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

Group Riding Class

Old 08-03-11, 07:57 AM
  #1  
IcySmooth52
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Group Riding Class

I'm planning a group riding class through my work (a bike shop), and just wanted some feedback and ideas on what to cover. Here's the topics I have:
  • Hand signals
    -calling "car back" and such as well
  • Drafting
    -how to
    -getting use to riding so close
  • Group riding etiquette
    -don't overlap wheels
  • Traffic
    -follow the laws
  • Keeping a good cadence
    -how and why it helps
  • Leading the paceline
    -keeping a steady pace
    -how to go to the back

Tools for helping to get the point across would help. (Like the one below)

Last edited by IcySmooth52; 08-03-11 at 08:42 AM.
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Old 08-03-11, 09:56 AM
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Inertianinja
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here's some ideas, based on all the rules i've violated:

- tell them to drink water after they've come off the line and are heading back
- tell them to set a policy that they will always pass other riders on the right, left, etc so the pack doesn't shatter every time there's someone else in the road.-
- give them some measurable way to keep pace. constant pedal pressure, constant perceived effort, etc.
- make sure they know not to speed up or slow down too much at hills so the pack stays together
- try having the last person yell "rotate" when they reach the back so the next guy knows to go.

also, yelling out hazards is great, but i find that when i ride with non-racers, they tend to OVER-call at the beginning of the ride (which is annoying) and then not call out things towards the end when they get tired.
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Old 08-03-11, 10:17 AM
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I think basic skills are also a part of group riding. So you could go over how to turn properly (hands on drops, weight on outside foot, inside hand, etc), not swerving around botts dots/potholes/reflectors in the road, bumping, etc etc.
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Old 08-03-11, 04:13 PM
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Holding a line (davids0507 touched on this).
Bent elbows, relaxed.
Double file as opposed to group? Your decision.
Verbal shorthand as opposed to taking hands off the bars ("Car up/back", "stopping/slowing", "right side"-for objects on right, etc...)

The paceline info might be more for after they have "mastered" the basics. (A multi-meeting class?)

I cover alot of this in my series on group riding. Here's the 1st of 7 posts.
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Old 08-04-11, 01:27 AM
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I wouldn't get into the double-paceline stuff until you're sure they've all mastered "car back".
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Old 08-04-11, 01:37 AM
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I'm new to group riding, and I know all of the basics mentioned here except for "car back." Could someone explain this to me?
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Old 08-04-11, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by brothersbutler View Post
I'm new to group riding, and I know all of the basics mentioned here except for "car back." Could someone explain this to me?
First rider to notice a car approaching the group from behind yells, "Car back!" (If the car is approaching from the front, it's "Car up!") Just an alert system really, so nobody does anything stupid and they get over to the right to let the car pass. I use it when walking with my wife & kids and they all know it, too.
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Old 08-04-11, 06:35 AM
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Sometimes I think riders jump into the group ride thing too early. First thing to master is following a wheel. I'd pair people up and have them ride in pairs for the first ride. Rotate the lead rider every minute or so. Get used to riding behind a wheel closely. Then maybe groups of four riders and have them work together, keeping a tight paceline.

Then throw them all together and watch the mayhem. Just kidding. But learning in small groups is a lot easier. Also working on basic skills riding. Have everyone ride on the white line on the road, keeping the bike moving in a straight line. Set cones up in a parking lot and work on cornering and quick handling moves. Work your way up to bunny hops and other manuevers.
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Old 08-04-11, 07:41 AM
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I also suggest holding paceline skills until a "level 2" class. Make sure drafting includes splitting your attention between looking up the road and the back of the rider in front of you, but not at the tire in front of you. Make sure signals include an open hand behind your back for "slowing" and a closed fist behind your back for "stopping", and doing those signals with the right hand so you're operating the stronger brake while doing it. Raise your hand high when you have a mechanical so everyone knows to go around you (and teammates or the group know to wait, if applicable).

