Tag Archives: Etiquette

The Lost Art of The Group Ride

Repost of an article by Peter Wilborn

Group RideWe don’t often post other people’s stuff but this article was suggested by a current member as relevant to all. It’s a great article & well worth a re-read if you’ve seen it before.

Every so often, I’ll ride a recreational group ride. I love the camaraderie of cyclists, the talk, the last minute pumps of air, the clicking in, and the easy drifting out as a peloton. “I miss riding in a group,” I’ll think to myself.

The magic ends by mile 10. The group will surge, gap, and separate, only to regroup at every stop sign. I’ll hear fifteen repeated screams of “HOLE!” for every minor road imperfection. And then no mention of the actual hole. Some guy in front will set a PB for his 30 second pull. Wheels overlap, brakes are tapped, and some guy in the back will go across the yellow line and speed past the peloton for no apparent reason. A breakaway?!

I curse under my breath, remembering why I always ride with only a few friends. Doesn’t anyone else realize how dangerous this ride is? How bad it is for our reputation on the road? There are clear rules of ride etiquette, safety, and common sense. Does anyone here know the rules? Who is in charge?

But no one is in charge, and the chaotic group has no idea of how to ride together. As a bike lawyer, I get the complaints from irritated drivers, concerned police, controversy-seeking journalists, and injured cyclists. It needs to get better, but the obstacles are real:

First, everyone is an expert these days. The internet and a power meter do not replace 50,000 miles of experience, but try telling that to a fit forty year-old, new to cycling, on a $5000 bike. Or, god forbid, a triathlete. No one wants to be told what to do.

Second, the more experienced riders just want to drop the others and not be bothered. It is all about the workout, the ego boost, or riding with a subset of friends. But a group ride is neither a race nor cycling Darwinism. As riders get better, they seek to distinguish themselves by riding faster on more trendy bikes; but as riders get better they need to realize two things:
1) there is always someone faster, and
2) they have obligations as leaders.

Cycling is not a never ending ladder, each step aspiring upwards, casting aspersions down. It is a club, and we should want to expand and improve our membership.

Third, different rides are advertised by average speed, but speed is only one part of the equation. This approach makes speed the sole metric for judging a cyclist, and creates the false impression that a fit rider is a good one. Almost anyone can be somewhat fast on a bike, but few learn to be elegant, graceful cyclists.

Fourth, riding a bike well requires technique training. Good swimmers, for example, constantly work on form and drills; so should cyclists. Anyone remember the C.O.N.I. Manual or Eddie Borysewich’s book? They are out-of-print, but their traditional approach to bike technique should not be lost. More emphasis was given on fluid pedaling and bike handling.

Before the internet, before custom bikes, and before Lance, it was done better. Learning to ride was an apprenticeship. The goal was to become a member of the peloton, not merely a guy who is sort of fast on a bike. Membership was the point, not to be the local Cat. 5 champ. You were invited to go on group ride if you showed a interest and a willingness to learn. You were uninvited if you did not. You learned the skills directly from the leader, who took an interest in riding next to you on your first rides (and not next to his friends, like better riders do today).

Here is some of what you learned:
– To ride for months each year in the small ring.
– To take your cycling shorts off immediately after a ride.
– To start with a humble bike, probably used.
– To pull without surging.
– To run rotating pace line drills and flick others through.
– To form an echelon.
– To ride through the top of a climb.
– To hold your line in a corner.
– To stand up smoothly and not throw your bike back.
– To give the person ahead of you on a climb a little more room to stand up.
– To respect the yellow line rule.
– To point out significant road problems.
– To brake less, especially in a pace line.
– To follow the wheel in front and not overlap.

The ride leader and his lieutenants were serious about their roles, because the safety of the group depended on you, the weakest link. If you did not follow the rules, you were chastised. Harshly. If you did, you became a member of something. The Peleton.

The Gentleman Cyclist – Punctures

Gentleman Cyclist 2My dearest club mates, you may not have noticed me, but I have been amongst you recently dressed incognito in my tweeds to blend in.  I have been observing the manners and behaviour of the modern cyclist so that I am up to date on culture and etiquette of the lycra clad generation.

