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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

Newbie hints?

Old 08-26-01, 05:57 PM
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Newbie hints?

Hey guys, I just discovered this site and it rocks!

Well, I'm a total newbie to the sport. I've been thinking about road biking for a while and finally took the plunge when my LBS had a Univega Modo Vincere on sale that I couldn't say no to.

I have stock parts except for wellgo clipless pedals (that I don't really like), selle italia flight saddle and an avocet computer.

After getting the bike adjusted and tuned, I've just started biking about 20-30 mi per trip a couple times a week (mostly weekends). I'm starting off on bike trails to get acclimated.

Unfortunately, I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about bikes other getting on and pedaling.

Any great sites/books/etc. that give the basics on road biking?
Any hints/FAQs/magazines you guys would recommend?
Where do you guys go to buy your eqmt and get info on the best deals/parts?
What accessories would you recommend?
Any specific issues/problems/comments with my stock
I'd appreciate any other advice you guys have. Road biking is awesome and I'm totally hooked.

Thanks a million.
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Old 08-26-01, 08:28 PM
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Originally posted by aswoo
Any great sites/books/etc. that give the basics on road biking?
Any hints/FAQs/magazines you guys would recommend?
Where do you guys go to buy your eqmt and get info on the best deals/parts?
What accessories would you recommend?
Any specific issues/problems/comments with my stock
I'd appreciate any other advice you guys have. Road biking is awesome and I'm totally hooked.
The best way to learn about cycling is to hook up with some more experienced riders and go for some rides. Ask at your LBS if there are any clubs or group rides in your neighbourhood and go along. Cycling is an oral culture and, if people know that you're just starting out, they'll be happy to show you the ropes. You can't learn to ride in a paceline from a magazine any more than you can learn how to drive a car from a book.

Hang around forums like this one and others [Road Bike Review leaps to mind as a good one] and ask a lot of questions.

I tend to buy my gear from two really good LBSes in my area. I'll sometimes buy stuff from the Internet -- at Nashbar, Performance or Price Point -- if it's something I can't get around here, or it's off-season.

The essential accessories for a road bike are:
- A wedge pack that fits under your seat. Use it to hold a toolkit, some first aid stuff and spare cash.
- A small toolkit, including (among other things) allen keys and tire levers.
- A spare inner tube.
- A very basic first-aid kit.
- A roll of electrical tape.
- A tire pressure gauge.
- A small frame pump.
- A floor pump for your garage [filling up tires with a frame pump is a pain, and should only be done when you have to.]
- Water bottle cages and water bottles.
- A cyclocomputer [which you have].
- Chain cleaning supplies.
- A helmet.

You might also want to invest in a couple of pairs of padded shorts [wear them without underwear] and gloves. Bike jerseys are better than t-shirts for riding, and you can get inexpensive ones for @ $20.

The Modo Vincere is a sweet bike for the price. It's a little heavy [I think the 56 cm is about 23 lbs], but it's not so heavy that you'd really notice unless you're climbing Mont Ventoux. The component spec -- Campy Veloce -- is very sweet. I'm a Campagnolo-type guy, by the way. You can never go wrong with Campagnolo components on a Columbus steel frame.

You're going to have a lot of fun. Make some bike friends, go out and RIDE! You'll have a blast.
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Old 08-26-01, 11:39 PM
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Originally posted by velocipedio
The best way to learn about cycling is to hook up with some more experienced riders and go for some rides. Ask at your LBS if there are any clubs or group rides in your neighbourhood and go along. Cycling is an oral culture and, if people know that you're just starting out, they'll be happy to show you the ropes.
I would "ditto" this advice from velocipedio. Being out here on the Left Coast, I don't know the situation in RI, but I was blessed by being in an area with with about 8 bike clubs. I asked around at the LBSs, looked at the newsletters and websites of the clubs, and ended up joining two (one with 700+ members, the other with 900+ members). I had been bicycle commuting for a number of years, but I knew how much I didn't know, and wanted to go to the next level. The clubs I joined were into the recreational and social aspect of cycling rather than the racing side, and each provided 8-10 club rides a week to choose from. I started out with slower paced rides that accommodated newcomers, and immediately started learning things about cadence, handling, group riding, etc., just by watching others and asking questions. To be sure, since I am a shy guy to begin with (except when I wield my bagpipes), I was uncomfortable interjecting myself into this new environment, and at first I felt a little distanced because the members seemed to have such a tight relationship, with the talks at regroups centering on X's vacation or Y's pet problems, or Z's top secret custom frame project, but within a few months, as my face became familiar, I was included more and more in the conversations until I became a "reg." And as a reg, if I see a new face, a newby, then it is my job to make sure that person has a positive experience in the club, which may include cheerleading up a tough hill, or helping with a flat, or just talking at lunch. The lunches or the espresso afterwards are some of the fun times, where the incredible rides and adventures stories come out and a new rider can learn a lot. And friends I've made in the club have become friends outside of riding.

