Saturday, July 17, 2010

A lightbulb goes off over the helmet

 The "cockpit" of the Bianchi

Since my bike training focuses primarily on triathlon (e.g. me riding alone going as fast as I can), and I have only been seriously riding a bike for a year anyway, I've never taken part in a group ride.  In fact I've never ridden with another rider.  It's something I keep meaning to do, but I just haven't looked into the local cycling clubs or OC Tri Club rides yet.

Today I was riding south on the Santa Ana River trail, and was about 18 miles into a 30 mile ride.  I was about 3 miles from PCH, where I would then turn northwest for home.  While pedaling along, I overtook a rider in full kit about 100 yards before the trail becomes a "slow zone" and takes a narrow bridge across the river.  Since we where both approaching the bridge, I stayed about 30 feet off his wheel as we crossed.

On the other side, the trail opens up again, and I got ready to pass him.  I'm kind of weird about passing on training rides - I hate being "that guy" and just blowing by people, preferring to overtake slowly and exchange a few words before shooting off.  But I'm not used to the Bianchi's stiffness yet, and when I pushed down, I accelerated faster than I meant to.

I was a little embarrassed, but this was totally missed by the other guy.  I must have inadvertently issued an unspoken pacing challenge known only to pure cyclists, because suddenly he was on my wheel.  I'd like to think I know the basic principles involved with leading and drafting.  But finding myself suddenly in the fog of war, I really had no idea what to do.

After about half a mile, the guy pulls up next to me with a huge smile on his face and said "My turn, stay on my wheel", and shot off.  So I hit it hard, and once I was about 6 inches off the back of his wheel, I fell into his slipstream.  It took a lot of concentration to stay there, but when I looked down at my computer I saw I was going 25 MPH on an effort I'd usually need for 19-20 on my own.

We went another half mile but had no idea what to do next - Do I wait for him to drop off, or do I take over?  I decided that if the tables where turned, an etiquette infraction involving an unsolicited take-over would be less annoying than leaving me to do all the work.  So I pulled ahead and he didn't seem to mind.

We went back and forth a few times until we hit PCH.  We chatted for a minute and it turned out he was headed my way, at least for a few more miles.  So we took turns pulling and drafting until his turn off.

The light was red where he was turning, so we both stopped.  He said that it had been a great ride and thanked me.  However, I still exercised my "get out of jail free card" (just in case I had totally blew it) and said "No, thank you.  I'm a Triathlete, so I never really get to do that."

He smiled as the light changed.  As he started to turn, he looked over his shoulder and yelled "Why don't you check out the OC Velo website?  We have a bunch of group rides every week.  There are ________ great riders in the group".  And with that he was off.

Note the blank space.  It's meant for the word(s) I missed because a truck was going by.  I think he either said "a lot of", which could possibly suggest that I showed potential but still had much to learn, or he said "other", which could possibly suggest that I had passed muster.

But either way I got the invite, so I'll definitely have to check these guys out.  I'd love to see first hand how this all works in a bigger group.


Barbie said...

I think you definately passed the test and that was an open invitation for you to join. Go for it. I joined the local cycling club so I could learn about drafting and cornering and heaps of other stuff. A definate must do. said...
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KovasP said...

I've been meaning to look into riding with a group - they all start so much later than I ride that I'm worried I won't ride at all if I wait. Definitely something to try next year.

Tri-James said...

Group riding is great – if – if you can keep your cool and ride your own ride. There are no drop rides and fast rides (races). They are a lot of fun but any training plan goes out the window. You might have wanted a recovery ride or a tempo ride but you are now taking hard pulls and hanging on to the wheel for dear life.

But – they are a lot of fun!

RockStarTri said...

+1 on TJ.

There are many types of group rides. Some are hammerfests while others are more casual. I find that a good group makes me work harder than I would on my own. Finding the right one is key and there will be some trial and error in finding the right group.

I think they should be a regular component of your training.

Caratunk Girl said...

I think you passed muster for sure.

I would love to do a group ride that pushes me harder than I do myself, but and terrified of the pace line.

Let us know how it goes!

DRog said...

LOL this pretty much describes how it would have gone for me as I am truly a cyclist idiot and dont know the unwritten rules at all

Lucas R. Tucker said...

Took my first group ride this week, but it was with people training for a traithlon so I don't think it counted. It motivated me and now I'm planning to try to make the group ride with normal cyclists every monday. Anythign to improve.

ajh said...

Sounds like a great ride. You passed the test just fine!

Unknown said...

+3 on what James said! So true! Especially when you get a bunch of guys, that pack mentality sets in and it is eat or be eaten! In the last 4 weeks I have seen a pretty substantial increase in my bike fitness and I attribute a lot of it to the the fact that I have been doing 1-2 group rides a week. Check out that website and go do a few rides, you'll see the results quickly!

valen said...

Def. must do, but don't buy the lot. Get to know them and use the rides according to your planned workouts. Most times is steady pace and races are great fun. NOTE:
they'll appreciate you're a triathlete and let you do a lot of work just to trash you in the last 10km LOL.

Aimee said...

I've never ridden in a group either, so I would have been totally clueless as to what to do, but it sounds like you did exactly what you should have! That must have been a great ride! I would definitely check out the group! If anything, it would be a nice change from just doing a tri training ride.

Big Clyde said...

I've also never ridden in a group, but don't feel up to it yet. My heavy training months are coming up, so I may get there by October.

Glad you did so well.

Bryan S said...

Ha,this sounds all too familiar to this newbie as well. I had a guy draft last week and it freaked me out. It will definitely take some getting used to for sure.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Pulling courtesy is either the leader drops back or the leader drops in speed then you can take over. Group rides are the best, makes the miles go by fast. Consisent speed is the name of the game. You should def go and have some fun.


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