Of course in my day, there was never any need as discuss these things as a gentleman was brought up to know how to act in public, whether on the shooting range, escorting a lady to her favourite hat shop, in the boardroom or when on the recreational bicycle.

I noticed on my foray into modern two wheeled culture that the scouts motto “Be Prepared” seems to have slipped out of common usage, and certainly is not being followed in spirit or kind.

What am I talking about?

Punctures!

Gentleman Cyclist 8Yes, the bane of the modern cyclist.  Back when I was leading the peloton, this was not a problem.  Solid wheels did not puncture.  Of course they were a little uncomfortable especially when you hit those cobbles in Roubaix but we got by without the need for pneumatic cushions.  Sadly today, comfort has taken over from practicality and you modern softies feel the need to glide along on a layer of captured air which leads to a problem when that air escapes.

Now for most it is a few minutes, but there are definitely some in the peloton who could do with some puncture practice.  I’m not talking about old school puncture repair with glue patches, sand paper, chalk dust and all that palava, what I am talking about is the relatively simple task of changing an inner tube.

Now I know some of you have delicate hands, and the fairer sex are always welcome to stand beside their steeds looking helplessly at the gentlemen in the group who would be, well, less than gentlemen if they did not come to the rescue, but for most of you no excuses, this is a basic skill of life.

 pedrosI understand that it can be daunting and indeed if you do a googly search on the world wide interweb, one of the first pictures is a little intimidating.  Surely you don’t need to have all this to change a simple inner tube?  And of course no you don’t.  Pedro’s are just trying to sell tools, and presumably help a saddle bag company out at the same time.

So club mates I researched a little and found this:

An average joe fixing a puncture in around 49 seconds -> Average Joe changing a tube

And a look a little deeper found examples from a couple of past tour winners.

Fellow Gentleman Cyclist Greg Lemond gives us the low down here -> Greg changing a tube

And that scoundrel Lance helps us out here -> Lance changing a tube and I want you all to particularly take note of what lance says at 1 minute 7 seconds 😉

So next time you are out on a ride, you know what you need to do, and you all know you should be carrying a spare tube, levers, pump right.

innppz41Just before I leave you to go and practice your tube changing technique, one final word.  I know you all believe that cycling is all about legs and so don’t like to exercise your arms so if you have decided that pumping is just too much work for your wasting upper bodies and have invested in carbon dioxide (that’s CO2 to you) cartridges, then for goodness sake learn how to use them.  There is nothing marks you out as an amateur more than a large puff of icy gas as you waste $4 of CO2 and ask your mates if you can borrow a pump.

To help you there, there is this -> How to use CO2

 Good luck out there, and happy pumping gentlemen.

TGC

The Gentleman Cyclist – Numpties

Gentleman Cyclist

It has been a while since we heard from The Gentleman Cyclist.  He has been beavering away in his workshop, having heard that cyclists today seem to like changing gear from the handle bars rather than reaching down to the lever on their down tube.  TGC has been trying to find a cable long enough to allow him to try this out, and succeeded by stripping a cable from the Austin Healey in his garage..  The result was quite a revelation and he feels the trend may catch on.  Enough of this, we need to interrupt his invention tests as we received an important question in a letter early last week and TGC has been itching to offer his opinion.

Dear TGC
I recently joined a cycling club and one of the day idea sounds attractive as it will be fast like me but it has been billed as a “no-numpties” ride.

I’m not familiar with this term but since you are knowledgable on all cycling etiquette matters I thought you might be able to shed some light on this and advise if this is a ride I should be doing.

Regards
Numpty Dumpty

Dear Numpty

Thank you for your letter.  I was intrigued when I read it as it was not a term that we hear much down here in Oxfordshire.  It is almost certainly not a term that should be used in polite company and I wondered if perhaps your friend from the cycling club is from North of the Border.  Glasgow perhaps or Aberdeen.  Is he large, bearded, ginger haired, smells perennially of whiskey and wears one of those skirts that the Scots insist on calling a kilt?

