When I joined their Sunday ride from Grayson, the overall sense and ‘feel’ of the ride is much different since moving the starting point to Loganville. Before, this was a settled group of cyclists with several who could go as fast as you would want but even with the speed, this felt like a calm & relaxed group. I just didn’t get the sense of the testosterone overload that many rides in Atlanta have…and I liked the fresh change. Also, just before the ride rolls out, someone always prays out loud for the ride as a whole; personally, as a Christ-follower, that is what drew me to be a part of this weekly ride.
My goal as a professional cycling coach has always been to help cyclists truly become aware of the implications of all aspects of safety. As you read these ride reviews, I trust you learn from others mistakes, becoming more aware and a safer cyclist…for you and those who ride near you.
The ride starts out an even pace but soon turns up a notch (or three) because the terrain is soft rolling and flat roads. There seems to be disorganization in riding together or (my sense is) that maybe it is due to the lack of accurate knowledge of how to safely ride together while showing respect to everyone else around you. As is very typical with almost every group ride I do, when pace lines have actually formed during this ride and stay in somewhat of a very rough line, many swerve side to side and the pace line turns into sort of a brutal zig zag. This is the result of those not knowing or understanding the significance of feather braking while staying in a true pace line. One guy I rode behind for a while never touched his brakes when getting too close to the guy in front of him; he just continued to swerve side to side to slow down.
- this kills the efficiency of a pace line
- this type of ride is no longer predictable in a safe way; he is predictable but you would not want to be like this rider
- it kills any sense of a draft for the person directly behind him, me or anyone else
- disrupts the momentum of everyone behind those who swerve. now you have the accordion affect
Trust me, feather braking is what you want to do. Take each of the 4 points I mentioned above and turn that into a positive. That’s what feather braking does. Become an expert of this skill.
Next, during a fast flat section I was in a group of about 5 riders and I was riding in #3 position. When the front guy pulled out to the side after a kick butt pace, the guy in front of me bolted off abruptly. Major no-no as he basically just slapped the guy across the face for doing an incredible pull (major understatement!!!). This abrupt acceleration eliminated the guy that pulled off from ever grabbing any wheel in our group; he was oxygen spent and just could not hang on. I rode up next to this new leader and asked him if he knew what he did; he responded no. I explained to him about how to properly transition while showing proper respect to those who pull up front. BUT, I have to commend this guy because he listened and wanted to learn to do things right. He got it and will become a better rider for it.
While I was explaining this, one guy in front of us overheard me and made a few comments that I needed to back off and basically mind my own business. I was quite surprised because it had nothing to do with him but that didn’t stop his comments. Later, while rolling thru a stop sign, he quickly rode up to me and made another comment about me not stopping. Out in the middle of nowhere with no traffic in sight, I did roll thru the stop sign but I definitely slowed my pace down and was prepared to stop if any cars rolled up. Technically, I should have stopped as that is the law!!!
A few miles later we were going thru a stretch that had gravel in the middle of the road and since there was no organized riding formation (single or double pace line) and everyone was spread across the entire lane, I called out “gravel middle” twice. BTW, I always call out when the pace is slowing to avoid rear end collisions, holes or whatever in the road. Since I am blocking the view of riders behind me, it is my responsibility to indicate where potential hazards are. No sooner did I call out the gravel, did this same guy, who was 4 bikes in front of me, turned around and asked me who was I talking to…him??? First of all, he gained no benefit of my indication and he knew I was not talking to him. He preceded to tell me I needed to shut my mouth because this ride has been going on for 3 years and no one needed me to say/point out anything. I was totally stunned!!! This sport is too inherently dangerous as it is and it is our responsibility to let those behind us know where the danger is. A minute later, another guy came up beside me and told me I should just stop calling out so that I wouldn’t make the guy mad; I told him that I would never stop doing the right thing.
I was completely shocked that any cyclist would ever tell another cyclist to shut our mouth when it impacts the safety of all riders. Until we are surrounded by 4000 lbs of steel when we ride our bikes, then I will continue to call out potential hazards in the road and I hope you will do the same.
To the benefit of several, some were pointing out hazards in the road without any verbal communication; that is perfectly acceptable. However, using your hands to point out danger…and using your voice is also perfectly acceptable, and arguably safer. What if the rider behind you is looking down at their computer, looking down to grab or replace their bottle (all real world examples) and you point out hazards without a verbal warning, too? Anytime you can eliminate potential danger, you should.
Do I like this ride? Absolutely, I love the ride, the terrain. Let this incident remind us all to pay attention to every rider around us, as they absolutely have a direct affect on our safety!!! I will do this ride again and I will continue to call out danger in the road, as I do every time I get on my bike.
See ya on the road…