riders last year and they weren't exactly bunched up in a peloton. I think I'll be ok in that regard. I just want to be a good citizen out there. I already witnessed for myself what a MAMIL looks like with his sweaty belly hanging out of an unzipped jersey and I won't be that.
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Old 06-05-22, 03:27 PM
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Juan Foote
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Something I would point out, this being your first century.

You will feel good early in the event and the perception may be that you shouldn't stop at the rest/support stop. DO SO. No matter how good you feel. Stop in, stretch your legs, get something to eat and drink and just be off the bike for a moment. About the time you start getting over the first half of the ride and didn't, you will feel it then and basically too late. Stay hydrated at all times, even early on.

The only other advice I give is to be predictable, don't stop without warning, weave around, change speed quickly. If you need to stop for something, pull off and out of the way.

I have personally never been able to complete more than 93 miles in a single ride. It sucked having to catch the bus those last 7 miles.
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