Kain Performance strives for SAFETY FIRST. Group rides are a great way to increase your bike fitness because of the accountability & intensity, however you have to be alert and aware. There are several variables in a group ride which make it either SAFE or completely DANGEROUS for everyone — and while these things are generally obvious to an experienced rider, even our seasoned veterans should review.
Predictability of you & the riders around you is key. Here are a few pro tips from Coach Shari Kain which if we all follow, will allow us to trust the group & relax throughout the ride, so that 100% of our energy is devoted to getting a great workout. You’ll notice a theme, “no sudden movements”. Group cycling involves many subtle nuances:
1) On roll out (beginning of the ride) the group can ride two by two in the bike lane, at conversational pace. If cars parked in the bike lane, or garbage cans, or something else, just look back and see if it’s clear to go around, point a finger to the outside, indicating which direction you plan to go, to alert those behind you. Yell out “GARBAGE CAN” or whatever you see in the road. No sudden movements.
2) One of the more obvious clues to a safe group ride is the communication among the group. The riders at the front pick lines and the rest follow. So subtle movements in body language are key. A trained rider develops a certain awareness of looking “through” the pack at these subtle movements from the front. There may be a hand drop to point out a pot hole, stick, or some glass. It’s important for the front riders not to overreact and swerve, but instead calmly miss the object and call out, “stick”, or what ever it is and keep rolling smoothly. No sudden movements.
3) Do not run red lights to stay with the group. Group rides can be quite spread out on the road. When the front riders in the group go through an intersection with a green light, the light may change before the entire group makes it through. This does NOT mean the entire group should continue through the intersection. Half the group may have to stop when the light turns red. The group ahead will slow the pace to a soft pedal (someone should call out “SOFT PEDAL”) to let the rest of the group catch up. IF you do stop for a light while in the middle of the group, yell “STOPPING” and slowly stop, don’t ever slam on the breaks when you have riders behind you.
4) Learn how to paceline. As the ride enters into tempo pace, or middle of the workout, there may be an opportunity to ride in a paceline. This is a nice way to work your strength and stamina on the bike, if your body is ready and gives you a chance for some efforts, while still riding in the group. If you sense the pace is picking up, or the group is entering a section of road which typically rolls into a paceline, then know the riders in the paceline will move up the left side all the way to the front and then pull off to the right and gradually drop back. If you have never done this, please ask one of the Coaches or Veterans to explain and call out instructions. This is Coach Shari’s specialty!
If the group starts to split up while you are dropping back in the paceline then fill in the space to keep a rotating group working together. Sitting on the back of a group is fine, as long as you back off the last person, when the person dropping back on the right side reaches the end. A quick shout to go ahead helps them know you don’t want to enter the pace line yet. If you sit silent and don’t pull through the line then you cause a big empty gap and it leaves one person pulling the whole group. Communication is key.
5) The space of the bikes while in a paceline depends on the experience of the riders and how well they know each other. While on the US National Team the line dropping back on the right may brush elbows a little with the line moving up on the left. You don’t have to be that close, but the idea is that it forms a closed pocket of air moving together, where recovery by proximity of the others is key, especially when the pace begins to really pick up later in the season. This is a great training tool to use for strength on the bike and the Kain Team will be working to help everyone get comfortable in a paceline.
It all comes back to trust of the riders you’re with and really good calm movements on the bike. Both vocal communication and gestures help to make the ride predicable and safe.
6) Also, when coming to stop, if you’re in he big ring, it’s wise to quickly switch gears to a smaller gear before you stop. That way as the group all starts up again, it will be easier to accelerate to a steady pace, smoothly. If you start in a hard gear, it not only wastes energy, but it makes others want to go around.
7) Climbers Etiquette: As the group comes closer to a climb the “climbers” will naturally move to the front to set the pace. If you feel getting up the hills is not your strong suit (yet), then gradually make your way over to the right and settle in to your pace.
If you are beginning a climb and need to shift gears, try to make the shifting smooth so the bike doesn’t have a “neutral”, or hesitant feel between gears. A smooth shift should keep your momentum going forward. As an experienced rider you always give yourself some room, so passing on the left is natural and you don’t get boxed in to the right of someone slowing up, or possibly with a gear problem.
9) Riders always pass on the left side.
8) Lastly, knowing the bike route helps a ton. We coaches try our best to roll out in a familiar direction every time so everyone gets to know the roads and turns. The back-roads get a little tricky, so make a point to ride at the front, or at least in the middle of your group, to really know where you’re going. A predictable ride is a safe ride!
See you all Saturday, Happy Training!
***About your Coach: Shari Kain was a member of the US National Road Cycling Team from 1991-1994. She WON the National Criterium Championship in 1991 in Salt Lake City, Utah. She also WON a Gold Medal at the Pan Am Games in Cuba in 1991, as a member of Team USA Team Time Trial Team (TTT). She switched to the Mountain Bike in 1994 and made the US National MTB Team by 1996. She was ranked as high as 9th in the UCI World Rankings in 1996. She also raced the CycloCross bike and WON Two US National Titles in 1994 & 1996. She then moved to the Xterra Triathlon and WON the Xterra World Championship in 1999. Shari was the second women inducted into the Xterra Hall of Fame in 2010. When Shari tells you something about how you are riding, you better listen! She knows what she’s talking about!