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They say I half-wheel

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They say I half-wheel

Old 08-05-19, 10:45 PM
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RoadManFive
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They say I half-wheel

[I'm new to posting in bf, but I've lurked for long enough to know that the Road Forum can have a lot of snark. I'll try to ignore that stuff and be grateful for any sincere advice.]

I'm an experienced road cyclist and club rider. Recently, I have moved up from some less formal clubs and groups to a stronger and more organized group. This new group is about 2/3 racers or former racers and their rides are considered at an "A" pace in the local area.

I have the speed and stamina to ride with this group. I'm neither near the stronger nor weaker end of the spectrum of riders. Also, for the most part I have the bike handling and group riding skills needed to be safe. But there is one problem,

Unlike other groups from my experience, this one rides in a mostly-disciplined double pace line. At times, when I am one of the two people in front pulling, I get criticized for half-wheeling.

[To my understanding, there are two definitions of half-wheeling. The definition that matters here would be persistently edging ahead of your pulling partner so that your handlebars are not even, causing them to have to up the pace to catch up, and then repeating, causing the whole train to surge. The other definition, not really applicable here, is riding with your front wheel overlapping the rear wheel of the rider who is supposed to be in front of you.]

I get the impression, that people think I'm trying to show off or being overenthusiastic, trying to amp up the pace, but that's not what is happening. Obviously, I don't want to fall behind the person next to me, but in rolling terrain where the speed is not constant, finding the right effort to stay just alongside my counterparts bars is imperfect. If I am not going to let myself get behind, then when I get things a little wrong, I edge slightly ahead. When I become aware of this, I ease off to try to get even, but particularly if the other rider isn't as strong as me, this can lead to a little bit of seesawing, and so, some halfwheeling.

I suppose the answer is simply that I need to keep practicing, but any other tips would be appreciated.

I should mention that the pace line discipline of this group is not perfect. There are some riders (not me) who are just beasts up front, and when they are pulling the cycling of the lines can be asynchronous, with their partner cycling off the front to be replaced by the wheel behind them. Often times, the prelude to this is the first partner falling back a little, realizing that they can't keep the pace, and then getting off. To my eye, this also looks like halfwheeling, but the serious draft-horses don't get called out for this.
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Old 08-05-19, 11:20 PM
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There is a very good reason to always have your handlebars even with those of the bike beside you and it has nothing to do with relative strengths, egos or whatever. I don't think it is taught specifically very much these day but I got it drilled int my brain 40+ years ago (and used it to advantage a few times).

Safety. For both of you. With your handlebars lined up, either one of you can initiate a move to push the other over at anytime, quite safely. And as long as we are riding 20 pound bikes and not 50 ton tanks, the need to do this will arise.

Suppose you are riding 12" from your neighbor. (Yeah, you intended it to be 24" but things happen and at the moment you are close. You are on the left, he is riding the road edge. He sees on of those old storm gratings with the bike killer lengthwise bars, right in his path. He doesn't have time to say anything. He rides into you and bumps you pretty hard. Now, look at the scenarios. You are in front. His handlebars go inside and behind yours. Your knee hits his bar. I"ll tell you right now, this isn't going to end very well.

Or suppose you keep your handlebars religiously lined up. And even better the two of you ride with elbows out; like I was also taught. Bump! Handlebars get knocked apart, yours taking you to the left a little, his back to straight. He misses the grating. You get pissed then see why he did that. And nothing bad happens at all.

Real story - state championships, 1977. A long climb along the side of a hill, big dropoff to the left. I was riding the left edge so I could move up if there was an opportunity but for now, I was going nowhere. Had a fellow racer beside me. We all learned from John Allis, ex-Olympian and European racer, directly or indirectly the same rules of bike handling including even bars. Now, I was close to the pavement edge on a two century old rural New England road. There were more than a few washouts of pavement of varying sizes. Periodically I had to bump and nudge my neighbor over so I could get around them. He knew exactly what I was doing and it wasn't an issue. Once the washout was much larger. I had to lean into him and push his neighbor over. He did not like that at all. But he also so why I had to do it; his neighbor also new the "rules" and again, it was no big deal.