Also covering all or most of these skills featured in Josh Horowitz's class before setting them loose on the road would be a good idea.
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Old 08-04-11, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by big chainring View Post
Sometimes I think riders jump into the group ride thing too early. First thing to master is following a wheel. I'd pair people up and have them ride in pairs for the first ride. Rotate the lead rider every minute or so. Get used to riding behind a wheel closely. Then maybe groups of four riders and have them work together, keeping a tight paceline.
I really like this idea. I already run a low level group ride, and notice simply riding so close behind another is what people have the hardest time with.
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Old 08-04-11, 08:56 AM
  #11  
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question.... you say not to swerve to miss pot holes, and such, so what do you do ?
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Old 08-04-11, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by branstone View Post
question.... you say not to swerve to miss pot holes, and such, so what do you do ?
  • 1st, try to see obstacles down the road so you can maneuver predictably around them (point them out to those who are following behind), negating any need for suddenly swerving. Don't stare at the rider in front of you. Watch down the road 3-5 riders or more. If you see a bunch of them moving en masse, you know there's something headed your way.
  • 2nd, if you don't see it until the last second, it's okay to swerve ONLY IF you know you have the room to do so AND you won't hit someone else, or upset their balance. This has largely to do with their group riding experience, a subjective measure--especially if you don't know them--to be sure. The dynamics of the group can fill in your assumptions about the abilities of those around you. If it's a beginner's ride, swerving would be a big no-no unless there's nobody around you for 5-10 yards or more. Your violation of their comfort zone could cause them to freak out, lose control & crash. If it's an advanced training ride, those around you should be able to handle it.
  • 3rd, if you are in an advanced group, it should be safe to assume you're advanced as well, so bunny-hop it.
  • 4th, if all else fails, take the weight off your saddle as much as you can and ride through it. I know I wouldn't want to be the one who took out a current/former world or Olympic champion or broke some pro's collarbone the week before a big ride just because I swerved into them.
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Old 08-04-11, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by mkadam68 View Post
First rider to notice a car approaching the group from behind yells, "Car back!" (If the car is approaching from the front, it's "Car up!") Just an alert system really, so nobody does anything stupid and they get over to the right to let the car pass. I use it when walking with my wife & kids and they all know it, too.
Oh, that's pretty self explanatory. Thanks!
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Old 08-04-11, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by mkadam68 View Post
  • 1st, try to see obstacles down the road so you can maneuver predictably around them (point them out to those who are following behind), negating any need for suddenly swerving. Don't stare at the rider in front of you. Watch down the road 3-5 riders or more. If you see a bunch of them moving en masse, you know there's something headed your way.
  • 2nd, if you don't see it until the last second, it's okay to swerve ONLY IF you know you have the room to do so AND you won't hit someone else, or upset their balance. This has largely to do with their group riding experience, a subjective measure--especially if you don't know them--to be sure. The dynamics of the group can fill in your assumptions about the abilities of those around you. If it's a beginner's ride, swerving would be a big no-no unless there's nobody around you for 5-10 yards or more. Your violation of their comfort zone could cause them to freak out, lose control & crash. If it's an advanced training ride, those around you should be able to handle it.
  • 3rd, if you are in an advanced group, it should be safe to assume you're advanced as well, so bunny-hop it.
  • 4th, if all else fails, take the weight off your saddle as much as you can and ride through it. I know I wouldn't want to be the one who took out a current/former world or Olympic champion or broke some pro's collarbone the week before a big ride just because I swerved into them.

Yeah, pretty much what he said.

Personally, I worry a lot about taking out the guy behind me, so #2 is rarely an option unless I'm last in the group or the group is small -- although of course it depends on the warning and amount of swerving required...

Also, I'm not good at bunny hopping.

Therefore, I aim for #1, and if that fails, I do #4. Better to risk a flat than to risk taking out the guy behind you. I don't think I've ever gotten a pinch flat with a well-inflated tire, even on some pretty gnarly potholes (I'm 145# fwiw). Also, botts dots and reflectors in the road are *meant* to be ridden or driven over -- so there's really no excuse for swerving wildly to avoid them (of course riding over them is uncomfortable, but it's also safer). I once damaged a rim by turning sharply while riding through a pothole or exposed piece of railway (it was in the middle of a corner), so remember that it's better to go straight through it if you can. Anyhow, I would rather buy ten new wheels than send someone to the hospital once.
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Old 08-04-11, 10:50 AM
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The one thing I notice and I'll add is sometimes, usually when someone new joins a group and they want to make a good impression, they'll take longer turns at the front. I have no problem with that as long as you keep up the speed. I tell people that if everyone is taking 30 seconds and you can only hold the speed for 20, get out at 20, I'd rather you take a shorter turn and hold the speed than try to stay for the same time as others and let the speed drop.
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Old 08-04-11, 10:51 AM
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Tell then don't stop pedaling keep a constant cadence and don't make any sudden moves like standing up in the saddle.
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Old 08-04-11, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by mkadam68 View Post
First rider to notice a car approaching the group from behind yells, "Car back!" (If the car is approaching from the front, it's "Car up!")
Seriously? Is it really necessary to know every single time a car is coming up from behind? If we begin with the premise that all the riders in the group are competent to ride as far to the right as practicable and can keep a straight line, what's to be gained by announcing every single car that passes? If the riders aren't competent in those skills, maybe the answer is to improve those skills rather than hearing about every single car that happens to come by.