The starting place for all definitions is, of course, that momentous tome of the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary.  The OED defines the word as follows:

Numpty: A stupid or ineffectual person.

If we start to break this down for cycling purposes, then stupid might refer to not knowing how to ride a bicycle properly, or perhaps more likely, not knowing how to ride safely in a group.  Equally possibly he is trying to highlight that  or being unaware of the protocols of riding in his group could, perhaps bring an element of danger to a fast and furious ride.  Ineffectual on the other hand is probably assessing an element of how much work an individual is willing to do to support the group, and namely, no wheelsuckery.  This therefore would seem to imply that if you are either brand new to riding with the club or you have the intention to sit on the back (cough! triathlon style) and let the others work for you, then this is probably not your ride.

On a lighter note, and entering into the spirit of our colonised neighbours, I think it important in my answer to give some guidance on the proper usage of the term as just throwing it into any sentence just won’t do.  For this guidance, there is no better place to look than the esteemed Urban Dictionary.  I know you are probably asking yourself what a Gentleman such as myself would be doing even with knowledge of such a base publication, but when one cycles to the remoter parts of  High Wycombe then, if one is to be able to communicate, then one, as the saying goes, needs to be “down with the kids”

Urban Dictionary defined Numpty as follows:
“Someone who (sometimes unwittingly) by speech or action demonstrates a lack of knowledge or misconception of a particular subject or situation to the amusement of others.”

or to be blunt

“Numpty first surfaced on the terraces of west of Scotland football grounds, many many years ago. A player who couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a shovel would be a f***ing numpty.”

In terms of using the phrase, it is important to put on a broad Scottish accent when you use it to get the full effect and some examples you might use are:

“Awww Jimmy ya numpty!! You couldnae score wi’ ma’ sister!”
“they numpties couldnae organise a pissup in a brewery.”
“Nay! That wisnae wit she meant, ya greet numpty!”

To bring this home, you might consider the following at your next club ride:

“Did ya see that greet numpty fall over at the lights, he couldnae unclip from his pedals”
“Would that numpty on the front pedal when he’s going downhill the rest of the group is up ‘is arse”
“What’s that numpty doing ten meters off the front?  Couldnae he look over his shoulder and see he’s riding faster than the rest o us”
“Ya couldnae sprint for a bus ya greet numpty, just sit on me wheel and I’ll show you how its done”

These are, of course, just guidelines to get you started, and I look forward to hearing the inventiveness of the crowd in tomorrow’s ride.

In the immortal words of that peoples cyclist Mao Zedong
“Let a hundred flowers blossom ya greet numpties!”

TGC

The Gentleman Cyclist – Winning

Gentleman Cyclist

Still trying to get through his backlog of post, TGC has been beavering away. His butler takes him a couple of letters at breakfast with his liver, eggs and kippers, and if he likes what he reads he pens a quick reply. Of course if he doesn’t like what he sees, then your letter is just fuel for the drawing room fire.

Here is one that seems to have made the cut…

Dear TGC
A friend of mine shared with me your reply regarding trivia quizzes. I was particularly heartened by your assertion that winning is everything since as I like to say to my wife and friends at all possible opportunities “I am a cyclist”.  They often respond “You mean you ride your bike a bit?” To which I have to reassert myself “No! I am a cyclist”.

By this clearly I want them to understand that I cycle to demonstrate my superiority over other mere bike riders and that in doing this, every ride is a challenge, a competition, every bike rider a target to be caught and passed.

What I wanted to ask your sagely advice on is the right form of celebration when winning a club sprint, a local bike race, or clearly as this is coming up very soon, when I dominate the club Quiz Night.

Yours in anticipated glory
The Cyclist

Dear Cyclist
I admire your competative spirit! Anybody who says that it is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game that matters has clearly either lost so many competitions that he has forgotten that the whole point is to try to win or they were brought up under the British Education system of the 1990’s and somehow think that coming last at British Bulldogs while being dumped on your head doesn’t in some way encourage you to try harder next time.

