This weekend I went on my second ever group ride, and I was a little nervous about it. My first group ride was about a month and a half ago and was a really great experience that I had been meaning to replicate sooner but hadn’t really had the chance. I was excited to go knowing that Tori would be there, because it’s always nice to have a buddy in approaching a new situation. She woke up pretty sick Saturday morning and couldn’t make it (I knew she must have felt really yucky because we’ve met up countless times and she’s never as much as been late), but I decided to go anyways.
I knew a few members of the group, so it wasn’t like I was approaching as a complete stranger, but I also knew they ride a little faster than I normally do on the trail and was nervous that I’d be holding them back if I couldn’t keep up. When I pulled up to the Suncoast Trail and saw a few additional familiar faces that I didn’t realize were going to be there I was even less nervous!
I stepped my foot up on my bike, clipped in a little too hard and pushed myself right over. Oh no. There I was trying not to look like a newbie and I’d just fallen over in the parking lot before we even got started. I just called a spade a spade, got up, and brushed it off. I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
As we got going, Pete, the organizer of the group, told me where to place myself in the draft line. We were riding 2 wide and 5 long with one extra on one side. I was on the left side towards the center of the trail riding behind Brad. The first ten miles flew by. I can’t even explain it. I was chatting with Stephanie about her trip to Alaska, our swimming backgrounds, and both of our goal race at Rev3 in November.
As we came up to the first major intersection, my nerves kicked in. My lack of clipless pedal confidence got me a little bit on the second half of the trail where there are a few intersections. I ended up riding the second ten miles at the back of the line chatting with Brad. He was super helpful in telling me to drop a gear and pedal faster around turns to maintain control, helping me understand how to approach intersections and the clipping/unclipping mentality, and suggesting volunteering or spectating Ironman Florida to keep up excitement for my own big fall race.
And before we knew it, we were at the Anderson Snow turn around! I’d ridden with the group without getting dropped or falling behind! We averaged about 18-19 for most of the ride up there, but with the drafting it didn’t feel like we were going as fast. I’d fall a little behind at the intersections, but then I’d pedal harder and catch up again.
Chris, Brad, me, Stephanie
My bike, the poor kid in the group of super enviable triathlon bikes
The rest of the group was continuing on to ride 75 miles for the day, but Kari and I turned around to head back to the start. I didn’t want to press my luck in holding a pace faster than I’m used to. The ride back we pulled back a little, but we still held a pretty solid pace. I enjoyed chatting with Kari, whom I’d never really had a chance to talk to before. She’s training for Ironman 70.3 Augusta.
me and Kari
We ended up riding 41.5 miles at 17.5 mph pace. I’m very happy with the pace and distance on that one. And, I was feeling good enough to throw on my running shoes and head off for 3.1 miles. With an International distance triathlon coming up next weekend I needed to get in a good brick.
I figured after two fun and educational group rides I could share with you what I’ve learned from joining a group to ride. I’m obviously not that experienced, but I think it also helps me to write it all down as I learn it. Here are my tips:
1. Find a group that rides around your pace. Make sure their average is no more than 1-2 miles per hour faster than you’d be comfortable averaging, because you don’t want to feel like you’re holding anyone back. You can find groups through cycling stores, googling, and talking with other friends who ride in your area.
2. Contact the leader of the group prior to joining to make sure their info is accurate and you’d be welcome to join. If you’re unsure of their pace, this would also be the time to ask. You don’t want to find yourself in a too slow or too fast group.
3. Ask for help! I made sure to ask two people I was comfortable with to tell me if I was doing anything wrong. At one point Pete told me I needed to get a little closer to the person next to me, which I appreciated, because I knew he wasn’t uncomfortable making suggestions.
4. Ride on the person in front of you’s wheel. Part of the advantage of joining a group ride is the drafting aspect. Tori’s fiance, Patrick, told me that drafting reduces your effort up to 30%, so definitely take advantage of it. You’ll feel it as soon as you’re on their wheel close enough. It’s a little nerve wracking at first, but once you start to do it more frequently you’ll get more comfortable maintaining a consistent speed.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! If the group advertises their rides or sends out weekly emails, they’re a welcoming group. I’ve found that the triathletes I’ve met this way are more than willing to help me in any way they can. Don’t know something specific, just ask! I think that’s the better option to continuing not to know.
6. If you’re passing someone, be clear by loudly saying, “passing on your left!” or something of that nature. Even if others are doing it, I found that multiple people in the group would say it to ensure the people we were passing realized there was a large group coming. It kept them from veering out in front of us.
7. At intersections, everyone looks out for each other by saying “clear left, clear right” if there are no cars coming. If there are cars, they say, “braking!” and that means they’ll be coming to a complete stop. If they’re going to go without stopping because traffic is clear, they’ll sometimes say, “rolling!”
8. When slowing down, put your hand flat and facing out on your lower back to let the people behind you know you’re slowing. This will ensure the people behind you start to slow as well. When an intersection is coming, slowing will usually happen, but it’s still important to do it so that there are no accidents.
9. When riding in a draft line, don’t use your brakes to slow yourself. If you get too close to the person in front of you, don’t brake or you’ll cause the person behind you to run into you. Just pull slightly to the left to get out of the draft and the wind will slow you. You don’t even have to go 2 feet to the left before you feel yourself slowing. Then you can veer right back to the draft line to keep riding that way.
10. Remember there’s someone on your wheel too! As you’re watching the person in front of you, so too is someone riding your wheel and watching you. Think of what you wouldn’t want the person in front of you to do, and don’t do that!
Those are my very beginner tips. I know there’s more to know, and I’m no expert. These are just the things I’ve learned in my couple of group rides and drafting rides.
Anyone else have any tips for meeting up with a group and riding in a draft line?
Do you do group rides with drafting to gain strength?
Have you ever met up with a running or riding group without knowing anyone (I wouldn’t consider this not knowing anyone, so I’d say I haven’t)?