Don't half wheel. Learn to keep your bars even and teach others to do the same. Might save your bacon.

Ben
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Old 08-05-19, 11:22 PM
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Just try and pedal with a steady effort and don’t worry too much about your partner. If he gets a little ahead it doesn’t matter as long as you’re keeping the pace steady. Any adjustments to position should be subtle, no need to rush to be in lock step. See if you can find partners of similar fitness, that way you can both go hard if you want and you’ll be ready for a break at roughly the same time. If you’re with someone weaker, just relax and go at their pace. Pairings invariably shuffle and you’ll have a chance to go harder at some point in the ride.
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Old 08-06-19, 03:07 AM
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You're new to the group. They're going to call you out on stuff until you ride like they expect or they all just get used to your style. Safer that way.
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Old 08-06-19, 04:52 AM
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You need to read the "We're going to yell at you" thread.
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Old 08-06-19, 05:37 AM
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I agree with the practice suggestion. With a little time and attention, you should get the rhythm of the group.

paying attention to your speedometer can help you not to surge.

Also, if you have it, using a power meter to maintain a steady effort, particularly when speed changes with topography can help you be smoother.

All that said, given your new to the group, the guy beside you is by definition more experienced with the group, so I’d take my lead off him.
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Old 08-06-19, 06:51 AM
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Half Wheeling

Half Wheeling | Steve Tilford

A great read.


-Tim-
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Old 08-06-19, 07:14 AM
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Probably trying too hard to stay alongside, therefore overdoing it and ending up too far in front. Just ride smoothly and naturally and you will be fine.

I am glad that I have never encountered those groups where people want to tell everyone else how to ride. All of the rides I have done, the experienced people just maneuver around whatever flaws they newbies might exhibit and manage just fine.
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Old 08-06-19, 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by PepeM View Post
I am glad that I have never encountered those groups where people want to tell everyone else how to ride. All of the rides I have done, the experienced people just maneuver around whatever flaws they newbies might exhibit and manage just fine.
And how will people learn? I'm grateful for the advice I got from more experienced riders.
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Old 08-06-19, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
And how will people learn? I'm grateful for the advice I got from more experienced riders.
People seemed to manage. Once friendships develop, advice becomes welcome and useful. Random person yelling at someone else to not half-wheel as they are trying to hang on doesn't sound all that helpful to me.
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Old 08-06-19, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by PepeM View Post
People seemed to manage. Once friendships develop, advice becomes welcome and useful. Random person yelling at someone else to not half-wheel as they are trying to hang on doesn't sound all that helpful to me.
In my experience, trying to hang on and half-wheeling are mutually exclusive. And no people don't manage. I've ridden with people who've been riding for years and still put themselves and others in danger because the experienced riders just avoid them, and no one ever explained the basics of how to ride safely with others.
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Old 08-06-19, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
In my experience, trying to hang on and half-wheeling are mutually exclusive. And no people don't manage. I've ridden with people who've been riding for years and still put themselves and others in danger because the experienced riders just avoid them, and no one ever explained the basics of how to ride safely with others.
No one ever explained the basics to me either, I just figured them out. We are talking riding bicycles here. Or who knows, maybe I am an absolute hazard (don't think so though, only two people have died because they rode close to me), part of the problem instead of the solution and everything.
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Old 08-06-19, 07:59 AM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
Half Wheeling

Half Wheeling | Steve Tilford

A great read.


-Tim-
A great pull quote: "Getting half wheeled by complete strangers is worse than getting half wheeled by Tour de France winners."

Makes more sense when remembering that right before that he was describing being half-wheeled by an actual Tour de France winner.

Tilford was a master of the "nonchalantly mention something astounding and amazing in passing" quote. It wasn't an act.
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Old 08-06-19, 08:04 AM
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When I ride in a group I'm hyper aware of how I may be affecting other riders around me.

As alluded to in the Tilford article that Tim linked to, my observations have been that most people who are half-wheeling don't realize they are doing it.

Furthermore, those same people seem to have a slightly lower level of awareness and just general "paying attention to how you &*#%$& impact other people" than most.

