As a cyclist for more than a decade, it has been a challenge and a joy to figure out how to ride better. There have been years when everything seemed to flow. My quads bulged. My lungs thrived. My head imagined what to do and I fairly much did it.
Some years I raced quite a bit. Other years, depending mostly on my appetite for additional stress, I backed away from racing. There were other issues calling for my attention, the most notable among them taking care of a wife and family.
But there is one thing that stands out in all these years of cycling ups and downs. One thing that makes cycling better in every respect. That one thing is communication.
Cycling is a wonderful solo activity. It is also a great way to enjoy the company of others. But to fully enjoy that company, it truly helps to communicate.
Here are 6 Rules to Live By when it comes to cycling communication.
6. Determine how far and how fast you want to ride
Unless everyone in a group is in similar cycling condition, communicating about how far you plan to ride, and how fast, is critical to an equitable experience for everyone. The first step to quality riding is helping everyone in the group to understand the goals and expectations of a ride.
5. Talk about “Drop” or “No Drop”
If you are part of a competitively based group there is no question about the goals of a fast ride. You hang on or get dropped. But if you are part of a training ride, then the basic rules of “Drop” or “No Drop” must be communicated clearly to the benefit of the whole group. Nothing frustrates slower riders more than being dropped and not knowing whether someone from the group will come back to get them. And nothing frustrates stronger riders more than not knowing whether they can push the pace or not. So communicate. Sometimes rides “split” into two groups with some willing to hold back and guide those working on fitness while others agree to forge ahead. But don’t just do it without talking about it. That lacks class in cycling.
4. Don’t assume that everyone wants to keep up
If you drop back and find a cyclist or a small group of cyclists riding at a pace that is sustainable for them, don’t automatically assume they’re unhappy with the group for riding faster. Many cyclists readily recognize their limits and are not insulted by the fact they can’t keep up. The right thing to do in such circumstances is ask how a cyclist or dropped group wants to proceed.
3. Respect the pull
If you are the strongest cyclist in a group you may find yourself doing a greater share of the work at the front. The right thing to do if you are in a group where a strong rider is doing all the work is to say to them, “Hey, we know you’re doing all the work. Let us know if we can share the pull now and then.” Some riders will decline, but acknowledging their effort is always the right thing to do. It is also important when riding in a group to do your best with your opportunity to pull. But respect your limits. It does no good for anyone if you ride to the point of absolute exhaustion and then find yourself unable to pull later on in the ride. You’re in it for the long haul, but sometimes that means doing shorter pulls.
2. Signal your intentions
No matter whether you’re a solo rider hammering along on a lonely stretch of road or one of a group of 20 slicing your way down the tarmac, communication about your position on the road, in the group, upcoming turns, approaching or passing traffic and changes in speed or the need to stop are all vital signs that you care about yourself and other riders. So communicate. It’s the path to safety but also to speed. It’s one of the laws of nature when it comes to cycling. A smart group can ride faster.
1. Know your kind.
This single most important rule is only heightened when you get mixed groups of cyclists together. If you find yourself as a road cyclist with a group of triathletes on aero bikes, pay extra attention to pace, speed and turning ability. Those bikes are not the same. And if you are a triathlete jumping in with a group of road cyclists, recognize that you are essentially a danger to the entire group. The bike handling capabilities of a tri-bike versus a road bike are night and day.