5 cycling skills you need to ride in a group
look behind you
Every cyclist learns relatively early to look back safely. This is something experienced cyclists do almost automatically. The problem is that inside a group you have to use a little different technique to avoid crashing into the runners next to you. This is because when you turn your head to look, your front wheel usually deviates to the same side as your head. As a group, focus on maintaining forward pressure on the bars and push the bars very lightly in the opposite direction your head is turning. Start by practicing this on your own in a safe environment. Experienced riders in the peloton often place their hand on the shoulder of the rider next to them to ensure that the distance between them stays the same as their head turns.
Roll in a rhythm line
A line of pace is a big part of cycling in a group. It’s a formation where the runners are on one line and they share the work at the front of the group, while sharing the rest in the repechage. Rhythm lines are the reason you can ride much faster in a group than alone. It is used extensively in track cycling as well as road races like the Tour de France to improve the chances of successful breakaways. There are several key things to keep in mind if you want to be a valuable member of a rhythm line.
- When it’s up to you to be ahead, focus on maintaining the same pace as the rider ahead of you.
- It is better to shoot longer than faster. Don’t speed up even if you think you can handle it, you’ll cause problems for the riders in the back.
- It is better to shoot shorter than slower. If you think you can’t pull the group for the same amount of time as the runner ahead of you, you can reduce your time up front. This way, your group will avoid losing valuable momentum.
- Do not do while pulling the band. Keep something in the tank so you can accelerate to the pull line after resting.
Form a rung
If you encounter crosswinds in a pace line, you will need to quickly adapt to form a rung. This means that each rider changes position slightly to line up diagonally with the road to ensure they have the best crosswind protection. The width of the road then limits the number of runners who can fit in the rung and it is sometimes necessary to form two or more rungs. If you are up front when the crosswind hits, ride on the side of the road the wind is coming from. When you complete your turn at the front, pull into the wind then quickly drop back down the back of the group.
Move within a large group
When riding in a group or peloton, it is not easy to climb up to the front. You simply cannot get between two runners in front of you if they are shoulder to shoulder. You can go all the way to the side and try to get around the group from the front, but you’ll waste precious energy battling the wind alone. The best strategy is to move diagonally. To initiate your movement, place your handlebars in front of that of the cyclist next to you. This will allow you to dictate where the two of you go. If the group is very tight, you can protect your handlebars by extending your elbows slightly outward. Be very careful when doing this, you don’t want to suddenly throw your elbows and hit an unsuspecting pilot next to you, causing a crash.
Dealing with Close Contacts
Riding in a group means you will come into physical contact with other riders. There can be a lot of shouldering in races, but it also happens sometimes in training. If you are ready and know how to react, you will be much more comfortable with this. The first thing to remember is to relax and keep your elbows and shoulders loose with a firm, controlled grip on the handlebars. A loose upper body can absorb bumps much more easily than a tight body. If you feel a heavier bump, like a rider leaning on you, you need to match the force and lean slightly in the direction of the rider as well. The two opposing forces will cancel each other out and you can stay balanced.
Start by practicing some of these skills in a safe environment to gain confidence. But nothing replaces real experience. So get out there and join a group ride!