I'm not saying there aren't some circumstances where it helps to know what's behind, but I find it really isn't necessary to know about every single car that might be on the road. After all, we can all recognize when we are riding on roads open to traffic and can safely assume the presence of cars at some time.
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Old 08-04-11, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
Seriously? Is it really necessary to know every single time a car is coming up from behind? If we begin with the premise that all the riders in the group are competent to ride as far to the right as practicable and can keep a straight line, what's to be gained by announcing every single car that passes? If the riders aren't competent in those skills, maybe the answer is to improve those skills rather than hearing about every single car that happens to come by.

I'm not saying there aren't some circumstances where it helps to know what's behind, but I find it really isn't necessary to know about every single car that might be on the road. After all, we can all recognize when we are riding on roads open to traffic and can safely assume the presence of cars at some time.
Oh, it definitely gets annoying. You're right: it doesn't always need to be said, especially as you go up the ladder of rider experience. On the group training rides I do (with occasional world & olympic champions, and professionals--very experienced riders), I only ever let them know a car is back if it's a very narrow road and the car is passing very close by.

This would be where situational awareness comes in. What it comes down to: is the car's presence a credible threat to the safety of any riders in the group? Yes? Then the others need to know about it. Some considerations I run through before announcing, "Car back!":
  • Is the group a bunch of new riders who might be startled by the presence of a motor vehicle?
  • Is the group all over the place, swelling up and covering the whole road and then narrowing back down? Or consistently riding double file?
  • Is the roadway narrow where the car passes the group so closely that it would run over someone if they were to swerve just a foot or two to their left?
  • Is there one rider who currently is sitting out in the middle of the road away from the group?
  • Is it an isolated road where traffic is minimal? A car suddenly appearing might not be expected.
  • Is it a training ride where sudden movements out into traffic can be expected by someone?

Also, if it's a big group, I might say "Car back" much more loudly than if it's just 3-6 of my friends, where I say it at conversational volume.
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Old 08-04-11, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by mkadam68 View Post
Oh, it definitely gets annoying. You're right: it doesn't always need to be said, especially as you go up the ladder of rider experience. On the group training rides I do (with occasional world & olympic champions, and professionals--very experienced riders), I only ever let them know a car is back if it's a very narrow road and the car is passing very close by.

This would be where situational awareness comes in. What it comes down to: is the car's presence a credible threat to the safety of any riders in the group? Yes? Then the others need to know about it. Some considerations I run through before announcing, "Car back!":
  • Is the group a bunch of new riders who might be startled by the presence of a motor vehicle?
  • Is the group all over the place, swelling up and covering the whole road and then narrowing back down? Or consistently riding double file?
  • Is the roadway narrow where the car passes the group so closely that it would run over someone if they were to swerve just a foot or two to their left?
  • Is there one rider who currently is sitting out in the middle of the road away from the group?
  • Is it an isolated road where traffic is minimal? A car suddenly appearing might not be expected.
  • Is it a training ride where sudden movements out into traffic can be expected by someone?

Also, if it's a big group, I might say "Car back" much more loudly than if it's just 3-6 of my friends, where I say it at conversational volume.
That's what needs to taught to new riders. They should be taught to develop into the type of riders who hardly ever announce or need to be told "car back". Lately though, I've ridden with a significant number of people who do believe it's their duty to announce every appearance of a car no matter how far back and also to pass the word up the line even when it should be obvious that everyone's already heard.
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Old 08-04-11, 12:10 PM
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i didn't read every response but these things erked me on the group ride i was in 2 nights ago:

- HOLD. YOUR. LINE. if there's a little bump/crack/hole then sure, move around it in a CONTROLLED fashion. but if you're in a 2 abreast pack that's going at a fairly aggressive pace and people are rotating out DO NOT swerve drastically to avoid tiny road imperfections!!!! there was a dude who did this to avoid what was just a ~8" wide hole that was only 1/2" deep! he nearly took out 10 people and pissed off the entire group. idiot.

- know when and where sprint points are if you plan on joining in on them. if you don't plan on participating then GTFO the way! stay to the rear. furthermore, if you'd like to participate but KNOW that you have no realistic chance of winning then stay to rear of the sprinting pack, HOLD YOUR LINE, and control your out of the saddle effort!
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