For anyone accustomed to solo activities, the idea of jumping in on group ones can be a bit daunting. The uncertainty of the routine, the rules, the people … it can be a lot to take in. Solo-cyclists—who are used to riding their own routes and to their own routines—might feel the same way about their first group ride. If this is you, don’t fret! Here’s what solo-cyclists should know before their first group ride.
Pacing Yourself is Key
It’s not a race. Don’t feel like you need to show off by remaining in the lead longer than you’re able. If you’re starting to struggle—even if it’s only been less than a minute—peel off and position yourself at the back. If you feel the front is not your cup of tea, allow riders peeling off from the front to position themselves in front of you in the pace line. Jump back in at some point if you feel like trying again, but remember: it’s your first group ride. Work your way up to maintaing that lead position instead of burning out trying to maintain it on your first try.
Plan Ahead of Time
It never hurts to do your research or reach out with questions. Many local groups have websites or social media accounts where they post information, updates, and contact options. Inquire about anything from the planned route to the ride schedule to the type of ride it is. If you let them know it’s your first time, they may even provide some insight on how to navigate their groups’ system. This could also easily help determine which groups you might be better suited for than others.
Understand Group Ride Positioning
If you’re in a group ride that has riders riding in a single line, make sure you’ve practiced how to hold a line. This means you know how to ride parallel with the road. In group rides that have riders in two lines, make sure you are always riding side by side with the rider next to you. Your handlebars should align with theirs and you should never attempt to half-wheel them. It’s annoying and unsafe. This practice ensures that you and every other rider in the group has enough room to move, and can easily communicate with one another.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Always stay attentive for the sake of you and your group. Riders at the front can clearly see what’s up ahead and should signal any obstacles to the rest of the group. Riders at the back are the first to sense what is coming at them from behind and should communicate such to the group ahead. Environmental factors outside the group are not the only things to be mindful of. Pay attention to what’s happening within the group, so you can react properly. If a gap forms within the pace line, fill it. If the rider in front of you quickly steers around a pothole, you’ll know to do so too. If the front rider in your line is peeling off to come to the back, either pull through or give them space to get in front of you.
Knowing a few of the rules to group riding will not only help to relieve anxiety, but also help keep you and your fellow group riders safe. Don’t worry about being the newbie. Be proud of yourself for getting out there and challenging yourself to a change of pace. Happy riding!