The Coffee Ride: The Art of the Group Ride

Crystal Mountain Cyclocross 2013 154 The time is upon us when group bicycle rides are back, and back in a big way. We've put together some tips to keep the ride fun, inviting and happy. How happy? Really gosh darn happy.

Before the Ride. Posting rides on social media has become the norm, although Ec maintains weekly rides that leave at the same time, on the same route, that run most of the year. Know what you are getting into, and make it clear. If you are posting a route, make an effort to make the speed, distance and difficulty easy for people to identify. If you are looking to join up, understand the plan and realize not every ride is for you. Conversely, if you want to get faster, show up and see how long you can hang.

If the ride is supposed to be 16-18mph, stick to it. You're not being a hero by sitting on the front at 23mph. You're being a tool sack. If you're off the back rolling out of the parking lot and the group is going the speed they promised, chill down. You'll get there one day, gipper. You're just not there yet.

Many group rides will split into A and B groups. If you haven't done the ride before, do the B group, learn the route, and see where you fit in. There is no shame in getting dropped. It's far worse to be the guy disobeying the speeds and conditions of the ride.

The biggest, most important group ride rule of all time is this: BE ON TIME. If the ride leaves at 1pm, don't show up at 1pm in your normal clothes and think you're ready. Depart time means folks are rolling at 1pm, not waiting for you. A good rule of thumb is to give yourself ten minutes, at least, especially if you need to do anything to your bike. Giving yourself more time reduces stress, lets you go over your bike and gear, and meet some new folks before rolling out. It's okay to be a touch late on occasion, but being repeatedly tardy won't win you any sympathy. Being on time shows respect to the people you are riding with. Earn that respect yourself.

On The Ride.

This is a whole deal, and there's no way to include every situation that could come up.  Some basic etiquette includes:

-No half-wheeling. This is when you ride next to someone, but always put half a wheel ahead, causing them to go faster to keep up, then you faster to stay there. It's one of the small, annoying things more experienced riders don't like. Just ride level on with someone. A good rule of thumb is to keep your elbows level to the person next to you.

-Don't overlap wheels. When riding behind someone, keep your front wheel behind the person ahead of the rear wheel ahead of you. Even if you're riding to one side to get the most of their draft in a crosswind, don't put your wheel level. If they move over, your front wheel is going to turn and you're going to crash. They might not even notice your carcass sliding across the asphalt behind them.

-Stay steady. When in a group, and more specifically in a pace line, stay as steady and predictable as possible. Maintain the same space to other riders as much as possible, maintain the same speed as closely as you can, and announce when standing, turning or stopping.

-Mechanical stops. If another rider has a flat or mechanical, always stop and make sure they have everything they need. In most group rides, the bulk of the group will either stop and wait, or circle back. Make sure your repairs are made safely off the road or trail. Even if the rider thinks they have everything, it's a good idea to wait and make sure they have all the tools they need.

There are a lot of small little things,and the best way to learn how to ride in a group is to keep showing up, keep talking, and ask around. Most riders, especially the handsome folks from Einstein Racing, are more than happy to give you some pointers.

After The Ride

Closure. It's all about closure. Stop with the group and always thank everyone for a great ride.

If you were dropped, it's sometimes nice to call or text others in the group. Usually, however, most groups make an effort to either stay together, or drop another ride to make sure everyone gets safely. That's what really matters.