Club Run Etiquette
We are talking here about simple group riding, not Cyclo Sportives, Chain Gangs etc, which employ various techniques such as "through and off", "pace-line", "bit and bit". Club runs are there to maintain fitness and to be enjoyed, but are not races and the one principal the we try to adhere to is:
"The fastest speed is that of the slowest"
The runs are usually at a speed of about 15mph on the flat and our rides can last between 2 to 4 hours. Unless we get punctures!! We normally stop at the half way point for a cup of tea etc. So before you decide to join us on a Saturday run, please make sure that you have the fitness and stamina to hold this pace at least for the first hour. Lots of riders have joined us and for the first hour have been OK, but into the second & third hours have found it tough going. Amazingly though, after a few weeks the stamina improves tremendously and a 3 hour run becomes just a tiny interval between waking up and Sunday Lunch!
So don’t be put off - once you have the basic speed and stamina - have a go. You will suffer for a few weeks, but persevere and you will find that soon you will be at the front of the group and first at the top of each climb!
The most efficient speed that a group can take is when we adopt a close formation so that riders behind can take advantage of the “Drafting Affect”. By this I mean either in twos, when the road permits or in single file and in either case with riders evenly spaced and no more than one bike length behind the one in front.
Riders should take it in turns at the front so that the workload is shared. It takes 25% less effort when riding behind another rider so the ideal is for the stronger riders to do longer turns at the front and thus enable the slower riders to preserve their energy and keep up with the rest.
When following the rider in front - stay close enough to benefit from shelter from the headwind, but never allow your front wheel to get in front of the rear wheel of the rider in front. It takes only a slight swerve by the rider in front and it is very easy to take your own front wheel out and bring you crashing to the ground.
Always be vigilant for poor road surfaces, potholes etc. If you are behind a rider make sure that you are not too close that the potholes catch you out. It is the responsibility of every rider keep a watch out for potholes. The rider in front may help by shouting out or pointing when they see hazards, but don’t rely on it. Until you have ridden with the same riders frequently and can predict how they themselves react to pot holes, whether they are “brake happy” or “swerve a lot”, you must leave enough room between yourself and the rider in front to give yourself a chance to see any hazard in the road.
While riding in twos is usually reasonable safe and allows conversation between riders, sometimes the roads are so narrow that we have to move into single file. The recommended technique for achieving this is to allow the rider who is already riding in the required line to maintain a steady pace and move to the front. The rider who has to change his line must slow slightly and drop in behind. Usually this means that the inside rider maintains has pace and goes to the front and the rider on the outside drops behind.
Please don't be tempted to sprint ahead from the outside position. This only causes the group to be riding at different speeds and can be quite disruptive The effects can sometimes take a mile for the group to reform into a compact formation and while this happens, the weaker riders are left trying to catch-up with the faster riders thus making them more tired and more likely to be dropped again on the next climb.
On the bigger climbs the group will fragment but we should all regroup at the top. The rider reaching the summit first should wait at the top until the slowest rider has caught up and has rejoined the group. If we don't wait for the weaker riders, then they will be chasing the group for quite a while and thus making themselves even weaker.
Given that the group will break up on the big climbs its fair game to race your mates, but if you do this on every little pimple from Cobham you will not be popular.
During the first hour of a club run - please resist the temptation to breakout of the group, even for the killer hills. It is much more effective and better for moral for the group as a whole to keep together and maintain a common pace and stay together.
The Middle Hour - most riders will begin to tire during the second hour. This is where the group should be supporting the weaker riders and the stronger riders should start to do the bulk of the turns at the front. But the pace should be kept steady so that all riders can keep up.
The last 5 miles - by this point, the end is in sight and for the stronger riders to begin to wind up the pace and get on the big ring. This is an acceptable practice and one that is satisfying if you have managed to stay with the group for the whole ride.
Half-wheeling is the phrase given to riding half a wheel in front of your mate on the front in an attempt to encourage them to ride quicker and quicker. This is bad form, but usually a sub-conscious act. So if your mate is doing it to you then tell them (politely the first time). If you see it happening to somebody else then point it out. And at the end of the day if you mate keeps doing it to you then just let them go - he'll look daft 5m in front of you and soon get the message.
It's no good riding faster than the whole group can manage and its counter productive to have the weakest rider hanging off the back and therefore having to work harder. If you see someone struggling then tell the front riders to slow down a bit. This is really applicable on flat to rolling terrain.
If you feel that the bunch is riding too slow, then change to the lowest gear that you can manage. Practicing a high cadence can be quite beneficial and you will reap benefits when you start racing.