Magazines for roadies are few and far between in the Yew Ess Aye, but Bicycling does have good articles on the basics of riding and upkeep, along with reasonable training plans for doing centuries and the like. You just have to wade through the ads and short-attention-span design to get to the nuggets.

As far as equipment advice, I would suggest that in the case of a limited budget, go for a few excellent bicycling shorts and fill out the rest of the clothing checklist with bargains. Your body comes in contact with the bike at three spots, hands. feet, and butt, and of the three, at least in my case, the butt is the most problematic. For a number of years I tried the $20 to $40-dollar shorts, but each time I tried a new brand I was disappointed--they just didn't do the job for the longer rides. On the other hand, the $80- to $110 shorts were "like buttah." So I bit the bullet and acknowledged that for my case, the shorts came first. YMMV.

Originally posted by aswoo
Road biking is awesome and I'm totally hooked.
Welcome! This is a blissful addiction!
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Old 08-27-01, 01:14 AM
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Hey all,

Just like to say thanks for the help. I am a "newby" to cycling as well and I would like to thank velocipedio for his input on this topic.

I have just purchased a bike and didn't know what to buy in the way of accessories to carry. But after reading this I now know that I have the get a wedge pack to fit under the seat.

Now I won't high jack this thread but I have a couple of question to ask but I will start my own thread.

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Old 08-27-01, 05:45 AM
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Those Wellgo pedals (a.k.a. Nasbar, Forte) really are a piece of junk. Replace them as soon as you possibly can. They are prone to breaking, and will likely leave you stranded someday. Best to get a good pair of Looks.
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Old 08-27-01, 05:40 PM
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Old 08-28-01, 01:20 AM
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Books go to the library and look for authors: Hinault, Lemond, Eddie B. (Bjrycevic?) ot others with national or international wins. Look in the "stacks often not everything is in the catalog.

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Old 08-29-01, 11:54 AM
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If you want to replace the Wellgos with Looks, sierratradingpost.com has some inexpensive Looks for $40 and a little higher grade for $70. The $70 are the same model I paid $130 for at my LBS. I buy most of my stuff from my LBS but I will take advantage of good online bargains when I come across them and for inexpensive items my LBS would have to special order.

If you order some pedals, you can put them on yourself; they just screw in. Keep in mind that the left (non-drive side) pedal has left handed threads. You will need a narrow 15 mm wrench. It doesn't have to be a "pedal wrench" but a standard 15 mm open end or adjustable might be too thick.
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Old 08-29-01, 05:30 PM
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Thanks a lot velocipedio and UncaStuart. I've already got a decent pair of bike shorts but I may need a better pair. I must admit that the butt is the first place to go.

I'll definitely take the advice in regards to getting involved with a biking club or group. The guys at the LBS are already getting to know me, but I'm still working on finding a decent bike club. The rides I've heard of locally are only listed for intermediate to advanced riders so far. I'll have to keep looking...

In regards to the pedals, I do think that I'll have to get a new set of Looks or something else. My cleats keep sticking and I'm afraid I'll get myself into trouble one day with cleats that won't unlatch easily.

Well, thanks for all the advice so far. I look forward to hearing from more of you guys.
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Old 08-29-01, 05:46 PM
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By the way, what is this stuff about spinning?
And are there skills specific to road biking I should be working on -- like standing in place?
And is nutrition really important to biking? I must admit, I really end up eating a lot of crap due to work -- long hours and little time to be health conscious.
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Old 08-29-01, 06:35 PM
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In regards to your question about spinning and other techniques you might want to practice I recommend that you shift gears alot. Way more than as if you are driving a car. And shift down so that your legs don't feel like they are lifting weights at the gym. If you are going to err, it's better to be spinning too fast rather than mashing the pedals. So keep your hands busy, and shift!!
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Old 08-29-01, 07:02 PM
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Originally posted by aswoo
By the way, what is this stuff about spinning?
And are there skills specific to road biking I should be working on -- like standing in place?
Don't worry about practicing your track stand, most roadies I know -- including me -- still haven't got that one right. Leave it to the trackies.

