Saturday, September 03, 2011

Training - Art of the Group Ride (Link and Commentary)

This is an interesting post on group riding. Pay particular attention to the list of things a rider learns in a new group.

I'm guilty of one thing for sure - I let the group dictate what I do. I haven't led a group ride in forever, probably since the mid 90s, and because I'm not the leader, I don't dole out advice.


A long time ago a friend (who rides) told me not to offer advice unheeded. Such riders look like arrogant bastards, especially when offering advice to what ends up being much more experienced riders. It can be humiliating at worst, uncomfortable at best.

I kept my mouth shut on other rides unless I saw something so blatantly unsafe that I had to say something.

And, eventually, I learned what it was like to be on the receiving end.

I got shelled from a ride in late 2003 or early 2004, one of the last times I did the Gimbles ride. My mom had just passed away so I hadn't been riding much. I was about 210-215 pounds (on my 5'7" frame), hadn't ridden more than a day every week or two for the past year and change, and generally resembled a brand new, trying-to-lose-weight rider.

I was at the back, groveling, trying to make it up one of the slight grades on the ride. For those that do the ride it's the left turn going onto 120, before the first sprint. You'll know then too that the grade I'm describing is a short, big ring, real fast, false flat, maybe a 1% grade on a good day.

I'd carefully moved up to prepare for this turn, letting myself drift through the group as the "grade" took its toll.

Thinking about it now I must have looked like I came to a standstill, my face red with effort, sweat pouring out of my pores.

A woman barked at me.

"Shift down! Use a lower gear! You need to spin!"

I didn't even have the strength to look over.

The reality was that I needed about 3000 miles on my legs but how could she know that? How could anyone that never saw me before know that?

They couldn't.

I ignored the good samaritan, knowing what I could and couldn't do.

So I keep my mouth shut, even though it's possible, even probable, that I could offer some advice.

Because people only listen to advice when they're ready for that advice.

Read the list in that post above. If anything seems foreign to you then speak up at the next group ride you do. Ask one of the salty veteran riders, one of the quiet ones, that ones that pedal smoothly, their hips barely moving, ask one for advice. Mention the article, mention the item that you find odd or foreign.

You'll be glad you asked.


Anonymous said...

I usually critique and comment on my group rides, but then again I usually ride alone and so I never take the advice! JK

Anonymous said...

Reading your posts, it seems like usually you and I are of a mind. But this time, I must disagree.

New riders don't yet know what they don't know. Or perhaps they "know" something (thank you Internet!) but don't really know the practical application of what they know.

One gentle way to give advice without potentially raising the hackles of the target is to state would one tries to do oneself. For example, instead of saying "You shouldn't overlap your wheel like that" say "I try to avoid overlapping my wheel when I'm in a group". Maybe spice it up with an anecdote of something that happened once when you violated this rule - it could make your not-advice much more memorable. This technique can be used for all sorts of situations.

I think the last thing we need is for experienced riders to bite their tongues. The knowledge they have is hard-won and time-tested and I think one of the most effective ways to disseminate and propagate that knowledge is to voice it to others. I'd almost go so far as to call it a responsibility - if not to the individual next to you then to the sport as a whole.

But yeah, it's all about the delivery. Screaming at the guy who just surged through a pull may not be the most effective way to teach the point. There will be a better time for education during the cooldown or post-ride biscotti.