This isn't complicated -- pay attention.

Caveat: there are people who will half wheel on purpose, for a variety of reasons -- pushing the pace, punishing someone who annoyed you earlier, just generally being ornery. Depending on the situation it may or may not be warranted.

For instance: a guy I ride with is chronically late to rides. On one particularly egregious example, when he was 30 minutes late for a weeknight group ride (the rest of the group decided to wait for him, had it been my choice I would've left him). So when he finally joined us and it was my turn on the front I put the hammer down for about 5 minutes just because I was pretty annoyed with him. Spit him off the back after about 30 seconds.

He didn't learn. He's still late to everything.
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Old 08-06-19, 08:06 AM
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Originally Posted by ksryder View Post
So when he finally joined us and it was my turn on the front I put the hammer down for about 5 minutes just because I was pretty annoyed with him. Spit him off the back after about 30 seconds.

He didn't learn. He's still late to everything.
How would he learn? Did you make it clear to him that you droped the hamer on him with your massive guads because he was late, or was he supposed to make that connection on his own?
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Old 08-06-19, 08:08 AM
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I received the half-wheeling talk fairly early in my cycling career.
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Old 08-06-19, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha View Post
I received the half-wheeling talk fairly early in my cycling career.
Most people do, but it usually comes with an explanation. I'm surprised that no one in the group explained what they were saying.
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Old 08-06-19, 08:19 AM
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Originally Posted by noodle soup View Post
Most people do, but it usually comes with an explanation. I'm surprised that no one in the group explained what they were saying.
I don't remember exactly what I was told. Might have been, "Cut that **** out, fat boy."
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Old 08-06-19, 08:30 AM
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I was told by a very experienced rider, who later became one of my closest friends. “Hey, don’t do that.”
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Old 08-06-19, 08:31 AM
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Every group can take some experience to get accustomed to, especially with rotating participants.

I don't ride A group anymore -- too old, not strong enough, and I break instead of bouncing now when I crash. The B-group pace suits me and most rides it goes pretty well. When I resumed riding with them after being away for a year (injury and illness) I asked the group leader how I was doing and to let me know if I needed to work on anything. He said I'm doing fine. Good 'nuff. He's a steady wheel and I won't hesitate to follow him. No half wheeling, no surges, etc.

Occasionally a younger, much stronger fellow will join the B-group rides. Not sure why. He's an A-group rider and usually trains with a local pro team. His presence changes everything. Instead of putting down a steady effort, he tries to maintain a steady *speed* even on climbs. So we either accordion, or you can see some guys wobbling a bit as they're at the limits of effort.To me, that seems to defeat the purpose of a safe paceline in a B-group.

Nice enough guy, though. He means well. But this weekend when he suggested I stay within 6" of the wheel in front of me, I shook my head and said "Nah. If I drop off I'll catch up later."

The weekend before he wasn't there, but several new-to-me riders were. I recognized one as an occasional participant. Almost immediately I noticed the new-to-me folks in a paceline... but the second rider was following within 12" of the lead wheel, but her hands were on the tops of the bars, nowhere near the brakes. And the third rider behind her was on her aero bar.

I stayed well to the left, pretty much on my own, no drafting, just to watch. But it was nerve wracking watching them. I dropped out after a few miles and went my own route with a slower friend so he wouldn't be left behind.

Most rides with that B-group aren't like either situation. Just sorta depends on who shows up. With the core members it's no problem. I don't know if they ride in a way that would suit everybody, but they're predictable so I don't notice any problems.

So in the OP's case, it may be a matter of adapting to whomever is immediately beside or in front of you, and you're just catching flak for reacting to the conditions tossed your way.
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Old 08-06-19, 10:17 AM
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Thanks all, for the discussions. Very useful.
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Old 08-06-19, 10:24 AM
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Thanks for taking the time to write this. I wasn't questioning whether half-wheeling is a good idea or not, but I think the tutorial on what can go wrong is well worthwhile.