You are a kindred spirit, a brother in arms, you can be wingman to my Top Gun any time, but…

A gentleman never reveals the pleasure of the win.

While you must of course win, you must accept the victory with grace as though it was at all times a foregone conclusion. Not for the gentleman the pumping of the arms with a hearty “Boo Ya!”. Learn your lessons from Mark Cavendish when he thanks his team for their work in propelling him over the line with a “The team did all the work I was just the man who crossed the line first”

Yes dear Cyclist, when and if you do indeed dominate the club Quiz Night, Suppress your emotions my friend and stoically accept the prize with a gentle nod. After all nobody likes a terrible boast!

Last of all, hope that I am not on another team since clearly, TGC is going to win.

Yours in full knowledge of the glories to come

TGC

The Gentleman Cyclist – Quizzing Etiquette

Gentleman CyclistANZA club quiz: Thursday, Aug 28th. Picotin Bukit Timah

The Gentleman Cyclist has been overseas for a while searching for rare wines and somebody who makes the perfect Cognac, but having achieved these noble goals and taken the steam ship back to Singapore with his bounty (Import duty paid of course), he has started on the task of tackling the large pile of letters that were blocking the front door on his return.
Having discussed with with the masters of queuing theory, CBTL, how to deal with a large backlog, they reliably informed him that last in first out is the way to go so we grabbed the top letter and rushed it upstairs to the Library where we found TGC reading a strangely titled “Trivial Facts From Around The World”.

I thought about commenting that a Gentleman shouldn’t be concerning himself with Trivia, but thought better of questioning my master lest he give me one of those withering looks that makes me think I should start considering my position.

Dear TGC
I really hate to bother you with something so small, but I am in a real dilemma.  My cycling club is having something called a “Quiz Night” next thursday that aims to test our knowledge of facts about cycling and other unrelated matters. I have never been particularly good at these events but hate to lose at anything, so I wanted to seek your advice regarding the use of smatphone devices to look up the answers to questions.
Would this be regarded as a bad thing?

I look forward to hearing your advice

Lacking in knowledge
Singapore

Dear Lacking
You present an interesting question, and one that I fully understand as I peruse my copy of “Trivial Facts from Around The World”.  There are so many useless facts that one can be questioned on that it seems totally unfair that one cannot make use of all sources of knowledge and after all, the interweb thingy was created for the sole purpose of housing the totality of man’s knowledge that was not important enough for anybody to actually bother remembering.

I mean, who knew that the bicycle was actually created so that a gentleman could spend more time at the club with his associates, an aged glass of Cognac, and a fine Cuban cigar and yet still make it home in time for when his good wife has dinner on the table.

Or that the rear derailleur was created, not to assist those who do not have the strength and endurance of Maurice Garin, but to give gentlemen an excuse to retire to their garage knowing they could not be questioned “I’m sorry my dear, I can’t go with you to meet the vicar this afternoon, there appears to be a small problem with my rear derailleur that I need to look at in the garage before tackling the ride up to Box Hill tomorrow”

Or that electronic shifting was invented, not to make make an already smooth gear change system better, but to put a stop to that pesky practice of home mechanics resolving their own technical issues and cable changes, and to ensure that all issues had to be taken back to the local bike shop. Thus speeding up the process of wealth transfer from yours truly to the local mechanic.

I’m do apologise, I digress. As a cyclist, you are fully aware that winning is everything and the manner in which the win happens is secondary.

You will also understand, that you have only cheated if you get caught, otherwise you have simply demonstrated your brilliant knowledge of the modern world and beguiled all those around you as to how you can retain so much information without it leaking from your ears.

My advice to you therefore Ms Lacking is to use all the tools at your disposal, just don’t get caught doing it, and certainly do not attribute any of this advice to me.

Good luck in the quiz, I’m sure you will emerge victorious.

