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New rider thinking about joining a group...

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

New rider thinking about joining a group...

Old 05-30-15, 09:09 PM
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New rider thinking about joining a group...

I just recently took up cycling and am really enjoying it.
I started about 3 months ago and have been averaging about 10-15 miles per day, 6 days a week on a Specialized Secteur Elite.
I enjoy riding solo but think I would also like to try group riding to change things up a bit and gain some much needed experience.
I am 50 years old and have been averaging right around 17 mph per ride with a bit of effort. My route is fairly flat with some small hills sprinkled in.
On a decent stretch of level road I average around 20 mph. I currently am using the included flat pedals as the bike itself and basic accessories stretched my initial budget and I also wanted to get used to it before I added the learning curve of clips.
The local shop that sold me the bike has weekly group rides categorized as B and C.
They say a point of reference for the B ride is a sustained 17 mph over 30-40 miles and a sustained 15 mph over the same 40 miles for the C group.
I am going to amp my mileage up a bit and start with the C group but am wondering what to expect as I have read and been told that what is posted is not always what actually happens.
Other than concentrating on riding safely what should I be looking to work on before I join a group?
Any and all advice considered and appreciated!
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Old 05-30-15, 09:43 PM
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Real basics:
Drink/grab your bottle while looking up.
Try holding a line in the road with out much swerving.
Get familiar with nutrition, and what works for you.
You can try making a couple of panic stops (trying to stop as quickly as possible with out really locking the tires or swerving).
Get used to doing a 5-second sprint, then back to a good pace. This happens some in lower groups, more as you get faster.

This is some stuff I tried while solo, it seemed to help on initial rides.
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Old 05-31-15, 03:23 AM
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Hold your line
Stay a fixed distance behind the wheel in front, avoid "rubber banding"
Get accustomed to signalling and communicating

All in all, ride predictably, be aware of road conditions, and communicate.

GCN ran a good series of RaceSmart vids with a lot of stuff that applies to riding in groups, recommend checking that out on Youtube.
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Old 05-31-15, 03:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Bunyanderman
Get used to doing a 5-second sprint, then back to a good pace. This happens some in lower groups, more as you get faster.
What kind of group rides are we talking about here? Casual rides may get sloppy and there may be some town line sprinting going on (for which I'd train for longer sprints, to be able to come from behind), but in my experience, the advanced rides tend to be more consistent - the skill one wants to develop for group rides is gap avoidance through careful speed modulation, not sprint abilities - but admittedly that's pretty hard to do when riding solo
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Old 05-31-15, 04:40 AM
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If it were me I'd go find the cyclists who lead the C ride and ask them what to expect. It will take time to learn all you need to know about group riding so I'd start with the basics and be open to learning over time. In our club we give safety seminars at the beginning of the season. We also send out Safety Tip by email to club members the day before our Saturday rides. On an actual ride a ride leader will lay out his/her expectations before the ride and instruct riders during a ride. Usually simple things like making sure to go single file when someone yells "car back" and how to safely do that. Much of what you are looking for can only be learned on the bike over time.
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Old 05-31-15, 05:24 AM
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Agree start with C group and introduce yourself to the ride leader. Let him/her know it's your first group ride and if there is anything you should know about THIS specific ride.

I am suspecting you will move up to the B group in short order, if that is your goal.
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Old 05-31-15, 05:42 AM
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The first thing is to get there early enough so you're ready to roll out with the group and have some additional time to chat with the group leader and other riders. Each group has their own etiquette and signals, so it helps to understand them before rolling. Some groups leaders do a briefing before rolling to cover the important points.

Most important is to protect your front wheel. If a rider in front swerves and contacts your front wheel, you'll very likely go down. So give yourself enough space as you're rolling and try to maintain that space. Try to be as predictable and steady as possible, so those behind you aren't constantly adjusting to your actions. You'll likely encounter some riders that swerve and surge more than others, so try to avoid them or at least give them plenty of space. Once you're comfortable riding with the C group you may want to advance to the B. The pace line is usually more steady along with an increase in speed.

Group riding isn't for everybody, but it's a great way to learn more about the sport and enjoy the social aspects. Let us know how it goes.
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Old 05-31-15, 06:13 AM
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You don't need to work on anything. Just show up for the C group, make sure you have water, something to munch on, stuff to fix a flat and that your bike is in working order. By the end of the ride you'll have it all figured out. You don't sound like someone who'll get dropped from the slow group. Just watch the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lK5MPtMrMqU
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Old 05-31-15, 06:16 AM
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^^^ agree with the above, took me a few rides to figure it out and advance to faster groups. not too difficult.
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Old 05-31-15, 08:29 AM
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I have really enjoyed riding with our local bike club. I recommend it as a great way to meet like-minded people and there is definitely safety in numbers when riding on public roads. I'm really lucky in my area to have a great meeting place in an airport industrial area with plenty of parking, and 2 lane country roads close by with very little traffic. One of our A group members was just recently hit by a car and hurt fairly badly riding on his own and not in our usual ride area.
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Old 05-31-15, 10:30 AM
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Riding with other people can be loads of fun, no matter your level of ability. Pick the group that adds fun to your cycling life, avoid those that add stress to it.
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Old 05-31-15, 01:55 PM
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I would maybe increase your ride lengths before joining to see how you do during 30-40 mile rides. I just upped my rides last week doing a 31 mile, 37 mile, and 40 mile ride during the week. Before last week I was doing about 4-5 days a week of 20-25 mile rides and then short 7-15 mile rides on other days if I felt like riding. I ride ~17-18mph in sub 1k ele rides 25m + rides. I fall to 16-17 during 1k+ ele rides 25+ mile.

30-40 miles definitely hit me a bit harder than my previous rides. It's the first time I've had to take a bit of time off to rest my legs cause they felt dead the next day when riding. It's also the first time I started getting a bit uncomfortable on my bike, butt / lower back / neck starting to hurt or rough roads starting to get to me.

I've also made sure to climb the mountain near me the past 2 weeks to get use to 2k+ elevation rides and feel comfortable descending a long ways etc.

I started riding about 3 months ago. I'm probably waiting a bit long to join the group rides here, I would've probably been fine to do them a few weeks ago. I'm thinking of starting out on one of the slower 13-14 or 15-16 rides, pref the ones that say faster riders welcome so if the pace is slow for me I'll likely still have a person or two to ride ahead with.
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