Spinning basically means pedalling easily at a high cadence. The best way to practice spinning is to get up a head of speed and shift DOWN into a gear JUST easier than the gear you need to be in to maintain speed. What happens is, because you don't have to overcome the inertia of the drivetrain every pedal stroke, your pedalling becomes more efficient.

I find that, on solo rides, I spin comfortably [@100 rpm] in the small chainring [39t], right in the middle of the cassette [16t cog]. At that cadence, I'll be moving at about 32 km/h. Try it.
And is nutrition really important to biking? I must admit, I really end up eating a lot of crap due to work -- long hours and little time to be health conscious.
Proper nutrition is important to LIFE... but particularly to cycling, and any other endurance sport you care to mention.

Among other things, you have to make sure that you're getting enough carbohydrates -- grain-based foods, fruits, etc. -- to provide fuel for your body on a ride; you have to make sure that you're getting enough protein to build and repair muscle mass; you have to keep the fat and cholesterol WAY down, though you have to have SOME fat in your diet.

The fact is that a NORMAL healthy diet is a cyclist's normal healthy diet. So cut out the junk food and grease and pay attantion to what you're eating.

You can still ride a bike without worrying about your diet and nutrition, but you won't be a real cyclist -- and improve as a cyclist -- unless you do. That doesn't mean giving up ice cream or anything, just don't have it for desert every day.

The other thing to remember is that healthy foods are, strangely, more satisfying than unhealthy foods. I made a batch of blueberry bran muffins that'd blow your socks off.
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Old 09-01-01, 11:30 AM
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Thanks for the help so far, guys. I'm working on the spinning. As for the nutrition -- well, that's gonna be a slow road.

I just got back from another 30 mi trip (I follow this bike trail that 15 mi long each way).

After this ride, I have a few more questions.

First of all, I'm having a lot of trouble clipping out of wellgo pedals on my bike. I asked the guys at the LBS about them and he mentioned that it might be my shoes, because I'm using mtn biking shoes. Do shoes make a great difference (mountain vs road) or should I switch the pedals first?
I saw another guy clipping out of Look pedals which seemed remarkably easy - as for me, I have to unclip way ahead of time before a stop for fear of getting stuck (learned the hard way after a couple falls).

Also, after about thirty miles, I find that my bottom begins to bother me as well as my lower back. I had just switched to a Selle Italia Flite Gel saddle but don't seem to notice a great difference in comfort. I also suspect my saddle is a little low despite having been fitted at the LBS, possibly leading to a little lower back discomfort. Any suggestions?
I'm wearing a $40 pair of Pearl Izumi bike shorts. And I'm a pretty thin guy (not much natural padding). Think it would be worth it for me to take the dive for a more expensive pair of bike shorts? UncaStuart did mention that the $80-110 variety were "like buttah." But I've heard other comments to the contrary.

Nevertheless, despite little issues, I must say that I find I'm always itching to get on my bike whenever I have a few free hours. Thanks for all the advice!
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Old 09-01-01, 12:18 PM
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The bike shop may have fitted you into a standard racing bike position. That may be OK if you grew up on a bike, but as a newbie, you have to ease into the position. You may be riding with your bars to long and low . Low aerodynamic positions help if you are rididing fast, but if you are cruising longer distances, then a more upright position is more comfortable.

Spinning the pedals is something that you can train at lower speeds. You dont have to go all out to spin fast. Maintain a steady work-rate/heartbeat, drop down a few gears, and increase your cadence. After a while, you will naturally want to cycle a higher cadence all the time.

MTB shoes are fine for road pedals, and make life easier off the bike. Dont feel pressured to change them.

Be careful not to overdo your new excecise. Your muscles build up with weeks, but the rest of your body may take a few months to acclimatise. It probably takes 3 months of regular cycling before you a really ready for hard riding.
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Old 09-02-01, 11:27 AM
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Originally posted by aswoo
...Also, after about thirty miles, I find that my bottom begins to bother me as well as my lower back...
I agree with MichaelW that part of it might have to do with muscle tone...I know that when I haven't ridden for a couple of weeks, my rear hurts for the first couple of rides, but then I'm fine. Lower back pain is something that you should be careful with...it might have to do with position in the saddle, as you mentioned, or you may need to make sure you change your position throughout your ride by using different hand positions or standing. On longer rides you may need to stop and stretch a little, 'til your muscles are stronger.