I've seen some bad consequences of half-wheeling, though I wasn't involved. It was more or less as you describe - one of the lead riders moved suddenly sideways and hooked bars with the rider next to him. They both went down and their bikes were mangled. Fortunately, they weren't too badly hurt.

This does raise a question, though, and that is that this danger exists also in the pack, not just on the front, and people (in my experience) seem less uptight about misalignments further back. That isn't to say that people don't try to ride bar to bar or know that they should, but when the misalignments do occur back in the pack, people seem more chill about it.

Oh, and some time ago I rode a little in New England (specifically W. MA), and I was shocked at the depth of the storm drain holes on the roadsides. They were positively terrifying.


Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
There is a very good reason to always have your handlebars even with those of the bike beside you and it has nothing to do with relative strengths, egos or whatever. I don't think it is taught specifically very much these day but I got it drilled int my brain 40+ years ago (and used it to advantage a few times).

Safety. For both of you. With your handlebars lined up, either one of you can initiate a move to push the other over at anytime, quite safely. And as long as we are riding 20 pound bikes and not 50 ton tanks, the need to do this will arise.

Suppose you are riding 12" from your neighbor. (Yeah, you intended it to be 24" but things happen and at the moment you are close. You are on the left, he is riding the road edge. He sees on of those old storm gratings with the bike killer lengthwise bars, right in his path. He doesn't have time to say anything. He rides into you and bumps you pretty hard. Now, look at the scenarios. You are in front. His handlebars go inside and behind yours. Your knee hits his bar. I"ll tell you right now, this isn't going to end very well.

Or suppose you keep your handlebars religiously lined up. And even better the two of you ride with elbows out; like I was also taught. Bump! Handlebars get knocked apart, yours taking you to the left a little, his back to straight. He misses the grating. You get pissed then see why he did that. And nothing bad happens at all.

Real story - state championships, 1977. A long climb along the side of a hill, big dropoff to the left. I was riding the left edge so I could move up if there was an opportunity but for now, I was going nowhere. Had a fellow racer beside me. We all learned from John Allis, ex-Olympian and European racer, directly or indirectly the same rules of bike handling including even bars. Now, I was close to the pavement edge on a two century old rural New England road. There were more than a few washouts of pavement of varying sizes. Periodically I had to bump and nudge my neighbor over so I could get around them. He knew exactly what I was doing and it wasn't an issue. Once the washout was much larger. I had to lean into him and push his neighbor over. He did not like that at all. But he also so why I had to do it; his neighbor also new the "rules" and again, it was no big deal.

Don't half wheel. Learn to keep your bars even and teach others to do the same. Might save your bacon.

Ben
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Old 08-06-19, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
Half Wheeling

(Link removed b/c I don't yet have 10 posts)

A great read.


-Tim-
Thanks for the link - yes, it is an interesting read. However, Tilford seems most concerned with the performance aspects of half-wheeling - strong riders wearing out their partners. From what he writes, one wouldn't get the perspective that he think it's a safety issue. Just that it's punishing on the engine to be subjected to it.
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Old 08-06-19, 10:31 AM
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Every cycling club that I've belonged to has it's own Culture.
Although the basics of safe and effective pace line riding are the same there is local etiquette and verbal/non-verbal cues evolved over time that are only apparent to riders experienced in a particular group's dynamics. Where a dangerous narrow bridge, the "traditional" sprint and/or hill top points are located and where to back-off affect a group's behavior, learning them is all part of being Socialized and Accepted as a fit, competent and "safe" rider. It takes time, participation and the willingness to earn respect for a place in the pace-line. Of course you will be Yelled At.

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Old 08-06-19, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by RoadManFive View Post
Thanks for the link - yes, it is an interesting read. However, Tilford seems most concerned with the performance aspects of half-wheeling - strong riders wearing out their partners. From what he writes, one wouldn't get the perspective that he think it's a safety issue. Just that it's punishing on the engine to be subjected to it.
Tilford (RIP) was in a league of his own and wasn't subject to the same safety concerns of us mere mortals. He once broke his handlebars during a MTB race and later commented "I almost crashed."

He also SEWED HIS OWN STITCHES IN THE MIDDLE OF A RIDE once.
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