Best regards
TGC

The Gentleman Cyclist – Manning Up

Gentleman Cyclist

It has been a while since we have needed the wise words of The Gentleman Cyclist, however earlier in the week  we heard the sound of a letter drop onto the door mat and we rushed to see what it brought.  We considered ignoring it as TGC was upstairs in the drawing room in dressing gown and slippers, smoking his pipe and enjoying a fine after dinner glass of Port.  [Yes I know letter come in the morning, and dinner is in the evening, but this one was delivered by DHL who seem to work 24/7 here in steamy Singapore] He had left strict instructions not to be bothered unless there was something serious, and this cry for help seemed to meet the bill, so we slipped the letter under the door, coughed and knocked on the door, then ran for cover like schoolboys in case he was displeased.  To our relief, a few hours later the response was brought downstairs by his butler.

Dear RTI

I have read keenly the lessons from The Gentleman Cyclist in the past and tried to apply them to my current situation, but, alas, both previous examples were written by lady members about treatment they received at the hands of the men, and my situation is the exact reverse.  Last Saturday on the 6am Rats ride, I turned up expecting a great performance from the legs, but unfortunately even by the time I had reached Rats I was already feeling somewhat disconcerted as the guns simply were not firing on all cylinders.

Anyway, we set off at a fair old pace and I noticed that once again we had a solitary lady in the group.  “Thank goodness I secretly thought to myself, I can just slow down under the disguise of ‘taking care’ of my female club mate and making sure she doesn’t end up having to finish the ride alone like has happened in the past”.

As expected, as the group rotated, this lady came closer to the front and once her turn came, I was looking forward the the rest I fully needed.  HANG ON!  WHAT’S GOING ON HERE? was all I could think as she proceeded to drive up the pace to the point that I thought my lungs would bust.  Heart rate off the scale, sweat running down my face, not the way I wanted to start the gentle warm up ride before the Food Canopy.

Anyway RTI, to my question, what is the right etiquette here, is it ok for a guy to shout steady up to a lady, and more importantly given the 6am is a no drop ride, is it ok for the lady to drop them men?

I wait eagerly for your reply
Confused and Emasculated

Dear Confused and Emasculated

I fully understand your situation and I believe that the youth of today refer to this strange phenomenon as ‘being chicked’.  To paraphrase a great moving picture starring one John Travolta, I am not sure if I am more concerned that somebody has been chicked or that it happens so often that we need to have a term for it!

I am often taking a leisurely ride out enjoying the weather when red faced ladies pass my on their cycles going about their business of shopping and running around after the children and so it is important to note that under no circumstances should you give away that you have been bested by one of the fairer sex, there are always reasons why you have been passed or left behind.  Here are some simple rules that you need to follow in these situations:

1. It is never, I repeat, never, acceptable to shout ‘steady up’ to a lady cyclist.  Man up, grit your teeth, grimace and bear it.  When it’s your turn at the front you can drop the pace under the guise of keeping the group together but you must not divulge that she is putting you under so much pressure that you felt the need to call a halt to proceedings.

2. If you do get ‘chicked’ it is never, I repeat, never, because she is a better rider than you.  Look down, there is a wealth of technical gadgetry that you can blame for the problem, none of which she will understand. “Sorry I need to stop, the top sprocket of the rear fandango has momentarily become detached from the chain splicer”  Get a few technical terms in there and you are home and away.

3. Show your softer side, at the point your lungs are about to burst, announce that you just want to stop to admire the scenery.  Not only do you get a rest, but she will be impressed that you have so much energy that you were able to look around you and notice what was going on.  Don’t worry if the scenery is in fact a container port, this gives you another opportunity to bring in some techno babble and demonstrate you softer side and your grasp of the technological elements of commerce.

4. If none of the above works, you need to refer to some residual fatigue that you can blame on a heroic ride you did a few days ago. “I’m sorry, my legs a still a little heavy following the Paris – Nice ride I did last week”  If this final recourse does not have this lady simply swooning into your arms, then I’m afraid you just have to admit you are uglier than Bernie Ecclestone without the benefit of his wallet.