Last edited by nunquam; 09-02-01 at 11:29 AM.
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Old 09-02-01, 12:14 PM
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Originally posted by aswoo
First of all, I'm having a lot of trouble clipping out of wellgo pedals on my bike. I asked the guys at the LBS about them and he mentioned that it might be my shoes, because I'm using mtn biking shoes. Do shoes make a great difference (mountain vs road) or should I switch the pedals first?
I'm not sure what KIND of Wellgo pedals you have, but you should be able to set the release tension with a turn of a bolt. If you're using MTB shoes with road pedals, the problem may be that the tread of your shoe does not have sufficient clearance for the pedals.
Also, after about thirty miles, I find that my bottom begins to bother me as well as my lower back. I had just switched to a Selle Italia Flite Gel saddle but don't seem to notice a great difference in comfort. I also suspect my saddle is a little low despite having been fitted at the LBS, possibly leading to a little lower back discomfort. Any suggestions?
My butt hurts like this for the fisrt few rides of the year. [I live in Canada, so there's a layoff of a couple of months for winter.] My theory is that cycling kills some of the nerves in your butt, and every year, I have to kill some of those regenerated news all over again. That may be part of your problem.

As another poster suggested, it could very well be saddle position -- and this may have something to do with your back pain as well -- so you might want to experiment with turning the saddle angle up or down a notch. You should always do lower back-stretches before a long ride, in any case, and you might find that, by strengthening your abdominal muscles through sit-up or crunches, your back gets stronger.
I'm wearing a $40 pair of Pearl Izumi bike shorts. And I'm a pretty thin guy (not much natural padding). Think it would be worth it for me to take the dive for a more expensive pair of bike shorts? UncaStuart did mention that the $80-110 variety were "like buttah." But I've heard other comments to the contrary.
PI's are good shorts. Stick with them for a couple of weeks and see what happens. It's entirely possible that other adjustments might make you more comfortable, or even that your shorts need to be broken in. I have a pair of Sugoi shorts that I love now, but it took a couple of weeks for the stiching on the chamois to soften up.

Your butt soreness might be due to friction, though. This is going to sound weird, but a whole lot of roadies I know [including myself] smear some hand lotion or Bag balm on their buts at the contact points [the perch bones] before putting on their shorts. It goes a long way toward reducing discomfort due to friction.
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Old 09-02-01, 01:53 PM
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Just wanted to say welcome... I am not too far into this venture either and I am very impressed with your miles... 30 at a clip. Your gonna be a "contender" one day if you keep that pace going.

My first piece of advice is hang out on this site, keep riding and decide what works best for you consdering how, what, where and when you ride most often.

Second, keep yourself a cycle log (spreadsheet) of trips... distance, avg speed, time in saddle. Make sure to make a remarks column for equipment changes, weather, notable events, routes, etc.

We're all students of the science until the end!
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Old 09-03-01, 11:20 PM
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Your butt will get sore until you're used to riding, and each spring when you start again. Some better shorts wil come in handy, synthetic chamois vs the cloth liner you have now. Cloth is OK for short rides, but not much else. Wear your shorts next to your skin, and use clean ones each day, of course. Chamios fat/cream or noxema will help as well, talc on the cloth.
Spinning-
I've been riding seriously for 30 years and have to work on my spin every spring, working on my ultimate spin speed 160 + for a few seconds, (until my tongue hits the spokes). The faster your "ultimate" spin is the better your stroke will be. I try to ride during the season at 100 rpm but rareley do. I try not to use the big chainring until I HAVE to, well over 20 mph, and never during the beginning of the season.
Circles- Don't just push down on the pedals push forward, down and then pull back like you're trying to scrape something off your shoe. Make your force go at right angles to the crank arms, but take it easy on pulling up.
ride smart
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Old 09-04-01, 05:59 PM
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Hey guys, thank you all for the support and encouragement.

I just had a ride yesterday which was probably both my best and worst. Certainly it was the most fun. I've been searching for a club/group of riders for a while now but due to my erratic riding schedule and lack of much availability, I haven't hooked up with anyone as yet.

However, yesterday, a group of 4-5 riders overtook me while I was on the bike trail. So I decided to tag along. It was amazing how much easier it was to ride in a group of several people. I was riding at 16 mph without having to work at all (this was great since I was feeling a little sore this morning). Eventually, the makeshift group collapsed and only myself and another rider made it the full 15 mph to the end of the bike trail, but it was remarkably fun!

The way back, on the other hand, was torture since I'm still making lots of stupid rookie mistakes and hadn't purchased an Allen key yet (as velocipedio suggested day 1). I rode the whole way back with a saddle that popped out of position, had a fall when my feet remained stuck in my wellgo 705 (avoid at all cost) pedals, and ran into some bitter biker who was annoyed that I trailed him for 5 miles -- I guess not all people are friendly. I also seem to have strained a calf muscle in my enthusiasm yesterday.

