cycling

It takes all kinds: Riding with people who are fitter, faster, slower, smaller, bigger, stronger

frogsI think this year might be the year when I’ve ridden with people with the widest range of cycling background, speed, and ability. One day, I’m first up the hill. (Yes, me! First up a hill. I would have won the chocolate frog if this were Australia and there was a novice training ride leader giving out chocolate frogs at the top of the hill. I miss chocolate frogs.)  The next, I’m the one everyone is waiting for.

I recommend riding with other people. You learn a lot. You should always ride with the fastest people willing to have you along. And to pay it back, you should be willing to ride with beginning cyclists some of the time. People come in lots of different speeds and sizes. Get to know them all.

For more on this theme, read Things you learn from working out with others.

So from the point of view of being the fastest and the slowest, here’s some advice on riding well with the others:

Dear slower riders: If people up ahead are waiting for you, look like you are working hard to catch up. What does this mean? Don’t sit up, head into the wind, pedaling slowly. It should be apparent to the people who are coasting ahead of you, or soft pedaling patiently, that you are putting effort into closing the gap. Assume an aggressive posture, pedal fast, and try to bridge the distance between you and them. It’s okay to fake it a little bit so you don’t arrive on the back of the group so toasted you can’t keep up again. The main thing is to look like you’re trying to go fast.

Also, draft! The easiest way for faster and slower riders to ride together is for the slower riders to draft. Not drafting means the speed gap between you and your fast friend just got even wider. If you are drafting and you feel good, don’t get all frisky and come out from behind and blast by the lead rider. That’s rude as they’ve been moderating their speed for you. You don’t want to play a “see who can go faster” game with friends who are clearly faster than you. Also, if you feel yourself losing the draft, dropping off the back, let the person know. “Ease up,” works well in that context.

Dear faster riders: When the person catches up and gasps “I’m on” or “Here” don’t blast off at the same pace that resulted them being dropped in the first place. You’ve been resting, chatting, recovering and they’ve been working hard, see above. The slower person winded and the faster people rested isn’t usually the best combination. Though you’re happy we can start riding again, get back to speed gradually. Stop worrying that your Garmin isn’t stopped while you’re waiting and that lollygagging around waiting is counting towards your average speed for the ride. Relax and enjoy the ride.

Also, when slower riders are drafting, keep an eye on them, and moderate your speed as needed.

Some advice for faster downhill riders who like to assume an aero position, like pedaling in a big gear, and love blasting down hills (okay, that’s me): Get to the front of the group early. Don’t zoom by all the other riders and frighten new people. It’s hard to hear cars behind you when you’re whistling down the hill. Best to be as far right (or left, depending on where you live) as possible.

Some advice for slower downhill riders: If you’re at the front, pedal. No one wants to be braking behind you.

Uphill for everyone: If you’re going to weave around to avoid stopping and unclipping, shoulder check. For God’s sake, shoulder check. If you’re going to switch to standing and there are people right behind you, be sure to shift to a harder gear before you stand.

Here’s the drill on why:

Remember that if you are in a group, you need to consciously protect those behind you when you stand to climb. How you stand on a hill is very important – do it wrong and the guy behind might suddenly be on the pavement. The issue is the brief deceleration that can occur as you change from sitting to standing incorrectly, which, relative to other riders has the effect of sending your bike backwards and can cause the following rider’s front wheel to hit your rear wheel.

On short, rolling hills, the trick is to click to the next higher gear (smaller cog), then stand and pedal over the top with a slightly slower cadence. This keeps quads from loading up with lactate because it helps you pedal with body weight. In fact, it can actually feel like you’re stretching and refreshing your legs.

The correct way to stand:

  • It is good etiquette to announce “Standing!” a couple of pedal strokes before you do so.
  • Stand smoothly as one foot begins its downward power stroke – don’t lunge, keep your effort constant.
  • As you come off the saddle, push your hands forward a bit. This helps to ensure that the bike won’t lose ground.
  • When returning to the saddle, continue pedaling evenly and again push your hands forward to counteract any tendency to decelerate. This will gain several inches and put the seat right under you.

You can practice your technique with a friend during a training ride. They can ride behind and let you know when you’ve got the hang to it. That’s when the gap between their front wheel and your rear wheel doesn’t narrow each time you stand or sit.”

from Hills/Climbing Tips

Our speeds, experience, and backgrounds vary a lot. I loved this article on how Tour de France cyclists differ from the average club level riding/racing enthusiast. Check out those speeds uphill.

But I love the idea that at least some of the time we can all ride together.

Giro d'Italia 2013
http://roadcyclinguk.com/news/giro-ditalia-2013-stage-21-photo-gallery.html

 

5 thoughts on “It takes all kinds: Riding with people who are fitter, faster, slower, smaller, bigger, stronger

  1. I’d add: if you are a faster rider keeping a slower rider company uphill, try to be aware if they want you chit-chatting at them while they huff and puff. Some people find it makes the hill climbing go by faster. I, on the other hand, can’t hear them very well above the blood roaring in my ears, and have to either sit up and go even slower to look at them (to hear better/lipread a bit) and then get enough breath to gasp out a reply, or I have to ignore them.

    Either way, I feel very rude on top of already being frustrated at being slow — either I’m slowing them down more, or I’m giving them the cold shoulder.

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  2. GREAT Article. Love it. Do you know anyone wanting to join me on taking on a challenge? Planning to ride more during the TDF! And hopefully there will be many more around the world joining me which which means we can “all ride together!” Probably be the biggest peloton in the world!

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  3. Loved this, Sam! Really good advice – all things I’ve learned in the last year, in fact, and which have really helped me.

    Another tip for beginners: if you’re riding alone in an area where there are a lot of other riders alone and in groups (for example, here in London, Richmond Park is a cyclist’s haven in summer, with everyone out for training rides all week long), feel free to ask riders in your aspirational speed zone if you can tag along with them for a bit. They may say no – don’t take this personally, as they may be doing a very precise training set that does not benefit from a group and you’d just be a liability. But often they will say yes. Asking is far better than just hooking on: if you draft me without asking for several kilometres I’ll be inclined to think you’re just being a bit of a jerk. By the same token, if you do ask and if you make clear that you’re trying to learn to get faster, you might get some free tips, and you won’t be expected to lead out at some point. You can just hang on the wheel until you don’t want to any more. (Just be sure to say thanks when you drop off!)

    And guys: if a woman who looks like she knows what she’s about passes you – and *especially* if it’s clear she’s not at her max as she does – do not get offended and try immediately to pass her again. Perhaps she’s just a stronger and more experienced cyclist. It’s not about you.

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