Do not despair Confused and Emasculated, it happens to the best of us, but the important thing is to make sure the ladies do not know.  You may get a nod and a wink from a compatriot but we must stay strong lest the women begin to waver.  Lastly, of course, if none of the above works, then quietly and gracefully slip out the back of the group, making sure one of the men knows that you have an errand to run.

I hope this insight has helped and will ensure that even though you may remain confused, you are no longer emasculated.

TGC

The Gentleman Cyclist – Group Rides

Gentleman Cyclist

It seems that The Gentleman Cyclist hit a bit of a nerve last week and there is some pent up frustration regarding the way our groups are riding these days. TGC heard reports from multiple sources over the last few days of rides that did not go as expected where people were either left stranded, where the rides were unpleasant or unsafe.

It is not the role of RTI or TGC to moan or nag or whinge and we want to be light hearted but just 3 points this week.

  1. We ride in a group to ride with the group, not to race the group or prove how strong we are as we accelerate when we hit the front.
  2. A group ride should ride as a group. Some rides have specific, agreed sprint points or hill climbs. Outside those limited areas, the group should be tight, handlebar to handlebar, no half wheeling and no gaps.
  3. No drop rides, which make up the vast majority of the ANZA Cycling rides, are exactly that. The Group rides at the speed of the slowest rider unless there is clearly a slower group behind or the rider expressly says it is ok to be left.

In future weeks TGC will investigate the prickly topic of group ride etiquette but for now, please, no more dropping lone riders on No Drop rides.

TGC

The Gentleman Cyclist

Gentleman CyclistWe had a couple of similar anonymous letters this week regarding behaviour on rides and so we sought out the best qualified ambassador of etiquette to provide the definitive answer.  You may recognise the person by his tweed suit and wicked mustache, but we shall simply refer to him as The Gentleman Cyclist.

Dear RTI
I am a lady rider, and I can hold my own on most rides. Last week, however, I decided to participate in the 6am Saturday Rats to Longhouse ride which I had always believed was a gentle warm up for what is to follow. I was the only lady on the ride, but I have always enjoyed the company of so many handsome, fit and virile men.

This time thought all did not go well. The group accelerated to over 50kph and dropped me on the raised road from Vivo to Haw Par Villa. I was left alone to complete the section. To their credit they waited at the turn around point, but isn’t this supposed to be a no-drop ride.

Yours sincerely
Damsel in distress

Dear Damsel in  Distress
Dicksee-Chivalry-1885I am horrified at the total lack of chivalry demonstrated. I hope you had some stern words for those knuckle dragging neaderthals, but I assume you were far too much of a lady to show your emotions.

First, you are correct, the 6am is a no-drop ride. It’s early you’re on a dangerous 3 lane highway in the dark. Second, regardless of the conditions, I would never expect a group to drop a solo female rider unless she expressly tells them it is ok to leave her, and even then I would expect them to protest.

Take heart fair lady, I am sure at least one will be reading this and will ensure you are escorted in future.

Please do let me know if you encounter any further such behaviour.

Yours sincerely
TGC

Dear RTI
I participated in the 7am fast Kranji last week and was the only female in the group. The ride was fast and hard, and despite my numerous requests to steady up, the men in the group made no effort to slow down. In fact, I do believe my protests may even hve goaded them to ride faster.

Is this the sort of behaviour you expect of ANZA Cyclists?

Yours sincerely
Tired and Frustrated

Dear Tired and Frustrated
I understand your pain. Many times I have been on rides that were hard and that I have called “Steady at the front” on. Of course when you ride a Penny Farthing, you need everybody to steady up at any small incline.

Chivalry would always dictate that we slow to ensure that the ladies in the group do no more than glow, as real sweating should be left to the men.
On this occasion though, I think you need to understand that the Fast Kranji is intended to

Chum-01

be exactly that. It is where testosterone goes to be expended and it is a drop ride. I fear that calls to slow down will simply be perceived as a sign of weakness and like blood in the water to a pack of hungry sharks.

Hang in there, and next time suffer in silence lest they sense your fear.

Yours sincerely
TGC