All in all, though, I must say that my rides are getting better. I'm learning a little more each day, my behind is hurting less, and spend more and more time in that nirvana zone where I feel like I'm spinning really well and have a sensation of moving with the wind. That, my friends, is one of the best feelings in the world. Thanks again, and I'll be asking more questions when I get the time.
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Old 09-04-01, 06:22 PM
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Thanks again to velocipedio, nunquam, and MichaelW for the advice. With each ride, I am slowly adjusting my saddle position. And though it hurts the pride, I agree that part of my problems may be conditioning. After all, I started biking in order to get into better shape overall. And my sore right calf is a reminder now for me not to overdo it. I knew I was pushing myself too hard when I was trying to keep up with one biker who was buzzing along easily at almost 20 mph.

My lower back does still get sore near the end of every 30 mi ride and I am as yet trying to find a good position to be in.

Thanks to s_boy for the encouraging remark and I will be taking into account pat5319's advice in regards to the bike shorts and seat if I continue to have problems in that regard.

I think the best part of this is that I got into road biking just to force myself to get out and do something active. Now I try to bike as often as I can (which is still only 2x/wk) but the whole sport has somehow gotten me enthusiastic about the whole field of health, exercise and nutrition.

Any great books/primer's on biking, by the way. I need to learn something about bike maintenance and about the nuances of road biking in general. I just bought a book by Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter. I'd like to develop a good general library on biking or maybe even in living healthier. I'd love to hear your recommendations in that regard, esp. if there is a book that you guys love or live by.
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Old 09-04-01, 06:46 PM
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A tad embarrassing, but the "Bicycles for Dummies"
book was actually quite good
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Old 09-05-01, 05:55 AM
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It is always considered rude to suck air off another cyclist unless you are riding a paceline together. In Italy, such a manouever could get you "spoked"! I assume the "rude guy" was one of those you started to "race". Road cyclists by and large aren't racing, and don't like it when pests try to turn their training run into one. Unless you know them, don't ride their @$$, and don't play racer-boy, either. Find your own group, and leave theirs alone.
Wellgo pedals, as I have said before, are worse than no pedal at all. They break easily, but don't want to let you go. Get rid of them as soon as possible.
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Old 09-05-01, 07:15 AM
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Riding close enough to slipstream takes some skill. If the front rider has to take evasive action to avoid a hazard, its quite possible for the rear rider to collide. Rear riders need to keep a lookout for themselves. It really is not something for novice riders to try, and if a newbie tried riding that close to me, I would get annoyed. Considering that you are still at the falling off stage of riding, this is way too advanced.
There is more to riding than simply going fast. Try some slow riding to improve your handling. You should be able to bunny hop, track stand, emergency stops, precision steering, slalom. The cool down period at the end of a ride is a good time to play with technique.
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Old 09-05-01, 01:22 PM
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The best thing to do when you come up to a group you want to draft is to ask "do you guys mind if I draft/hitch a ride/follow along?" It might also be worth your while to mention that your a novice and that you're still learning about pacelines and stuff. You MIGHT offer to pull [lead the paceline], but this can be tricky if you've never done it before and you don't know the hand signals.

Most of the time, if they know you're new to the sport and you don't draft too close [too close for most people would be within one foot], they'll let you hang with them for a while. It doesn't bother me, by the way, when I pick up passengers on a ride. It's not like it means extra work for me, and if it lets people have a good ride, then why not?

Having said all of that, NEVER attack on a rider or riders you don't know, ESPECIALLY after hitching a free ride. That's like sitting down at someone's table AND trying to eat his dessert.
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Old 09-06-01, 04:05 PM
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Just to clarify: The group that I ended up drafting was actually one which was drafting behind me initially. So when they passed by and I ended up following them, they were actually great. Eventually, some of those guys petered out and the last person I continued to follow was a great guy that I had a nice conversation with.

My problem came when I simply happened upon another rider on my way back. Though I stayed about 10 to 20 feet behind him at all times and tried not to interupt his ride, he seemed particularly annoyed that he couldn't lose me (I was following my own routine at the time). Eventually, out of simple courtesy, I mentioned that I hoped he didn't mind me behind him. He grumbled reply was enough for me to slow down significantly just so he could get way ahead -- since we were riding at near the same pace -- we didn't lock horns again.

I have yet to race anybody, but I'll let you know if I do.
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